Teachers' Frequently Asked Questions
I have so many things to try and squeeze into the day as it is. How can I justify 30 minutes out of the class every day to go walking?
We appreciate how hard it is to fit everything into the school day. However, students need to get their blood flowing and their brains oxygenated to put themselves in an optimal condition to learn. Statistically, students who spend less time in class and more time in physical education get similar grades and do just as well on standardized tests. Plus, with The Walking Classroom, students are learning while they walk!
Where does The Walking Classroom fit into my curriculum?
The Walking Classroom is a combination literacy/fitness activity that builds listening stamina and exposes students to a broad range of content while improving student health. All of The Walking Classroom podcasts and activities are aligned with the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards which contain a significant non-fiction component. Therefore, many podcast topics are cross-curricular and address science and social studies topics.
According to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, “… the Speaking and Listening standards require students to develop a range of broadly useful oral communication and interpersonal skills. Students must learn to work together, express and listen carefully to ideas, integrate information from oral, visual, quantitative, and media sources, evaluate what they hear, use media and visual displays strategically to help achieve communicative purposes, and adapt speech to context and task.”
The walks will usually last a bit longer than the podcasts, and teachers are encouraged to instruct their students to use that time to discuss the podcast and ask their classmates “thick” questions about it while walking (ex: “Why do you think X did Y?” vs. “Did you like the podcast?”) In time, students will broaden their general scope of knowledge, make connections among important concepts, and enhance their critical thinking and discussion skills.
What is the audio content of The Walking Classroom?
The Walking Classroom features audio segments that support the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards. Topics include, but are not limited to: biographies including Benjamin Banneker, Galileo, and Shakespeare, informational podcasts about meteorology, geology, the Negro Baseball League, and the Pony Express, music-based podcasts that teach students about English Renaissance Music and Madrigals, parts of speech including idioms, similes and metaphors, and even poetry including “O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman. Exposure to these topics will not only build general content knowledge, but meeting these and other standards is critical to student performance on end-of-grade exams.
The entertaining and educational podcast scripts are written by teachers and recorded by students and teachers. The basic format of most of the podcasts is that two students have been given a research assignment and are preparing to present their report to The Walking Classroom. The students are on a walk with their teacher who lends insight and who may once in a while ask questions of the presenters to clarify and expand on certain concepts.
Some of these podcasts are unrelated to what I’m teaching. Should I skip them?
All the podcasts are complementary to the Common Core Curriculum. Even if a podcast seems unrelated to what is currently being taught in the classroom, by listening to all the podcasts, students will broaden their general scope of knowledge. This will enable them to make new content connections more easily in a variety of areas: math, science, history, etc.
What is the best time of day for the class to walk?
Because fewer than 20% of America’s children walk or ride their bikes to school, kids enter the classroom lethargic and grumpy. Research has shown again and again that exercise increases energy and improves mood, so the ideal time to walk would be as soon as the school day starts. The earlier the better, but if that doesn’t work, any time is a good time!
Should we listen to the podcasts in order?
Podcasts are organized chronologically according to the Common Core Curriculum Map. However, they do not build upon one another, so the teacher could listen to whatever podcast best fits with her plans at whatever time. A checklist is included in the appendix to keep track of what has been listened to.
Do we need to listen to a new podcast every day?
No. Repeat podcasts that are particularly relevant, entertaining, or meaningful. Especially during the first few weeks while students are still familiarizing themselves with the program and building listening stamina, teachers may choose to listen to the same podcast a few days in a row. When you listen to the podcast a second or third time, focus on different aspects.
Should we walk the same route every day?
We recommend taking the same route for safety as well as focus. Students will be familiar with the route, and therefore they can focus on the listening content rather than anticipating what they might see on the route (their house, etc.). If your school is fortunate enough to have a track or other enclosed area where students can safely walk, we recommend using that.
What is a typical Walking Classroom lesson? How long will this take?
A typical lesson that follows The Walking Classroom’s plan can last anywhere from 25 minutes to 2 days to 2 weeks, depending on how involved a teacher wants to get. If a teacher only wants to walk and listen, it is no more than a 25 or 30 minute commitment. If a teacher chooses to discuss the podcast upon returning to the classroom and distribute a comprehension quiz and discuss the podcast, the lesson may take up to an hour. If a teacher chooses to walk, integrate, synthesize, and expand on the lesson with the provided suggestions and extensions, the lesson could extend to a few weeks. Once a routine is established, a teacher can expect a typical lesson of walking, discussing the podcast, and administering the comprehension quiz to take about 35-40 minutes.
