Students Describing What Being Fit & Healthy Means to Them
I may be setting myself up for disaster, but I am super pumped about the way I am delivering my grade 5 fitness unit here in Nanjing, China. Traditionally fitness units are taught in a way that has students take part in fitness testing at the beginning of the unit and the end of the unit. They are taught different fitness activities related to cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, flexibility etc. The students are then required to rotate through different stations and record their own data to be used as a measurement to see what gains they have made. In some cases, students are allowed to set goals and create their own fitness plan as they work through the unit. These are excellent ways to teach a fitness unit and I have used several of these methods in the past myself. However, I am switching things up this time around and believe I have sound pedagogical justification for doing so.
Who is responsible for level of fitness?
This is a key question that I posed to my students at the beginning of the unit. Using adults as an example, we discussed the fact that adults make their own health related choices. Nobody forces an adult to live a healthy lifestyle. Level of fitness is a very personal choice. As PE teachers we can stress the importance of being fit and being active, but can we force our students to take action in regards to the important messages we impart on them related to fitness? We can HOPE that they will listen and that we inspire them to value fitness. However, the reality is that it is a very personal choice whether we are an adult or a young person. This is very much the angle that I am taking the rest of my grade 5 fitness unit. The message boils down to what is written below.
Your level of fitness is a very personal choice. You own the decisions that you make. Your level of engagement and effort is completely your choice.
Brief overview of the plan for this unit
There are certain non-negotiable activities that the students must take part in this unit. They must do a fitness test at the beginning and end of the unit. They must also take part in a 10-minute challenge each class. See video below of this 10-minute challenge. They must learn how to take their own heart rate and record their BPM on a data sheet. They will also be responsible for recording other fitness related data throughout the unit.
However, the big change is that the students will set their own goals, but be allowed to pursue these goals in any way they want. For example, I will allow the use of basketballs, soccer balls, badminton equipment, skipping ropes etc. They will design their own fitness plans and work toward the goals that they set for themselves. I will have actual fitness circuits set up that they can follow if they want or need a more structured and organized approach. They must choose areas that they want to improve upon such as cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, flexibility etc.
If I allow them these broad parameters, then it becomes easier for me to see how engaged they are in this unit. I will not force them to do anything but I will certainly be observing their actions in PE. I will also be sending a letter home to parents to also observe for any noticeable changes in regards to the level of physical fitness activities done on weekends and after school. I plan on taking walks during recess time to also observe whether or not they are more active than normal. I am looking to see whether or not students are taking action in regards to their level of fitness.
Driving Question of the Pre-Assessment Phase
As it is critical to check prior knowledge at the start of any unit, I posed the following question to my grade 5 students and recorded their ideas (see question on poster below) I created a visual using the ideas from two out of the three grade 5 classes that I have in PE. I then allowed the third grade 5 class to add new ideas or extend upon ideas already presented. The ideas from this third class are highlighted in orange (right). Check out the 2 visuals below.
Below you can see a short video of how my students and I developed the ideas in orange that you see on the poster on the right. I plan on creating a second visual which asks the same question in a couple of week's time (after 4 classes to be exact). We will look at further breaking down what being fit means hopefully hitting upon new vocabulary used and drawing upon the bigger concepts in this unit.
Putting it into action