This week’s featured lesson from ArtsEdge, the Kennedy Center’s educational media site, explores adding physical activity to a body of text. This is an extra exciting feature because their example text is The Tale of Peter Rabbit and GAP will be hosting Bits ‘N Pieces Puppet Theatre’s live presentation of Peter Rabbit this fall! Check out some of their other Fact Sheets on their How To section.
Choose the Right Story Not all stories lend themselves to becoming good physical education activities. You’ll need one that has a lot of action that will require students to move around. Don’t limit yourself to prose—poems and songs work well, too.
Planning the Lesson Once you have selected a story, break out the elements that can be part of the activity. Consider setting your classroom space up into different stations, and break your students into small groups to cycle through. At each station, students are prompted to complete a task or activity related to an element of the story. You might also choose to design an obstacle course that uses the same theme or setting as the story. Or, the activity could be a set of staged movements (similar to a dance) that allow students to act out the story as it is read aloud.
Teaching the Lesson It is important to make sure that you integrate the reading of the story into the lesson. If you make the story an afterthought, the students will not make the connections that make this type of activity so beneficial. Be sure the class has read the story before beginning the activity, though do try to incorporate additional reading into the activity. Depending on the ages of your students, you might make student reading part of the lesson.
An Example: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
You can find an online version of this story here: Peter Rabbit Full Text
After reading the story, set up a series of stations that relate to the passages listed below. Students will move from one to the next after each passage is read (either by the students or the teacher). Students can pass through the stations one at a time, in small groups, or as a class. You might also choose to have some students be Peter and some Mr. McGregor or you may decide to play Mr. McGregor yourself. If time permits, the entire story can be read during the activity.
- But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate! Set up an obstacle to act as the gate. Students must squeeze underneath it to continue the journey.
- Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate. Set up cones or other obstacles that force students to run an erratic pattern “all over the garden”.
- After losing them, he ran on four legs and went faster, so that I think he might have got away altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net, and got caught by the large buttons on his jacket. At this point, students must move on all fours as fast as they can to the next station.
- And rushed into the tool-shed, and jumped into a can. Students run to the next station, finishing with jumps into containers of adequate size. Be sure the containers have low sides and will not tip over.
- Presently Peter sneezed–‘Kertyschoo!’ Mr. McGregor was after him in no time. After pretending to sneeze, students run a path of your choosing to the next station.
- Peter got down very quietly off the wheelbarrow; and started running as fast as he could go, along a straight walk behind some black-currant bushes. Set up a straight sprint for this station.
- Mr. McGregor caught sight of him at the corner, but Peter did not care. He slipped underneath the gate, and was safe at last in the wood outside the garden. Finish the journey by sending students back under the gate they started from.
This story is set in a garden. You can be as creative as you wish when setting up and designing your garden.
What are you waiting for? Get moving on bringing some stories to life with your students. The possibilities are endless. Have fun!