Recess: Weather or Not?

When I hear the dreaded words “indoor recess” my heart falls.

I know then that my students can’t go outside to play, get fresh air or burn off some energy. They love indoor recess occasionally, but if we have an ongoing bout of bad weather, they get frustrated with the lack of outdoor play. I try to have options in the classroom such as games, Lego and drawing, but the gross motor movement is what most children seem to need.

Living in Canada means learning to live and flourish in cold conditions. We don’t call an indoor unless it is raining, or the temperature or wind chill reaches -35ᵒC (though this may be different depending on where in Canada you live). Teaching our students to embrace the cold, dress appropriately for it and have fun prepares them for life in Canada.

Families new to Canada often need help learning how to dress for Canadian winters. Suggestions on what to wear and where to buy it can be helpful for new families. Having a collection of communal collection of mitts, hats and even socks for the younger students is a good idea. Many teachers ask students to have their own spare socks, hat and mitts with them in anticipation of wet clothes.

On those days when indoor recess is inevitable, I recommend having more movement breaks built into the day. If you notice your students struggling, take a breather and have a stretch, check out a brain break and be ready to adapt a lesson, pivot and rethink quickly on your feet. Less sitting and more moving, harnessing your students’ energy for hands-on activities can make for a more productive and fun day for everyone.

Here is a list of whole class indoor recess games to help you out on the cold or rainy days:

  • GoNoodle is an option for a class that enjoys group dance. It can also be a choice option for a group while others play games if there is space in your classroom. GoNoodle does have an indoor recess section with songs and guided dances as an option and they include a good whole-body movement activity. Pushing back the tables to make space is worth the effort, to get everyone moving.
  • Simon Says is a good option to get a group or whole class moving and many children enjoy being Simon so you get to take a break or join in the fun.
  • Four Corners gets everyone moving too and, as with Simon Says, the leader can change.
  • Charades is less of a movement game, but it is engaging and students can help make the options.
  • Directed Drawing is popular in my classroom. Art Hub for Kids on Youtube is easy to follow and has a kid drawing with his dad.
  • Origami is a popular and quiet activity with only paper needed
  • It’s always good to have board games handy to keep smaller groups occupied.

Let’s hope for mild days, just perfect for playing outside and if the dreaded indoor recess is called, we are ready!

Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba

The Value of Hockey

A month into the school year, teachers start working out the kinks in their lesson plans for the rest of the year. We look at our students and figure out what will work best for this group. Like most teachers, Phys-ed teachers play to their strengths, highlighting sports and activities they enjoy or think have important skill sets for students to know. I personally align my basketball unit before basketball season to try to convince students it’s a great sport to participate in and try to get more numbers out for my team. Other sports, like hockey, I do not have a great wealth of knowledge in because my parents didn’t want me playing it growing up. Even though it is not my strong suit, I do see the value in hockey as a part of the bigger physical literacy puzzle.

There have been multiple articles about the negative effects of focusing children in one sport at an early age. I was reading an article on ESPN titled “These kids are ticking time bombs: The threat of youth basketball” by Baxter Holmes (2019). In this article, Dr. Neeru Jayanthi talks about athletes entering college sports saying, “kids are broken by the time they get to college.” As kids train to become the best at a particular sport, they go through a motion over and over again, breaking down the body, so that by the time they get to the college level they are very prone to a major injury. Parents put kids in a sport early and make them focus on it to get them to elite levels in hopes of them making it big. Multiple studies have shown that having children play a variety of sports throughout their youth makes them better athletes overall because they have strengthened a more diverse set of movements and don’t break down joints or muscles because of focused repetitive use.

When I think of hockey, I think of it, as a unique skill set that kids should learn to build a complete movement library. The use of the hockey stick as an implement adds to the complexity of movement, thinking and decision-making. There is finesse in handling the puck (or ball) and it is an easy to learn but difficult to master type of skill. It is not an activity that should be just focused on but should be a part of the bigger picture when it comes to building a complete athletic student. A lot of skills cross over from sport to sport and can add to each other in ways that a single sport by itself cannot. Most importantly, hockey has a unique set of movements, which if added to a larger set of skills, help prevent major injuries down the road.

