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Do your students have trouble sitting still?

Research has repeatedly shown that sitting for extended periods is not only detrimental to students’ health, it can also lead to misbehaviour and inability to focus. That’s why educators are increasingly exploring ways to get kids up and moving during the school day. 

A study completed by Tan Leng Goh in 2017 observed classrooms in the United States and examined the effects of an initiative called Take 10, in which students were encouraged to take small movement breaks throughout the day. Using pedometers, it followed 137 third to fifth-graders from one ethnically diverse elementary school. 

“In this study, we demonstrated that by incorporating on average one classroom physical activity per day, students were able to accumulate more than 800 daily in-school step counts. In addition, we found that students’ on-task behaviour improved after they participated,” the report reads.

Six benefits of regular movement breaks during the day are:

  • Less acting out and challenging behaviour
  • Increased focus/attention span
  • Improved academic performance
  • Improved mental health
  • Decreased risk of depression
  • Higher self-esteem

According to Dana Kleinjan, author of the research paper Movement Matters: The Importance of Incorporating Movement in the Classroom, the “part of the brain that processes movements and actions is the same part of the brain that is responsible for and processes learning. Because of this, when movement and cognitive development is combined, it increases the number of neurons being used, and over time, will allow them to become more efficient.”

And though these findings give teachers ample reason to incorporate movement breaks into their days, Tan Leng Goh emphasized that to impact students’ lifelong physical literacy fully, educators should aim to encourage movement both within and outside the school schedule.

“Also of note is that while our study demonstrates there are positive outcomes … following students’ participation in the program, it is but one small step in changing healthy physical activity behaviour among children and youth,” the report reads.

“We need to recognize other components, such as physical education, physical activity before and after school, staff involvement, and family/community involvement.”

To access a library of physical activities to use inside the classroom and out, check out PLAYBuilder. 

Encouraging students to engage in physical activity is one of the most transformative things we can do for their brains — and has implications for the rest of their lives. According to neuroscientist and author Wendy Suzuki, physical activity has a stronger impact on the brain than some would think.  

“A few years ago I did something very unusual in science. As a full professor of neuroscience I decided to completely switch my research program because I encountered something that was so amazing with the potential to change so many lives that I had to study it,” she said during a TED Talk in 2017. 

“I discovered and I experienced the brain-changing effects of exercise.”

Impacting students for life

Suzuki spent several years studying the subject, while also incorporating more physical activity into her own life to experience the effects firsthand. She learned that physical activity has immediate, long-lasting and protective benefits for the brain, while shielding the participant from cognitive disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today,” she said.

Students will especially benefit, because regular physical activity boosts students’ moods,  improves their focus, solidifies their memory and even helps them pay attention in the classroom. A single physical activity instantly increases the level of neurotransmitters being distributed, including dopamine and serotonin, and the increase to focus and productivity will last at least two hours.

“Exercise actually changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function.”

 That’s because when students engage in physical activity, they’re actually building up the brain as if it were a muscle. This protects them from any kind of cognitive decline, and slows diseases or disorders they may encounter during their lifetime.

“The good news is you don’t have to be a triathlete to get these effects. The rule of thumb is you want to get three to four times a week minimum, thirty minutes an exercise session.”

Bodies and brains

According to Suzuki, you don’t necessarily need to go to the gym to receive these positive effects. Encouraging students to make active choices in the moment, such as choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, can have the identical impact. It may just mean taking full advantage of recess and lunch breaks to get moving and have fun

As students prepare for their long-awaited summer break, it’s a good time to remind them of the benefits of physical activity – both on their bodies and on their brains. Whether that means running down a dock and jumping into a lake, going for a nice long bike ride or even climbing a tree, the positive effects will follow them right back into the classroom in September.

Relevant resources

Amazing Races Outdoor Physical Literacy Activity

Making the Link: Physical Activity and Mental Well-being

Physical Literacy Beyond the Gym: Creative Ways to Keep Students Moving Throughout the Day

 

When it comes to physical literacy development, there’s no substitute for time.

As educators, it’s important to be aware of the role that a student’s age plays as they learn fundamental movement skills. We may end up with students whose birthdays are nearly a year apart, and that has implications on how to approach cultivating their physical skills. 

Sometimes the only thing standing between a student and learning a particular skill is the time they need to grow.

Keeping watch

As an elementary school educator, there are specific groups of students that require extra attention while teaching physical activities:

  • Students who are the youngest in their grade – the December babies 
  • Those who are physically less mature than their peers 
  • Those with a pervasive coordination problem

 Keeping these students in mind when designing lessons will ensure there isn’t a learning disparity between children of different ages or developmental ages.

