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Fun Fitness Circuits for PE [Video]

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Jason Gemberling

Circuit Training is one of the best ways to get all of your students actively engaged at their own pace and ability, which in the world of differentiating, this is a jackpot winner! I teach high school students, and we do several styles of circuits throughout the year based on what fitness areas we need to improve and also space and time. The circuits that we use can easily be adapted to any level of students, but please keep one thing in mind, doing circuit training all year or even for extended periods of time will not work for all students! You need to add variety and frequency to your circuits. Imagine if your only form of exercise was intense circuit training, you would lose interest too!

We do three, for lack of a better word, “types” of circuits in program; whole group, small group, and while you wait (this is one of my favorites because it keeps all kids active at all times!). For each “type” of circuit we do, we try to incorporate a lot of variety and also try to hit as many muscle groups as possible. We have extremely wide ranges of ability levels in our classes, so we feel circuit training is a great way to reach all of our students.

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Whole Group Circuits

Our whole group circuits take place either in our main gymnasium, or outside if the weather permits, with our entire class. These circuits will also include cardio, which is something that really ramps the circuits up. One of our favorites to do is called the Rep & Run 300. I am going to give a shout out to Maria Corte for introducing this circuit to me at a conference! In this circuit we set up 15 stations, with exercises ranging from push-ups to military presses with weight plates. And if you are lacking the equipment do not panic, use your imagination and student body weight to accomplish very similar results in your circuit. I won’t lie there are times we do no equipment circuits, because setting up 15 stations and taking them down every day or even within the day can be a pain!

 


The goal of the Rep and Run 300 is for students to start at one of the 15 stations and complete 20 repetitions as quickly as possible utilizing proper form which would give them 300 repetitions in the end. After they finish at a station, the students will leave the center of the gym and jog 3 laps around the perimeter of the gym floor, I encourage you to measure this so your students know how far they are jogging. When they are done with their jog, they re-enter the circuit and move to the next station. This is a very challenging circuit, but the beauty is that the students work at their pace and ability.

Another circuit you could use for a large group would be a Partner Circuit. The video describes what a partner circuit could look like in my gymnasium. Again, this a great circuit to use to get every student in class actively participating on their level.

 

Small Group Circuits

 

For small group circuits, we utilize a variety of equipment and try to make it so students can safely and effectively get through in a small space. We do our small group circuits in our auxiliary gymnasium which is less than half the size of our main gymnasium. When we do small group circuits we have students divided in half with half the group doing their cardio workout on spin bikes in the same space and the other half doing the strength circuit. For our cardio, we have our students do up-down workouts.

Up-down workouts are when students pedal at a required gear at a specific RPM while seated and then when they go up they increase the gear and pedal as hard and fast as they can until they come back down. The intervals for these workouts range from 1 minute down-15 seconds up to 3 minutes down-45 seconds up. Students start with 3 minutes of down to warm their legs up and finish with 3 minutes down to cool down. Check out great spin and exercise bike options!

One of the circuits we do in small group is a mini version of the whole groups circuit. We like to start with this one before do whole group because it allows us to demonstrate proper technique, plus easily correct students because the group is smaller. We also love to use fitness bands in small group circuits because of the small space and the versatility bands provide. The video below will show you the fitness band circuit that we do in class. Remember that there are a lot more exercises you can have students do with fitness bands, so mix it up!

 

Fitness Band Circuit Example:

Everr station will be 20 reps and each exercise should be done slowly and controlled. 

  • Bent Over Row
  • Bicep Curl
  • Tricep Extension
  • Squats
  • Seated Row
  • Shoulder Press
  • Forward Raise
  • Lateral Raise
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Monkeys

 

While You Wait Circuit

 

I love While You Wait Circuits! They keep ALL of our students active at ALL times! We play a variety of games in our classes from Pickleball (all-time best game) to Tchoukball and because our gym is on the small side we don’t have room for all of our students to participate at one time. So, instead of the sitting and waiting to play, we created the While You Wait Circuits! These circuits can be just about anything you want to have students do in the small space you have while they wait. We typically pick 5 exercises that require no equipment have the students do 10 to 30 reps per exercise. The rule for this is that your team can’t get back into play until every member has completed the circuit at least 1 time and those that have completed it keep going. Below is one example of a While You Wait Circuit and a short video demonstration.

