I’m an itinerant teacher which means I go from school to school. I routinely go to ten elementary schools and four middle schools. Occasionally, I will get to a few others including high schools.
You can’t help but notice the kids in PE and on the campus. At a few of the schools (mostly the higher income) the kids are fairly lean and appear to be in good shape. At one middle school campus in Palo Alto, I was very impressed with the PE department and the athletic skills of the kids in the class.
However, typically, most of the kids around campus are overweight. They don’t play much during recess and don’t move much during PE.
I observed one middle school class where a group of 40 was running for warm-up. Of the 40 there were five kids that ran. There were 25 that jogged slowly. And there were another ten that walked. And they looked like they were in pain as they did so.
Overweight kids have some difficulties that teachers and PE teachers must be aware of. First, they probably haven’t moved much. They aren’t going to be as coordinated or experienced in sports as the more fit students.
Second, moving will hurt more. Their joint and muscles will not tolerate much pounding and long periods of stress. Their cardiovascular system will fatigue earlier.
They probably aren’t faking it when they appear tired. They are.
So what should a teacher do with these kids? Certainly, not excusing them from PE or activities.
Here are my recommendations:
1. Provide more opportunities to move during the day.
2. Keep the movement and exercise periods short.
3. Allow them to do ACTIVE rest. Instead of sitting, they can walk slowly or stretch.
4. They need more instruction and smaller progressions. They probably need to learn how to do basic gross motor movements such as run, jump, hop, skip, throw and catch.
5. Keep exercise fun and non-competitive. If kids are losing because of their size, they would rather not play or give their all.
I have a program for kids that teaches parents, teachers, or coaches on how to work with kids to develop athletic skills. It’s perfect for overweight kids as well. To learn how you can improve kids fitness and health, click the link.