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

Physical Exertion

My fourth grade teaching partner is also the girls’ volleyball coach at Urbana Middle School, so when it comes to physical education, she is much more of an expert than myself. While our classes do not combine for P.E. (fifty students in the gym with just two adults would be a bit much), we often collaborate on plans for what we will have the students work on. So when she told me earlier this week about a plan to have the students work on being able to run a mile, I quickly jumped on board with the idea!

There is a large grassy field in front of our school building that is crisscrossed with sidewalks. It turns out that a particular circuitous path is pretty close to being a quarter-mile. (It isn’t exactly, though. The path we use for the annual walkathon fundraiser, incidentally, is about a third of a mile.) This morning we had P.E. and it was just warm enough to be able to go outside for it so the students could get a feel for what our cardiovascular unit would feel like.

Before going out, though, we talked about safety, especially not pushing oneself too hard the first time doing a specific task. I told the students that I did not want anyone to try to sprint the four laps they were going to do, but to try alternately running, jogging, or walking. We also talked about what could be expected during such physical exertion, such as elevated heart rate and quickened breathing.

Once we got outside, I led the students in some warm-up stretches and then let them start their laps. Some decided to walk all four laps, others alternated their activity. A few boys tried sprinting, despite my caution, and quickly learned that sprinting a mile was not going to work out for them and they ended up walking toward the end. There were quite a few students who complained of breathing quickly and I explained that that is normal after physical exertion, especially running!

After we came in, we took some deep breaths to calm down and settle our heart rates. We also had a short discussion about aerobic exercise, how muscle tissue responds to increased activity, and the common experience of slight pain, or a “stitch” in one’s side after running. While a few students insisted that their hearts were going to explode and they would need to go to the hospital, this didn’t happen for anyone!

We will continue to do this activity after Spring Break. My goal is for the students to start setting goals for their time and learn what they have to do to reach those goals. I will also do some more collaboration with my grade level partner to see what other activities we can do with our classes. And since we will be outside, I am certain that at least some of them will be combined!

I am so glad that the weather is finally warming up with the arrival of spring! After a long, cold, often miserable winter, it is nice to get outside and take advantage of the open space and the fresh air!


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