While You Wait Circuit Example:

  • 1- Squats – 15 reps
  • 2- Ab of your choice – 25 reps
  • 3- High Knees – 30 steps
  • 4- Push-Ups – 20 reps
  • 5- Rocket Jumps – 20 reps

These are just a small sampling of circuits, and I encourage you to be creative when you create your own circuits. Keep in my mind your student’s abilities, the space you are working with, and the equipment you have at your disposal when you create your circuits. Try to make the circuits fun by cranking up the music and even jumping into the mix with students and showing them that you can do it too! Another fun way to get students more engaged is to invite and encourage other faculty members to join your classes during their planning periods!

I have had many teachers join us and you would be amazed at the increase in effort during class when the math teacher shows up to work out with your class! And finally, as I stated earlier, you do not need a lot of equipment or really any equipment to create successful circuits. Look in the hallway and around your gymnasium or outside classroom for structures or benches or stairs and incorporate these items into your workouts, for example you can have students do dips using bench outside or push-ups with their feet elevated. The sky is the limit,so use your imagination and have fun!

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Team Building Activities & Games for PE

Posted 1 month ago - by Jason Gemberling

One of the best ways to start your school year is to get your students active and working together! Team building activities and games, also referred to as cooperative learning activities, can be a great way to see which students work well with everyone, which work well with certain students, and which students struggle to work well with anyone. We all know we have the full range in any given class, so hopefully incorporating some team building activities and games will bring the entire class together.

 

Island Movers

One of my favorite cooperative games to do when I taught elementary students was Island Movers! The game involves as much or as little equipment as you want to allow.  The idea of the game is for students to use the equipment you give them to get everyone in their group from one end of the gymnasium to the other without anyone touching the “shark-infested waters,” aka the gym floor! Feel free to play some Jaws-themed music too! 

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  • Split class into small groups of 4 or 5 students each for the first couple of rounds. Then make the groups the larger as you go.
  • Start each group with one piece of equipment per person in the group. If they master that, remove a piece of equipment. Examples of equipment: poly spots, carpet squares, cones, jump ropes, scooters, cardboard boxes, etc. Ensure you give each group the same pieces of equipment. 
  • Allow students to work together to cross the shark-infested waters.
  • On the last day of this activity, I make this a class challenge and the entire class must work together to accomplish the task.
  • End each round with a quick debriefing. This is a time to ask your students to share what worked and what didn’t. It also allows students to try a different group’s idea.

Reminders:

  • This is a teamwork activity, so make sure that all groups realize this is NOT a race.
  • If a group is finished, encourage those students to cheer for the other groups.
  • Mix up the groups each round so the students get to work with everyone in the class.

 

Buddy Walking

buddy walking, team walkingAnother team building activity that I have done is called Buddy Walking. This is a fun activity that I encourage you to record on video the first and last day of the activity to see how far the students’ teamwork skills have grown and improved. Everyone will have a good laugh; and, to be quite honest, being able to laugh together is another great way to bond! 

I liked to use the Team Walker Sets from Gopher for this activity. However, if you are low on funds and handy, you can make your own set with some 2x4’s and rope. The idea is to get students to think, communicate, and walk as a group from Point A to Point B. Some students will take charge and lead their group in a cadenced march, while others will struggle to work together. Again, this is why debriefing is crucial!  It will allow students to hear success stories! 

 

Geocaching

Geocaching or treasure hunting is an activity that can be done in small groups or as a whole class and can be a tremendous amount of fun! You are in control of how complex you would like to make this adventurous lesson. I have never had GPS units in my PE closet, but if you can purchase a couple I would recommend it! The units range in cost and complexity, so pick what you feel comfortable using and teaching! And if you don’t have the funds to purchase GPS units, dig deep into your National Treasure skills and create maps of your own for your students to follow. The great part about creating clues to use is that you can pull classroom concepts into PE class, again this all depends on how elaborate you want to make the lesson/unit. I have done this as a search-and-rescue mission utilizing clues that they must follow to get to a specific destination. Along the way as they get to each clue, I like to add different exercises that they must complete as a group before moving onto the next clue. A word of caution, this is not the best thing to do within the halls of your school, it can be a little loud! Shop Geocaching supplies.

