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Recess: Observations, Considerations, and Lessons Learned

Posted 2 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

From legislatures considering state level laws, to schools examining recess policy, to the release of the CDC documents and suggestions for Strategies for Recess in Schools, recess has received a considerable amount of attention in recent months. Throughout my career I have had the chance to be involved in many facets of recess. They range from implementing strategies as a teacher, to conducting research, writing papers, helping develop policies, and discussing the use of recess as punishment with my daughters’ teachers. On this latter point I would love to be able to report that the teachers were thoroughly impressed with my expertise, data, and suggestions. Well...not so much. Based on my experience, my intent here is to provide my observations, considerations, and lessons learned to help physical education teachers and other school physical activity champions.

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Define recess

When creating laws and policies it is essential that within this process recess be defined. Further, the definition must include language to ensure students are allowed to engage in physical activity of their choosing. Without this language loopholes will be found. For instance, I have heard, “Yes they have to sit out but it’s still ‘recess’ from learning” or “I’m not taking activity time at recess away, they are walking laps because they forgot homework.” Anyone’s blood boiling yet? One definition that helps specify what recess is and avoid loopholes is provided by the Active Living Research Brief. It defines recess this way: “Recess is scheduled outside of class time and allows students to engage in physical and social activities of their choice.” This can be better worded to meet your needs. However, the key is to ensure students have the chance to engage in physical activity that they choose, obviously with parameters, and minimize the chance for less than desirable loopholes.
 

Change the recess environment

Take a look at the recess environment at your school. Would you want to go there to be active? If there were 400 of my peers with one supervisor and I wasn’t confident or was afraid of being picked on, I wouldn’t venture out into that abyss. If there were two basketballs, a jump rope, and a bunch of dead grass, that’s not the active environment I would choose. We have to consider this. The research is pretty clear that zoning the recess environment off, providing inexpensive recreational equipment (not playground sets), training staff, and painting the space to be more appealing, all increase activity levels. The research and summary of these can be found in the ALR brief mentioned above. Also, Gopher has an excellent program called Active and Healthy Schools that can assist you in making your recess environment more appealing.
 

Teach recess activities in physical education

Almost 15 years ago I stumbled onto this phenomenon. I was doing research on recess and I noticed that the students were playing Four Ball Soccer (or how many ever soccer balls they had that day). This seemed very odd because most students would not think of this. If there aren’t uniforms, lines, and adults there to ruin it, they don’t know how to play soccer. I asked the physical education teacher about it and he said, “Oh we teach a bunch of recess activities at the beginning of the year so they know some options.” GENIUS. Of course, he had been doing this for 20 years and I was late to the dance. This strategy does not take away from physical education time; in fact it lends itself to what we are supposed to be doing, promoting physical activity. This strategy also allows students to see the link between physical education lessons and physical activity beyond the gymnasium. Some examples of activities that can be taught in physical education and then used at recess are:

  • Four Ball Soccer – Played like normal soccer except there are four balls used rather than one. Also, the player who kicks the ball out of bounds has to chase it. This tends to cut down on players kicking as hard as they can.

  • Dance Party – Teach some dances during a physical education lesson. At recess, turn on the songs and let them dance. They can do the dances taught or make up their own… as long as they are appropriate.

  • Walking interview – Designate a walking trail on the playground and provide students with cards with questions. This will help get the conversation started.


Equipment checkout

When I was teaching, equipment loss at recess was always a challenge and costly. I believe there are still missing playground balls on the Dallas Tollway, which was just a fence and tiny road away from the playground. On a trip to England several years ago I was shown yet another GENIUS idea. The school had a small shed that housed the recess equipment. At the beginning of the year each student was given a small token. A piece of wood they can decorate and put their name on works perfectly. Each week a different class served in the shed as the equipment managers during recess. Typically, only one or two students were needed per day. Students then gave the managers their token in exchange for a piece of equipment. When the equipment was returned, so was the token. If equipment was not accounted for, the last user was known. This process virtually eliminated equipment loss and put ownership/responsibility on the students.

