Random Teaching Ideas #1: Interdisciplinary Gym Class

I guess this will be a very random series. As you may already know, I am a teacher at an inner-city school district somewhere in NJ (not that hard to figure out if you’re a decent internet stalker). My students are very behind in their fundamentals, emotional growth (at least in terms of respect because some of them have been through more life events than I have), and are the victims of a questionable upbringing and very flawed system stacked against them. Many of my students have already grown to be detached from school at an early age. I won’t get too much into it, but if a teacher has one reckless and rowdy student, that’s manageable… but to handle a class that is 50% of those kids, a lot get through the cracks as the teacher tries his/her best to establish control.

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Engagement is extremely difficult with my students.

At least the purpose of this series (which I will populate randomly throughout my time here on WordPress) with ideas that can hit some higher levels, ideas that I should probably expand on later (and tie it with the common core standards), and keep in mind as I plan throughout the year.

So here we go.

Interdisciplinary Gym

Interdisciplinary stuff is always great. The best. It adds a nice spice and an extra level of depth when it comes to teaching. It teaches the core skill or brings about understanding in multiple disciplines, and is thus killing two birds wit one stone.

Rationale

The students of my school love sports (at least most of them do). They are greatly athletic, competitive, and enjoy some good ol’ physical exertion over mental strain. However, we don’t want our students to just physically test themselves. We want them to push their brains to the limit, we want them to reach new heights of the metaphorical knowledge… mountain? I don’t know. So the purpose of this assignment/project is to get students to do what they always do in gym: learn about their health, fitness, and sports; but also to incorporate elements of other disciplines to complicate things and to make the kids think about what they’re doing instead of just doing it.

Sorry Nike, you won’t simply do.

The following are just some ideas–obviously you can come up with a plethora of scenarios and equations that can have students compute before trying it out.

Assignment 1: How to Throw a Ball

Throwing balls is a pretty fundamental idea in sports and athletics. Baseball, football, cricket, whatever… it’s there. Point made.

We can have kids throw balls all the time in random sports and it’s all fine and dandy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to teach the students the logic and mathematics behind a good throw? This one hits home a bit to me because I cannot throw. I do not know the proper technique nor do I know the logic behind a perfect throw. I don’t know the right grip, the right motion, nor the perfect point of release.

Students can watch some instructional videos on how to throw a ball while simultaneously going over a lesson from the school’s physics teacher about inertia or the transfer of power or something. I don’t know because I’m not a science teacher and science was probably my worst class growing up. The students can practice their hypothesis on the best way to throw a ball in certain situations, then present it to their gym and science teacher at the end of the project (demonstrating how to throw a baseball precisely and quickly, a basketball’s perfect arch, a throw-in for soccer, etc…)

The fun thing is that, if done correctly, this will make students learn something that is extremely relevant to their interests. They’ll become better players because of it, and because they will see that this improves their game, they’ll value the importance of science and math.

Assignment 2: Student Stats

A simple running test and study. Students can study each other or themselves with this, by following a simple guide where they can analyze their speeds in different settings: sprinting, jogging, and all in between. This is already present in gym class whenever they do the fitness test, but that’s moreso measured by the teacher themselves. To make this more fun and engaging, students can create their own sort of video game bar to gauge where they stand physically.

fifa character bar

Imagine if students can create their own sort of physical stats sheet?

Now… I get it. Kids are insecure beings, and so to have their physical capabilities drawn out like this can lead to some crazy embarrassment, but I believe this can be outweighed by incorporating stat bars that are completely subjective (because it’s not like this assignment is an official document supported by any organization) like cleanliness, personality, etc…

Well, it’s just an idea. Man, I really wish I were a gym teacher right now.

Assignment 3: Physical Words and Body Language

This one I actually like and I think I’ll use it in my classroom in the future. It will require more research than just top-of-my-head thinking. Vocabulary is being pushed around heavily in my school, and I feel as though I’m very lacking in this aspect of teaching. In this assignment, students will be given some very specific vocabulary words. With those words (and they are given the definition), they will have to physically act those words out. Simple, but you can always add extra layers of depth by having kids use Snapchat or Instagram to spread the learning around.

Some Examples of Vocabulary Words

Another idea along these same lines is what I’d like to call “Body Language” which is, to provide students with all the emotions that a human can produce, and tie it in with some everyday physical activities. For example, students will learn how to walk happily, or angrily, etc…

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(happily walking) This would be a great way to teach adverbs.

I always feel like gym class is so underwhelming in my school. Of course, I could be greatly wrong because I do not teach those classes and I am not in the gymnasium dealing with the hundreds-at-a-time students running around and screaming. However, these are just a few ideas that I imagine would add another educational layer to our students’ education. But… what do I know? Maybe all the kids really need in gym is to just go out there and get a mind-freeing relaxation period where they get to run around, go buckwild, and let out some steam without having to work their brains any more after classes.

 

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