 

Team Counting Game

My last suggestion, and I still use this at the high school level, is a counting game. I call it team counting, and I would say this is better for your upper elementary students. There is no equipment necessary and you can use it inside or outside! 

If you have a class of 20 students, the idea is for the class to count from 1 to 20, but each student is allowed to call out only one number. Students sit or stand in a circle and are not permitted to count straight down the line or around the circle. If two students call out a number at the same time, they must start back at 1. If there is a long pause, I usually go with 3 or 4 seconds, then they must start over.  Depending on the class, this task can be done quickly or it may take them 10 minutes or they may never get it. I suggest not letting them struggle to the point where they don’t get it, give them some hints. The hint I use is that once a student has secured a number that they called out, they should always be the person to call that number. Again, debriefing with your class at the end is crucial, because you can talk about different strategies and how they as a class worked together to solve a tricky problem. As an extra little bonus, I use this with my track team and they must do wall sits while trying to work together to count from 1 to however many are in my sprinter/hurdler/jumper group.

I know the thought is to use team building activities and games at the beginning of the year and I agree it is important, but I would also gauge your classes throughout the year. I know when I taught elementary school PE, there were times in the year when I pulled these back out because I felt it was necessary to get everyone back together. This is especially true as they get older because hormones kick in, friendships form, and sometimes you can tell classes are excluding some kids. That never leads to anything positive! I also want to point out that these activities are meant to be fun, and if you notice your students getting frustrated just stop and have a debriefing session to talk things out. If your students are extremely frustrated and you don’t help them work through this, you will have accomplished nothing! Good Luck!

 

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Interested in more team building ideas? Check out these blogs:

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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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Did You Make a P.E. New Year's Resolution?

Posted 4 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

We recently ushered 2016 out of the gym, and I'm sure many of you prepared a New Year’s Resolution to do something great in your PE or Health classes. Maybe you have two or three resolutions you're using to improve your program and help your students reach new personal fitness goals? Or perhaps you decided to make a leap and try a brand new lesson? Whatever it is, I encourage you to go for it! And on top of that share with as many people as you can, you never know your resolution could go viral! 

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Here are a couple of my PE resolutions for 2017:

1. Attend a health and P.E. conference or convention

I want to give myself the opportunity to find new ideas and talk with other fantastic health and physical education teachers. As health and physical educators, we all have several great lesson ideas or activities that our students experience success and gain knowledge; so, we all need to find time to get to a conference or convention and share our successes with others! Building a community for the greater good is one way we can all make a difference!

2. Share at least 1 new fitness activity with my students

My goal here is to find an activity that might get more students physically active every day. It may be that I try PiYo® for my yoga loving students or Zumba® for those that might like fitness-based, high-energy dance. I could also look to add suspension training with a TRX® trainer set. My hope is that the more types of physical activity that I can expose my students to, the better chance that I hit something they may enjoy and continue to do throughout their lives!

3. Start a school-wide fitness initiative

My last resolution for the upcoming year is a big one and I will try my best to make it come to fruition. I would like to start a school-wide fitness initiative to get not just my students, but all of the teachers and school personnel physically active on a daily basis. This may be done through monthly themes or contests in an effort to jumpstart the campaign. It may not happen until the start of the next school year and culminate with a 5k fun run or color run at the conclusion of next school year, but this is something that I feel will bring the students and staff together for one common goal of getting healthier and more fit!

I would love to hear your resolutions and I encourage you to try something new! And if you are looking for ideas, please search through the amazing blog posts on this site and see what you can make work in your class!

May 2017 be a GREAT year for you all!

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A Feast of Thanksgiving Turkey Trot Ideas for Your School!

Posted 6 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Looking for a fun and fit way to send your students home for Thanksgiving Break this year?  Try a trot, a Turkey Trot that is! 

This is a fun event that can be done at any age level and can be done simply, or if you are game, quite extravagantly. Depending on the grade level you are teaching, you can decide the distance your students will run or walk.  You will also need to decide if you want this event to be a true race or more of a fun event. 

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Turkey Trot Ideas: 

 1. A True Race

I have done this as a true race when I taught elementary school students for just my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students and they trotted for a mile.  Each grade raced separately and the first place boy and girl won a frozen turkey, second place won a pumpkin pie, and third place a box of stuffing. Use your imagination to decide your awards!

