Incorporating Physical Activity In the Classroom

Yesterday, I read an article in the Huffington Post about physical education in America.  More accurately, I should say an article about the lack of physical education in America (you can read the article here: Report: Nation’s Kids Need To Get More Physical).  The Institute of Medicine released a report detailing how schools are increasingly eliminating PE and recess time.  Ideally, children should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.  Unfortunately, many schools have slashed recess and PE time in favor of more math and reading instruction.

This isn’t all that shocking.  It’s no mystery that the US has a weight problem.  When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was enacted in 2001, it demanded better math and reading scores on standardized tests.  As standardized tests become more and more influential, schools are naturally going to emphasize on math and reading.  And they should!  However, this shouldn’t be a reason to eliminate physical education entirely.  Politicians can argue all they want that students need more math and reading instruction.  Many students do.  But anyone who has ever worked in a school knows that if children are feeling restless, learning becomes nearly impossible.

Many states do mandate PE time, but the amount of time and frequency of PE is seldom regulated.  When I was in elementary school (which was during the NCLB enactment), we had PE once a week.  Although we did have recess everyday, many students sat around playing with Pokemon cards.  Now, they’re playing with their iPod touches.  Either way, my point is that recess doesn’t guarantee physical activity.  Some students need to be pushed to participate!  The children who are most at-risk of becoming obese have parents who do not encourage physical activity.  These are the students who desperately need daily PE.

Another issue with PE is cost.  Schools with budgetary concerns usually cut “specials” (i.e., art, music, PE) before anything else.  NCLB states that schools and/or districts in need of improvement (as measured by standardized test scores) will lose a substantial amount of federal funding if their students’ test scores do not improve.  Since art, music, and PE are not tested, it only makes sense that schools deemphasize or eliminate them.  When schools are in fear of losing money, they will do whatever it takes to prevent that.  You can’t exactly blame them – schools are constantly in need of more money.

The big issue here is that the current political climate encourages (both explicitly and implicitly) the reduction and/or elimination of physical education.  Teachers don’t get much say in the matter.  If your school eliminates PE, there’s little you can do to change that – BUT! there are ways to combat this without starting a major political campaign.  I’ve researched some different ways classroom teachers can seamlessly incorporate physical activity into everyday lessons.

PS. Physical activity is linked to higher academic achievement.  An added bonus! 🙂

There are countless ways that teachers can encourage their students to be more active.  This is a short list!  A simple Google or Pinterest search reveals the wealth of ideas available (try “classroom physical activity” to find many PDFs of ideas).  I hope you’ve found the resources I’ve provided helpful.  Does anyone have other ideas for classroom incorporation of physical activity?

Time to get moving!

Shauna

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