These are just a few ideas. I ran out of space and didn’t get to address more ideas like indoor recess, intramurals, and teacher engagement. All great ideas that I have stolen over time. Give the ideas here a shot and see if it helps maximize recess time. Thrive! 

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10 Favorite Coated-Foam Ball Ideas and Activities

Posted 2 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Just picture it... you receive an equipment order and go to open the box. In it is a package of shiny, new Rainbow® Set of foam balls. Ah, the coveted coated-foam ball! No, it’s not a dodge ball. It’s a coated-foam ball that is used in boundless ways in a quality physical education program. A variety of quality foam balls are an important staple in any physical education teacher’s equipment room. You can use them for just about anything!

Attending professional development opportunities and participating in social media has allowed me the opportunity to grow my repertoire of foam-ball based usage and games to expand beyond the traditional “dodgeball-esque” games. There are so many wonderful activities and games using foam balls. Here are my top 10 favorite uses and some “go-to” games:

 

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1. Foam ball as a medicine ball

I don’t have enough medicine balls for each student to have one so I turn to the foam ball where everyone can learn the exercises correctly before using the medicine ball for resistance. A new favorite has been the “plank tunnel” where teams of students line up in plank position and race against each other to the be first team to pass a foam ball through its “tunnel” and back to the start while maintaining the plank hold.

 

 

2. Foam ball partner activities

Students are highly social and our classroom is an important setting to allow for social interaction. I use foam balls for wacky relays (think “under-over-under-over” races), partner passing for throwing and catching development, and curl-ups with chest pass. I like to even extend the partner chest pass to one done while balancing on a BOSU® Trainer. This one gets a real smile out of students!

 

3. Target practice

Whether rolling or throwing, using foam balls to knock down pins or cones, hit targets on the walls, and throw through hula-hoops are essential to target games. The foam ball is a safe way to allow for high repetition practice for throwing development.

 

 

4. Racquet sports or striking development

Use high-bounce, small foam balls for indoor tennis, pickleball, table ball, or handball.

 

 

 

5. Beginner basketball skills

Try a high-bounce, larger foam ball for dribbling and shooting.

 

 


 

6. Indoor soccer and hockey

Foam balls for indoor soccer or floor hockey also work well.

 

 

7. Softball skill development

Place a small foam ball on a tall cone for indoor batting practice, or baseball/cricket-style games such as womba-ball and bonkerball (bonus: softer to catch).

 

 

8. Nutrition themes

Use Rainbow® colored foam balls for nutrition-themed integration games. Reinforce the food groups while also playing a coated foam ball game. Gopher has a ton of nutrition-themed games to check out!

 

 

9. Spikeball™

Grab a hoop and a high-bounce foam ball and you’ve got yourself a makeshift Spikeball™ game. Before I had multiple sets of the original Spikeball™ game I supplemented my unit with skinny hula-hoops and a high-bounce foam ball. It is an excellent progression for younger students and Jo Dixon has a nice Spikeball™ blog to get you started.

 

 

10. Invasion games

Invasion style games such as SturTee™ and Coneball using a coated foam ball are an important part of my physical education program. Check out my previous blog on these two games. Using a foam ball is less intimidating for students while still maintaining the spirit of the game. These Ultimate Frisbee style games are a favorite with my students.

 

Continue the conversation: What are your favorite ways to use coated foam balls? #PEblog #physed @gophersport @JessicaShawley

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Screamin' Phys Ed Games Your Students Will Love

Posted 2 months ago - by Gopher Community

Team gym games are meant to be fun, active and a little out of control. We used Gopher’s Screamin’ activity balls, hoops, cones, and bowling sets to put together a list of phys ed games to play inside that are sure to make your kids scream with excitement! 

Pass, Protect and Score!

 

This fun PE game will have your students screamin' with excitment. Split students up into three teams. Students are assigned to be either a thrower, blocker (3 students) or receiver (3 students). Receivers hold a hula hoop above their head and are limited to a designated area. In order to score for their team, throwers must throw their team’s colored ball to score in their colored hoop. Blockers attempt to block the other team’s ball from scoring. The first team to score all of their colored balls is the winner. For a larger class, play on both ends of the gym!