2. For Fun

If you want this to be a fun event, consider having some of your teachers dress up as turkeys, boxes of stuffing, Pilgrims, or whatever Thanksgiving costume they want, and have them trot along with your students.  Nothing gets kids more excited than seeing their teachers (and administrators) trotting along with them as they participate in the fun! 

3. Get Parents Involved

I encourage you to get parents involved as well. Not only to help you with logistics, but also to encourage them to get active with their children.  AND, if you want to make the event really big, parents are fantastic helpers! 

4. Trot + Thanksgiving Dinner

While thinking about writing this blog, I had another thought come to mind that I may try to make a reality for Thanksgiving 2017.  I teach in a very rural school district, with a number of economically disadvantaged students, so why not take the last day of school and make it a “Fit Family Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving Dinner?” I know I have students that don’t get the full Thanksgiving feast, so my thought is to get in contact with our Director of Food Service and put together a home cooked Thanksgiving Feast that will follow a Turkey Trot 5k run/walk. This may be a huge endeavor, but with proper planning, it could become a huge success and give all of my students and their families the opportunity to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. 

I hope that if any of you try a trot, you make sure to keep the event fun for every student and get as many stakeholders involved as possible!  And if you do try a trot, please share how you ran your event!  I love hearing how others do things like this to get new and fresh ideas!  Happy Trotting!

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A student gets stung by a bee and he/she is severely allergic.  A student is suffering from an asthma attack.  A student comes in contact with a food he/she is allergic to. A student with a severe heart condition faints.  These are all nightmares that we all hope never happen in our classes, especially if we teach a class by ourselves, and we are outside with no method of communicating directly with the school nurse. 

As a parent of a third grader with severe food allergies, this is something that both my wife and I think about on a daily basis – not only in PE class, but throughout my daughter’s entire day. So, please take the time to put a plan in place to protect all of your students and also help yourself feel at ease when students with these type of conditions are in your class.

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1. Ask your school nurse for a list of all of your students that have any type of medical conditions. 

My school district does an excellent job of communicating this type of information to all of the staff in an effort to keep all of our students safe. Through our grading/attendance software program, we are easily made aware of these conditions, but I know that not everyone has this software.  A simple list could and should be made available to you and if it is not, I urge you to push for one.

Simply knowing ahead of time that a student is allergic to bees and has epinephrine in the nurse’s office is extremely important and lifesaving!  My daughter carries her EpiPen® with her, and all of her teachers know this, so that if she comes into contact with an allergen, the teacher can administer her Epinephrine immediately. So, know your students! Also, know your school district’s policies on students self-carrying medication of any kind such as Epinephrine and asthma inhalers.

 

2. Have a method for communicating with your school nurse or office staff.  

This is something that most of us have in place, but for younger teachers, this may be a small detail that you overlook. This is typically not an issue when you are inside for class, but when you are outside, it is critical. 

For some of my classes, we are on mountain bikes and they take us quite far from our building, so I always have my cell phone with me in case of emergencies. You can also purchase two-way radios if you don’t feel comfortable carrying your personal cell phone. Regardless of whether it is your phone or a two-way radio, make sure that you know who you are contacting and that they understand if you are contacting them it is an emergency.  If you are left with no other option, make sure that in each of your classes you have several students that you can rely on to get to the building quickly and get help.

 

3. Make sure you know the steps to help a student in an emergency situation. 

I am hopeful that everyone is certified in CPR and first aid, but are you trained in how to administer Epinephrine? My guess is not many of you are. At my school district, we have had trainings in the past on this and are required to view a training video/slideshow every year. I would love to see a training be required every year for every member of our staff.

 

4. Make sure you ask questions if you are unsure of a condition or issue with one of your students. 

You need to be sure you understand what you are looking for and how to help, so that your students are safe. Depending on the size of your school, you may have 5, 10, 15, or maybe 50 students that have a medical condition you need to be aware of, and as a parent of one of those kids, please take the time to understand because someday you could be called to save a life!

 

As a reminder, none of these students have chosen the conditions they are dealing with in their lives. I have listened to fellow staff members complain about having a student with food allergies in their class too many times. I find it disheartening to think that some people would rather the child be removed from school than make a few minor changes to their routines to keep a student safe.

Showing a little compassion and making students feel safe and welcome is the least we can do as educators!  

