Sometimes during the day, we just need to hit the reset button, find a calm space and recalibrate ourselves in order to achieve our goals. With reports suggesting that young people are more anxious, and raising concerns that this leads to greater susceptibility to mental health issues, how do we help them to hit the reset button?
Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People (Weare, K, 2012) found that helping pupils engage in mindfulness and relaxation had the following impact:
- "Well-conducted mindfulness interventions can improve the mental, emotional, social and physical health and wellbeing of young people who take part. It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, reactivity and bad behaviour, improve sleep and self-esteem, and bring about greater calmness, relaxation, the ability to manage behaviour and emotions, self-awareness and empathy.
- "Mindfulness can contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills and executive function. It can help young people pay greater attention, be more focused, think in more innovative ways, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory and enhance planning, problem-solving and reasoning skills."
As teachers we can have a big impact on this area, and 5-a-day fitness videos are an excellent way to support pupils becoming mentally refocused and physically more active. As a PE specialist, I have always looked to raise the activity levels within my lessons, and as a teacher across the primary range, I've also looked at different ways to refocus pupils following breaks and between lessons.
Through doing research online, I found 5-a-day fitness. They have a great range of resources. The one I have found most useful for resetting the class is their Time-to-chill videos. These are quick 2-minute routines that allow pupils to be calm and refocus while also making sure they're physically active.
The 5-a-day fitness is a great resource because:
The videos are clear and easy to follow.
Set-up time is minimal – no equipment is required.
Pupils find the videos fun and engaging and all pupils, regardless of ability, can access them.
We know that getting young children physically active is a challenge that society is currently facing. According to the government's 2018 report commissioned by Public Health England, "the rate of severe obesity among Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) has increased by more than a third since 2006 to 2007 to 4.2 per cent, its highest rate ever". Similarly, in 2014, Public Health England published a report that found a relationship between physical activity and academic performance in that:
"Pupils with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically.
"Effective social and emotional competencies are associated with greater health and wellbeing, and better achievement.
"The culture, ethos and environment of a school influences the health and wellbeing of pupils and their readiness to learn.
"A positive association exists between academic attainment and physical activity levels of pupils."
Both reports show that, as classroom teachers and schools, we need to help our pupils to raise their activity levels. The obvious place to start with this is the schools PE provision.
PE as a non-specialist can be a daunting task at times. But resources like 5-a-day fitness can not only raise the activity levels of your pupils but also provide excellent, quick lesson starters or can be used as a resource for an entire lesson.
I often use the videos to support the learning in key stage 1 and the early years. As the videos lead the learning, it can provide time to set out any equipment while the pupils are warming up – particularly if you haven’t had a chance prior to the lesson. And as a warm-up, it gets the pupils moving, raising pulse rates and warming muscles to prevent injury.
Another way that I use the 5-a-day fitness videos as part of my teaching is to deliver dance lessons. Despite dance being part of my degree, I am not the world’s greatest dancer and find modelling difficult. Using the videos has helped me to develop the pupil’s skills in dance, whether that be moving in time to the music or creating performances as a group. By chunking the video into different sections, you can help the pupils to learn the movements phrase by phrase and then put them all together as a whole sequence.
Having used the 5-a-day fitness videos over the past few years, I believe they provide a very useful resource for specialists and non-specialists alike. If you want minimal fuss warm-ups, dance activities, and cool-down and reflection activities, then you don’t need to look further than 5-a-day fitness. I hope that you can use them to create an impact in your classrooms.
Ben Aston is a primary PE consultant and a former head of PE