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Circle Pin Protector

 

Students are split into three different teams and assigned to a Screamin' color. They must roll or throw the balls to knock down their opponent’s pins while trying to protect their own. Students must throw the ball within their team’s circle, but are able to leave the circle to retrieve balls.
 

Team Pin Knockdown

 

Place Screamin’ Cones along the center line and Screamin’ Pins on each side of the gym. Kids must use the Screamin’ Balls to either roll or throw to knock down all of their opponent’s pins. The team with pins still standing at the end of the game, wins!

 

Pin Defender

 

Students form a circle around a Screamin’ Hoop with a Screamin’ Bowling Pin in the middle. Students pass the ball around the circle while one student tries to prevent the pin from getting knocked over. If a player knocks a pin over, they earn a point for the offensive team. If a player attempts to knock a pin over and misses, the student must switch places with the student guarding the pin. If a player is the pin guard and the pin gets knocked over, they must subtract a point from their individual score. The first person to 10 points is the winner! This game is an adaptation from thePhysicalEducator.com, check out Joey Feith’s “Guard the Pin” skill progression here.
 

Pin Protector

 

Screamin’ Yellow, Orange, and Green pins are placed on the opposite side of the gym. Students must roll or throw to knock down their opponent’s pins. Once all of your pins have been knocked down, your team is eliminated from the game. The last team standing is the winner!

View Gopher's entire selection of Screamin’ equipment.

Do you have a game that your students love? Share them with the Gopher Community by commenting below!

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Differentiation in HPE: Being Responsive to Our Students' Needs

Posted 2 months ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

“How can we organize and design activities to support students of various backgrounds, readiness and skill levels and interests in Health and Physical Education?”

This is a question I receive often from my student teachers as they begin to explore and discover the complexities of teaching health and physical education during a time in our society that finds us teaching in schools and communities that are more diverse than ever before. 

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Our students are coming with various prior learning experiences in HPE related to their cultural, gender, ability, interests, and opportunities. Teachers need to prepare and plan a quality and inclusive learning environment, one that allows all students to develop the motivation and confidence to engage in physical activity whether they are beginning their physical literacy journey in the elementary grades or making progress through their middle school and high school experience. A one size fits all approach does not support all students in HPE.  We need to be responsive to all students’ needs in HPE as their health and well-being depends on it! Differentiated Instruction (DI) is an effective approach.  

Differentiation is simply a teacher attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small group of students, rather than teaching a class as though all individuals in it were basically alike.” (Carol Ann Tomlinson)

The four components of Differentiated Instruction include:

  • Content – what is to be learned
  • Process –  how students acquire information 
  • Product – how students demonstrate their learning 
  • Learning Environment – where and with whom students learn

Let’s explore each of these components in relation to teaching HPE:

  1. Content – Help students identify areas of deficiency in movement skills and physical fitness while modifying the learning process to meet students’ needs; build on their strengths and provide multiple opportunities for formative assessment. LEARN, PRACTICE, DEMONSTRATE, More PRACTICE
     
  2. Process – Use a variety of instructional strategies, effective questioning, and flexible groupings to ensure learning is appropriately outlined for each student. DI strategies such as Tiering or Cubing with station-centered activities provide choice and modifications for gradual skill building, in turn building confidence, increased motivation and movement competence
     
    • Tiering or modifying activities provides multiple ways in which students can learn, practice and demonstrate movement skills or fitness skills according to their own readiness level, ability and interests. “Challenge by Choice” allows students to self-regulate and self-monitor their progress. For example, in a circuit/station format students can choose their challenge.
      • To develop balance and landing skills Power Jumps or Speed Skater Leaps 
      • To develop upper body muscular strength  Wall pushup, Modified pushup on knees, pushup from feet, Spiderman pushup as seen in the image below
      • To develop manipulative (carrying skills) dribble a basketball while stationary, in a forward straight-line motion, weaving through cones, in pairs mirror your partner’s movement while both dribbling 
         
    • Cubing involves selecting several activities to develop movement skills and/or fitness skills and a dice. For example, a cubing Yoga Circuit can include 6 different stations, #1–6 with various postures. In pairs, students roll the dice and move to the designated station number to try a posture and hold for a designated length of time, then repeat.
       
