I have been working on ideas for an indoor fitness program for my 5th and 6th graders. During the outside months we could run laps, lunges up and down the field, etc. Winter brings a challenge because our gym is so small and my classes so big that running activities are just not going to work. I decided to do some circuit training and I think it is going to be a good thing. Circuit training provides a lot of variety and can compact a lot of fitness into just a few minutes. I’m also hoping my kids will see it as something they can work on at home to improve their fitness level and establish good habits.
I introduced the program by spending a class period just teaching exercises. I emphasized doing the exercise correctly and pushing themselves, not comparing to others. Here is the list we are working off of:
jump rope in place
run in place
squats (prisoner & wide leg)
planks with leg lifts (bent & straight)
one leg hip up
push-up toe walk
iso push up
Spending a day going thru the exercises was a little boring (or as one fifth grader told me: Extremely boring with a capital E), but I feel like it has paid off as we started the real thing this week. The fitness section of our class lasted 10 minutes (plus stretch time) and looked liked this:
After stretching, the kids chose a fitness station to start at. I let them choose their own groups, but no more than 5-6 in a group. I timed them at the first station for 1 minute (ex. push-ups for one minute, jumping jacks for one minute). Then gave them 30 seconds to rest/rotate. They moved clock-wise to the next station. I alternated the exercises with a cardio-strength-cardio-strength. In ten minutes they had completed 7 stations and worked hard. Most of the kids stayed on task and put in a great effort. Grouping themselves, they tended to be with kids of their own ability and felt comfortable. Set-up was setting out some mats (for crunches and superman) and labeling the stations with laminated 3×5 cards.
I have also been doing jump rope with my 3rd and 4th graders and wanted at least one day with my 5th/6th classes. These older ages love to compete with a jump rope contest of who can jump the longest. I pass out ropes and give them about 5 minutes to practice and make sure they have a rope they are happy with. Then we start the contest. I tell them to begin and if they miss, they are out even if it is on the first jump. Also, I stress when they get out to sit down right where they are and not walk around so that other jumpers don’t get bumped. They love it and always want to do it more than once (I don’t let them!) After the contest, I give them a few minutes to work on a routine/trick and then end the class by letting them show their tricks. Some work individually and some with partners.
I wasn’t sure how 6th graders would like a jump rope class and I know most of them already know how so I tried this game: I divided the class into four groups of about 7 kids each. Each group had a long rope. Two members were turning and one would call out a name of another group member. That person would run in and start jumping. Then another name would be called out and that person would join the jumpers. One group got 4 kids jumping at once. They had fun and worked well as teams.
Also planned, but not enough time to try yet is a jump rope relay: jump down to cone and back, then pass the rope to the next person.
Today I began double jump rope with 1st and 2nd graders. I used the following sequence and it worked very well:
1. With students sitting, I demonstrated turning the rope. I used a student helper who I knew had some experience. I emphasized watching each other to make sure you were turning together and keeping the pace steady. Also, making sure the rope was just brushing the floor and not too high. They were to complete 10 good turns then trade (they were in groups of 4)
2. Once they seemed to have an overall grasp of turning together, I had them swing the rope back and forth while someone jumped over it side-to-side. This gave some confidence to some of the less-able jumpers and more practice of steady swinging and keeping the rope on the floor.
3. Finally, I let them do an overhead swing with someone jumping. They were excited to get to this point and most kids were successful.
The sequence went a lot faster with the second graders. They are so much more coordinated and able just a year later. The side to side swinging seemed to be good practice for both grades and I think they were surprised at the challenge of jumping over the rope on the ground.
It is time to introduce jump ropes to my little people (Kindergarten, first, second). After 10 minutes of fitness, 25 minutes of jump rope was a little long so today I tried this:
We started on one side of the gym. I told the children we were going to do an “all jumping” obstacle course. I set up one row of jump ropes on the floor in a line. Second row was hula hoops. Third row was a line of cones. Then I demonstrated the course: jump side to side over the line of jump ropes. The hula hoops were “lily pads”. I told the students to frog jump from lily pad to lily pad. This made for tired legs so I then told them to shake their legs out before starting the third row. The final row was to jump high over each cone. Then sit against the wall on the opposite wall. Whenever we do obstacle courses, they get to start when I touch their head. That way I can control the flow and keep things moving along. It moves fairly quickly so there isn’t too much wait time.
After the obstacle course, I brought out the jump ropes. I told them they had to try three things and pass them off . . . not to me, but to themselves in their head. 1. swing rope correctly over their head 2. swing rope, let it land, then jump over 3. swing and jump three times continuously. Once they could do those three things, they could try a trick. I demonstrated a “jumping jack” (feet in and out while jumping rope). I passed out ropes and let them start working. The sequence seemed to help those that haven’t jumped before while giving those experts something to work on. Their is a huge variety of skill level at this age! Every few minutes I stopped class and demonstrated a new trick (or let a student do it) for them to try.