For many years there has been a struggle with physical education programs as to whether or not we focus on fitness or continue to teach skills that can also lead to a lifelong physical activity for children. This is a valid contemplation based on the fact that obesity rates are an issue and physical educators feel that children need to be getting as much moderate to vigorous physical activity as possible during school hours.
The major issue with this concept is that physical educators do not have enough time during a typical class or during the week at school to help children accumulate the recommended amount of physical activity. Furthermore, fitness testing conducted once or twice a year should be used to set goals to help students and parents understand what the child needs to work towards to achieve a health fitness level. There is simply not enough time to do this for every student during the school year. So, do we focus on fitness or do we try to intertwine fitness throughout our curriculum?
Over the years, physical education has shifted from teaching skill-related fitness to health-related fitness. Our goal is to educate children on how their body works and what choices they can make to be healthy; especially when they leave high school and are making adult decisions related to their individual health. Many quality physical education programs understand that it is important to teach skills related to sports at the primary level and then progress to allowing children to choose what sports or activities they enjoy and begin to focus on those for their future health. Where does that leave teaching fitness? We all know fitness is a prime importance on living an active and healthy lifestyle.
Having units each school year in a curriculum focused on fitness is of extreme importance. Educating students on their muscles and how they work, bones of the body, heart rates, etc. is essential to help them understand how the body works and various activities they can do to maintain healthy fitness levels. However, the focus on fitness does not need to stop during these specific units. Throughout the school year, physical education teachers can intertwine a fitness focus during most skill units taught.
For example, any instant activity provided could allow the teacher to ask children how their heart is feeling or what muscles they feel are working during the activity. If teachers choose to have children stretch before or after a class, this is a great time to discuss the importance of flexibility (one of the components of fitness) without having to spend several classes on simply stretching. When teaching a skill-related unit of throwing or catching, incorporate activity tasks at some point in the lesson to provide extra moderate to vigorous activity time and then discuss this during the closure. Below are a few suggestions to consider helping children continue to learn fitness concepts while accomplishing teaching a variety of skill activities during physical education class:
Pedometers and heart rate monitors are impactful inclusions in class that allow children to see the feedback individually of how their body is working and what they still need to do at home to accomplish healthy fitness levels for that day. Allowing them to reflect, journal, or discuss at then end of class or for a homework assignment is one simple option to foster their learning about fitness and their body.
We teach students skills related to a variety of sports so they can learn what they enjoy and what they may continue to do, as they get older. Although some tasks during these units may require more sedentary time to teach the correct cues or form for the skill, every lesson should try to include an opportunity for the children to be at least moderately physically active. Self or small group challenges can provide children with this activity so they understand or can learn that skill related activities are healthy and active.
3. Interdisciplinary Focus:
Many school districts and organizations are expecting physical education teachers to include an interdisciplinary focus in their lessons. While we teachers already naturally do this consistently, some quality teachers like to include a main focus on spelling words, math, nutrition, etc. These lessons are very important but can also include a great deal of physical activity and fitness focus content based on how they are organized. For example, set up a distance equal to the distance of the pacer test and have children run to retrieve a letter, number, or word to complete a spelling word, math problem, or nutrition concept to accomplish the objective of the lesson.
4. Weekly or Monthly Focus Vocabulary:
Some quality teachers have found it beneficial and fun to create a “Muscle of the Month” and/or a “Bone of the Month” to be able to focus on a certain part of health fitness for the children during lessons. They are able to integrate/intertwine short discussions or content based on the monthly focus. Check out the Teach-nique Bones Instructional Banner and Teach-nique Muscles Instructional Banner! These enormous 5’W x 3’H banners, made from heavy-duty vinyl, allow for easy display and can be seen from across the gym.
While these are just a few suggestions for how to intertwine fitness into your every day classroom content, there are so many ways a teacher can incorporate fitness while still conducting skill-related physical education classes. Fitness is a huge responsibility for physical education teachers to instill in children. There is not enough time to do this during a unit or two during the school year.
Sport-related skills are also essential to teach children in order for children to feel comfortable and confident possibly pursuing an activity related to an activity outside of a fitness gym experience. Intertwining fitness make take some additional time to consider and plan. In the long run, children will benefit from continuing to understand and learn their bodies while also learning the important part of a skill based fitness curriculum.