Focus on Five: The Twelve Days of Fitness

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to get some movement activities into the classroom! Every Monday for Special Activity Time, we do Special Olympics practice. Special Olympics Chicago has been sending us a Movement of the Week  to teach students during remote learning. They also sent a calendar for their “Twelve Days of Fitness”, which was a different movement/exercise to do each day from now until winter break. I took that concept and rewrote “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with some of the exercises we have been doing for Special Olympics practice as a fun, seasonal way to review the movements/exercises. Here was the process I used to set up “The Twelve Days of Fitness” in my classroom…

1. Set It Up

I thought about all the exercises that we did as part of Special Olympics practice to make “The Twelve Days of Fitness”. I took into account the amount of times we were going to do each exercise (I definitely did not want to do 12 burpees in a row!), the ability levels of my students and exercises that could be easily modified. When creating the “The Twelve Days of Fitness” Song, I carefully chose the order of the movements, based on how easy it was to transition from one movement to the next, the number of repetitions and body part that the movement focused on (e.g. I didn’t put mountain climbers and push-ups next to each other in the order.  I then created a slide deck that included slides of just the single exercise so we could review the exercise (or teach a couple of new exercises) and then I did a lot of copying and pasting to create the full song, one movement on each slide with the lyric (how many of the exercise to do). 

2. Warm-Up

I have a standard warm-up that we do before Special Olympics practice that we did before “The Twelve Days of Fitness”. It is mostly based on warm-up exercises from workout classes I have taken. We do 10 of each warm-up exercise (which is a great way to incorporate some counting practice).  Most are pretty straightforward, but I have also described them below in case that helps with your explanation to students. 

Arm Circles- Lift your arms straight out from your side and move your arms in a circular motion. We do 10 arm circles forward and 10 arm circles backward.

Trunk Twists- Put your arms on your hips and twist your torso (good way to introduce new vocabulary) from left to right. 

Windmills- Make your body into an “X” shape (like when you jump out from a jumping jack) and reach you opposite arm to the opposite foot.  I tell students if they can’t reach their feet, that touching leg was okay too.

Jumping Jacks- I describe jumping jacks to students like making an “X” with their body and then jumping in with their arms and their sides and legs and feet touching. I usually give the verbal prompt “Jump out, jump in”. I also let students move just their arms if they are not physically able to jump out or move their arms and one foot at a time.

Squats-I tell students it’s like sitting in a chair, but then standing up right away. If students are having a difficult time with squats, they can actually use a chair as a physical cue when to stand up. 

Spaghetti, Meatballs & Cheese-This is a hand and wrist warm-up I actually learned from an Instagram Live workout. For “Spaghetti” you interlace your fingers together and move your arms and wrists in a wave motion. For “Meatballs” you keep your fingers interlaced, fold your hands together and roll your wrists. For “Cheese”, you take your hands apart, make your wrists go limp, bend your elbows and shake out your hands. We do each move while counting to 10. 

Zombie Walks- Put your arms straight out in front of you and lift one leg at a time towards your arms. I tell students just to lift up their leg as high as they can and any height they can lift it is okay. this can be done in place, or walking the length of a yoga mat (just so students stay on camera if you are remote). 

3. Demo & Practice 

I used the slides with the single exercise on them to demo and practice each move before we did it as part of the “The Twelve Days of Fitness” song.  For the song, students will be doing 12 jumping jacks, 11 windmills, 10 lunges, 9 sit-ups, 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank. I went over some of these exercises in the warm-up section, but I will explain the other ones below. I realized as I started teaching Special Olympics, I really needed to plan out what I was saying so it was clear to students. While I also physically demonstrated the exercises, I have students with visual impairments, so I needed to be able to clearly verbally explain the exercises as well. 

Plank- I had students first get on all fours, then make a fist and put their arms out so they were resting on their elbows. Then I told students to put their legs out straight, one at a time. Other variations include side planks, high-plank (on your hands instead of on your wrists and elbows) or a backward face-up plank.  