  3. Product – Employ several assessment strategies such as conversations, observations, or products for students to demonstrate what they know in a variety of ways. Included below are several assessment tasks to triangulate data of student achievement of learning expectations from the Ontario Elementary 2015 HPE Curriculum
    • Grade 4:  Movement Competence Strand with focus on specific expectations of movement strategies

      B2.3 apply a variety of tactical solutions to increase their chances of success as they participate in physical activities (e.g., individual activities: establish a breathing rhythm when swimming, use a video showing tricks and moves with a skipping rope to learn how to break down a new move into simpler steps; target activities: choose a larger target for optimal success; net/wall activities: assume a ready position that will allow them to be ready to move in a variety of directions to defend a space; striking/fielding activities: throw or kick the ball away from fielders; territory activities: help their team keep possession of the ball by making short passes to teammates in a keep-away game or by changing directions quickly when dribbling a basketball) [IS, CT]
       

      Grade 5: Living Skills Strand with focus on specific expectations of personal skills

      1. 1 use self-awareness and self-monitoring skills to help them understand their strengths and needs, take responsibility for their actions, recognize sources of stress, and monitor their own progress, as they participate in physical activities, develop movement competence, and acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living (e.g., Active Living: monitor progress to- wards fitness goals, noting improvements or lack of improvement and making changes as needed; note how physical activity makes them feel, particularly when they are experiencing stress; Movement Competence: describe how knowing their strengths and areas for improvement can help when they are learning new skills; Healthy Living: describe some of the factors or situations that cause them to experience stress)


    • Listed are several assessment strategies for HPE adapted from OPHEA’s Inquiry Based Learning in Health and Physical Education Resource

    • Conversations

      Observations

      Products

      • Conference
      • Interview
      • Questioning
      • Small group discussions; e.g. think, pair, share; 2 stars and 1 wish
      • Large group discussions
      • Quick debriefs after a game or within a physical activity circuit
      • Observation of game sense in a game e.g., moving into open space to support team mate, communicating effectively to teammates
      • Student journals
      • Student/peer assessment of a movement skill or fitness skill using a 4 point checkbric – emerging, developing, competent, accomplished
      • Physical demonstration of performance of a chosen movement skill or fitness skill
      • Video or audio recording
      • Photograph or series of photographs to demonstrate phases of a movement skill
      • Report
      • Presentation
      • Pamphlet or Public Service Announcement
  4. Learning Environment - Consider ways to create a student centered, physically and emotionally safe environment that is relevant to your students’ lives.

    • Get to know your students’ interests, previous experiences, and goals related to HPE.

    • Co-construct success criteria with your students to ensure the learning targets are clear and transparent to them.

    • Understand the context in which you are teaching so that you can be culturally relevant and responsive to your students’ needs

Pause and Reflect:

In what ways, do you organize and design activities to support your students of various backgrounds, readiness and skill levels and interests in Health and Physical Education?

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5 Tips for Increasing MVPA Time in PE (Video)

Posted 2 months ago - by Gopher Community

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children between the ages of 6-17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical Education is the main source of activity for many students. It’s extremely important to make sure that your curriculum is providing students with sufficient MVPA time. Here are five tips to increase MVPA time during your class:

1. Instant Activity

Create an activity for students to participate in as soon as they enter the gym! Have every student grab a basketball and make a hoop on every basket before class starts, Everybody’s It Tag or a quick game with Topple Tubes.  The video above asks students to perform today’s date by completing different exercises!


2. Active Roll Call

 

Tired of squads? Liven up your roll call by making it active! In the video above, students draw cards and perform a different activity based on the suit and number on the card. Every student must come to you to get a new card. This is a great way to see who is absent! Other easy ways to perform roll call is having every student grab a pedometer, if you don’t have data from the pedometer, then the student was not present in class. Establish pairs or teams for an entire quarter to be used for instant activities. You’ll know a student is absent if a partner is missing or a team is incomplete.
 

