This is an excerpt from Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs by Russell Carson & Collin Webster.
This chapter includes three case examples that highlight strategies to implement PA in schools.
Recess: Tabor Valley School
My name is Faith Jackson, and I serve as the headmaster of Tabor Valley School in England. We implement what I believe to be an effective strategy for managing equipment that not only teaches student responsibility but also decreases equipment cost. At the beginning of the year, we require students to pay a small fee to receive their equipment token for recess periods. Our parent organization and school budget supplement for students who cannot pay the fee. Money from the token fees is used to purchase playground equipment. We store the playground equipment in a small shed located on the playground. Each week, a specific class is assigned to manage the equipment shed. This means students from that class are assigned shifts to work in the shed. During recess, all equipment must be checked out of the shed using the token system. For instance, if Louis wants a jump rope, he gives his token, with his name on it, to the shed worker, who in turn gives him the jump rope. When Louis is finished, he returns the rope and gets his token back. At the end of recess, any missing equipment can be accounted for with the tokens.
Recess: Maize Field Elementary School
My name is Hope Martinez, and I serve as the physical education teacher at Maize Field Elementary School, which is located in eastern Nebraska. The school was involved in a study, after which we decided to take the recess intervention to the next level. We have added the RAW component that was discussed in this chapter. I incorporate an activity within my physical education lesson each week, and then, I am sure to include any and all equipment required with the recess equipment pack so students can engage in that activity during recess. I also more frequently add activities via short lunchtime videos so students will be reminded of the activities available to them. To enhance PA despite difficult climates, in the winter months, students voluntarily bring in shovels to clear snow from the blacktop areas during recess. We allow students to bring small sleds to slide down a hill at recess as well. If proper attire is not available for students who want to participate, our school works with local community organizations to find resources to get the appropriate clothing. We usually have no issues with finding organizations or businesses to donate.
Michelle A. Webster
Rosewood Elementary School
I am in my 18th year as an elementary classroom teacher and, in 2015, was Teacher of the Year at my previous school. For most of my teaching years, I have taught second grade. This year is my first time teaching third grade. When I first started teaching, I was reluctant to have my students leave their desks because I felt I would lose control of my classroom if I allowed children to move too much. But over the years, my attitude toward classroom movement opportunities has changed. Now, I understand how critical PA is to classroom management and students' academic performance. In fact, I often assign special leadership roles that involve more movement to students who tend to stray off task the most. I have these students pass out materials to the rest of the class.
While MI helps with classroom management, classroom management also helps with MI. I establish a strong management system at the beginning of each year. My students know my expectations, which include how to behave during movement opportunities. Even though some years I have had students with physical disabilities in my classroom, I have never found it impossible to provide movement opportunities for all of my children. One year, I had a student with brittle bone disease who was in a wheelchair. He was still able to participate in PA while in my classroom because I made sure the other students understood that they needed to give him his own space and avoid touching him. My students love it when they get to be active during class, and I am able to incentivize good classroom behavior using PA as a reward.
One of my goals as a teacher is to make sure my students never sit too long; I estimate that my students spend about half of their time in my classroom out of their desks. I use a wide range of strategies to incorporate PA into my classroom routines. A lot of movement time is transition time from one lesson or activity to the next. I try to transition my students every 10 minutes or so. I'll tell them to free dance to the carpet or back to their seats, and they love coming up with their own movements. My classroom setup promotes more movement during transitions because I arrange the desks in pods (groups of four or five desks), which affords more space than putting the desks in rows. I also store materials in different places around the classroom. Students must travel around the room to get the things they need during the day.
Another way I get my students moving is by integrating PA into academic lessons. I like to use songs with accompanying movements in science and social studies. For example, we sing songs about the water cycle (condensation, precipitation, and evaporation) and move our bodies to illustrate these concepts. In English language arts, my students perform reader's theater, in which they act out a story while practicing fluency. During math class, I like using task cards with math problems (e.g., multiplication and division) to review units. I tape the cards on the walls around the room, and each student and a partner walk to the different cards to solve the problems. I place the cards at different levels on the walls so students have to bend or stretch to read the problems.
My students usually show signs of losing focus in the afternoon after lunch and recess. They either fidget or slump more and need movement to keep them going during the last two hours of the school day. So we do lots of different kinds of movement breaks. We use video-based breaks from GoNoodle, and I find lots of helpful resources on websites, such as Teachers Pay Teachers. Much of the time, however, I find that my students prefer to create their own movements as opposed to following along with someone else's. My experience has taught me that students want autonomy as learners and enjoy learning more when they can choose how to move. They also like being able to decide when to stand and work instead of sitting at their desks. Many teachers desire autonomy too. I have a better time at school when I am free to teach the way I want to. In spite of all the free resources and prepackaged ideas out there for MI, my most successful strategies to help children stay active during school have been those I came up with myself.