The “Meet or Beat” Challenge: 3 Simple Ways to Motivate Students Using Pedometers

Providing an atmosphere that is motivating, encouraging, and safely encourages risk-taking is a challenge we face daily as physical educators. Using daily has helped me overcome this challenge. Pedometers are not a toy; they are a powerful learning tool. Here are three ways in which I use pedometers and a strategy I call the “Meet or Beat” Challenge to help motivate students, incorporate this great technology and bring informal assessment into the classroom.

It starts with this simple idea: in addition to giving an overall pedometer movement goal for a lesson, I often challenge students to “meet or beat” their activity time, MVPA, or step counts in various aspects of the lesson or throughout a unit sequence.

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Student-Centered ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers

Simply stated, the students set a goal (activity time, MVPA, or step) and try to meet or beat it. Encourage them to think about the type of activity, the amount of time they plan to spend on it, etc.). You can also have them track their progress with a log so they can analyze their results (the free software with the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers  provides a printout for my students).

Taking this one step further, you can stop halfway through a lesson and challenge students to meet or beat their current number. Depending upon their ability, have them remember their number and reset the pedometer to begin tracking again, or ask them to double that current number and try to reach this new goal (ex: 500 steps at mid lesson, so try to be at 1000 steps by the end). This intra-lesson extension of the challenge is a good way for students to monitor their perceived exertion/effort throughout class, helping them finish strong. I have found this especially helpful with small-sided or cooperative games where modifications to encourage movement are added part way through a lesson.

Activity-Centered ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

Whether you run on a block schedule where half of class has one focus and then you switch or perhaps each day is different, use this extension to compare two different activities. Example from a block lesson in Ultimate Frisbee Unit: 30-minute cardio workout on the track followed by 30-minute lesson of Ultimate. I would challenge students to take their activity time, MVPA, or steps that they accumulated during their cardio workout and try to meet or beat this number during Frisbee. Even if not on a block schedule, have students try to meet or beat their performance from a previous lesson (you may have to help them remember their previous number through use of an activity log or other system such as the FITstep™ Pro software).

I enjoy this extension because it challenges students to begin comparing and contrasting different activities. During our lesson closure we compare/contrast the fitness benefits, how you can make an activity more active (jogging while waiting for a pass) or ask which activity was more enjoyable and why.

Teacher-Centered  ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

This is a personal favorite, though I use wisely as overuse may cause it to lose its luster. Wear a pedometer and challenge students to a “meet or beat” the teacher day. Now, let’s be clear, I am not doing this to show up students but rather to be a good example and show them I am willing to do the same work I ask of them. I still set an overall lesson goal but I also challenge them to meet or beat my data. This is something you have to have fun with and try a variety of ways, whether it is a routine lesson or a new activity: Dance with students during Just Dance, run the Pacer test with them (Yes, I have done this!), join a team that is down one player, etc. The challenge really gives me a great excuse to get in there with my students, thus setting a good example. I try to pick activities where I can still move about to safely supervise and provide feedback. You could even empower students to develop their own “meet or beat the teacher” challenge. Now that sounds like fun!

These strategies will work with any pedometer. Though I must say I now only use the Gopher FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers because of their ability to also track activity time, MVPA and download student data into an activity log, which has helped take my program in a great direction.

Motivational Strategy: The “Meet or Beat” Challenge

  • Student-Centered: Students set a goal and work at it. Check halfway through to analyze progress and re-assess level of effort needed to finish strong.
  • Activity- Centered: Compare two different activities or lessons and try to meet or beat the data from a previous lesson.
  • Teacher- Centered: Students have fun trying to meet or beat their teachers effort, as well as enjoy seeing them participate in their activities.

*Remember, always set an achievable goal ALL can ‘meet or beat’ as the overarching goal for the lesson so that the students are set up for success.

This is just one strategy to motivate students, bring some fun and informal assessment into the classroom, and integrate pedometers appropriately. Leave your comments below and share with us one way you use pedometers to help motivate students!

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