December’s Lesson: Creating healthy students by developing passion for F.I.T.T.ness
Shelburne Community School physical education teachers Kelly Spreen and Craig MacDerment use their superstar lesson to help students find a passion for physical activity that will last a lifetime.
“Part of our goal is to expose students to as many different activities and fitness exercises with the hope that it will transfer outside of the classroom and promote lifelong fitness,” Spreen said.
Over the duration of their “Fun, F.I.T.T.ness and Forever Strong” circuit-based lesson, students go from station to station working together to complete different exercises. Students stay at each station until they accomplish the task at hand before moving on.
MacDerment said several goals help keep students motivated, the first being friendly competition.
“You are working as a group to complete a task against other groups that are doing the same thing,” he said. “It’s competitive, but you have to do these things as a group to complete the task.”
Second, students only spend a maximum of three minutes at each station, crucial to student success for several reasons, the fourth-year teachers explained.
“I like that it provides a great deal of variety,” Spreen said. “You can have 10 different things going on and really focus on the fact that you’re giving kids a chance to find something that works for them.”
“That’s right,” MacDerment continued. “If you’re not the best at one station, you’re only going to be there for three minutes before you can move on. Hopefully, at some point, at one of those stations or at a few of them, you have something that you are really good at or find something that you really enjoy doing. In a traditional game, if you spend 30 minutes playing a game that you don’t like, you’re really not going to get much out of it.”
Following their passions
Both MacDerment and Spreen have gotten more out of physical education than they expected when they began their teaching careers. Their love for sports as young students helped shape them into P.E. teachers. MacDerment played lacrosse growing up before moving into the coaching ranks, where he coaches the high school boys lacrosse team. The relationships he forged with his coaches led him to follow suit.
“I’ve always really connected and had a mentor/mentee relationship with my P.E. teachers,” he said. “They were the people I could connect with. That was a role model that I always looked up to. It was always easy for me to follow that progression. Hopefully, I now am one of those people for the students that I teach.”
Spreen also played lacrosse but also competed in basketball, swimming and tennis. In addition to her teaching role, she coaches the middle school basketball team and the high school girls lacrosse team.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and I could never see myself in the traditional classroom setting,” she said.
Both Spreen and MacDerment share that bond with colleagues Mary Nelson and Jude Olson, both of whom have taught P.E. at Shelburne for 20 years. They both became P.E. teachers to help students find their respective paths.
“I think physical education gives students a really great opportunity to be their best selves,” Spreen said. “Everybody is a different type of learner and I love that P.E. gives students a type of outlet that allows them to show what they have to offer.”
Reflection and Cooperation
F.I.T.T. serves as an acronym that stands for “Frequency,” “Intensity,” “Time,” and “Type.” The teachers explain that after students complete each circuit, they use a brief rest period to reflect and perform wellness tasks designed to reinforce the lesson while promoting a healthy classroom culture. Wellness tasks include:
- finding classmates to compliment;
- writing nice things about students on whiteboards;
- reflecting on positive personal traits; and,
- explaining to the teacher how students plan on becoming positive influences on the school community.
The lesson works, with modifications, for each grade level at Shelburne, which serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The teaching team strives to find ways to present things that have long-term meaning to each grade level.
“Starting in kindergarten and going through eighth grade, what are the things that we can be doing so that students can find what works for them so they can be physically active for life?” Spreen said.
Spreen and MacDerment said they use some form of “Fun, F.I.T.T.ness and Forever Strong” at different points in the school year. Modifying the activities in the circuits allows them to assess different skills and keep students on their toes.
“With each time, we try to challenge ourselves to build upon what we did in a previous class,” Spreen said. “The model we use shows up pretty regularly, but the stations and the equipment change pretty frequently.”
The details of Spreen and MacDerment’s “Fun, F.I.T.T.ness and Forever Strong” lesson can be found here. As a winning entry in IHT’s Fall Spirit Challenge, the lesson was selected as December’s “Lesson for IHT Spirit.”