Elementary school campuses have many opportunities to provide students with health-promoting physical activity (PA). How’s YOUR school doing with this???

Let’s agree that as physical educators, we strive to create and maintain environments where every K-12 student has opportunities to accumulate 60+ minutes of PA — structured and unstructured — daily. And, if the goal is to maximize movement on our school campuses, we know (at many locations) we have at least 6 good opportunities to accomplish that:

  1. Before School
  2. Physical Education (PE)
  3. Recess
  4. Lunch Break
  5. PA Integration with non-PE subjects 
  6. After School

This blog will focus on #5, because it has great potential for positive impact, yet I believe is vastly underutilized. 

Integration with Non-PE Subjects:  

Why didn’t I refer to this as integration with the core subjects? Because PE IS a core subject. During PE class, students engage in a standards-based curriculum with a prescribed scope and sequence — as they do in other core subjects. At each grade level, there are cognitive and physical skills they are expected to learn and be able to do — same as other core subjects. And during PE, students are assessed and earn grades, like any other subject in school. 

PE classes (particularly elementary) have been teaching and/or reinforcing concepts and methods native to other core subject classes for years. In fact, PE teachers have become quite expert at integrating math, literacy, science, social studies, and more, into their classes. 

And turnabout is fair play! I believe asking classroom teachers to infuse physical activity into their lessons is not only equivalent reciprocity, but it makes great sense educationally. Why? Many students are kinesthetic learners, thus, movement enhances their ability to learn. Classroom teachers can make their lessons more effective, efficacious, and enjoyable by getting their students physical activity during class. PA also helps students retain what they’re learning. Here are a few samples of academic integration in the SPARK curriculum.

Additionally, classroom teachers can get students moving more by incorporating Classroom ASAPs and Fast Breaks. These are short bouts of activity, not necessarily linked to a specific subject or learning concept, but meant to invigorate! Classroom ASAPs and Fast Breaks may be used to break up long blocks of math, language arts, etc., and spark the body and mind. After a good energizer, students heart rates are elevated, they’re thinking more clearly, and are once again, better prepared to learn. 

If we can get just 1/3 of our classroom teachers to incorporate more physical activity into their schedules the cumulative effect can be significant. Let’s say an elementary classroom teacher adds 5 more minutes of movement a day in the morning and again, the afternoon. Some of her/his students would accumulate another 10+ minutes of movement daily. That’s 50 minutes a week, 200 minutes a month and 1,200 minutes a school year. It adds up! 

Sounds good right? OK, I acknowledge it’s NOT easy to expand our role as physical educators and mentor our classroom teachers. But here are a few strategies/suggestions to help you “get the ball rolling.”

1. At a staff meeting, briefly talk about kinesthetic learners, then ask your colleagues how they incorporate physical activity in their lessons. Praise and shape their responses (in part, to ensure what they’re doing is developmentally appropriate) and add in your own supplements. 

2. Use this staff meeting or grade level meeting time to introduce or reinforce the concepts of integrating movement into a subject/lesson, and/or demo an energizer, and solicit signups from people interested in learning more and receiving resources. 

3. Offer to help those who expressed interest by teaching them quick and easy energizers they can do in class (teachers love plug and play, and/or activities students can lead (and SPARK has a lot of these for you.)

4. Ask your principal for a few minutes at future staff meetings to showcase a different integration or energizer, and/or have a meet up after school one day and do a mini-Inservice for interested teachers. 

5. Ask teachers who integrate PA into their lessons to show and tell their strategies. Debrief and ask everyone how she/he would apply the idea(s) in their own classes. 

You can do this! And everyone from students to staff will benefit. Plus, when physical educators take a leadership role, it helps all of us gain respect. Plus, it’s fun to be a resource person, and this really is not a big time commitment. 

Good luck! 

Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulrosengard

Here are a few excellent, research-based resources from SPARK to help you increase PA time on campus — and even away from school. 

SPARK Active Classroom Curriculum:

https://www.gophersport.com/curriculum/spark/spark-abcs-classroom-activity-and-recess-curriculum?item=152989

SPARK K-2 and 3-6 Curriculum:

https://www.gophersport.com/curriculum/spark/spark-k-2-physical-education-curriculum?item=164188

https://www.gophersport.com/curriculum/spark/spark-3-6-physical-education-curriculum?item=164189

What good ideas do YOU have for informing, encouraging, or mentoring classroom teachers? Let’s keep the conversation going!