Tips for teaching

The approach teachers take to instructing students of various developmental ages can feel daunting, and will change from one class to the next, but there are some simple ways to level the playing field for students.

  • Break down a skill into small components that let a student who is less developmentally advanced experience some success. 
  • Modify equipment to make skills easier to do. For instance, play badminton with balloons and not shuttlecocks. 
  • Shorten the distance and increase the target size for throwing or kicking. 
  • Alter the rules to games for those who are not as developmentally advanced. 
  • Pick teams to avoid one-sided games. 

 

It’s difficult to correctly identify where every student currently is in their physical literacy journey, but by following these steps you can ensure that all of them have a fair chance to learn. Adjusting your teaching methods to take developmental age into consideration will have an impact on students long after they leave your classroom. 

children running outside

Children spend more time at school than anywhere else, so if we want students to gain a lifelong love for physical activity, it’s crucial to start in the classroom. The skills that they develop as part of the B.C. curriculum will become the foundation for becoming active for life, and having the motivation and competence  necessary to develop their physical literacy over the long term. 

Here are some key strategies to ignite their passion for movement:

#1. Create activities based on their interests

Fun is a key part of any physical activity at school, and kids love to play games based on characters and stories they already know. That’s why it’s a great idea to base the games on things that are popular, such as Harry Potter, Paw Patrol, or Minecraft. 

When introducing a new sport of physical activity to students, make sure they’re enjoying it rather than just going through the motions. Introduce friendly competition, and give them goals to achieve that will give them a sense of satisfaction. If something seems like it’s too challenging, or there’s a risk of strain or injury, simply adjust the activity to suit their needs. Make sure to encourage the students, congratulating them on individual achievements, and liven things up with team cheers, colourful equipment and maybe even music. 

Teachers can even consider jumping in to participate!

#2. Build their community

Once a student knows how to do something, and seems to be really enjoying it, support them in finding opportunities to continue doing the activity outside of school.

This could mean introducing them to a sports team, connecting them with a recreation facility, or encouraging them to join a club. Doing research on what your community has to offer will help you find the opportunities your students need to keep going with their physical literacy development. Teachers can also inquire about partnerships or field trips that the students could participate in to learn more and get introduced to new environments that will benefit their physical development journey. 

#3. Take small steps

Sometimes goal-setting can be daunting, and can leave the student discouraged.

When you’re encouraging your students to engage in a physical activity, try to give them simple and easy to achieve tasks that will give them a sense of growth and accomplishment. For instance, a teacher could set a goal of completing five laps of the track to meet the student where they’re at if they know the student has already completed four in the past, or gradually throwing a football farther and farther as they gain confidence. Teachers should avoid any activities that strain or overwhelm the student, as this could lead to injury and them losing interest. By giving them small and achievable goals, teachers can boost the confidence of their students and set them on the track to success.

 

To learn more, check out our Lasting Impacts resources. To organize your curriculum offerings, check out PLAYBuilder.

Being a role model for students is one crucial way we can help them develop physical literacy demonstrating positive physical activity habits can be an impactful way to encourage students to become active for life. But how can we do that?

Here are three ideas that you can implement, to become a physical literacy role model for your students:

#1. Encourage students to mimic your movements

Active role models are important! 

When students watch educators being active, their own brain cells are engaged. If teachers demonstrate how to properly complete an activity – whether it’s stretching, jumping through hoola hoops or teaching students how to hop on one foot – students instinctively want to copy what’s being demonstrated. By using proper techniques in your demonstrations, you give students a visual aid on how to properly complete the task. This mimicry can lead to the student feeling confident and motivated to try new skills and build their existing physical competency. 

So, rather than standing on the sidelines while kids are playing soccer, teachers can inspire their students by jumping into the mix and having fun alongside them! 

#2. Promote diverse activities

During classroom time, share and promote a variety of activities and sports on classroom bulletin boards and within assignments. Sharing your own passion for basketball, jogging, swimming laps, etc., will give the students an idea of the diverse possibilities offered in sport and recreation, and make them more likely to try them out. 

Seeing pictures or videos of their teacher doing these activities – or better yet, seeing it in person if possible– will make those activities seem less daunting, and increase the likelihood that they’ll engage in those activities during their extracurricular hours. 

#3. Play Follow the Leader

A fun activity to explore with students is Follow the Leader, which can be adapted for the playground, the gym or the classroom. Take the lead with a long line of students behind you, and move through obstacles such as pylons or safety cones, demonstrating particular movement skills that can be copied by the students. These include hopping, skipping or crab-walking (and many others!). Once you’re confident that students understand how to complete the activity properly, give them an opportunity to take turns being the leader.