3. Smaller Games = More Participation

 

As Chad Triolet states in an earlier blog, group games can lead to a few players dominating the action. Increase activity time for all students by splitting a large group game into several smaller ones. Extra students can practice skills and rotate in once a mini game is over.

 

4. Circuit Stations

 

Tabata is a great way to increase MVPA time in PE! Check out Pete Driscoll’s webinar, “Introducing Tabata Workouts for PE.” He has some great ideas to get students moving. The video above is a non-stop circuit. Students complete one exercise and hustle over to the next piece of equipment for the next exercise. Perform 10 minutes of non-stop circuit action!


5. Active Time Fillers

 

Shannon Jarvis wrote a great blog featuring quick activity ideas for when there’s 5-10 minutes left in class. The video above is a variation of Shipwreck, but with a Basketball theme.

 

Bonus: Additional Ideas

  • Limit Transitions: Limit the amount of transitions in your class! Continue a lesson plan with the same groups of three or create easy commands for finding new partners.
  • Shorten Directions: Keep your directions short! Less directions = more activity.
  • Be Passionate! Your enthusiasm rubs off on your students. Students will want to be more active if they are inspired by their teacher. Be a great role model and your students will benefit from it!

 

Resources: Physical Activity Facts

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Step Count vs. Activity Time in PE

Posted 3 months ago - by Robert Pangrazi

Are you tracking step count or activity time in your physical education classes? Dr. Robert Pangrazi explains why activity time is a more fair and accurate measure for students. 

 

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MVPA Hops to New Heights with Jump Rope Program (Video)

Posted 3 months ago - by Gopher Community
 

Jumping rope is an excellent exercise for increasing activity time, coordination and confidence. While jumping rope is often used as a warm-up activity, one professor studied the health and social benefits of an after school jump rope program.

Minnesota State University Physiology professor, Dr. Jessica Albers, studied students as they spent 2 hours after school learning how to jump rope.

“It’s one of the more high-intensity activities that you can participate in,” Dr. Albers said. “You wouldn’t think that jumping this high over and over again would get your heart rate up that fast, but it does.”

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Students between the ages of 8-12 learned and mastered different jump rope skills throughout the 12-week program. At the end, students performed a group routine at the local high school.
 

Increasing MVPA through Jumping Rope:

Jumping ropeWhile Dr. Albers used a more scientific approach to determine MVPA (Accelerometer counts and intensity cut points developed by Freedson et al), Gopher’s FITstep™ Pedometers track step count, total activity time, and total time within the moderate to very vigorous activity zone. With the FITstep™ Pro Pedometer, teachers are able to upload data into the FITstep™ software to organize into printable reports.

“What it’s looking at are the intensity levels of your activity,” Dr. Albers said, “If you want to actually see changes in the cardiovascular system within the respiratory system and even musculatory system, depending on the type of activity you’re doing, you need to be at these higher intensities.”

She tested students three times throughout the 12-week, 90-minute program and concluded the following activity results:

  • 9.7 minutes (10.8%) in very vigorous activity
  • 7.6 minutes (8.4%) in vigorous activity
  • 28 minutes (31.2%) in moderate activity
  • 8.0 minutes (8.9%) in light activity
  • 36.7 minutes (40.7%) in sedentary

Dr. Albers admits that most of the sedentary time was spent learning new skills and the group routine.  

“When we broke down, just for sense of time, MVPA specifically - moderate, vigorous and very vigorous - they were meeting their recommendations.” Dr. Albers said.

Albers was surprised with how much very vigorous activity time students were getting and thinks jumping rope is a great way to keep students motived throughout the entire class period. 

“We could just make kids run for 30 minutes a day. PE - go run for 30 minutes a day! But that’s no fun.” Dr. Albers said, “With jump rope, hopefully you keep it interesting enough that they continue to be active enough during that period of time.”

