- Summer Break: A Chance to Rejuvenate You! - June 18, 2013
- Ability Grouping in Physical Education? - May 24, 2013
- Testing Time is Here in Physical Education Too! - April 17, 2013
- The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat - March 26, 2013
- The Role of Physical Activity in the School Day - March 11, 2013
- Classroom Activity Breaks – Reap the Benefits! - February 26, 2013
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First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent re-branding of the Let’s Move! program into the Let’s Move Active Schools has renewed the focus of physical activity into the school day. This new emphasis is a result of studies and positions of different groups, particularly the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, regarding the positive effects of activity and exercise during the school day. Among the outcomes was better academic performance and improved behavior. Before we get into the benefits of activity at school, there has to be a differentiation between activity and Physical Education.
Physical Activity or Physical Education?
Not all physical activity is the same as Physical Education. Physical activity can be structured, such as an exercise routine performed at a desk, or unstructured, such as recess. Structured activity will usually take place in the classroom. It can take the form of simple exercises, working with a DVD or recorded routine, or incorporating particular exercises or movements into the lesson. Unstructured physical activity gives the student a chance to select an activity and move at their own pace. They can bounce from activity to activity and explore a variety of activities. This does NOT mean that they are unsupervised. Many times teachers or supervising adults gather in a group to talk or grade papers instead of monitoring the activities. It doesn’t mean a teacher has to run an activity. Instead, it means that they are supervising for “hot spots”, such as disagreements, injuries, or a student putting themselves in a dangerous situation. Physical activity times can be during normal school hours, before school care, and after school care programs. Conversely, Physical Education is a class during the school day that is structured and taught by a certified teacher. As I tell my students, my classroom looks a lot different than others. There are no desks, chairs, or computers, but it is still a classroom for instruction. While the students will get activity, they will also receive instruction on skills and fitness. While physical activity and Physical Education can overlap, they are two very different things!
I’m a classroom teacher! Why do I care about physical activity?
As a classroom teacher, you will see a tremendous benefit from your students getting some brief periods of activity during the school day. These activity times can be in the classroom (covered in my previous article) or at recess. First, they will be more alert and ready to learn. Researchers, such as Dr. John Ratey who authored "SPARK, the Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain," point out that brains develop better and stay sharper with more physical activity. Also, your students will practice organization skills while getting activities started. Social skills can be learned and reinforced. Students will learn how to work out issues between themselves, rather than running to the “problem solver” teacher. Last, just like a teacher looks forward to a break, the students need an opportunity to get up and move around during the day. The WORST thing that a classroom teacher can do is eliminate recess as a punishment for poor behavior or not completing class work. That “break” may be just what your students need to release some energy, get refocused, and return to your classroom prepared to learn.
I’m a Physical Education teacher! Why do I care about extra activity?
First, PE teachers should be the advocate for ANY extra activity that students can get during the day. It is our responsibility to enhance the activity opportunities for our students. In turn, we will reap the benefits! Students will learn to appreciate the joy and health benefits of activity. PE classes will run more efficiently because students will be able to solve simple organization issues (i.e. teams, groups, rotations) on their own and allow you to be a teacher. Also, our students need to move during the day to help address the omnipresent issue of childhood obesity. Additionally, this added activity time should increase the levels of fitness which is critical to areas with fitness testing requirements. Added activity time during the school day is a great way to enrich any Physical Education program.
We are all advocates!
Whether you are a classroom teacher or Physical Educator, extra activity time during the school day will improve your students’ performance. Brief bouts of movement throughout the day and a period of recess will keep students alert, awake, and ready to learn. This added activity will enrich their social, physical, and fitness abilities for Physical Education. It is incumbent upon the entire school staff to create movement breaks for students every day. New changes to the Let’s Move! program will renew the focus on student activity throughout the school day.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]