Aren’t kids too plugged in already?
The short answer is yes. And it seems like the ones who need exercise the most are most likely to be sitting somewhere with headphones on, doing homework or playing video-games. But it’s not headphones that are making kids overweight or obese; it’s poor dietary choices and lack of exercise. So, we asked ourselves, “What if we could take advantage of kids’ comfort with headphones and get them learning and burning some calories all at once?” The Walking Classroom was the answer.
What do I do with the misbehaving students?
Sometimes, the students who need to walk the most to burn their extra energy are the ones who cause the most trouble. Don’t give up! All students will probably be a bit excited and may behave somewhat erratically in the beginning. Soon the novelty will wear off and students will learn the routine and will organize themselves quickly. If, however, some students prove to be untrustworthy or too much of a distraction to the other students, consider:
- Keeping that child next to you as your walking partner.
- Giving that child the responsibility of mid-range pace car
(his or her “job” would be to make sure that the other kids are keeping up. Sometimes added responsibility is all somebody needs to rise to the occasion.)
If all else fails, the child may need to stay at school in another class or with the principal while the rest of the class walks. Try again.
What do I do with children who are sick, injured, or otherwise unable to walk?
Give the child a WalkKit and instruct him or her to listen to the podcast while sitting in another classroom while the class is walking. Establish a buddy-system with another teacher in the building where your students can go if they can’t walk, and you will provide the same service for her students.
My kids walk at different speeds and our school does not have a track, therefore I need to keep them together as we walk around the neighborhood. How can I keep them together as a group?
If your school has an area where you can monitor all of the children at the same time (walking around the parking lot, walking around the track, etc.), children should be allowed to walk at their own pace (as long as the slowest walkers are still pushing themselves a bit).
If you will be walking on sidewalks or paths off of school property and the students will need to stay together, it is vitally important to establish Pace Cars and Cabooses for every walk.
- Are two students who lead the group and NOBODY is allowed to pass.
- Are responsible for keeping a brisk walking pace, but not so fast that the rest of the group cannot keep up.
- Need to regularly check the back of the group for signals from the teacher (stop, slow down, accelerate, etc.).
- Are two students at the back of the group and NOBODY is allowed behind.
- Are responsible for keeping the group together and alerting the teacher if they notice a problem.
You may also want to consider enlisting other staff members to walk with your group. Not only will they get some mood-enhancing physical activity, they will be able to help keep your group together. Parent volunteers can also be helpful.
Can kids share headphones?
Due to hygiene concerns (lice, ear bacteria, etc.), students should have their own labeled headphones that they keep in their desks, cubby, etc. after each walk. Do not store the headphones in a common area where ear pieces may touch.
Is it safe for the students to walk while listening to the podcasts?
Students should only cover one ear while they are walking. It may feel awkward at first, but students will soon become accustomed to listening to the podcast while maintaining an awareness of the world around them.
What if poor weather prevents us from walking?
Once students get in the habit of walking, they will want to do it everyday! Try to create an indoor route that weaves around the school that the students
could do on rainy or snowy days.
How much does The Walking Classroom cost?
A class set of TWC materials costs $3000. Class sets that are purchased directly from TWC can expect shipment within six weeks. Individual WalkKits may be purchased for $150 and Teacher's Guides are $150 each.
Public schools are also eligible to apply for a sponsored set, which would be delivered at no cost to the school, but we cannot guarantee fulfillment nor timing of delivery.
How can a classroom set of materials be free?
TWC actively seeks corporate support so that public school teachers can get TWC for free. If you are a public school teacher interested in starting TWC but your school (or your PTA) is unable to fund a class set, apply for a free donated set here
Please remember, applying does not guarantee delivery of a free classroom set of materials, nor can we control the timing of the delivery for donated sets. Everything is dependent upon having enough corporate donations.
When you say sponsored set, do you mean the kids will have to listen to commercials?
Not at all. The WalkKits may carry the logo of a public-spirited corporate sponsor, such as a bank or healthcare provider. The boxes the WalkKits come in will also have the sponsor's logo. To receive a free, sponsored set of classroom materials, teachers are required to thank the sponsor who made their free classroom kits possible with handwritten notes from the teacher and students, as well as photographs of the students using the materials. We also will strongly encourage you to work with the sponsor to let the world know about their contribution (like taking their corporate VP for a walk as a photo op for the local paper!)
Why should I bother to apply if there are no sponsored WalkKits available?
If we are able to demonstrate demand to potential sponsors, they are much more likely to fund the program.