As students continue to develop their motivation and physical competency, teachers can make the activity more difficult by incorporating more difficult moves like clambering over playground features, using the monkey bars or running at a high speed.

 

For more ideas on how to develop physical literacy with your students, visit the School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy project website and PLAYBuilder.

The link between physical activity and mental well-being is well established. Physical activity helps students to build mental resilience, manage emotions and develop adaptive coping strategies for the classroom and throughout their lifetime. So, we should always be looking for ways to keep our students engaged and moving for the recommended 60 minutes per day!

Here are five fun ways we can get students physically active in the classroom, in the gym, and outdoors:

 

  1. When interest and energy levels start to dip, encourage students to have an active moment (e.g., a big stretch, raising their hands above their head, free movement).
  2. Play “Rock Paper Scissors Math” when learning new skills. This interactive game brings movement to math class by having students use their whole body to show their selected sign and use their skills to add and subtract numbers. Add and subtract classmates across the room instead of using numbers on paper.
  3. Go for a walk and take your lesson outside the classroom (e.g., land-based learning, outdoor spaces, vacant rooms, or an open gymnasium) to provide opportunities for developing physical literacy.
  4. Develop non-competitive scavenger hunts. Encourage students to explore their environment and use it to deepen their understanding of the learning material.
  5. Give students the option to stand or change positions during lessons, when they’re able and it’s appropriate.

 

Introducing these simple strategies to classroom schedules will go a long way to keeping our students engaged, healthy and happy!

Do your students know how to throw and catch a basketball?

 

In our School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy resource on manipulative skills, otherwise known as “sending and receiving skills”, we cover how learning to catch and throw a basketball requires more advanced neuromuscular development than locomotor and non-locomotor tasks. But, they are also fun to learn—and can be explored through a variety of activities and sports!

 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to support your students as they explore the basics of basketball, one of several sports that can help build those manipulative skills:

 

Catching Sequence

  • Student stands with arms making a basket and hands facing up. A large, soft ball is then tossed into the “basket”, and the student pulls the ball into their chest. 
  • Same underhand catch, but the student is encouraged to use only hands and fingers to catch the ball.
  • Catch the ball one-handed when thrown from greater and greater distance. 
  • Catch the ball one-handed when the ball is thrown above the head.

 

One of the first things for students to master when learning to catch is how to maintain eye contact with the ball. As it flies through the air towards them, their eyes have to turn inwards to track the ball’s flight. If they haven’t developed this skill yet, they may close their eyes or turn their face away when trying to catch it. As they build confidence, you will see them maintain eye contact with the ball throughout its flight through the air.

 

Once they’ve mastered catching the ball, the next step is to try throwing – a skill most students have learned by the end of Grade 2, but can happen earlier or later. 

 

Throwing Sequence

  • Immature throw: A student faces the direction they are throwing and only uses their elbow and wrist. 
  • Intermediate throw: Incorporates a step, with the student stepping forward with the same foot as they throw with (left foot step, left hand throw; right hand step, right hand throw). 
  • Mature throw: Incorporates a step, with the opposite foot to the throwing hand, and involves starting with the body sideways to the throw, and twisting the body. Once the mature throwing pattern is established, students practice throwing for greater distance and with greater accuracy.

 

When your students can confidently throw and catch the basketball, it’s time to incorporate some fun games into your gym time! Try these three activities from PLAYBuilder to further develop those throwing and catching skills:  

 

Basketball Dribble Weave

 

Setup 

  • Place participants into groups that provide maximum movement and participation.
  • Line them up on the end line. Give each participant a ball.
  • Place about six cones or poly spots in a line in front of each group, with about a couple feet in between cones/poly spots.
  • Stress that this is not a race.

Instructions

  • The first person in each line dribbles forward and weaves in and out of the cones/poly spots to the other end line and back. Then, the next person in line goes.
  • While the participants are waiting for their turn, they can dribble on the spot to increase movement.
  • Continue for an allotted time period.
  • You can challenge the participants to go a little faster as they become more comfortable.

 

Basketball Shooting Cues

 

Share these helpful cues with your students to help them learn how to shoot a basketball. 

 

Instructions

  • Bend knees, eyes on target.
  • Balance the ball in your shooting hand, with the other hand on the side as a guide.
  • Straighten your knees and elbows.
  • Snap wrist.
  • Follow through.

 

Basketball Passing Practice 

 

Setup

  • Place participants into pairs with a ball.
  • Have them stand several feet away, facing each other.

