Each year, my PE teacher (was with me at my previous school as well) helps me promote a love of physical fitness within our students. He and I have designed different running programs for our students so that they can understand that staying healthy and fit doesn’t require a gym membership or a lot of money. We teach them the fundamentals of running…how to breathe, how to pace themselves, and how to enjoy the actual act of running. This year, he is having our students “race” across America! He puts up a map of the United States with the mileage to get across posted. Each week, students run while in their health and PE classes. He measures their miles and records who wins every week. This year, we have a deal…the grade level who works hardest and shows the best behavior and sportsmanship will get to add my weekly mileage and Oakley’s (the brown dog) weekly mileage. Students ask me every day…how many miles did Oakley go? How many miles did you go? Did we win? They are pretty excited!
As I was walking down the hall the other day, I noticed that my art teacher has a bulletin board outside of his room with a saying…We are all Picassos, we just have to remember to be one. I think about this as I think about our students and their mileage each week. The art teacher has been working this year to instill a love of art in our students…so that they are not afraid that they can’t draw or paint, but that they try and all works are masterpieces. I saw a prime example of this during the grade levels’ PE time each week…our fifth graders have the lowest mileage of everyone in the building! Our first graders have the most!
I thought about this more a minute…the fifth graders are bigger and stronger…and understand what it means to pace yourself to do your best. But, they also know that when you run in Houston, you sweat…and then you smell. You may not look cool…and is it “cool” to actually exercise as a fifth grader? Those first graders DO NOT CARE! They run! And they run! I actually watched them yesterday out running and…they run! It is an amazing thing! They “think” they are runners…they still believe they are Picasso’s!
So how do we keep this belief in students between the ages of 6 and 10? How do we get all kids to believe they can still learn and grow and not be afraid to “sweat”?
- Students need to learn the concept of a growth mindset. We have embraced this in some of our grade levels this year and it has made a big difference in student attitudes toward learning. 4th grade is a prime example…they know they may not know everything YET, but with work and perseverance, they will eventually get it! Once students understand this, they can do anything!
- Students need to know it is ok to take a chance. Many children, as they age, become more conscious of who is watching them and their opinion of what they do. We need to talk to our students about this on a daily basis. We can teach them to take chances in their lives when it comes to something they want to learn or try.
- Students need to know it is ok to make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes and we need to view our mistakes not as setbacks, but as opportunities to grow and not give up. How many times have we all as teachers made mistakes (me…just about every day)? We need to model that when we make mistakes we learn from them and move on.
- Students need to know it is ok to do their thing. I was working with a group of 5th graders one day on understanding underlying messages of poetry. I used the Robert Frost poem, A Road Less Traveled. As we read and discussed the poem, they understood that his message was that his life was how it was because he took the road less traveled. If they love an activity that not everyone else loves or thinks is important, we need to encourage them to try it out anyway!
I am anxious to see who wins our Run Across America contest this year! I am rooting for all groups, but hoping we can work as a team on my campus as well, to motivate and support our 5th graders to believe it’s ok to “sweat”!
A few resources from Amazon to help you with running activities for young runners and motivating students are below.
Sparkle on, my friends!