Teaching the Health-Related Fitness Unit through Board Games
May 27th, 2022
This blog post looks into a health-related fitness unit I had a great time teaching with lower PYP students, in this case, a Grade 2 class. Over this six-week unit (six classes), students explored a variety of classic board games that have been turned into fitness games. Communication, collaboration, and self-management skills are focused on as students play and officiate themselves in these group games. The games explored are:
Connect 4 Fitness
Snakes and Mountain Climbers
Goals and Long Term Picture
To provide students with a unique way to learn and improve fitness, emphasizing student choice and inquiry.
Increase their knowledge of exercises, both locomotor, and non-locomotor movements.
This unit, taught to Grade 2 students, provided a good bridge between learning how the body works/changes through exercise (Kindergarten-Grade 1) and the older PYP fitness units where students explore the health-related fitness components (Grade 3 and 5) and skill-related fitness components (Grade 4). A result of students gaining a greater understanding of how to perform various exercises safely to improve the targeted muscles, is having the knowledge to delve deeper into the benefits and reasons for being active going forward in the PYP.
I wanted the first experience in this unit to grab the student's attention and found Fitness Monopoly from TPT an awesome way to do so. Students play as their game pieces and perform different exercises as they roll the dice and land in hula hoops around the field. Like classic monopoly, there is jail, community chest, and chance cards all with opportunities to perform different exercises and stretches.
With students familiar with Monopoly, this was an instant favorite game among the group. Students enthusiastically completed the required exercises, helping each other count seconds, reps, or laps. We finished the class discussing what other board games they enjoy playing with family and friends, and exercises they hope to do in future lessons. Other discussion questions included:
What experiences with fitness do you have?
What is your body feeling after playing?
What fitness are you interested in?
After the initial class to start this unit, students mentioned snakes and ladders, and connect 4 as games they had played before. They mentioned others too but these were the most effective at being turned into a fitness game! The fitness iterations of these games provided students with the opportunity to choose the type of fitness they would prefer performing, as well as provided good opportunities for collaboration through playing with/against a partner.
After playing Connect 4 and Snakes and Ladders over a couple of classes, students sorted the exercises they performed into cardio, muscular, and flexibility categories. A class discussion was also had on:
How can a partner support your individual fitness?
What exercises are challenging to you?
What do you want to work on further?
The final modified board game I introduced to this unit was Fitness Battleship. Created by myself, and inspired by the life-size Fitness Monopoly, a hula-hoop grid was set up on either side of cones with the students divided into two small teams. Each team would work together to choose one coordinate they think contains 1 of 3 battleships being hidden by the opposing team. The other 9 hula hoops contain a “Miss” and an exercise students must perform instead. The first team to successfully guess the coordinates of the other teams 3 battleships are the winner.
This game encouraged teamwork and allowed a hands-off approach from myself as each team could officiate each other and take turns. Students were reminded of previous discussions of what makes exercise effective and how to communicate effectively before we played and were able to challenge themselves on their fitness in a fun, competitive manner.
To demonstrate their understanding of how to challenge themselves and others to improve their fitness, and have fun, students were to create their own fitness board game. Using a template of their choosing, students added exercises, and other features to create a fitness game. As a class, we brainstormed an initial list, as seen below, and students continued to develop their ideas enthusiastically as the class progressed. To ensure the challenge was appropriate, students had to perform each exercise they added to their board. A student quickly learned starting with 30 burpees is not ideal and was able to modify it to an easier level.
To demonstrate their communication skills and celebrate their product, in the final class of the unit they taught and played their game with the younger Grade 1 students. It was awesome to see the students enthusiastically share their unique game and teach students any exercises they had to perform.
Implementing the Approaches to Learning
The connection to the Unit of Inquiry being taught in Grade 2 was minimal with previous online learning forcing my hand into the type of unit I needed to teach. I instead chose to focus on connecting with their UOI ATL's and LP's.
Social: Supporting Others
Students constantly reflected on how well they worked while being competitive and how they can help others when exercising. Students reflected in a mix of individual questioning, post-it note responses, and small and large group questioning.
Knowledgeable: Learning about different types of exercises and how to perform them correctly. Understanding the benefits of performing these different exercises, and how it can change their body.
Open-minded: A new way for the students to pursue health-related fitness objectives, I wanted students to be open-minded to new ideas, work with others outside their “best friends”, and explore different exercises.
I was very happy with how this unit flowed. With 1 of 2 PE lessons dedicated to swimming each week, this was a nice change of pace and kept students engaged throughout the six weeks.
In windy Barbados, and not having a gym I need to come up with a better solution for keeping laminated sheets not fly away while students are playing the games. A gym would make this a non-factor but something to consider when outdoors.
Warm-up games rather than straight fitness were necessary to keep students focused and helped solidify the notion that having fun is the best way to improve fitness.
Thoughts, questions, concerns? Let me know on Twitter @tannernickel or send me an email. I am always looking for ideas and ways to improve my inquiry teaching.