With the current trend being standardized testing for students as young as 3rd grade, all teachers, including physical education teachers, are being asked to do their part in helping students improve academically. This blog will provide ideas on how to bring cross-curricular activities to PE, and also how physical activity can be brought into classrooms, ultimately resulting in the best experience for students.
Cross-Curricular Activities in PE
Incorporate geography and history in PE by taking students on a virtual cross-country walk to a city or place of educational significance. During PE class, students wear pedometers and track their steps for walking and/or running to the place, let’s use the Grand Canyon for example.
It’s safe to estimate that one step would equal 2-3 feet. At the end of class, students calculate how many feet they walked based on the number of steps they took. Then they determine the number of miles walked and log the data in a computer or log book. Set up a map with your route marked and include check points every 5 or 10 miles. Students should put a mark, like their initials, at the check point when they reach it.
You could also add special check points at towns or cities along the way that have historical significance. When students reach that check point, take a moment or two to share some interesting facts about that place. This is more a long-term project, but the beauty of pedometers is that they can be worn for almost all activities!
This activity is a great opportunity to coordinate with classroom teachers. Students could do a research project about the Grand Canyon during the same time.
A quick and easy way to bring students’ spelling words to class is to have a spelling relay race at the start of class. Create a bunch of paper squares with one letter on each square (or save yourself the work and use this Scramble Game Set). Place the letters in piles at one end of the gym in a hoop.
Say one of the spelling words and have the students run to the hoop and get the first letter in the word and run back. The next student runs and gets the next letter, and so on and so on, until they feel they have spelled the word correctly. When they have the word, have the entire team do jumping jacks to show you they are finished. As the teacher you will quickly check their spelling and if it is correct the students run the letters back to their hoop and they get the next word on the list.
Cross-Curricular Activities at the High School Level
At the high school level, bringing the cross-curricular activities into physical education can be a little more complex. There are great opportunities for biology and PE teachers to work together to have students learning in both classes about the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and tendons being used to do a variety of exercises. Students can do a circuit workout, but instead of saying bicep curls, the teacher could give a clue to get students to think about what muscles, bones and joints are being used to complete the exercise. It’s also a great opportunity to talk to students about the specific function of certain muscles and provide examples of activities in class where the muscle is being used.
If you have a fitness center with cardio equipment, students can also use math skills to calculate their target heart rate zone. Then they can write a paper comparing and contrasting different games in class telling you which game keeps them in their target heart rate zone longer and why.
Physical Activity in Core Subjects
I find the more challenging thing to do is bring physical activity to the classroom. My wife is a third-grade teacher, and I completely understand the she is overwhelmed with trying to squeeze 8 or 9 subjects into her day and me asking her to add PE is the last thing she wants to hear. But, it can be done! And it can be done at little to no expense or you can go all in and spend a little money to get kids active in the classroom.
My wife is fortunate enough that her school district allowed her to purchase active seating and now she has stability balls, wobble seats, and several other similar seats in her classroom that her students use in place of a regular student chair. Her students are allowed to bounce on the stability ball as much as they want as long as there is no air between the ball and the floor and the ball and their backsides. Her class loves it! And it helps those kids with a lot of energy because they can move like crazy and not cause a distraction.
Another way for elementary teachers to incorporate exercise in their class would be through stations. Students are often divided into small groups to complete a variety of tasks throughout the day, so why not have one of the stations be a physical activity like sit-ups, push-ups, or squats?
As the PE teacher, you can teach the students each of the exercises in PE class and make sure they understand exactly what is expected when they do this station in their classroom.
Another recommendation if your school district has the money and the space, would be to create an active classroom using exercise bike or treadmill desks. This equipment is designed for students to exercise and complete school work simultaneously.
There are many great ideas for incorporating core subjects into physical education and also for bringing activity into classrooms. If you or your school uses any different activities or methods, please share in the comment section below!