The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Physical Fitness

Every Monday and Thursday, my students have Physical Education (generally known as P.E.) in the mornings. I’ve been making an effort to make P.E. include an actual educational component, rather than simply playing games or participating in sports activities. There are a number of different models for teaching physical education, most of which I learned about in the first professional course I took way back in 2002, but the important thing for me is that teaching P.E. needs to include, well, teaching!

At the start of the year, I started P.E. with having the students discuss the rules for dodgeball and then they played it for a couple of weeks. Then we spent a couple of weeks doing different relays in P.E., including dribbling basketballs and shooting baskets.

This week I have started my class on some pre-teaching for the President’s Challenge, a national physical fitness program that I did when I was in grade school. I did some work with this program last year, but I have had more time to plan for it this year, so I am expecting my students to do very well with improving their physical fitness.

Today we focused on sit-ups and push-ups. After doing our customary five-minute warm-up, I had the students divide into pairs and take turns doing sit-ups for one minute each. After watching the way many of the students were trying to do sit-ups, I realised that I needed to properly demonstrate how to do them. Some students were lying on their backs and barely moving their heads. Others were twisting and turning in ways that didn’t really make much sense. Still others were using their arms to pull themselves up.

In order to correct the misconceptions on how to do sit-ups, I had them gather around and so I could show them the two ways they could do sit-ups:

  • Place my hands behind my neck and pull myself into a sitting position, making sure my elbows touched my knees, which were bent, or
  • Cross my arms in front of me and then pull myself into a sitting position, still making sure that my elbows touched my knees.

Both times, I had a student stood on my feet to keep them in place. I explained that this job is called spotting and is important for doing sit-ups properly. After modeling the correct ways to do sit-ups, I had the students get with their partners again and do sit-ups again. They did a much better job the second time around! Then we gathered around again and discussed the purpose of sit-ups, specifically, to work the abdominal muscles.

Before letting the students split off to do the second activity, push-ups, I made sure to model it first. A student actually served as the example of how to do push-ups, which was probably a good thing, since I have some problems with my shoulders after a workplace injury at FedEx Ground back in 2005!

One of the girls in the class asked me if she could do “girl” push-ups instead. Several girls chimed in expressing the desire to do the same. While there is much debate within the physical fitness field on the effectiveness of doing push-ups on one’s knees as opposed to the traditional method, I told the students in my class that I wanted all of them to do push-ups in the traditional way. I don’t like the idea of “girl” push-ups, because it indicates that girls are somehow weaker or less capable than boys. It is true that male and female bodies are built differently, but that doesn’t mean that the boys and girls can’t perform the same fundamental skills for improving their physical fitness! All of the girls attempted push-ups the way I instructed, and all of them were able to do them without any problems.

We’ll continue practicing some of the basic skills later this week, then we’ll start working on the President’s Challenge next Monday. Should be exciting!


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