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Sepak Takraw: Kick Your Way to Fast-Paced Action in PE

Posted 8 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Sepak Takraw is a game from Southeast Asia that is extremely fast and, in my opinion, very challenging to play at a high level. I encourage you to take a look at this video of Sepak Takraw. 

I have played this game in a modified version, but have yet to try it with my students. This is the year I will introduce it to my students. Basically, Sepak Takraw is foot volleyball and with my students being crazy about soccer, I think this will be a hit! This game involves a tremendous amount of foot-eye coordination and flexibility. 

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What do you need to play?

I am going to use my badminton courts and nets, as the courts and nets are similar in size. I do not have an official ball, so I am going to be using a coated-foam ball and maybe, to start, I might use a beach ball to slow the game down until my students get the hang of it. You will need to add a service circle on both courts and also the corner marks. 

A team consists of three players. The Tekong is the team’s server and plays in the back. The other two players are called the Left Inside and the Right Inside. They are responsible for defending at the net and also tossing the ball to the server to start a serve. For my class, I am going to have my students rotate just like in volleyball so that all players have a chance to try each position. 

How to Play:

To start a serve, one of the Inside players will toss the ball to the Tekong. The Tekong must keep one foot in the service circle and kick the ball over with the other foot. The ball may hit the net on the serve, again just like volleyball. The opposing team may stand anywhere on their side of the court to receive the serve. The serving team will serve 3 points in a row, regardless of who scores, and then the serve will go to the other team, who again serves 3 in a row. Play until a team scores 15 point, and the team must win by 2. If the score is tied at 14, the serve alternates after every point. Points are scored just like volleyball. 

Again, this is a challenging game. And for my students, we will most likely use to start with a beach ball. I do have several students that will quickly move to a coated-foam ball, so I will have 6 courts playing at one time with a different ball on each court. 

If you took the time to watch the YouTube video at the beginning of this post, then you will understand that warming up and stretching is extremely important before playing this game. This might be one of my biggest reservations with this game, because I have students that will go for the gold in this game. I cringe at the thought of one of our soccer players tearing a hamstring! If any of you decide to try playing, remember we are not as flexible as we once were, so don’t be the one I fear getting hurt! 

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Should Varsity Athletics Count as PE?

Posted 9 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

I am not sure how many schools around the country offer students credit for physical education if they play a varsity sport, but I know there are many and this trend has me frightened.  At my school district, this is not an option even though many students think it should be and some of their coaches do too.  I honestly never gave this much consideration until I found out that my three nieces who live in central Ohio have this option and love it.  Let’s just say Uncle Jason was not liked after I shared my opinion.  Maybe after you read my concerns and opinions you won’t like me much either, but I am hopeful that responses will be shared that bring a level-headed discussion on the matter.

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My biggest worry/concern with students using a varsity sport for PE credit is that there is no teaching taking place about the lifetime fitness aspect that students need to understand.  I loved high school athletics and was blessed with the opportunity to play a sport every season of the year, but I can honestly say thinking back that none of my coaches taught me about lifelong fitness.  I was taught what I needed at that moment for that particular sport.  So, if students are given the opportunity to forgo PE, who teaches them about proper exercise and the fitness principles that coincide?  Especially since after high school the number of students continuing their athletic careers is extremely small and only gets smaller after college.

Another concern I have revolves around who monitors how active students are on their respective teams?  My oldest niece tells me that as long as she is on the softball team for one season, she does not have to take PE at all for the rest of her high school career.  This absolutely blew my mind!  One season on a team and that is all you need.  I see two problems with this situation: 1) Students need a knowledge base on fitness and health for a lifetime and they can’t and won’t get that in one season of a sport, and 2) If schools are using sports for PE credit, doesn’t this make it very easy for schools to eliminate PE positions?  Again, I loved my high school coaches, but they did not teach me anything in regards to a healthy, active lifestyle after high school.  Something else that scares me is what do we do with those students who join a sports team just to avoid PE?

As a coach in addition to a PE teacher, I do see the other side of the coin in this discussion.  I understand that students in a PE class in the middle of a circuit training unit who are also in the peak portion of their sport season could be overexerting themselves and even impacting their performance.  As a track coach, I have had this issue on my own team and my athletes have maybe not been at their best.  I will say that in most instances as a staff, we are all very understanding of game days and expectations for those students playing that day.  My biggest concern is again those students that are just on a team to avoid PE.  What happens when I am lenient with a student who goes to the game and never plays a minute?