 

Other Benefits of Jumping Rope

Beyond physical fitness, Dr. Albers explained that there may be other benefits to jumping rope.

“Jump roping is so unique, you learn skills every single day.” Dr. Albers said. “If you have success in something, it overall increases your self-competence, and then with that, you are more likely to try something multiple times.”

Dr. Albers uses Harter’s Competence Motivation Theory as a large motivation for her reasoning. According to Oxford Reference, Harter’s Competence Theory explains that a person’s confidence increases after they master a task, encouraging them to take on more challenges in the future.

“You master so many things [in jumping rope], as opposed to some sports, you might take longer to see those mastery attempts be successful.” Dr. Albers said.

 

Getting Started with your Jump Rope Program

Dr. Albers currently teaches a jump rope class at Minnesota State University – Mankato and has worked with multiple schools to expand their PE curriculum or add an after-school jump rope program.

 “I encourage you to just go try it and be out there with your students.” Dr. Albers said, “Kids figure out things faster than you would think. Even showing them a video, they can kind of figure out some things on their own pretty fast, which is always fun.”

Dr. Albers recommends using the photos and videos at Jump Rope for Heart to learn different skills and techniques. You can also use Gopher’s JumpSkillz™ Mountain, a 6’L x 4’W banner that offers step-by-step instruction for 20 progressive drills and is a great resource for increasing jump rope instruction into your program. Need to replace broken jump ropes or add more to your storage room? Check out these Jump Ropes all backed by an Unconditional 100% Satisfaction Guarantee! 

How do you use jumping rope in your PE curriculum? Share your ideas for increasing activity time by commenting below!

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Enhance PE Best Practices with Pedometers

Posted 3 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

If you ever have the chance to attend a workshop featuring high school physical education teacher Maria Corte, you need to do so. She is one of the most highly respected workshop presenters I’ve ever met. She teaches physical education best practices through her “M’s” of quality physical education: Manage, Move, and Motivate. We’ve got to be able to manage, move, and motivate our students. I would also add to this list: Measure. How do we measure student progress or program impact? There’s one measurement tool that has been a game-changer for my program when it comes to achieving the “M’s” of quality physical education, and that’s the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometer.

I classify the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometer as one of the most applicable and affordable teaching tools available today. It was specifically designed for physical education. I recommend it to anyone wanting to add meaningful technology to their program, especially one that measures student progress and can easily report this data to students, parents, and administrators. Data is a powerful tool.

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A few of my favorite FITstep™ Pro Pedometer features include:

  • In less than 2 minutes, an entire class of 30+ can download their data.
  • The software program is free. No annual fees.
  • Students get immediate feedback: How active was I today? How do I feel?
  • I get immediate feedback: Did my lesson go as planned? How active was it?
  • I can print customized reports for each student, class or both.
  • I can use them in PE, for take-home projects, or staff wellness challenges.

I’m now expanding the use of pedometers to outside the general physical education classroom. Last spring my classes cycled through wearing a pedometer home for the week. Students filled in an activity log and analyzed their data in a Physical Activity Reflection assignment. This helped them develop a plan toward achieving the “60 Minutes a Day of Play” recommendation. Some of my special education students now wear the pedometers all day to measure daily physical activity levels at school. They enjoy the privilege of having their own pedometers. The purpose of expanding pedometer use outside of physical education is to help students begin to connect what they are learning in class to their personal lives. I want them to develop a physical activity plan that supports health-related fitness and achieves moderate-to-vigorous intensity levels in activities. The pedometers help teach these concepts. I want students to identify what they enjoy, the health benefits of these choices, and where they can access it outside of school.

The research shows active students are better learners. Elementary classrooms now have students wear pedometers all day to motivate students to be more active, help them reflect upon their activity choices in school, and help teachers integrate more movement-based teaching practices and activity breaks. Integrating movement in the classroom is now a respected best practice.

The opportunities pedometers can provide school systems are many. What an amazing time in our profession! Check out my website’s pedometer resource section for more ideas.