One thing that I am always cautious of in hockey is the physicality that comes with it. As it is a contact sport outside of the classroom there will be those who try to bring that part of the game into the gym. Some students will try to show their strength either through using their body or trying to hit the ball as hard as they can at the goalie.  There is physicality in all sports and it is up to the teacher to create a positive and safe classroom where increased aggression is not tolerated. Hockey can be daunting for students who are not good at it because the ones who are good at it usually play it outside of school, and therefore are also more physical because it is a normal part of the sport to them. This can be said for almost any sport, however, and it shouldn’t be a deterrent for any teacher wanting to bring it into their physical education class.

Hockey is Canada’s favourite past time and many of my students love it. Well, I may not be grabbing a stick and hitting the rink any time soon, the benefits of hockey on promoting teamwork, dexterity and a well-rounded athlete are why it’s an integral part of my phys-ed curriculum each year.

Written by Brenden Kroeger, a Phys-Ed teacher in Saskatchewan

Valentine’s Love in Your Classroom

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to discuss emotional wellness and student self-care.

Traditionally the emphasis was on card and gift giving, whereas now we often tend to promote love and kindness on Valentine’s Day. Discussing the different types of love, whether for our parents, neighbours or fellow classmates, allows students to think about the huge concept of love and what it means to them. This provides the perfect opportunity to delve into greetings, giving and gifting.

Greetings

Morning meetings in the classroom often include a greeting and this can take many forms, including a “Good Morning,” a wave or a handshake.

Often the greetings and responses need to be taught and modelled to help students understand the cues and expectations. Modelling helps students understand how to use eye contact and pressure in a handshake, voice intonation in a verbal greeting and facial expression in a wave.

Giving

Where I grew up in Northern Ireland, Valentine’s Day was not celebrated, unless in a romantic relationship. As a teenager, it was awkward and to be avoided. As an adult, it was somewhat similar. When I moved to Canada and had my first child, I discovered that Valentine’s here is about showing love to everyone, a celebration that I really enjoy participating in.

Taking time to recognize everyone in a daycare room or classroom helps children understand that although they may not be best friends with everyone, they can give everyone respect. Just as greeting everyone is a way to show respect, giving cards is a similar way to acknowledge respect.

Making Valentine’s cards is a fun part of our routine now and we try to change our designs each year. Make your own Paint Printed Valentine’s Cards with Creative Paint Rollers.

While many of our students do not make cards, the act of writing a name on a purchased card offers a wonderfully authentic writing experience.

Some students may be new to Canada or new to the experience of giving cards, so a communication home to explain our Valentine’s Day customs can help clarify expectations to parents. Another suggestion is to give students an opportunity to write/make cards in class and then everything is done in school, relieving the pressure to complete cards at home.

Gifting

Gifting can also be part of Valentine’s celebrations and we often make something with students that they can take home and gift to family or friends. This is a wonderful way to demonstrate and focus on the joy of giving.

In the past, we have made Heart Crayons from that box of old crayons you have lurking in a dark corner. As a collaborative effort, this could be achieved by a class quite easily and gifted to a friend or younger sibling.

Having a class party is another way to show love, for food, dancing and fun!

Tips as an educator

  • Be clear about expectations for giving Valentine’s cards/gifts and communicate to students and parents
  • Allow opportunities to talk about Valentine’s day and what it means to each child
  • Encourage children to make Valentine’s cards/gifts for special family members in their lives
  • Emphasize the message rather than the material focus that is often placed on Valentine’s Day
  • Have fun and celebrate love in all its forms
Written by Chris, an elementary and middle school teacher in Pembina Trails School Division.

Using a Mapping Compass

Orienteering, the sport of navigation with map and compass, is easy to learn, but always challenging. It is a sport for everyone and can be adapted for all abilities. While most of our students are becoming familiar with geocaching, a more traditional option to learn navigation skills in a fun way is orienteering. It is a wonderful way to combine physical activity with geographical skills and tie in the mapping social studies curriculum.

The object is to travel to a series of points shown on the map and get back to the finish in the shortest amount of time. This travelling can take the form of a leisurely walk or a competitive race.

The points on a course are marked with orange and white flags and punches, electronic devices, pictures or symbols to record as proof you’ve been there.

Orienteering involves map reading and decision-making in addition to a great workout and is often called the “thinking sport”.  Any kind of map may be used for orienteering.