My suggestion (which I may bring up with my own administration) is to have a PE course designed for athletes, which meets not only their current fitness needs based on their athletic season, but also the lifelong fitness needs they will have down the road.  This course could be an option for athletes to take as opposed to the traditional PE course.  This idea has its drawbacks, the main one being that students that are not athletes may feel left out.

Again, I am not dealing with this situation currently at my school district, so maybe I am living in a dream world, so those of you in this situation, please share your thoughts and opinions.  I want to know more about how schools handle this matter in an effort to prepare myself if the conversation is ever started by my administration! I am counting all of you to educate me!  

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5 Must-Haves for Elementary PE

Posted 11 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Parachutes, cones, hula-hoops, more cones, poly spots, mats, the list goes on and on for what an elementary physical education teacher has in his or her equipment closets, but what would an elementary PE teacher call their essentials?

I started my teaching career at the elementary level at Wakefield Forest Elementary School in Fairfax, VA teaching K-6 physical education, and I loved every minute!  Kids at that age love coming to PE class and being active and getting the wiggles out, and they love trying new things.  Thinking back to my time teaching and talking with my current elementary PE staff, I am going to give you my top 5 pieces of equipment that everyone should have in their closet.
 

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1. Gymnastic Mats

My top recommendation and the one item that I think is the most used (or at least it was when I taught), would be quality gymnastic mats.  These mats are not used for just gymnastics, but can be used for a variety of different activities, including circuit training stations, large group games such as island movers, and also for adapted physical education. 

I recommend a light weight mat at the elementary level for ease of use, meaning that students can easily help move the mats.  Gopher has a great assortment of mats, with or without Velcro®, and different weight and foam density levels.  Our gym has the Gopher TumblePro® Varia™ 2” Triple-Layer Foam Mats and as a bonus, they are in our school colors! 
 

2. Cones

My next recommendation is quality cones in a variety of sizes and functions!  I know this seems odd, but cones are a lifesaver for an elementary PE teacher keeping order and direction in his or her class.  I am including poly spots as a cone too, because these are a great way to indicate where students need to be in the gym or outside at any given point in class. 

When it comes to regular cones, I recommend different colors and sizes for use in a variety of activities.  And my best cone recommendation would be Gopher’s Rainbow® SmartHolder™ Cones.  These cones are fantastic for use in station work because of their design, which allows you to display a sign. Write on foam board or white boards and then prop them on the cone for students to follow.  Again, I know it seems odd to talk cones, but without them, it can tricky to organize your students and activities in class.
 

3. Media Player/Sound System

A good media player is another piece of equipment that makes my list.  The power of music in a PE class, especially an elementary PE class, is amazing.  Music can be used to start and stop any activity and is a great way to keep students on task.  And depending on the music you choose it can also be a great motivator. 

It is also needed for those teachers that do FITNESSGRAM® testing.  Again, make sure you get a good system and also check to see if there is a sound system in your gym space as a possibility for class.

 

4. Student-Tracking Devices

Another must-have for everyone is some method for tracking students during class.  This can look different by school and even within classes.  Pedometers and heart rate monitors are both fantastic devices for teachers to use to track student output during a class and throughout a school year.  Personally, I recommend pedometers over heart rate monitors, especially at the elementary level because of their ease of use.  However, newer heart rate monitors such as Gopher’s Optic™ Strapless Heart Rate Monitors are a great tool that if you have the opportunity to use, go for it!  I am actually trying to get my hands on these and hope to do so very soon!  This particular heart rate monitor is a wrist band that sends data to a Hub™ point for easy data collection, without the use of a chest strap!  For me and my staff, the chest strap heart rate monitors are not worth the hassle, so this is why I want to test out the new Optic™ system. 

If you are not up for heart rate monitors but still want a great method for collecting data on student performance in class, I strongly recommend the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers.  I love pedometers for their ease of use and the data that we can collect.  Our students do a good job and at the elementary level, it is nice to have a pedometer that has several functions for different age levels.  For example, it is nice having the normal step count feature for K-2 and then slowly be able to introduce the moderate-to-vigorous physical activity feature for your 3-6 group.  Plus, with pedometers you can cross curriculum with Math and Social Studies!

