Category Archives: Exercise

Let’s dance!

I have always enjoyed working in early childhood classrooms. Being able to share and assist children’s pathways into literacy is as much a privilege as it is exciting. To keep alive their innate curiosity, wonder and joy of learning is an aspiration that rewards me as much as it does them.

However the role can be rather daunting at times. It requires that one be a generalist, able to move comfortably through and teach effectively in the full range of subjects: English, mathematics, sciences, the humanities and social sciences, technology, health and physical education, and the arts. But the diversity can also provide opportunities for fun.

Take dance, for example.  Dance can fit into both the arts and physical education programs. While the formal subject areas require some progression of learning in skills and understanding, some form of movement or dance can be incorporated into daily routines such as transition times. I touched on this briefly in a recent post about using the game Freeze, which involves moving to music.

These are some other ways I incorporated movement and dance into daily routines:

  • At the beginning of each day, after giving the children a few minutes to organise their belongings, I would play a video of music and dance moves. This would signify to the children that it was time to join in and be ready for our day’s work together. By the end of the dance everyone was ready.
  • During our morning sessions children shared items related to their interests or our units of work. Sometimes I asked them to bring in a favourite piece of music to share, with the proviso that they teach us some dance moves to it. The children enjoyed showing their moves as much as they enjoyed following the moves of others.

In addition to using the game Freeze, I had other CDs of music with patterns of moves that could be used to transition from a noisy to quiet activity, to regain children’s attention after independent or group work, or to complete the tidying of the room at the end of the day.

  • Sometimes I used music that had set dance routines.
  • Other times we moved to the music freely, or responded to the tempo, pitch or volume with large, small, high, low, fast, slow, loud or quiet movements.
  • Sometimes dance routines were performed independently but in unison such as The Hokey Pokey. The Chicken Dance and The Macarena.
  • Sometimes they required participation as a group, for example learning simple square dances.

Whichever way we did it was always fun and the children loved to participate. They had no need of being told to “Dance like there is nobody watching.”

Dance like there's nobody watching

I wonder at what age that becomes a necessity. Perhaps the phrase,and if they are watching, dance anyway” needs to be added.

My thoughts turned to dance this week in response to the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills of The Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write dance into your story. Charli is talking about writing as her dancing partner.

Of course my thoughts turn to the classroom (as explained above) and to books about dance.

2015-09-19 11.15.56

In a previous post about Australian picture books by Jackie French I wrote about Josephine Wants to Dance. This book, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, is a delightful story of a kangaroo who loved to dance but dreamed of dancing another way. One day the ballet came to town and Josephine decided that was how she wanted to dance. Though others discouraged her, Josephine was determined to give it a try. It is a lovely story of believing in yourself and following your dreams.

giraffes can't dance

Another delightful picture book about dance is Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. While I have read this book many times, it took the recent reading of a post To Thine Own Self Be True by Sarah Brentyn on her blog Lemon Shark to remind me of it. The title of Sarah’s post beautifully sums up the theme which is expressed in the book this way: “We all can dance when we find music that we love.”

We can all dance

For adults there is the story of Mao’s Last Dancer, the inspirational story of Li Cunxin, who is now the artistic director of the Queensland Ballet, based in my home city. He was Queensland’s Australian of the year in 2014.

Mao's_Last_Dancer_book_cover

This leads me to my flash fiction response:

A Night at the Ballet

The audience hushed as the lights dimmed. Marnie shuffled. Darkness was not to her liking. Josephine patted her hand reassuringly. The girls on her other side twittered with anticipation. They’d been to theatre before. Observing their confidence earlier had Marnie feeling even more conspicuous as she balanced on unfamiliar heels and clutched a borrowed evening bag so tightly it left imprints on her hand. At least now the darkness hid her from view.

Soon the darkness was banished by a brightly lit stage and enormous Christmas tree surrounded by happy children dancing. Marnie was mesmerised. So this was ballet!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Freeze!

 

Freeze, or Musical statues as it is sometimes called, is a popular childhood game wherever groups of children gather.

While not suggesting that playing the game has any great educational benefit, it can be used with good effect from time to time in early childhood classrooms.

As with other games, it does provide opportunities for children to:

  • participate in a social situation
  • understand and follow game rules
  • accept game decisions, for example  being out
  • respond in positive ways to their own participation and the participation of others
  • have fun

It also provides opportunities for activity and to release tension.

In this post I describe how to play the basic game and a few variants and suggest some times suitable for its use.

How to play Freeze

The basic game

Requirements:

  •  a manager, often a teacher or parent but can be a child
  • a group of participants, often children but anyone can play
  • enough space for the participants to move about without bumping into each other, and
  • a source of music that can be played and paused.

