Whenever I meet elementary age children who don’t attend my school district , I ask them to tell me their favorite physical education activity. I am always looking for new ideas, but in general I am disappointed with what I hear. Often children will tell me “FREE CHOICE” is their favorite activity. I had one child tell me their favorite activity was running laps! I am left wondering is this really reflective of what they do or was this just the activity that first came to mind? How would my students answer?
I love it when a child describes an activity or game where the rules are crazy and there are lots of different actions happening. It tells me the teacher and students are creating and changing games to fit specific needs. When I reflect on these scenarios I understand why students like “FREE CHOICE.” Children like to make their own choices, in fact we know that when students are involved in decision making it increases personal responsibility and satisfaction. However, “FREE CHOICE” kind of sounds to me like “do whatever while I do whatever.” It would be difficult to defend “FREE CHOICE” as purposeful teaching. On the contrary, I love the great alternative “PAYDAY!” Unlike its’ counter activity, “PAYDAY” is a great integration activity that enables the teacher to differentiate, give students choices, all while keeping PA high!
PAYDAY OVERVIEW: Students are given s a little bit of money (fake coins) to start game. They then can choose to purchase time on equipment or “work” to earn more money so they can purchase time on highly desirable equipment. Equipment rental is 2-3 minutes so they quickly run out of money and are looking to “work” and earn more money.
More Details: Gym is set up with lots of equipment: hippity hops, roller racers, climbing rope, pogo sticks, stilts, pedalos, jump ropes, football, mat. basketball….. I am positioned at a small desk in front of my white board which has a “MENU” on it. . I pay students 5¢ for doing various activities; skipping two times around gym, 5 jumps backward with jumprope, 5 pushups, 5 situps…..I can even pay them to perform a skill I am assessing! I pay students to tie shoes of their friends, or to learn a skill from another student. I pay lots of money (25¢) to teachers! If I know a student knows how to tie shoes, carioca, do a cool jump rope trick, perform a cartwheel, juggle……they get paid to teach other students. Teaching sessions typically last 2-3 minutes. I pay students when I assign them the job. I explain this isn’t typical of real life but I trust them to do a great job. This keeps the activity moving.
Remember I also pay students to learn, but because I pay teachers at least double, the incentive to learn the skill and then become a teacher is very great! And we know that the best way to master a skill is to teach it! If the student does an outstanding job either learning or teaching I often give them a bonus! One of the things I love about this activity is it allows me to differentiate like crazy! I can give my highly skilled students a difficult skill to go practice or even teach. I can give my lower skilled students a simple skill to practice. Because I know my students’ needs and strengths I can give them tasks that meet those needs. Often students will travel with a partner and I give them joint tasks. I use a greater variety of coins, change pay rates, and increase costs with my older students.
I have two lines at the sides* of my little table. One line is for students who want to purchase use of equipment. One line on the other side of table for students who want to earn money. My menu board posted on the white board behind me is in a table format, like this but with the table lines.
Hippity Hop 5¢
Football 10¢ with about 10 other choices varying in price.
Now let’s talk about math integration! Wow! Students have to make change (subtraction with manipulatives), monetary value practice, budgeting, monetary planning! In addition students are reading a table (menu) and making decisions based on the table!
*important to have students lines go off to sides so I can have a clear view of all activity in gym.
I also have students practice concepts like identifying a muscle and then demonstrating an exercise to strengthen or stretch that muscle.