 

5. Team Building Games & Activities

My final recommendation would be team building games and activities.  Having the ability to have students be active and working together to a specific goal is a win-win situation!  There are a lot of ideas and many can be done using items you can find at school or home, and in some cases you can purchase different activities.  I have made my own buddy-walkers for students to use, and I have also purchased a couple of activities for team-building. My biggest plus to these activities is that it gets all students in the class involved and working together with no real winner, so you can take the competition aspect out of class.  One of my favorites is the Object-Retrieval Team Building System!

 

As an add-on to the list, if I can recommend some wish list items for you all, I recommend that everyone takes a look at the ACTION!™ Team Games by Gopher!  These are great activities that get students moving and have the opportunity to cross the curriculum!

I am hopeful this was a helpful list to those of you teaching elementary physical education, and trust me I know there are some must have’s out there that you have, so please share your comments and suggestions!  The more everyone shares the better as we will all have the chance to find something new! 

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Professional Development: Opportunities are Out There!

Posted 1 year ago - by Jason Gemberling

Teaching in a rural school district with a staff of 7 health and physical education teachers, it is not often, if ever, that we receive any content-specific professional development. While I understand the importance of reading and math training, I also understand the importance of health and physical education professional development. Realizing that my staff doesn’t have these opportunities, I started searching for professional development classes and opportunities that we can either attend or create for ourselves.

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Below are my recommended physical education and health professional development opportunities you should be checking out!

1. National SHAPE America Convention & Expo

I think the most obvious, yet most likely not feasible, opportunity for all health and physical education teachers would be to attend the National SHAPE America Convention every year. If you have never been to this convention, I strongly encourage you to get to one at some point during your career! This year’s convention was in Minneapolis, MN last week and next year’s convention will be in Boston, MA in March!

2. State SHAPE Convention

My next suggestion would be attending your state SHAPE America convention. This is another great opportunity to gather information and ideas to help strengthen your own program. This convention is also a great opportunity to network with other health and physical education teachers in your state and potentially set up a site visit to see what those teachers are doing in their schools. Check your state association’s website for dates and location of your state convention.
 

The following suggestions are also excellent opportunities and in most cases are free! Who doesn’t love FREE?

3. Webinars

Webinars are everywhere and offer fantastic information in 1-3 hour sessions while covering a wide variety of topics. SHAPE America puts out great webinar opportunities, as do most state associations. Gopher has also been hosting some fantastic webinars with a variety of topics, and again they are free with the added bonus of having the opportunity to win free equipment! One of my favorite things about webinars is that I can be sitting in the comfort of my own home and still getting fantastic professional development.

4. Email, Newsletters, and Social Media

I also love getting emails from SHAPE America with articles about what other health and physical education teachers are doing around the country. While this might not appear to be professional development, it is an excellent way to get fresh ideas. I have taken several ideas from these emails and implemented them into my teaching and program with great success. Health and Physical Education Journals are another excellent source of information and ideas!

5. In-House Professional Development

In-house professional development is another option. It will take some planning on your part and support from your administration. I suggest examining your program from all grade levels and determining what areas are in need of ideas for improvement and then networking with other schools to determine if someone local is doing something in their program that fits your needs. I can’t imagine a teacher not willing to share ideas with other educators in an effort to help students at another school.

This might cost your district a small amount of money to cover travel expenses. But in my eyes if it helps build a stronger program and you can justify the need, it will be hard for your administration to turn this down. And if you can’t bring someone in to provide professional development, take the opportunity to be a leader in your own department and research and develop a topic that you can present to your fellow teachers.
 

Be creative and persistent in your wanting to have meaningful professional development at your school. I have been trying to organize and implement a professional development day for health and physical education at my school for a couple years. My goal has been to bring in several presenters that I have personally seen in action to my school and have them provide ideas and information to any health and physical education teachers who would like to attend. Thankfully, in getting to know many fantastic people at Gopher and working with them, this is finally going to happen. Gopher has been in three states already doing professional development days with great success and this August they are coming to Central Pennsylvania and I couldn’t be happier! This day is going to be filled with excellent professional development and I encourage anyone that wants to attend to reach out to me, and I will get the information to you.  

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