How to play:

  • The participants find a spot within the defined space from which to start the game.
  • The manager plays a piece of music. Moving to the music, the participants move about the space without bumping into any other participants.
  • After a few seconds (varying duration between approximately 2-20 seconds) the manager pauses the music. As soon as the music is paused, the participants must “freeze”. Anyone seen moving is out of the game and sits to the side.
  • The game continues until only one participant remains.

Variant #1 — Topic words

No music is required.

Before the game commences the manager, or the manager in consultation with the participants, decides on a set of specific statues to be used in the game. These statues are explained and demonstrated to participants.

The manager turns away from the participants and counts loudly to ten, while participants form one of the statues. After ten the manager calls “freeze” and participants freeze in the statue they have chosen. The manager then calls out one of the statues and turns around to see who has made it. Those who did remain in the game. The others are out and sit to the side. (The reverse can also be played with the called statues going out and the others staying in. Participants would need to be informed of this before the game begins.)

Suggestions:

Monarch butterfly

butterfly

When learning about butterflies, participants could make these four statues:

egg — curled up in a ball on the floor

caterpillar — prone on the floor

chrysalis — standing with knees bent out to the sides and one hand pointing up while resting on the head (attached to a leaf or twig)

butterfly — fists on hips and elbows out to the side (for wings)

shapes

shapes 

When learning about shapes, participants could make these four statues:

circle — fingers meeting above head, arms forming a circle, feet and legs together

square —arms out to side, elbows in line with shoulders, forearms and fingers facing upwards at right angles, feet and legs together

triangle — legs wide apart, and hands on hips with elbows out to the side, making three triangles in all

rectangle — lying on back on the floor with arms and legs extended straight upwards

Suggestion: the possible statues could be written or illustrated on a dice to be rolled or on cards to be selected.

Variant #2 — Groups

Music is required.

The manager calls a number from 2 – 5 then starts the music. While the music plays participants quickly form groups of that number. They must freeze in group formation when the music stops. Groups that do not freeze and participants who are not able to join or form a group are out of the game and sit to the side.

Play the game until four participants remain. Call all participants back into the game to move to the music once again.

 

Suggestions:

This game can be a fun way of exploring groups using the number of children in a class. No one is out in this version.

Count the number of children in the class. Write the number on the board or chart. Play the music. Participants move to the music. When the music is paused call out a number. Children quickly form groups of that number and freeze. As a class count the number of groups, identify the number in each group, and how many “left over”.  Write the information on the board or chart. Repeat with all children participating for different numbers.

grouping 25

Variant #3 — Find a partner who

Music is required.

This activity will be noisier and require more time than other versions.

In this version participants try to link up with someone with a similarity; for example the same colour eyes, the same number of people in the family, the same favourite colour, or who plays the same sport.

Before the music starts tell the participants who they need to find. When the music stops, those who have not found a match sit to the side, as the others explain their matches.

Everyone joins in again for each new round.

Suggestion: Add a bit more fun with this one by having partners freeze  touching the same body parts together, for example, ankles, elbows, tops of head, or bottoms.

 

Suitable times for playing Freeze

  • To transition from a noisy activity to a quiet activity
  • To provide an opportunity for movement during lengthy sessions of seated work
  • To dismiss children for recess (use Variant #1 rather than the basic game)
  • To ease a tense situation
  • To settle children and prepare them for the next activity
  • To have fun in a few ‘spare’ moments
  • Whenever you think it’s appropriate

The stimulus for my thinking about the game Freeze this week is the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story. Charli suggested that the freeze could be related to weather, emotion or time.

My first thought was to the movie “Frozen” which my granddaughter enjoys, being completely captivated by Elsa and her beautiful blue dress. I thought she should prefer Anna who shares her name (though pronounced differently) and hair colour.

My second thought was to the scientific explanation of cold as the removal of heat. It’s all relative. Instead I decided to go with a bit of fun. However, for my flash I did incorporate a little science thinking spurred by the question “Why do ice cubes crack when you drop them in drinks?”

Frozen

To an external observer she would have appeared immobile as if frozen in place and time. But her insides churned as the heat engulfed her body in a wave from toes to head. She thought her heart would erupt from her chest and wasn’t sure she could contain the contents of her noncompliant belly or from which end of her body they would spew. Others mouthed soundless words, their messages obliterated by the relentless pounding in her head. Just when she thought she’d crack, like ice exposed to sudden temperature change, she breathed deep, composing her tumultuous fear-fuelled mind.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

exercise TV

Making friends with exercise

Exercise and I have never been friends.

Okay. Maybe “never” is an exaggeration, but our relationship has been quite frosty for most of my adult life with only occasional attempts at reigniting the friendship.

