Several months ago, I spent some time at a friend’s house. His 4-year-old son was walking around the kitchen, enjoying some crackers for a snack. I won’t name the cracker, but I’d classify it as junk food. As the boy enjoyed his snack, he paused and made a very interesting comment: “The more I eat, the hungrier I get.”
Even at 4 years old, my friend’s son recognized one of the key features of the unhealthy junk-food items found in the dessert and snack aisles of our supermarkets. These foods—including those crackers—are extremely high in refined carbohydrates, which break down quickly into sugar after you eat them. At the same time, there is little useful nutrition in these foods. Eating these foods produces a “sugar rush” that makes you want even more. In other words, these foods not only taste great, they make you feel great too! But only for a minute. You need to keep eating to keep having that great feeling. And this 4-year-old boy, not even in kindergarten yet, was able to verbalize this situation beautifully.
About 5 years ago, a friend of mine named Carolyn retired from teaching. Carolyn was a classroom teacher for over 30 years, and we taught together for several years before she retired. Traditionally at my school, the final teaching day is followed by a check-out day during which teachers pack up their belongings and turn in their keys. On the cleanup day following Carolyn’s final day of teaching, she approached me with a box full of materials. “Here you go—this may be useful to you.” The box was full of PE resources that she had accumulated through the years, including the exercise cards in the photograph below. Carolyn told me that the box had been stored away, and she had forgotten about its contents.
I learned a valuable lesson from Carolyn that day. Teachers accumulate materials over the course of their teaching careers. You might be surprised by some of the valuable materials they have. Talk with your colleagues. There may be some hidden PE gems among their belongings!
Most of the activities in the PE by Design program work best on grass. But many schools have no grass field. Even when there is a field, it is often too wet to use. In these situations, the blacktop (or a concrete area) is the only available outdoor surface on which to hold a PE class.
A hard surface is perfectly acceptable for most PE activities. (One big exception: I avoid conducting most tag games on the blacktop.) However, I always remind students to stay alert and be more careful during any games played on the blacktop.
The PE by Design website offers many activities that students can perform on the blacktop. Here are my top five favorites. They all emphasize movement, so your students will get great exercise with these activities.
If there is one behavior trait that’s taboo for teachers it’s selfishness. However, as classroom teachers acquaint themselves with the process of teaching physical education, I think it’s important for them to put their needs first. I know this sounds heretical, but give me a chance to explain.
Over the course of my career, I have met many classroom teachers who find teaching physical education a challenge. Some flatly refuse to bring their students out for PE—ever. Others offer their students an extended recess, but provide no instruction. Talking with these reluctant teachers, I’ve realized that a lot of their discomfort stems from the process of conducting a PE session—selecting activities, gathering equipment, transitioning their students out to the yard, and initiating the activity. So much goes into making this all work, and each step presents challenges.
We need classroom teachers to get involved in teaching PE, so I encourage them to make the experience of teaching PE as easy for themselves as possible. This “selfish behavior” is perfectly acceptable for classroom teachers as long as the experience is a good one for their students.
Do you feel reluctant about teaching PE? Here are two tips to ease the burden.
Start with short PE periods. Children should get 60 minutes of exercise per day, but you can break that 60 minutes into small chunks. Even 10 minutes of physical activity is good for kids.
Focus on activities that require minimal equipment. It takes time and effort to organize equipment, bring it out to the yard, set it up, and put it away. PE by Design offers many activities that require no equipment at all.
Once you get comfortable with the routine of conducting a PE session, you can extend your PE periods, offer a wider variety of activities, and refocus on putting your students first!
I found a great article this morning in a small publication from Texas. (To view the article, click here) The article focuses on children and energy drinks. Unfortunately, these drinks, including Red Bull and Gatorade, are often marketed directly to children and teens with boasts that they replenish electrolytes and improve athletic performance. But many of these drinks include high levels of sugar, caffeine or both. As the author mentions, professional athletes benefit from electrolyte replacement drinks during a vigorous workout, but not children. Before exercise, children are much better off eating a healthy meal, allowing time for digestion, then drinking water as they exercise.
I once taught with a 4th grade teacher who had a remarkably simple, yet effective, approach to teaching physical education. I’ll call her Brenda.
Brenda led her students out to the yard often. When she arrived at the edge of the grass field, she simply said “Go!” over and over again. Her students immediately started jogging around the yard. They continued for 5 to 10 minutes. Brenda brought her kids out more than any other teacher in our school, probably three days a week.
I noticed something remarkable when I tested Brenda’s students for the mile run. Her students outperformed not just the other 4th grade classes in our school, but all of the 5th grade classes as well! I attribute the success of her students in the mile-run test to the extra running they did with Brenda.
Brenda’s approach to teaching PE was to stick with simplicity, and it paid off. It would have been ideal if she could have built on her simple jogging program, adding other activities for variety. Yet the success of her students in the mile-run test illustrates that even short jogging sessions, carried out consistently over time, can have a great impact on your students’ performance!
I noticed this article from The Aiken Standard today, titled “HEALTH AND FITNESS: Preventing summer weight gain in kids.” The message of the article is a good one: Parents should me mindful of their children’s activity level and diet over the summer. However, I think the emphasis on preventing summer weight game taps into a delicate issue. In my K-5 PE classes, I intentionally avoid references to body-weight when discussing nutrition. I do this because I think elementary age students are too young to manage their weight with the same degree of responsibility as an adult. Instead, I focus on a simpler, kid friendly message in my classes: I often remind my students that they should eat healthy food and get an hour of physical activity per day.
I think the message of emphasizing to parents healthy body weight in children is fine. However, it’s worthwhile to mention that the message should be presented to kids in a way that’s appropriate. Over the summer, kids may be less physically active away from school. It would be totally ok to remind children that they should move throughout the day for a total of at least 60 minutes, while eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Kids say funny things-I think most elementary school teachers would agree on this. I’ve noticed that kids are often at their funniest at times when they’re not trying to be funny; when they’re making a serious point. A while back, I decided to start writing down the funny lines spoken by my K-5 students. So here is the first installment of what I’m calling, “Kid Quotes.” I hope this brings a little humor to your day.
On Friday, California State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson spoke in opposition to federal budget cuts that could impact school nutrition programs throughout the state. Torlakson was speaking at the Ninth Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego. An article from the Santa Clarita Valley public television (click here) lists several programs which assist children and needy families that could be reduced or cut if President Donald Trumps proposals are carried through. I want to applaud Torlakson for his positions.
I recently read a news story that caught my attention. (Click here for link)
A young woman in Florida purchased a school bus and spent a year refurbishing it, converting it into a mobile gym for kids. The best form of exercise is the one that is enjoyed, and it looks like the children that use her mobile gym experience something completely unique and fun as well.
Cheers to this lady for her creativity and hard work!