Instructions & Cues

  • Partners practice the chest and bounce pass (cues below).
  • They may count to see how many passes they can get in a row.
  • If it’s too easy, they may step back. If it’s too hard, they may step closer together.

Chest Pass

  • Body faces the target.
  • Thumbs to chest.
  • Step towards the target.
  • Extend arms fully, releasing the ball.
  • Thumbs now point downwards.

Bounce Pass

  • Body faces the target.
  • Thumbs to chest.
  • Step towards the target.
  • Extend arms fully, releasing the ball downwards.
  • Ball should contact the floor two thirds of the way to the target.

 

That’s just the beginning! As your students continue developing their basketball skills, you can easily slot these activities into your school day with PLAYBuilder – which is free for BC educators!

Access PLAYBuilder now!

What does the word inclusion mean to you?

In today’s classroom, inclusion is a hot topic. At the most basic level, inclusion refers to the intentional, ongoing efforts to ensure that every individual can fully participate in all aspects of physical activity and learning throughout the school day. It’s not the sort of thing you can accomplish in one day, but requires constant diligence as we all consider the needs of our individual students. Each student has their own lived experiences, and while some barriers to inclusion are obvious, others are completely invisible. 

Here are four things to keep in mind, when practicing inclusion in the context of physical literacy and physical activity:

  1.  Be proactive
  2.  Use inclusive language and design
  3. Avoid uncomfortable team selection processes
  4. Focus on personal empowerment, and helping students set and pursue individual goals

When putting together a physical activity for your students, it’s essential to keep in mind their intersectional identities. When it comes to race and ethnicity, remember to:

  1. Choose a broad range of activities from all parts of the world
  2. Empower students to share games/activities, and to lead
  3. Let students help set the rules for how to show respect to each other
  4. Plan units and activities to align with and respect cultural holidays and traditions

Consider cultural and religious backgrounds of your students as well. Some students may share openly, while others may not. Try the following when establishing respect with and amongst your students during activities:

  1. Present different motivations for physical activity
  2. Provide non-contact options for games like tag
  3. Provide cooling and hydration breaks
  4. Choose activities from different cultures
  5. Celebrate and respect different holidays and traditions

As more newcomers arrive in Canada, it’s important to consider the additional barriers and struggles that students from other countries may face. For instance, they may have never experienced a typical Canadian winter and could be unfamiliar with our winter sports. To foster inclusion for newcomers:

  1. Give instructions both verbally and visually
  2. Keep families informed of weekly plans
  3. Explain all parts of an activity and do not assume all students know the “basics”
  4. Teach your students how to dress for all weather

For more ideas and information about inclusion, and to ensure your school is all on the same page when it comes to inclusion in physical activity, book our Physical Activity and Physical Literacy for Everyone: Setting the Stage for Inclusion workshop for your school, or for a group of teachers in your area! Workshops are free to educators across BC.  

BOOK THIS WORKSHOP

When you’re empowering your students to develop their physical literacy, their learning goes well beyond the gym and your P.E. class—it can be seamlessly incorporated into all aspects of your class’s daily schedule. It’s possible for students to read, move and learn, all at the same time. How can we think about physical literacy beyond the gym? An innovative program in B.C. has some ideas!

Learning to love movement through literacy

When kids take part in the free Active Stories program now running in the Nicola Valley, literacy and physical activity go hand in hand. Children learn to use their imagination while moving their bodies, exploring fundamental movements at the same time as developing their improvisation and creativity skills.

As explained by Lia Moyes Larson, chair of Literacy Merritt and the Nicola Valley Society, in a recent news article, Active Stories gives instructors the chance to pair their love of literacy with engaging physical activities. While they listen to the narratives being read aloud, participants get to run, jump, and use their bodies for dramatic play in tandem with the story. By having students move in a way that reflects the meaning of a word, the storytellers can increase comprehension, memory and recall in their audience. At the end of the session the kids get to choose a book to take home with them.

Additionally, children who typically have issues with sitting still have their need to move addressed in a positive way. Engaging with books in this fun way helps them to get their wiggles out, all while taking in new information.

Using School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy resources

Programs like Active Stories are great inspiration for the ways we can all incorporate physical literacy across the school day! If you’re looking for more ideas on how to get your kids moving in new environments, here are some ways to increase their physical activity and develop their physical literacy from our resources Developing Physical Literacy on the Playground, Physical Literacy in the Classroom: Activities to Keep Your Students Moving! and Cross-curricular Activities.

