Health-Related Fitness avenues of exploration
For those of you who read my last blog post, you will recall that I did pre-unit interviews with my students to determine where they are at with their understanding of the big ideas in regards to Health-Related Fitness and their thoughts about potential directions we might explore in this unit.
To take the teaching and learning process a step farther in this unit, I'd like to share with you the concepts that I intend on unpacking over the next couple of lessons and how I am hoping to achieve this aim. It is critically important to me that I get the students to understand that we all have choices in regards to how we choose to improve our level of personal fitness.
To do this, I could blindly throw fitness testing at them and run them through a barrage of different fitness testing type activities, but as you can see in the pre-unit interviews that I did with my students, most of them had ranked fitness testing very low and did not want to do it. In honoring their perspectives, I must deliver the unit in a way that helps them to understand that improving personal fitness can be done and measured in other ways.
Bearing this in mind, I have focused them in on 4 different areas that we will explore and given them choice over which of these areas that they would like to focus on. It is important to me that they understand the concept of 'burst and recover' which is the way most kids engage in physical activity which is moving their bodies in bursts of energy then tiring and slowing their pace down before picking it up once again. When they are active at recess, we can see 'burst and recover' in action all of the time. Kids will spring around playing tag then slow down only to start racing around again a few moments later. The concept of 'burst and recover' through active games will be explored in our Health-Related Fitness unit.
It is also important for students to understand that some people can create 'burst and recover' type activities by careful design through interval training. Usually this type of training is done by athletes, but still important for the students to know and understand. The concept of 'burst and recover' through interval training is another area that I want my students to develop an awareness of in this unit and will provide them with the option to do interval type training if they choose to.
The third area I'm getting them to focus on is the concept of moving their bodies for extended periods of time at a steady pace of medium intensity. The types of activities that we will explore to provide them with the experience will be through longer bike rides, jogging, skateboarding, scootering, power walking, etc. These are all relevant life options that work on developing cardiovascular endurance that many people take advantage of.
The last area that I'm going to have my students explore is the idea that we can move our bodies in ways that help us develop muscular flexibility and strength. This can be achieved through yoga and other types of core workouts.
To begin to unpack these different areas, I booked some time with the students in their classroom and showed them the following 4 visuals that I had created using poster sized paper and markers. I then had the students choose a minimum of 2 different areas that they would like to explore in this unit. A number of students chose more than 2 areas which was great to see.
Setting the Stage
Despite the students choosing a minimum of 2 areas to explore, I will require them to take part in activities that have them experience all 4 areas in the next couple of classes in order to give them a fair glimpse into the different ways that people can work on improving their own levels of personal fitness.
Afterwards, I will get the students to revisit their initial choices and allow them a second chance to choose. Perhaps some might change their original choices or add another choice into their exploration.
The 20-Minute Challenge
Another task that I will get them to try out is the 20-minute challenge that I posed to them last week. The 20-minute challenge is getting them to choose one activity falling under any of the 4 themes; Burst and Recover through active games, Burst and Recover through interval training, Moving their bodies for a longer period of time at a steady pace, or Moving their bodies in ways that works on flexibility and strength.
For example, I had 4 students choose to ride their bicycles for 20 straight minutes without taking a break. I had another group play 4 v 4 soccer on a small pitch for 20 straight minutes, and another group use scooters for 20 straight minutes. There were allowed to take breaks if they truly needed to but I asked them to self-assess their level of effort and whether or not they could last the entire 20 minutes doing the activity that they had chosen. In measuring how long they could take part in the 20-minute challenge, they know where they are at and the time that they will try to surpass when we do the challenge again.
Although most students do not want to do fitness testing this unit, there are 4 students that want to do some of the tests. I will support them with this and set up the tests that they would like to do.
I'll write more blogs as we progress through this unit to share my own reflections, what's not working well and what areas are working well. It is my intention to share as much as I can on my blog to seek critical feedback. How would you run a unit such as this? What am I missing? What might I consider doing? Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks for reading!
Reframing the way that Health-Related Fitness is delivered to students
I've thought long and hard about the purpose of health-related fitness as part of a physical education program. In reflecting on this purpose, I have struggled to make sense of what is most important for young people to understand, to know, and to be able to demonstrate in relation to the unit itself. There are many conflicting views about the purpose of health-related fitness thrown around daily by teachers and researchers alike. The reality is that there are many different perspectives, but at the end of the day, the biggest consideration that is often overlooked is what do the students actually think about health-related fitness and how it applies to their daily lives.
Teachers and researchers can stick to their guns in regards to what they feel is best for kids to know, understand, and demonstrate, but to what extent do we balance the actual needs and wants of the students, especially in regards to the context of their lives and their realities?
Bearing this in mind, I am bringing their voice much more into the process of designing the units that I teach in PE. This is not simply about offering free willing voice and choice, but hopefully has much more meaning and relevance to the way that I teach and the way in which students will learn.
I'm convinced that pre-unit interviews with students is the way to go. In my opinion, it is an imperative part of the teaching and learning process to help dig into their thoughts and beliefs in order to reveal where they are at in regards to their understanding of what physical activity, sport, and personal fitness/health truly means to them in relation to the unit that they are about to embark on in their PE classes.
I have found that conducting these pre-unit interviews to be an extremely valuable investment of time and energy as it reveals so much. It also allows me to share with them important learning intentions and outcomes for the unit so that they understand that there are constraints that we must work within. Blanket free choice won't work. The non-negotiables of the unit are established right away in order to begin the unpacking process of learning about each of the important outcomes being focused on.
Pre-Unit Health Related Fitness Interviews
I took the time last week to interview the class about their experiences with their last Health-Related Fitness unit. As I am teaching them for the first time, it is particularly important to have these conversations with them. Therefore, I structured the interview around 5 essential questions that I felt were critical to gain insight into:
1. On a scale from 1-10, how much did you enjoy fitness testing last unit?
2. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you want to do fitness testing again?
3. What are the 3 biggest things you learned in the Health-Related Fitness unit?
4. If you were the PE teacher, what are 2 things that you would do to make this unit more fun?
5. What is most important to you about this unit?
The students were then able to share their thoughts using small sticky notes. This entire process took between 10-15 minutes. A great investment of time as many things I didn't expect were revealed. Although fitness testing was mandatory last unit, I am not making them do fitness testing. However, for the ones who enjoyed it, I will set these tests up for them.
From the photo above, it looks as though the students didn't share any responses to question 4. I actually removed all of their responses to question#4 in order to create a second visual. I was quite surprised at all of their responses to question#4 and had to address their thoughts. See poster below which shares their ideas. I introduced the visual below to them to let them know I had listened to them and fully intend to take these suggestions into account when designing the unit.
The pre-unit interview phase then allowed me to introduce the important learning outcomes to the students which I was able to do in the first class of the Health-Related Fitness unit. In making these outcomes clear and explicit from the start of the unit, the students are very aware of important expectations which will guide their learning and be unpacked over the next several weeks. The learning outcomes can be seen in the visual below.
So, this is the start of our unit and how we began the entire process with pre-unit interviews in order to help me better design relevant and meaningful teaching and learning. In the next blog post, I'll share the next steps that I have carefully thought through and planned to take this unit one step further. Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.