Online Learning and Health Related Fitness
On Monday, March 2nd my international school followed the government’s request that all schools should temporarily move to an online platform due to COVID-19. The request had come just 4 days prior and involved plenty of last-minute adjustments to the "Tuning In" and "Finding Out" components of my upcoming health-related fitness unit. In this blog, I will discuss the challenges of keeping students active and engaged in physical education online, the technology used to make it happen, and how I organized the start of my health related fitness unit.
Luckily my school and most international schools are well integrated with technology on a day to day basis. As students transitioned to online learning, and teachers to online instruction, there were a few bumps but overall things started smoothly. Seesaw, a digital portfolio and parent communication software, allowed students to receive daily tasks, messages, and complete activities assigned by the teachers. The great thing about Seesaw is students can choose to type answers or record their voice to reply allowing greater inclusion for all learners.
How did I use Seesaw for my physical education class?
Through Seesaw I assigned my classes two tasks a week to complete. Every homeroom teacher had an online schedule that would have students working on math/UOI/writing in the morning, then there would be time in the afternoon to work on specialist assigned tasks (Art, Japanese, PE) It quickly became evident students were spending 5-6 hours busy in front of a computer so I wanted to ensure my tasks were an opportunity to get outside and exercise, or at least step away from the screen for 10-15 minutes. In the first week, I learned the tasks corresponding with Seesaw instructions needed to involve minimal equipment. When planning I decided to assume all they had was a small room or the outdoors!
The “Tuning In” and "Finding Out" for my health-related fitness unit was having students analyze how their body changed after an intense exercise, as well as sharing ideas on other ways you can stay healthy. Every task assigned had a part to get them up and moving, and a part to answer a couple of health-related questions or reflect. Most students mentioned that sleeping, and eating good food, were other ways they stay healthy. As we moved into week two I designed tasks to further explore these topics while still providing students with a variety of different exercises (and instructional videos) they could follow and explore. Each task has seen greater engagement, with responses going from about 50% to almost everyone now. The vigilance of the admin and homeroom teachers definitely helped get students settled and make expectations clear.
This week, the third one of teaching physical education from the comforts of my small Japanese apartment, I want to know the type of exercises that they enjoy doing. Students will watch a brief BrainPOP video on fitness (thankfully our school has an account) to reflect on the previous two weeks and then create their own list of exercises they can do to stay active for around five minutes. I encouraged them to complete these with a sibling or parent! Hopefully, after our two-week spring break, schools will be back to normal in-person operations and I can use the exercise topics that they chose to shape the rest of my inquiry cycle and keep students exploring physical fitness and healthy living.
With my older PYP classes I am focusing on the components of fitness. I wanted to use these three weeks of online school to see what they know, and what they are interested in when it comes to the different types of fitness. As with my other PYP classes, I am assigning the class two physical education tasks a week through Seesaw.
Each week the focus has been on a different component of fitness. The first task of the week has been exercises focusing on a specific component (week 1 - flexibility) and reflecting, with the second task of the week coming up with more exercises for that component and completing an exit ticket questionnaire through Seesaw. Ideally, we will be back at school with just cardiovascular endurance left to introduce so students can use their knowledge of the four components to complete station work, and explore whole class fitness activities! For this unit, the summative assessment will be a portfolio containing Seesaw work and reflections we complete in person.
Teaching online physical education can be valuable to share work and attempt activities you may not be able to do in a normal physical education setting. However, it relies on the students being engaged and comfortable with technology. There were some students who did not respond to tasks, or handed them in out of order, and well behind schedule.
Keep tasks simple. Especially with the EAL students, I realized to increase engagement students needed to understand the task quickly. There was no teacher they could raise their hand and ask, so you needed to make sure the tasks were simple, outlined, and provided an opportunity to submit work that could be given feedback.
Physical education should not stress the students out! I did not want my students to spend too much time typing answers or researching a million exercises. Keeping the tasks concise leaves more time for students to exercise or unwind after a long day of all subjects being online.
Thanks for reading! How is your school coping with the sudden shift to online learning?