5,4,3,2,1: This is a great way to get students physically engaged between lessons. Have your students do an activity for each number in a countdown. 

Example: 

  • Five jumping jacks, 
  • four squats, 
  • three hops on one foot, 
  • two laps around the classroom, and 
  • one high five.

If you like: This activity involves quizzing students about their preferences and getting them to perform physical actions based on their answers. Ask your students questions about what they like, and have them perform an action based on their answer. 

Examples: 

  • “If you like going to the beach, hop on one foot.” 
  • “If you like summer more than winter, do three squats.” 
  • “If you have a dog, do a stretch on both sides of your body

Grip strength: Create some stress balls by filling balloons with sand or flour, then have students squeeze them while reading poems, practicing spelling or multiplication tables, or rehearsing rhymes or chants. This activity will help them develop the strength they need to use an outdoor play structure.

Let’s make a math story: 

  • Brief students on how they’re going to make a math story as a group. First talk about different kinds of movements they can do and demonstrate them as a group (e.g., lunges, jumping jacks, high knees). Ask students if they know any other movements they could do. 
  • Now that you have some ideas of movements, write on the whiteboard (or just use hands and memory if outside or in the gym), and call on students to share a number and a movement (e.g., “Jake says we’re going to do 5 pushups, how many more do we need to make 10?”). 
  • Have students call out numbers and movements until they complete the full math story (e.g., “Okay, we have 5 push-ups, 3 jumping jacks, and 2 squats. Did we make 10? Let’s check.” And count up as a group). 
  • Have the students complete their math story by doing all of the movements! (e.g.,“Now that we’ve made 10, we can do all of the 10 movements together. Count with me and let’s go!”).

Looking for more activities to try with your students? PLAYBuilder has hundreds of free, curriculum-based activities, free for BC educators! Even better? PLAYBuilder can build a whole term plan for you, with just six clicks. Sign up today: https://spa-pl.playbuilderapp.com/signup

The snowy season has arrived, and your students will be eager to venture out into the cold. For educators, this is a perfect time to encourage different types of activity, as moving in different ways helps build strong bones, muscles, hearts and minds, and helps develop the three fundamental movement skills: locomotor, non-locomotor and manipulative.  For more on the importance of different types of activities for your students, download our resources Encouraging Different Types of Physical Activity and Different Activities, Different Beginnings

Looking for some new ideas for activities to try with your students? Here’s a few ways to keep students engaged and physically active this winter, and encourage those important different types of movement in their day: 

Outdoor Activities

  • Build a snowperson or snow fort

Students can create their own version of Frosty the Snowman, or construct a snow fortress.

  • Go on a winter photo scavenger hunt

Make a list of interesting winter landmarks, then send your students off to draw pictures of what they see at those spots around your playground!

  • Have a snowball-throwing contest

Students can compete to see who can throw the farthest, and with the most accuracy.

  • Sledding

All you need is a slope and a  sled. This will keep students tromping up and down the hill for multiple rides.

  • Take a winter hike around the block

Lead your students on a guided tour, pointing out things to discuss later in the classroom.

  • The Amazing Race

If you’re looking for something more ambitious and hands-on, you can host your own winter version of The Amazing Race – you can take inspiration from this version on our website, and use the passport as needed! Select as many challenge activities as you would like the teams to complete around your school yard and list them on the passport. We recommend between 6-8 activities. Activities should have students climbing, jumping, running, etc. In all, students should be using different equipment in the schoolyard to use different fundamental movement skills.

Not all students will be keen or able to get outside, and with lots of lessons happening in the classroom it’s a good idea to prepare some activities for the indoors as well. Here are some fun games to play with them, from our Physical Literacy in the Classroom: Activities to Keep Your Students Moving resource

Indoor Activities

  • Number lines

Create a number line with sidewalk chalk outside or painters tape inside. Have your student say the numbers as they walk (or hop!) over them, as they learn to count. (Example: Ask your students to say their three times table, hopping on each number in the series that is on the number line.)

  • True or false

Ask your students a true or false question about a topic they are learning. Have them move differently depending on their answer. (Examples:  “The largest organ in the body is the skin.” True = jumping jacks, false = lunges.)

  • Whiteboard Workout

Have your students perform several activities one after the other, and time them to see how long it takes to complete the circuit. (Example:  10 toe touches, 10 squats, and 10 jumping jacks)

Looking for more fun activities for your class?  PLAYBuilder has 900+ activities to keep your students engaged and having fun while they develop their physical literacy! Even better? PLAYBuilder can even plan your entire term of physical activity with Term Planner — and it’s all free for BC educators! Register today.