Teachers continue to adapt their programs to make sure students have a positive PE experience and will remain motivated to stay active into the summer and beyond.

Many teachers have found the combination of technology such as the IHT ZONE heart rate monitor and a more modern, fitness-first approach to classes have helped create new, more positive, perceptions of PE classes.

positive pe experiences“The parents that I have…a lot of them grew up in a bad program,” San Jose Charter Academy PE Teacher Matthew Bassett said. “Teachers rolled out the ball. Students were graded on how fast they ran the mile. They got participation points that were mostly focused on behavior.”

Even today’s PE teachers – many of whom excelled in athletics and sports as students – carry scars from their days as students.

“I remember growing up, it was every Friday and we had to run the mile,” Glen Crest Middle School PE teacher Kelly Nordlund recalled. “I (wasn't good) at the mile. I was a very competitive athlete. I played three sports in high school. I played college softball. I was supposed to be good at it, and that made me so anxious.”

PE teachers strive to give students a much more positive PE experience. They advocate for – and practice themselves – a more modern and student-friendly approach to class. Many use IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to personalize goals for each student and they celebrate each time students meet their goal.

“It’s the kids who this doesn’t come as easy for who need to experience success and get some feedback as to what they’re really doing,” Portage Central Middle School PE teacher John Dunlop said. 

Students who wear the IHT ZONE during their PE classes get real-time and post-session feedback that shows them:

‘Feeling Good About Himself’

While students still learn basic skills and meet grade level standards, PE teachers personalize their classes to student needs and assess them based on their own performance. When students realize they aren’t being compared to classmates, they have a positive PE experience and are much more motivated to push themselves to work toward the goal. The results can be, well, life-altering.

“There’s one kid who’s quite a bit overweight and he watches his monitor probably more than anyone else,” Baldwin Creek Elementary School teacher Misty Atnip said. 

Before wearing the IHT ZONE, the student stayed in the shadows and simply went through the motions. When she introduced the heart rate monitor, things changed.

““He can’t wait to check his and see if he hit the goal,” Atnip said. “He almost always does and now he leaves the gym feeling good about himself.”

San Bernardino City Unified High School District PE teacher Scott Smith saw the same thing with his older students. After years of struggling to get students engaged in his program, he added the IHT ZONE as the final step in a complete program overhaul.

“Every day was a struggle,” Smith said. “When we gave the students the heart rate monitor, they finally felt that we were thinking about them as individuals. It allowed them to push themselves and set their own goals. It also allowed them to have conversations about health and fitness because they felt better about themselves.” 

Giving Students the Power to Enjoy Exercise

While the IHT ZONE gave students the freedom to work toward their own individual goals, moving away from traditional activities such as team sports or mile runs further created a positive PE experience.

Nordlund’s students wear the monitors every chance they get. They also get their choice of activities ranging from circuit training to backyard games infused with movement to team sports, provided that’s what students are interested in. Whatever they choose, they understand the assignment.

“It’s nice that I can show my kids that they don’t have to run a mile,” Nordlund said. “They just have to keep their heart rate in (a specific zone) for whatever our goal is for the day.”

Creating multi-station, high-intensity interval training circuits work well. The time on each station is quick. Even if a station isn’t a student-favorite, they know they’ll be moving on to something they may like better after just 30 seconds. 

Creating lessons around other favorite activities, including skateboarding, also increases student enjoyment.

heart rate monitors

PE teacher Kelly Nordlund reviews a student's heart rate report after a class.

“I want to instruct them on how to help them become healthy for a lifetime,” Charles City High School PE teacher Steve Stallsmith said. “Today that means engaging them in activities that I didn’t think about before. That means giving them a curriculum that includes the things that they have been doing. I’ve never had a skateboarding curriculum before, but I do now.

“I wouldn’t have thought to do that before,” he admitted, “but that has really gotten students involved. And the more the kids are involved, the more they get involved. If you can do an activity, come and tell me and I’ll make a lesson. I told them if you want to learn about skateboarding, I’ll call Tony Hawk if I have to.”

Like her colleagues, Nordlund embraced the end goal: to leave her students with a passion for physical activity by giving them a positive PE experience. Combining the IHT ZONE with more activities from her students to choose from, she’s done exactly that.

“They are getting a great workout,” Nordlund said of the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students she sees every day. “In this day and age, it’s so easy to sit still and play video games or be on your phone. That’s what I’m really hoping they take away from our classes – the importance of getting active and staying active. Whatever you’re doing, if you’re enjoying it you’re more likely to do it in your adult life or just out of school. And that’s kind of the whole point, right? Fitness for life and be healthy for your whole life.”

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