By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym
The title of this post is a question I like to occasionally ask my students. I see them every other day for 40 minutes. Every couple of months, I get out various types of equipment and lay them along the walls of the gym. Some are items the students would have at home while others are items that are unique to a PE classroom.
I introduce the lesson by informing the students that I want them to get their own heart rate up. I tell the students to organize themselves, use any of the equipment that is out, and move! I also remind them to use all of our safety guidelines.
This lesson could easily be described as a “Design Your Own Station Day.”
For an outsider looking in, this might resemble a stereotypical PE teacher just rolling out the ball; however, this lesson is FAR from that.
I teach this lesson because it has a purpose. I want to know if the students can get their own heart rate up. I want to know if they can see a piece of equipment, think of a way to use it, and organize peers into an activity.
Without a purpose, I would be simply babysitting and allowing kids to have open gym. With a purpose, I am teaching.
There are 6 reasons why I teach this lesson.
I believe our physical education standards call for this type of lesson to be taught.
National Standard 3 – “The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.” Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education
Specifically, S3.E1K directly addresses this topic. The physically literate individual “identifies active play opportunities outside physical education.” This is a kindergarten grade level outcome. That means it is at the bedrock of what we teach. Additionally, it means that everyone kindergarten and up should be able to accomplish this task. As a result, I believe it should be occasionally revisited throughout a student’s K-5 physical education experience.
Furthermore, the standards in my state of Tennessee specify that the student will “participate regularly in a variety of non-structured and minimally organized physical activities outside the physical education class.”
- Real-World/Problem Solving
In the evenings and on weekends, parents will sometimes hear their children make statements like, “I’m bored,” and “There is nothing to do.”
If we want children to choose activity over sedentary lifestyles then we need to practice real-world scenarios. I purposely put them in a situation where there is no prescribed activity. After all, this is what happens in driveways, backyards, parks, and recess areas everyday. It is truly a real-world situation that each student will face, and it is a great problem-solving task!
At the conclusion of the lesson, you and your students can engage in a rich discussion using the following questions:
What equipment did you use?
How did you use this equipment?
How did you organize yourself?
What activities did you and your friends create or engage in?
Sometimes, I have this discussion at the midpoint of the lesson in order to allow students to share ideas. You can also make the connection to home by using the following questions:
What equipment/resources do you have at home?
How do you use that equipment?
Who do you use it with?
What activities do you and your friends create or engage in at home?
In fact, we usually have a discussion prior to fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks about how they can get their heart rate up while away from school. We then discuss what they actually did to get their heart rates up during their first class back.
- My Teaching Goal
My goal as a physical educator is to provide a safe and inviting classroom where all students can experience growth in their skill development. I want to equip each child with the basic skills so that when they see an activity at recess, in the neighborhood, at the park, or anywhere else that they have the confidence to say, “Hey, I can try that because I learned it in PE!”
In order to achieve this goal, I spend many lessons teaching skills and helping the students apply those skills in game-like situations.
However, in order to see if they can apply those skills in an unpredictable setting, I need to place them in an unorganized situation. I need to see if they can organize themselves, use the equipment that is out, and get their own heart rate up.
This activity gives the students a choice. Too often, almost every minute of a child’s day is dictated. Therefore, I like to provide them with a little freedom to figure things out for themselves. Some students opt to review previously taught skills whereas others let their creativity run wild!
- Learn & Observe
During this lesson, I like to stand back and watch. As I observe, I can quickly stop the activity as needed. I may need to redirect a group of students, highlight an activity I observed (i.e., how a piece of equipment was used), or share how a particular situation was handled (i.e., how two students settled a disagreement or helped each other).
I am eager to see if they will use the equipment by themselves, with a partner, or in a small group.
The students are quite creative and oftentimes use a piece of equipment in a manner that I have not thought of.
If I observe something I like, I write it down. I have created several large group activities based on what I have observed during these lessons.
If you have not recently, I encourage you to place your students in a similar situation and see how they decide to get their own heart rate up.
School is almost out here in Tennessee (May 26th) so I will take the summer off and see you in the fall!
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