By: William Bode, 2017-2018 SHAPE® P.E. Teacher of the Year
As a beginning teacher 26 years ago, I never thought much about fitness. Sure, I would have my students run through the traditional set of calisthenics. Everybody lines up in squads and everybody counts off the jumping jacks 1, 2, 3, 1… I didn’t see the point when I was a student and truthfully, I didn’t see the point as a new teacher. I just did what everybody in my department did, which seemed right. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Addressing the Lack of Physical Activity Issue in P.E. Class
As I matured as a teacher, I developed my own style of teaching. If it didn’t have an educational purpose, I didn’t do it and would not expect my students to do it either. My classes warmed-up with skill related warm-ups, no longer engaging in the boring routine of calisthenics in squads. I had stopped the old school way of warming up and felt like I was doing the right thing for my students. They were happy, and when have you ever heard a student say “Hey Mr. Bode, when are going to do burpees in class?” Funny right, because they will never say that in a million years.
Interesting how time, experience and an open mind can balance your educational philosophy. Personally as I got older I saw the benefits of purposeful fitness. No longer were the days where I could go out and play a few hours of full court basketball or 2-3 sets of tennis without feeling the effects during and certainly after. Professionally I noticed more and more of students were not very athletic, which meant they weren’t physically active either. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine they weren’t very athletic; it meant they had a lot of gains in the activities I would teach them. But it was not okay that they weren’t physically active.
I had to rethink how I could get my students physically active that would truly help them reap the benefits. I started out with Tabata HIIT training. Thinking that if I could really get their heart rate up quickly with a full body workout they would appreciate it. Not so much. Way too aggressive and too fast. I had to go back to the drawing board. I wanted to make fitness fun and challenging for my students. I wanted them to experience the benefits of exercise without really knowing they were exercising.
Using Play to Encourage Interest in Physical Activity
During the summers I am a camp director for a local church. It is for elementary aged kids and my goal is for them to have as much fun as possible doing physical education activities. My wife was an elementary physical education teacher, so I would use her SPARK K-2 and 3-5 manual to come up with the activities. I thought to myself, why not take some of the popular activities I teach at camp and have my high school students do them? I started off with simple tag games like partner tag, link tag, and flag tag; all non-elimination tag games to ensure everybody continues to play even after they are tagged. To them it was a game, for me it was a sneaky way to build up their fitness levels before we got into a deeper type of workouts like Tabata.
WOW! To my surprise my students didn’t just like these activities, they loved them! They were laughing and getting after it. Typically we debrief after activities and I ask students “How were they successful?, “What was most challenging? and “How did you overcome these challenges?” Now we were sharing critical thinking and problem solving skills and reaping the benefits not only physically, but cognitively. We were on to something.
The next activities I tried was a modified version of builders and bulldozers. Instead of cones, which at the time I did not have a lot of, I used frisbees and disc golf discs. We called it Flip Flop. Students would run around, squat down to flip over their disc. A lot of cardio and now they are working on strengthening their legs. I use playing cards in replace of the discs to increase the challenge also.
I was getting them to run around a lot and build up some cardiovascular endurance, but now I needed to develop their core strength. One of my camp games was “Clean Your Room” and I actually use that as a cooperative warm-up activity for my 9th grade classes. I remembered from a conference I attended the activity “Catapult”. Same concept as “Clean Your Room” except now you had “loaders” and “catapults” working together to fire as many gatorskin balls over a mat wall in center of playing area. The “catapults” would be in the sit up position, hands over head, waiting for a “loader” to give them a ball. Once they had the ball, they would complete a sit-up and fire the ball to the other side. After only two minutes, students could have completed over 30-40 sit-ups. I would yell switch and the roles would be reversed.
Thanks to all the folks that share activities on Twitter I found activities to help develop upper body strength. We have two favorites, Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) Push-up Planks and Push-up Plank Air Hockey. In RPS Push-up Planks, student face a partner in the push-up plank position. Students’ right hand clap (1 or Rock), left hand clap (2 or Paper), right hand clap (3 or Scissors), and left hand they “Shoot” one of the three RPS gestures. Play to 3 or 5 points and find another partner to play against. After 3 or 5 rounds, student have really worked their shoulders, chest and core muscles. Air Hockey is played with a bean bag or knotted shop rag. You can use cones or mats as goals, but not a necessity. Students are about 5-8 feet apart in the push-up plank position. The goal is to slide the bean bag through the opponents hands or goal if you decide to use cones. Play to 5 points and then find another partner.
Helping High School Students Develop Healthy Fitness Goals
My high school aged students love these activities. They laugh, they get competitive in a good way, and begin to develop some of the health related fitness components. I have found that if I start out a semester with these activities for my 9th grade classes, it helps as we transition into more fitness based workouts like Tabata HIIT workouts.
Look for the Teacher Approved icon to shop for products recommended by award-winning and nationally recognized physical education teachers. The physical education instructor’s opinions are solely their own and do not officially represent the views of SHAPE America.