World Orienteering Day is normally held in the month of May and there are events all over the world to celebrate.

Orienteering Canada holds a National Orienteering Week in May as well and the two events complement each other. Orienteering Clubs across Canada will be organizing beginner-friendly events. National Orienteering Week is a great time to try the sport of orienteering and using the hashtag #OrienteerNOW may win you some sweet Orienteering Canada swag.

Orienteering Canada has helpful resources available here to help you get started setting up courses and teaching compass and map reading skills.

Map compasses are inexpensive enough so that all students can have one. Perfect for learning map navigation and basic orienteering, students can use compasses to locate true magnetic north.

Now, find or make a course and have fun!

Seasons

Spring is finally here (albeit late) and it is the perfect time of the year to think about seasons. The days are getting longer and we are finally able to get outside every day. Change is everywhere and helping children recognize these changes in their environment, encourages observational skills.

Looking for buds on trees, spring lambs and chicks and eventually grass greening and flowers beginning to emerge are the obvious signs of spring. There are other ways we can encourage our children to look closer:

Seasons Series

With beautiful, very simple repeated text, high frequency, easy to understand words and strong photo-to-text matching, the books in this series provide a perfect introduction to seasons for early readers. Each title focuses on what children will be able to see and experience in a particular season, including seasonal activities and exciting changes in the natural world. A quiz at the end of each book helps to consolidate learning.

Scrapbooking

Children can collect seasonal items for a scrapbook. Photos of building a snowman in winter, puddle jumping in spring, some dried flowers in summer and leaves in fall are wonderful additions to art and mark-making experiences. Looking back at the scrapbook is a wonderful way to reinforce the passage of time and changing seasons.

Four Seasons Trees Bulletin Board Set

This set includes 4 seasonal trees, each 63.5cm (25″) tall, 4 headers, each 33.02cm x 12.7cm (13″ x 5″) and a resource guide giving ideas on multiple ways it can be used.

Giant Encyclopedia Of Monthly Activities

This book is quite the giant and is a wonderful resource to dip into. Activities are organized by month and learning experiences are varied and cover all aspects of the traditional curriculum. Written by teachers, each activity includes material lists and possible extension ideas. Books are suggested to further enhance learning and dramatic play and the finger plays are adorable.

Birds

Whether you like to watch the geese fly back in a ‘v’, or a robin feed her babies, birds are a wonderful way to track the seasons.  Feeding the birds through winter gives us an outside focus as we spend more time indoors. At this time of year exploring nest construction and watching birds build  is a wonderful way to learn about animal homes.

And no-one can resist building chocolate nests with left over mini eggs!

However we choose to mark the changing seasons, chances are children will point out something new that we have missed.  Snow melting gives us an exciting new world out there to explore!

How to Celebrate Earth Day in Your Classroom

Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental movement and is a wonderful day to focus on what we as individuals can do to make change. Here are some ideas to help you celebrate in your classroom.

Our theme here in Canada is Consume Less, Play More. We are encouraged to have an extra or more recess time on this special day. EarthPlay aims to:

bring outdoor, unstructured free play back into children’s lives across Canada – in schools, parks, streets and other public spaces – with the aim of supporting their connection to nature, as well as their health, well-being, ingenuity and social inclusion.

We can support this effort by celebrating Earth Day with extra unstructured play.

The focus of this year’s Earth Day for our neighbours to the south is: “Mobilize Your Students to Help to End Plastic Pollution!”. Earth day’s page, www.earthday.org has a great toolkit with activities broken down into K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Links to videos, discussion topics, and activities provide a daily focus for Climate Education Week related to the 2018 theme of Ending Plastic Pollution. If a lesson each day for a week is too much, you can pick and choose what appeals to you and your students.

Rather than buying new craft materials, Earth Day is the perfect occasion to use all those inspiring recyclables. Here you can find 21 Earth Day Crafts and Classroom Activities Using Recycled Materials.

If your school is thinking about setting up a composting system or composting is in the curriculum, the See Through Compost Container enables students to see the decomposition process and make side-by-side comparisons between different materials. Included thermometers demonstrate temperature changes during the decomposition process.

Most importantly, do something on Earth Day to recognize how important our beautiful environment is. Use the hashtag #EarthDay2018 to share your fun and remember to

Hugg-A Planet!