Georgia fourth-grade teacher Faye Smith puts a new spin on Read Across America projects! Her PAUSE program, Pedal Across the United States Every day, pairs reading and cycling in an interdisciplinary reading motivator. Education World writer Leslie Bulion talks with Smith about the many places she and her students will go as they read and pedal their way across the country. Included: Ideas for integrating this project across the curriculum!
"I want to make reading fun," says Faye Smith, who teaches fourth grade at Lamar Elementary School in Augusta, Georgia. "But I want my students to know that it's not only the book itself that's important. It's the act of reading. I want them to learn that they'll always have something to do if they take a book with them wherever they go!" Smith tells Education World.
Smith's students are certainly going places; they are moving through Georgia, South Carolina, and onward toward Washington, D.C. on the stationary bicycle in their classroom! "I read several years ago about a teacher who used a bicycle in her classroom," Smith says. "I thought it might be a good way to motivate students to read."
Smith's students decided to put a new spin on a travel-related Read Across America theme by pedaling actual miles on an exercise bike during class reading time! (Learn about this year's theme at Read Across America.) The miles are adding up as the kids progress on their virtual class trip through their home state of Georgia and neighboring states. The planned destination is Washington, D.C. Smith calls her program PAUSE, an acronym for Pedal Across the United States Every day.
"We do PAUSE throughout the year, two or three times during the day," explains Smith. "When we are changing subjects, I'll say, 'Okay, class, we're going to PAUSE.' I choose a student to pedal while everyone reads."
The rider signs in on a chart, logging the time. Students read silently from their library books or listen to a read-aloud chapter or short story from Smith. When the 10- to 15-minute reading period is over, the rider logs an ending time. The bike has a pedometer so students can track their mileage.
"It's my intent to have riders read their own books during silent reading times," Smith says with a laugh, "but I haven't worked out a stable enough book stand yet!"
Although Smith insists that PAUSE is still evolving, she has already integrated an impressive array of cross-curricular activities into the reading program.
"We total the miles at the end of each pedaling session and at the end of the week," Smith explains to Education World. Mileage is used for charting and graphing activities. "We look at the number of miles we have gone and how many we need to go to reach a particular location -- the border of South Carolina, for instance. I ask 'How many more people will have to pedal to get us to South Carolina?'"
Students look in newspapers and on the Internet for weather reports along the virtual route. In addition to observing the weather, they discuss how particular weather events may affect route and clothing choices, and they predict the weather for future travel days. Smith's students spend time studying historical and geographical facts about the places they visit on their virtual ride. One student looks for local current events from the newspaper each day.
"My students keep PAUSE journals," Smith tells Education World. "At the end of the day, I ask students to think about what they might have seen, what they think an area is like, and how it felt to be there," Smith says. "They try to include words from our reading and other things we've talked about. One boy wrote in his journal that as he was riding, he saw shacks and thought to himself that slaves must have lived there back in colonial days. That was something we'd read about in our social studies book. I thought that was a great connection to make."
In addition to students' integrating what they read into their writing work, Smith hopes to see students improve basic vocabulary and reading skills. "I have already seen an increase in the number of books my students have read this year," Smith tells Education World.
A bonus Smith didn't anticipate is the efficacy of PAUSE in classroom management. "It works really well with discipline," Smith laughs. "I've got some active kids, but after I give them a turn pedaling, they are too tired to do anything else!
"At the end of a pedaling turn, the kids feel it," Smith adds. "They are used to riding bikes for play, but I find that many of them are not used to a distance type of exercise."
"This is a terrific idea showcasing how a classroom teacher can integrate physical activity into a classroom setting," Mark Manross, executive editor of PE Central tells Education World. "One of the great things about an integrated idea is that it may bring teachers from different disciplines in the school closer together as they discuss and share the ideas being implemented in their classrooms." (See Education World's review of PE Central, a Web site for health and physical education teachers.)
One helpful suggestion Smith received from another teacher via e-mail was to take the students' blood pressure before and after a riding session. "I'm going to incorporate that next year," Smith enthuses. "I'll show the kids how to take their blood pressure, and we'll chart that as well!"
In addition to developing a working bookstand for her stationary bicycle, Smith plans to spend time this summer developing a reading list of books and stories about the locations the class will visit during the virtual bike trip next year. "I am also very interested in developing a pen-pal program with another school that we might 'travel' to," Smith tells Education World.