Spreadsheets aren't just for math class anymore. In Hood River, Oregon, teachers and students use spreadsheets to track their physical fitness progress. Spreadsheet reports are sent home with report cards three times each year.
"It's a good project and it ties in well with other curriculum areas," said Cindy S. Morus, owner of Phelps Creek Personal Computing and an independent consultant who works with area schools. "It's one more example of graphing for the kids. It also lets kids see real averages on something meaningful -- something that they are personally involved in."
Third graders in Stephanie Perkins's class at the May Street School keep track of their progress on individual fitness cards. Kids record their progress in events such as the mile run, the shuttle run, sit-ups, sit-and-reaches, and pull downs. Once the three-times-a-year testing is completed, each student inputs his or her personal data into Excel. That Excel data is used to create charts and graphs that show individual progress. "Students like the graphs," Perkins told Education World. "They like to see a visual of how they are improving. Some really get motivated [by the graphs] to improve, and that's exciting."
Perkins also uses Excel to create a ranking sheet for students to take home. "I highlight their scores so students and parents can see where they fall compared to the rest of the class," Perkins told Education World. "There are no names on the ranking pages, and I don't put a lot of stress on this. I'm more concerned that they work on individual improvement rather than competing. If a kid isn't a strong runner, then it seems as if he or she might do well in another event and get to see high score in another area."
Perkins looks forward to the day when the school has more computers so the kids can get even more involved in creating their charts and graphs.
Students seem to like the idea of the ranking sheet, said Randy Yoshimura, whose fourth and fifth graders at Westside School record the results of their Physical Best Tests. "We also record active and resting heart rates," Yoshimura told Education World. "We set goals and then reset them if they are too high or low."
Classroom teachers use the ranking sheets, charts, and graphs -- but exercises tied to interpreting graphs and comparing student progress are just part of the tie-in. Teachers also involve students in writing projects. "Some kids write about their fitness and goals," said Yoshimura. "Others write about why fitness is important or what they can do to improve their fitness."
"I've received some good comments on the fitness tests from parents," added Yoshimura. Perkins agreed. "As a P.E., teacher, I don't have much connection with the parents. This gives me a chance to communicate with them. I try to write a personal note on each graph that I send home. I also really like the idea of the kids sitting down with the parents and going over the charts together."
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