Thursday, January 31, 2013

Physical Activity in The Classroom: The Jammin' Minute!!

Here's a really quick post to get my second one in for January. I've been using this with my sixth graders and occasionally with my seventh and eighth graders, too.

Every health/physical education teacher knows about the benefits of physical activity during the school day: its impact on learning, concentration, focus, etc. To summarize these benefits would be a waste of space here, but I've been adding a brief, 1-2 minute physical activity routine to my sixth grade classes which I want to share with you.

I try to be energetic in my classroom, and for 2013 I decided that I want to try to take it to the next level. I want to be the most energetic teacher in my building, but according to my students, I have a ton of work to do if I want to get on the level of a spritely young French teacher across the hall. But what do I have in my arsenal that she doesn't have?

The Jammin' Minute. Advantage: Mr. B.

I don't remember where I found out about the Jammin' Minute, but I'm pretty sure it was on Twitter. The Jammin' Minute is put out weekly through the JAM (Just-A-Minute) School Program, and every now and then a class or school will create their own Jammin' Minute to be featured on the JAM School Program Website. It is a physical activity break that does not take a lot of time and helps students move around after they've been sitting down all day. The Jammin' Minute is designed to be used in any standard classroom, and according to their website, the JAM School Program, "brings physical education and health education into the classroom. JAM is designed to teach kids (and adults) healthier lifestyle habits."

The Jammin' Minute literally takes only one minute, although for me it's more like two minutes because I like to model the exercises first so the students know what they're doing. I'll bring in some music (Top 40 tunes, mash-ups, indie hipster dance party music, whatever) or open Garage Band to play an energetic groove while we get our jam on in sixth grade health. I usually do this at the start of class, but have also used it as a physical activity break or brain break in the middle of class.

So, how does it work? It's easy: open your preferred browser of choice, and head over to  the JAM School Program website to read up on what they're all about. Then, check out the library of Jammin' Minute routines. They even have seated routines so that all students may enjoy being physically active in the classroom. Each routine also has a health tip to share with students! Don't have Internet access, a computer, or a projector in your classroom? Print out the routine in advance OR simply create your own! Start with one move and have students share their own moves or routines. Once, when I only had eight students in class due to a field trip, we created different Jammin' Minute routines and shared them with each other.

Okay, now it's time for a physical activity break! Please stand up, push your chair in, and blast one of your favorite songs while you complete the following:

Sample Jammin' Minute Routine from the JAM School Program Website
Whoa! That was fun, wasn't it? Don't you feel better already? I know I sure do. Now my brain is ready to learn!

Don't forget your standard safety protocols (personal space, controlled movements, etc.) before you begin. Have fun with it! The more I get into it, the more my students respond. This has been a huge hit with my sixth grade students, but not so much with my seventh or eighth graders. Typically students jam in the middle of my classroom (my desks are set up in a double horseshoe) so I will let them "freestyle" back to their seats as long as their movements are appropriate before I turn the music off.

So, give the Jammin' Minute a try! I think you might enjoy it as much as your students. Still not convinced that it is beneficial for your students to take a physical activity break during the school day? Read these articles and check out the video link below:

JAMmin' Minute: Sixty Seconds to Healthier Kids (Education World)
The JAM School Program (Aliance for a Healthier Generation)
The Mesquite ISD has 55 videos on YouTube of Jammin' Minutes!

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Happy Jammin!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lesson Idea: Alcohol Stories (Using Web 2.0)

I'm always looking for ways to bring class content and skills alive in my health classroom. I first heard of this lesson from one of my undergraduate professors, Dr. Shannon Whalen, who shared it during a methods class during my junior year. The lesson initially appeared in the American Journal of Health Education in their July/August issue from 2007 (in an article written by Dr. Whalen with Suanne Maurer-Starks), and if you have access to a research database it's pretty easy to find the article. If you're an AAHPERD member and subscribe to the American Journal of Health Education, you can log on to the AAHPERD website and read the article for free.

I will not go into detail about discussion questions or the way in which Dr. Whalen completed this assignment. For that, you will have to find the article I mentioned above. The basic premise of the activity is for students to share stories relating to alcohol and how it had affected their life, specifically the consequences of binge drinking. The story just needs to be true and something that happened to the student or someone they know. Dr. Whalen would have college students submit their responses with a cover page, which was then torn off and counted for credit. The stories are shuffled and students take one randomly.

A screenshot of instructions on the Google Form 

Well, middle school students generally don't have the alcohol experience that college students have. I liked the idea of the lesson and wanted to adapt it to use in my middle school classroom, with the hope of injecting a little dose of reality into our alcohol unit. So, I reached out via social media to see how people I connect with online could help me out.  First, I created a simple Google Form for people to fill out anonymously. I shared this link via my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, where I mentioned that I was looking for anonymous stories relating to alcohol use or abuse. There was no way for personally identifiable information to be included unless the person decided to write it in their story (no one did). I received twenty three responses; I am not sure who responded although some people did comment that they filled out a response. I did take out one that I felt was not appropriate to share with middle school age students. I did this over two separate occasions: May 2011 and January 2012. If I were to do it again, I would be more specific about using different hashtags on Twitter; I probably would not put it on Facebook again. With Twitter, I have never met most of my followers in person and I think the anonymity makes it easier for people to decide to write a story.

I simply have to print out the stories to share with my students. I cut them up into strips of paper and place them into a box/bag, and we create a circle of chairs around the room. We go around the circle and students pick a random story from the box/bag and read them aloud. At this point in the unit students already have basic knowledge of alcohol, and some of them point that out as we go through certain stories. I will briefly summarize certain aspects of each story as we go through them, but generally I save the discussion for the end; I make notes as we go through the activity so I remember to highlight certain points.

Below is a screencast showing the Google Form I created, as well as a brief scan through all of the responses I received. If you would like to fill out the form to contribute to how I use this lesson in my classroom, please click this link. This activity is adaptable to a variety of content areas, including other ATOD topics but also bullying. I would caution having current students completing this type of activity only because there might be legal ramifications as well as varying comfort levels to address.

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with questions, comments, or concerns.

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