We recently caught up with Madonna Weese, an Extension Specialist with 4-H Youth Development for the University of Illinois Extension. Madonna and her team have been creating some pretty innovative ways for the older kids to teach the younger kids using WISERCISE, the classroom exercise component of The OrganWise Guys programming.
OWG: How do you train the older kids or volunteers to help with WISERCISE?
Madonna: We have a training for volunteers and/or fifth grade teachers to learn the WISERCISE model: chants, lessons, cool-down, etc. We have identified lessons that we would like them to teach the fifth graders. The fifth graders are divided into teams according to the number of third and fourth grade classrooms so each team is assigned a classroom to teach over the 4 weeks. The students then practice the lessons and present them to another group. Each group then gives the other one feedback on the presentation. We developed an assignment chart so the team members rotate through the teaching responsibilities (chant, lesson, cool-down). Each classroom has an identified time 3-4 days per week for WISERCISE. The fifth graders teach the same lesson for a week, but use variations of exercises and cool-down to add variety. It reinforces the lesson’s big ideas and teaches additional exercises.
OWG: What kinds of skills have you seen these 5th graders develop as they’ve begun to teach the program?
Madonna: By far, the thing most teachers have noticed is the amount of self-confidence the fifth graders develop over the course of the program. A couple of teachers said that for some of the shyer students, the change has been dramatic; they seemed to have blossomed with this teaching role. Of course, the students are learning about physical activity and nutrition so that always is indicated. Because they are doing this as a team effort, the students learn how to work effectively with each other and what roles are best suited for each presenter. They have learned presentation skills, such as voice volume, printing posters, etc. that are legible and easy to read, how to get the younger students back on focus, “how hard it is to be a teacher” (we hear that a LOT!), and how to plan the lesson.
OWG: How have the teachers responded?
Madonna: The teachers have been extremely supportive! Most are continuing the WISERCISE activities on their own when the fifth graders are not scheduled to come and some have extended WISERCISE by using additional lessons. Because the fifth graders are prepared and begin right away (and the activity is only 10 minutes), the teachers have been very willing to give classroom time for the activity. One teacher forgot the fifth graders were coming (during one of my visits) and took her students to the computer lab. The fifth graders went to find her and let her know she was missing WISERCISE. The third graders demanded that the teacher reschedule a time for the program. All of this was spontaneous, but fun to watch! The teacher got a good laugh out of it and it showed just how much all the students value WISERCISE. While talking with a group of fourth graders, one student told me, “I can’t wait until I’m a fifth grader.” When I asked why, he said, “So I can teach WISERCISE!” I asked, “Wouldn’t that be fun?” He gave me a huge grin and a definite nod of the head.
Thanks to Madonna and her team for their innovative work!