As a child I played on the beach, swam in the sea, climbed the cliffs and played in the bush near where I lived.

beachtrees

As a teenager I played tennis in a school team and for fun with family and friends in outside of school hours.

papapishu_tennis_player

At college I played on a basketball team and went out dancing at least once, and sometimes up to three times, a week.NBA_Court_Sports2010

But always my preferred activity was to be lying on my bed engrossed in a good read or scribbling ideas in a notebook.

bookworm

Then came adulthood, work and parenthood; a life brimming with activity but no scheduled “exercise”.

motherbaby

All too soon middle age, with its stealthy creep, could hide no longer; and my youthful fitness, feeling the dejection of being taken for granted, promptly left.

eacousineau_Woman_Jogging

I know. I know. Exercise is important; not only for body but also for mind.

I always made sure that my own children and the children I was teaching got plenty of opportunities for exercise. But my own body, that’s a different story.

johnny_automatic_Jumping_ropesport_aerobica

There were already too many other things I wanted to do. How could I possibly fit in something that I didn’t want to do?Green Eggs and Ham

With apologies to Dr Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham”, I offer the following:

Ode to exercise

Exercise. Exercise.

I do not like that exercise.

7271-Stick-Figures-Woman2-1-webI do not like the time it takes.

I do not like the effort it makes.

I do not like being sweaty and hot.

I just don’t like it. I do not.

I do not like it with a trainer.SteveLambert_Woman_on_Exercise_Bike

I do not like the circuit strainer.

I do not like it in the gym,

I do not like a vigorous swim.

7273-Stick-Figures-Woman2-1-webI do not like the heating sun.

I do not like an outdoor run.

I do not like it on a bike.

There’s very little I would like.

Would you like it on TV?exercise TV

Would you, could you with a Wii?

Okay. I’ll try it on TV.

Okay. I’ll try it with a Wii.

7285-Stick-Figures-Woman2-1-webOh I love it.  Yes I do.

This exercise is good for you!

I could do it every day.

I would do it, step this way.

I would do it on the floor. 7266-Stick-Figures-Woman2-1-web

I would do it right indoor.

Exercising with the Wii,

I have found the one for Mii!

Computer and video games had been a source of much fun for me since the days of Atari and others in the 80s. When the Wii Fit came out, I thought that if anything could get me to exercise, this would be it.

Although I still don’t manage to incorporate it into my routine every day, I am doing a lot more than I would without it.

These are the top 10 reasons I love my Wii Fit:

10.  I can do it in the privacy of my own home.

9.  I can spend the amount of time doing it that I choose.

8.  I am sheltered from the outdoor weather – it’s always a beautiful day on the island.

7.  It gives me positive feedback and tells me that I am years younger than I really am! (Who can argue with that?)

6.  If I get lost (which has happened) I don’t have to find my way back; I can just stop and I’m home.

5.  It notices if we haven’t seen each other for a few days and tells me I’ve been missed.

4.  I can choose from a wide variety of activities including juggling, tightrope walking and flying as well as step, jogging and cycling.

3.  I see and have the support of family and friends who “accompany” me through their Mii characters.

2.  I can listen to audiobooks or Ted talks while I am jogging or cycling — good for my mind as well as my body. The especially great thing about listening to Ted talks, is that most of them are of about 15 minutes’ duration: just how long it takes me to jog or cycle around the island; and because I am listening and learning

1.  I don’t even notice that I’m exercising.

SteveLambert_Aerobic_Dancer

If this sounds like a sales pitch for Will, it probably is, because I am sold on it.

If you are one of those lucky people who enjoy exercise, then good on you, I say. So many times I have been told, “You’ll feel better after you do it” – something to do with endorphins, I believe.

I wish. I’m yet to experience that exercise glow. It would make it all so much easier.

A little while ago Talli Roland wrote a post for Women Writers about “how to avoid writer’s arse”. I think I’ll have to become even better friends with my Wii Fit in the future to stop this becoming a big problem for me, now that I am spending a lot more time sitting on my posterior, writing for posterity.

7297-Stick-Figures-Woman2-1-web

Just in case you are wondering what other “exercise” I dabble in from time to time:

  • On work days I include a 10 – 15 minute walk from car to office and back again
  • In summer I do a very gentle swim-ercise in my very private backyard pool
  • I take frequent walks from my desk to the kitchen and back again throughout the writing day
  • I participate in active play with grandchildren (but only when a book won’t do!)

What about you? Are you one of the lucky ones to whom exercise is a pleasure?

Or, like me, do you always find there are 1001 other things you would rather be doing, and struggle to find the time and energy?

Images from open clipart and eLearning Brothers.