Burpees- Basically, I explained this using the verbal prompts “Ball, plank, ball, jump”. I did introduce the plank before this exercise, so that helped a lot. This is a great way to also teach multi-step directions to students and they get to jump! Jumping is always fun. 

Triceps Dips- I had students sit-down with their knees up and feet on the floor. I had students put their arms behind them and emphasized bending their elbows.  I told them they did not have to lift their bottom because I really wanted them to master the elbow bend movement before they did the movement fully. 

Push-Ups- I had students just get on their hands and knees at first so they were able to master the elbow bend- otherwise, most of them just move their head. I also made sure I faced the computer camera head-on so they could see the elbow bend. 

Mountain Climbers- I tell students to get in a downward dog position (or an upside-down “V”) and then pick up one foot at a time and bend their knee towards their arms.  

Flutter Kicks- I haven’t taught this one yet. but I am going to have students lay on the ground, lift their feet up and kick. I am going to emphasize that their head and arms say on the ground. 

High-Knees- I have students either put their arms out straight in front of them and lift one knee toward their arm at a time, or I model it as a sort of “jump-marching” motion. 

Sit-Ups- I had students lay on the ground with their knees bent and feet on the floor.  For sit-ups, I emphasized that students should sit all the way up. They could have their hands behind their head or their arms in front of them. You could have students do crunches if that a movement that they can do, but I didn’t really introduce this to my students because I thought that they would end up moving just their head and hurt their neck. Most of my students were able to do the full sit-ups!

Lunges- I had students stand up straight with their hands on their hips, take a big step out, bend both knees, straighten back up and step their foot back. I had students at least try to switch legs. You can also have students do backward or side lunges if that is easier. 

4. Put It All Together 

This is the fun part! I actually only introduced the first six exercises this week and we put them all together in the song. That’s right, I started with the first day and ended with the sixth day. I was afraid the students would be tired, but my co-teacher informed that that it was easier for the students because they are smaller and have less height and weight than we do to move around. It was also less intense than I thought because there was a natural break between the slides when I would share my screen and we would go over the next part of the story (or the next “set”) before we did the exercises again. The students (and teachers and paras) had a blast! I am going to introduce the last six exercises next week and the last week before winter break, we will do all twelve!  

5. Cool Down

Don’t forget to stretch! The cool down is an essential part of any workout. We usually do “rainbow breathing” (put your arms out to your sides, lift them up as you breathe in so they touch above your head and and push them back down and out and your sides while breathing out) right after the workout and then go into our yoga sequence. This sequence is one we have already done during our Morning Meeting, so the students are very familiar with the poses and it is easy to move through quickly if we run out of time, or extend if we have extra time. It is also nice for students to have a period of calm after their high-energy holiday themed workout. You can also incorporate a share time and ask them what their favorite exercise was. 

The Twelve Days of Fitness

On the first day of fitness, my coach said to me, do a plank on the ground along with me. 

On the second day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the third day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 3 triceps dips, two burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the fourth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 4  push-ups, three triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me.

On the fifth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the sixth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the seventh day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the eighth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the eighth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the ninth day of fitness, my coach said to me, do 9 sit-ups, 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3  triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the tenth day of fitness, my coach said to me do 10 lunges, 9 sit-ups, 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3  triceps dips, 2  burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the eleventh day of fitness, my coach said to me do 11 windmills, 10 lunges, 9 sit-ups, 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3  triceps dips, 2  burpees and a plank on the ground with me. 

On the twelfth day of fitness, my coach said to me do 12 jumping jacks, 11 windmills, 10 lunges, 9 sit-ups, 8 high-knees, 7 flutter kicks, 6 mountain climbers, 5 arm circles, 4 push-ups, 3 triceps dips, 2 burpees and a plank on the ground with me.

In case you were interested in the entire 12 Days of Fitness, I have the “lyrics” above. I really would like to have shared my entire slide deck, but finding clip art of exercises that I can share for free was a challenge.  I hope you are inspired to incorporate movement into your school day.  Share fun and festive ways you use with your students to get them moving. Stay safe and healthy!

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