The FITstep™ Pro with the "M's" of Quality Physical Education:

MEASUREMENT

  • Simultaneously captures THREE Modes: Steps, MVPA, and Activity Time.
  • Achieve national and state standards to measure 50% or more MVPA time in class.
  • The free customized tracking software comes with free upgrades. No annual fees.
  • Data downloads in less than 2 seconds, maximizing class physical activity time.
  • Customizable reports for parents, students and administration are easy to create.
 

MOVEMENT

  • Analyze student and class activity time immediately. Are students really moving?
  • Concrete data. No more guessing.
  • Reflect upon MVPA & activity time. Did I implement an effective lesson?
  • Helps students understand what intensity levels they are moving at.
  • Helps students set movement goals and can challenge them to keep moving!


     

MOTIVATION

  • Students are empowered with the instant feedback from the pedometer.
  • Students can set goals, see if they are achieved and reflect upon the results.
  • These pedometers are very accurate. Reliable data helps motivate students.
  • The pedometer can be personalized to a child’s MVPA threshold each class, allowing for more success other single-mode pedometer.


MANAGEMENT

  • Attendance is quickly taken with the pedometers, helping lessons begin faster and reducing discipline issues.
  • Students put the pedometer on and can begin moving instantly.
  • The pedometers can be used each class period for different students.  
  • Students of all abilities can use this pedometer easily.

 

*Table information adapted from Gopher website

 

Today’s physical education programs must know how to effectively “Manage, Move, and Motivate” students. Programs must also be able to Measure student progress. The FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometer supports all of these areas.

  • What is your current system for achieving the “M’s” of quality physical education? How might pedometers help you advance your teaching? 
  • Looking to purchase pedometers? Check out local grant opportunities through your hospitals and insurance agencies. Look into Donors Choose, Fuel Up to Play 60, and become a Let’s Move Active Schools champion. Many grant opportunities are available here and can include pedometer technology.
  • There is a Voxer group for physical education teachers using FITstep™ Pro pedometers or wanting to learn more about pedometers in physical education. Check out the FITstep™ Pro Pedometer group on Voxer

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Utilizing Pedometers and MVPA in PE

Posted 3 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

For almost 10 years, I taught high school physical education wondering what I could use to help measure student participation and at the same time justify student grades.  While attending a conference, I was introduced to pedometers and using MVPA, moderate to vigorous physical activity, and how utilizing this small, easy-to-use device could help put my physical education program on the right path. 

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Let’s start by talking about a couple pedometers that I have used in the past couple years.  We have used both the Gopher FITstep™ Plus and the Gopher FITstep™ Pro.  Both pedometers are extremely reliable and calculate steps, active time, and most importantly MVPA time.  We switched to the FITstep™ Pro for its uploading capability, which allows us to collect data on individual students as well as entire classes and even our entire school.  We have taken our FITstep™ Plus pedometers to our elementary and middle school classes to get our students familiar with the pedometers at a young age, as well as allowing our PE staff at those buildings to utilize the pedometers in their grading and evaluation of students. 

So, how is MVPA calculated?  MVPA is based on the number of steps taken per minute.  The great part about both of these pedometers is that you have control over what the average number of steps per minute is set for the MVPA timer to run.  And the timer only runs when your students are walking or running at or above the set number of steps per minute.  As soon as your students drop below the average that you set, their timer stops running.  It has taken our students a little time to get used to this fact, but they have caught on and do a fantastic job.  Our students are assigned a pedometer number and are permitted to put their pedometer on as soon as they get into our gym.  I smile and laugh every time I enter the gym and see 9th through 12th grade students walking in place or around the gym as I take attendance.  I call it organized chaos!  My administration loves it too, which is a huge help for our program! 

I have been asked many times while presenting to groups on how we use pedometers. How often do you use pedometers?  What is the biggest problem with using pedometers? We use pedometers every day we are outside for class.  Our program offers our students a lot of choices to be active, especially when we are outside.  When we come back inside for the long winter stretch in Central PA, the pedometers hibernate for the winter!  Our students appreciate the break and with the choices they have inside the pedometers don’t always work depending on the activity. 

