Physical activity is important for students, but educators may face barriers when integrating movement into the school day. Here are some solutions to challenges you may be facing.
- Try games and activities that require no equipment. Examples include dancing to music, fitness circuits, walking, and chair aerobics.
- Use items from around the house traditionally not used for physical activity. For example, use a deck of cards to determine the number of repetitions of an on-the-spot activity, use baskets as targets, and use sponges for throwing.
- Use physical activity stations or small group activities so that equipment is not required for each student in the class.
- Ask families to donate equipment they are no longer using at home.
- Encourage students to bring equipment from home to use during active recess.
- Be creative and use materials from outside, such as rocks and sticks, as equipment.
- Advocate to your administrator to have the necessary equipment available to support the health of your students.
- Set up the classroom space to accommodate movement. For example, a “U” shape with open space in the middle, or desk groupings that leave extra space on the side.
- Take advantage of the open space in hallways, an empty classroom, the field, or tarmac.
- Try on-the-spot activities, such as jumping jacks, squats, or yoga poses.
- Have equipment available to use during class time. Examples include standing desks, balance discs, or resistance bands.
- Use amenities available in the community, such as parks and walking trails.
- Have a list of appropriate indoor games and activities that are ready to go when poor weather hits.
- Familiarize yourself with your board’s policy on inclement weather.
- Have extra outdoor gear available, such as mitts and hats during winter, and sun hats during the summer, so students can still participate and be shielded from the elements. Also, ask families to donate outerwear that is no longer being used at home.
- Have extra dry clothing available for when students get wet playing in the rain or snow.
- Send home updates about what clothes students should wear for outside play.
- Build an outdoor skating rink at the school for students to skate on during the winter months.
- Spend time establishing physical activity management protocols. For example, stopping the activity when the whistle is blown, knowing how to move safely in the classroom without touching others, or identifying activity boundaries when being active outside.
- Try activity centres/circuit-based activities that break the class into smaller, more manageable groups.
- Use an on-the-spot activity, such as chair aerobics or fitness activities beside each desk, to make movement less chaotic.
- Try a game that includes every student, such as beach ball volleyball, or “Everybody’s It” tag.
- Take active field trips. Examples include a visit to a local conservation area, rock climbing, or cross-country skiing.
- Ensure activities are developmentally appropriate.
- Incorporate fundamental movement skills into all of your activities so students have the building blocks necessary to be successful.
- Demonstrate modifications that can increase or decrease the challenge.
- Try equipment substitutions that will make learning a new skill less challenging. For example, a beach ball for throwing and catching because it’s large and light, or a deflated soccer ball for kicking because it won’t roll as far.
- Have students work in partners and learn new skills with a friend.
- Provide opportunities for students to practise their skills with different equipment, and in different environments. Learning new skills takes time!
- If a student has a disability, ensure you are familiar with the student’s individual education plan. Use this information to adapt activities so all students can participate!
- Focus on fun.
- Ensure the opportunities to be active are inclusive so all students are participating.
- Keep the activities simple, with easy-to-understand instructions and minimal rules.
- Have students take turns planning and leading active breaks.
- Ask students which activities they’re interested in and embed this into your movement opportunities.
- Change up the activities regularly so students are exposed to many different activities and have the opportunity to find what they enjoy. Include non-traditional games, sports, and activities.
- Use a variety of equipment.
- Incorporate physical activity into other subject areas. When learning about literacy, act out a story, or use letter and word identification in active games. When learning about numeracy, use dice or playing cards to represent the number or repetitions, or use physical activity to visually demonstrate equations.
- Break up physical activity into smaller chunks across the school day. Try being active for five minutes, four times a day.
- Program plan with grade partners and work together to create plans for the year.
- Reach out to colleagues who are confident in promoting physical activity.
- Facilitate a sharing session during a staff meeting so educators can share the activities they’ve used and which ones their students enjoy.
- Set-up an activity library where educators can share resources with one another.
- Teach older students to help lead activities during recess or at lunch.
- Dress comfortably to encourage your own movement.
- Incorporate physical activity as part of an overall staff wellness initiative.
- Seek out professional development opportunities related to student well-being, physical education, or DPA.
- Be an active role model and participate with your students. Remember that physical activity has benefits for adults, too!
- Provide information to caregivers about the importance of physical activity.
- Include physical activity-based messaging in the school newsletter, on the school social media accounts, and on school bulletin boards.
- Share success stories about physical activity initiatives in the school, and the impact they are having on students.
- Include school wellness as an agenda item at parent council meetings.
- Incorporate physical activity into all caregiver-based events, such as parent-teacher interviews, fun fairs, or information nights.
- Engage caregivers who volunteer at school in DPA. You can even ask them to lead a session!
- Implement a family wellness initiative.
- Host “Family Fitness Nights” at school.
Lack of supportive policies
- Establish a Healthy School committee that develops policies related to staff and student well-being.
- Ensure bike racks are available and accessible to encourage active transportation.
- Share success stories from schools that have created and implemented physical activity-based initiatives and policies.
- Don't take away physical education, DPA, or recess as punishment.
- Ask your administrator for support related to gaps in policies that promote physical activity.
- Be familiar with the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines.
- Co-create safety rules with your students.
- Ensure equipment is in good working condition and the activity space is free from hazards.
- Recognize the difference between danger and risk. Students are more active and have more fun when they are supported to take risks that are developmentally appropriate.
- Shift your thinking to recognize the value of physical activity and the consequences of sedentary behaviour.