Archive for January, 2013

5 Ways to Get Back into the PE Swing after Winter Break

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Returning to school from winter break can be a tough transition into the second half of the school year. With some schools out for 2 to 3 weeks in December and the first part of January, many students forget what they learned at the end of the semester and teachers are forced to spend valuable class time reviewing material they already covered. girls-playing

Physical Education (PE) class is no different. The body, like the mind, “remembers” physical movements and exercises from day to day, but when a person stops exercising the body can “forget” what it was capable of and revert back to a lower physical level. This doesn’t mean all ability to run, play basketball, or jump rope will suddenly disappear, but taking a long break can lead to some “rustiness” in physical fitness.

In addition to this physical component, kids are probably a little apprehensive mentally and emotionally to get right back into the swing of things.

Forcing Kids to Make up for Lost Time isn’t the Answer

When I was a schoolchild, the way the PE teachers got us back into the swing of things after the winter, spring, and summer breaks was with the puke drill. The puke drill earned its name from—you guessed it—its ability to actually make students throw up out of sheer physical overexertion.

The puke drill was the same thing as the “suicide” running drill that many PE teachers and sports coaches still use today, but it involved touching every single line on the basketball court floor in order to make it a much longer drill. The theory was that forcing students to work extra hard to make up for lost time would get them back into shape much faster. But guess what? It didn’t work. And a lot of parents called to complain when their child was injured, became physically ill, or simply couldn’t keep up.

We’re trying to promote physical activity as a fulfilling, healthy habit—not something that makes you sick! Don’t overexert your students and turn them into exercise haters.

Fun and Easy Ways to Ease Back into Exercise

Kids can be difficult to engage when they return from school breaks and holidays. Winter break is often the hardest because it’s the longest, it’s filled with candy, treats, and other junk food, and cold weather may keep even the most active students indoors. Here are some simple ideas to help kids of all activity levels get back into the swing of things after winter break.

1. Prevention is the best medicine. One of the best ways to keep students on track is to encourage them to exercise on their own over the break. The week before break begins, have your students set individual goals and a plan to reach them. The overall goal is to get students to maintain the same physical level while on break, but each student will need to use different means to get there. Work with each student to help them set individual exercise goals based on their unique challenges.

2. Play games. It’s a lot easier to get back in shape when exercise is fun (that’s what SPARK is all about!). Plan to play whatever your students’ favorite PE games are as soon as you get back from break, to help make getting back in shape seem more like fun and less like work. You can even let them vote on the games and activities they’ll do.

Click Here for sample games you can choose from

3.  Try low-impact activities. January can be the perfect time to introduce new, low-impact PE activities such as yoga and Pilates. These exercise routines use the body’s own resistance to build strength and flexibility. They’re perfect for students who may be out of shape because the routines themselves are naturally designed to allow students to work at their own level and build up to more challenging movements, both during each session and over time.

Here are some yoga tools you can use:

Yoga Basic Training lesson plan

Yoga Basic Training content card

4. Integrate mental exercises. Ease back into things slowly with the help of some deep breathing and meditation techniques that can help students mentally and physically prepare for both PE class and their academic classes at the same time.

5. Dance, dance, dance. Get kids moving again for the semester with something they love to do. Hip hop, jazz, and R&B music all have great beats that kids like to get down to. Get them involved by asking class members to teach their favorite dance moves to their classmates. Break into small groups and ask each one to choreograph a 2 minute performance. Bring in a boom box, a mix of appropriate music, and let them wear their street clothing during class. It will be like a special treat at the start of the semester.

Here are some Dance lesson plans you can use:

Louisiana Saturday Night Lesson Plan

5-6-7-8 Dance Lesson Plan

California Strut Dance Lesson Plan

10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for the Whole Family

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of the New Year, but it’s very difficult to stick to your plans if you don’t have constant support. That’s why making resolutions you can stick to as a family is such an important part of creating lasting changes. You can support each other while everyone works toward becoming a happier, healthier, more united family unit.

1. Eat a Healthy Breakfasthealthy-breakfast
Sometimes having a family breakfast isn’t possible because of conflicting schedules and other commitments, but it should be everyone’s goal to eat a healthy meal every morning. Whether you drink a fresh fruit smoothie or sit down with a bowl of oatmeal, make sure that every member of the family eats something sustaining before leaving the house. Eating before you leave eliminates the temptation to stop at a fast food restaurant or grab a doughnut and coffee before work. Resolve to keep healthy foods and fruit stocked in the kitchen and readily accessible for the mornings to help the entire family stick to this goal.

2. Wash Your Hands
Most people wash their hands after going to the bathroom, but making a point to wash your hands before eating is a great way to get rid of germs and cut down on the number of illnesses each member of your family has to endure each year. There are germs on almost every surface your body comes into contact with and making a concerted, long-term effort to wash your hands helps to keep the germs out of the house.

3. Exercise Together
Spending time with your kids seems like a great excuse for skipping a workout, but you can have quality time and workout at the same time. Playing basketball with your kids, going on a family hike, or racing around a track are great ways to get in your exercise while bonding as a family and enjoying nature. If the weather stops you from exercising outside, try window shopping while walking around the mall or going to an open gym at a local school or a community center.

4. Drink Water or Milk Instead of Soda

Soda is convenient and tastes good, but it adds empty calories and sugar to your diet with zero nutritional value. Water is by far the most natural drink for your family, as your bodies are made of mostly water and it hydrates you without the extra calories. Milk is also an important drink, especially for the children in your home. Their bodies need all the calcium they can get to build strong bones.

5. Relax Together Without Electronics
Most people spend hours in front of screens each day. Many of these hours are spent behind computer screens at work or school. Everyone in the family should give their minds a break from the screen for at least an hour each day. Some families choose story time where members take turns reading from a book or telling a story. Other families have instituted game night where the entire family gathers to play board games one night per week. It’s a good idea to make sure that every member of the family gets an equal opportunity to choose a book or game so that nobody feels left out.

6. Eat Healthy Snacks
It’s easy to reach for a bag of chips or a box of cookies when you’re looking for an afternoon snack, but eating fruits and vegetables for snacks is much better for your body and brain. Washing and slicing vegetables and fruits as soon as you get home from the store is a great way to make them more convenient snacks. This way all you have to do is reach into the refrigerator and pull out a bag of carrot sticks or apple slices that is just as convenient as a bag of chips.

7. Volunteer Together
Almost everyone becomes a happier person when they help other people, and being happier reduces the level of stress in your body. This makes you healthier as well as happier. You can volunteer in any way that makes sense for your family, from collecting donations for your favorite charity to serving the homeless at a local soup kitchen.

8. Take More Steps
Buying each member of your family a pedometer can make getting more exercise a fun family challenge. Buy a small prize for the member of the family who takes the most steps each week, or set a goal to take a certain number of steps as a family and do something fun if you meet the goal.

9. Go to Bed Earlier
One of the biggest health issues that many families face is not getting enough sleep. You can’t force yourself to sleep, but having a set routine at bedtime and going to bed earlier is a great way to encourage your body to rest. Getting enough sleep makes every member of the family more alert and ready to take on the new day.

10. Try New Recipes Together
Even very small members of your family can do something to help out in the kitchen, and kids who pick ingredients and help their parents prepare meals are more likely to try new foods. Cooking dinner together can be an adventure, especially if you make an effort to use exotic ingredients and find new ways to cook your favorite dishes.
Creating common goals can help families bond and really challenge each other. Tackle the New Year as a family and reap the rewards of  built-in teamwork.