As for problems, we have a little trouble keeping students from breaking pedometers during some of our activities, mainly flag football and tchoukball.  For flag football, the pedometers are breaking as belts are being pulled off, so we have been trying to figure out a way to avoid this problem and if anyone out there has any suggestions, please share!  Tchoukball is not as rough on pedometers, but we have several students that go all out and land on the pedometers while diving to catch the tchoukball.  This one is not a problem for me, just because I love the enthusiasm!  Now for our biggest issue, trying to get our students to understand that MVPA is based off of steps per minute and that everyone walks at different rates with different stride lengths.  We go over this with our students all of the time and they still struggle to understand why someone who is 6’ tall with long strides walking with someone 5’ with short strides will have a different amount of MVPA time if they walk at the shorter person’s stride.  I am pretty sure we will be dealing with this one for all of time with some students! 

For us, one of the best things about using the FITstep™ Pro pedometers is they allow our students to self-monitor during class, so they know what they need to do to earn credit for class.  We created charts that our students and parents are made aware of at the beginning of the school year, indicating how much MVPA time they need to get in order to earn full credit.  Please feel free to take a look at the chart we use most often and make it your own!  Another great part of using pedometers is parents can understand our system and expectation much better than when it was based solely off of what the teacher felt the student’s effort was in class. 

  

We also have Pedometer Rules posted that we expect students to follow:

  1. Treat the pedometer with respect!
  2. FInd your assigned pedometer (double check!!)
  3. Place pedometer on waistband (not on or in pockets)
  4. At the end of class, upload your pedometer

I also love that pedometers are very low maintenance, which means less work for you!  I have used heart rate monitors before but the upkeep with chest straps and keeping them clean and the time commitment is just not worth it to me!  Now with that said I am looking for feedback from anyone how they like strapless heart rate monitors and if they are effective, because we are always looking for new ways to assess our students!   

Learn more about the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers and all Gopher Pedometers!

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Wearing chest straps, syncing heart rate devices, and calibrating pedometers can be extra work and very time consuming for your students. Tracking activity time is important for measuring growth, but how can you get your students excited about wearing heart rate monitors and pedometers? We asked Minnesota State University – Mankato Physiology Professor, Dr. Jessica Albers, to give us her insight on how to get your students excited about aerobic exercise and tracking their improvement.

1. Explain what they're tracking

A deeper understand of what students are tracking and why they’re tracking it can be a great motivator. We asked Dr. Albers how she would explain MVPA and heart rate to an elementary student, see her response: 

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2. Long-term benefits of a healthy heart

It’s hard to get students excited about long-term health benefits. See Dr. Albers recommendations and tips for talking to your students about their long-term health here:

 


3. Visually tracking growth

When students are able to see their MVPA minutes increase or heart rate fluctuate, it’s a great visual motivator. Dr. Albers discusses that training with heart rate monitors can get your students to think about their activity level intensity, even outside of PE.

 


4. Preparing for fitness testing

We asked Dr. Albers how using pedometers and heart rate monitors can prepare students for fitness testing. 

 


5. Muscles won't work without oxygen

Dr. Albers explains how you can motivate athletes to care about heart rate when they participate in anaerobic activities.

 

 

The ability to efficiently and accurately track MVPA and/or heart rate is key to getting students excited about exercise and tracking their progress throughout class and over time.

Gopher offers a wide variety of equipment to that makes tracking activity time easy and hassle-free for teachers and students. Our line of FITstep™ Pedometers track steps, activity time, and MVPA. The FITstep™ Pro Pedometer uploads data into the FITstep™ Software, allowing you to organize data and print reports. It’s a great way to track your student’s growth throughout the year. Click here for all Pedometer options.

If you’re looking to track heart rate, the Optic™ Strapless Heart Rate Monitor instantly gathers student heart rate data and continuously tracks and displays it in real time. Use the AssessPro™ iPad app to collect heart rate data and email reports. Click here for all Heart Rate Monitor options.

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