By: Ron Trainum, 2016 National Middle School Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
As we reach the end of the holiday season and start the New Year, we encounter the yearly plethora of “best of” lists. List after list of top 10’s, best of, or favorite events over the past year. Best song, movie, sports plays, TV shows, etc… Everyone has a favorite! It reminds me of conversations I’ve had with my three kids over the years. Our tradition after taking trips or doing something special many times ended with me asking “What was your favorite thing about …?” I always loved to hear their thoughts that would come up during those discussions.
These thoughts have led me to contemplate some of my favorite lessons/activities over the last 30+ years. I must admit, at thispoint in my career, there are many lessons to choose from, but I attempted to pick three of my favorites. Below are those with some directions for anyone who would like to try them.
The first activity on my list is the Partner Pedometer Challenge. The essence of this challenge is to work with a partner to complete a designated amount ACTIME on a pedometer as a pair by taking turns running and jumping rope. One partner runs two laps while his/her partner jumps rope. Partners switch every two laps. When the designated time has been achieved, partners together demonstrate completion to their teacher. Fist bumps are exchanged to celebrate challenge completion and students move on to the next task. What makes this a favorite for me is the level of self-direction and cooperation that occurs among partners as they complete the challenge. It is one of those moments I can stand and watch in awe as the students go about taking care of business. It also allows me to have personal interaction with every student as they complete the challenge and we exchange fist bumps.
The Triathlon Workout is another of my favorite undertakings. This workout is a way to get kids to work at higher intensity effectively without any complaints. Each student uses a scooter board to complete the workout. Students begin at one of the four cones (see diagram). For the swim portion, students utilize the scooter on his/her stomach, using their arms to propel themselves to the next cone. Next is the first half of the run with students carrying their scooter while running to the bike cone. For the bike section, students move while seated using only their legs, followed by the second run portion. The workout lasts for four minutes, with each student keeping count of the number of completed laps. Although my students are wiped out when they finish this one, they love doing it again later in the year!
The last of my favorites is our Climbing Wall Unit. We have been utilizing climbing walls in our classes for about 20 years. We started with two top rope walls, adding our first traverse wall in 2001 and our second two years ago. What I enjoy most about this unit is that there are so many opportunities for students to challenge themselves individually on a personal level. We create various skill challenges and allow students to pick the level of skill they are most comfortable doing. One challenge we do often is called the ‘Hot Rock Challenge.’ Either the student or I will pick one or two rock colors as the hot rocks. Students then complete the climb without using any of the hot rocks. Students often want to see who can climb the fastest. We also flip flop that idea and have a ‘Sloth Race’ in which students race to see who can climb the slowest. In both of these activities, students always have the option to do what I call a base climb. I don’t ask them what they have chosen, I just let them climb. We progress to more challenging climbs featuring noodle obstacles, magnetic pegs, and beanbag animals.
What is most interesting is to listen to the conversations that occur in all of these activities as students discuss each challenge and how they problem solve, challenge each other, and talk about how they can be successful! That is when the real learning happens! Not with me talking but with them working through challenges with each other. And there you have it! The reason these activities are at the top of my favorites, students working together to challenge each other to be his/her best!
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