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Teacher: Nancy Davidson/Diana Carter who teaches at West Plains Elementary in West Plains, MO. Nancy Davidson/Diana Carter can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: Cross Country Unit

Rationale/Purpose of Event: To make a cross country or run/walk unit more enjoyable and a challenge to ALL students. This is a health-related fitness activity.

Suggested Grade Level: 6-8

Materials Needed: Stop watch, index cards, pencils, stars or stickers.

Cross Country Unit

Every year we do a cross country unit. Our students are given an index card to record their name and class. They number the card from one through how ever many class periods the unit will last. We time the the students the first day and they record their time in space number one. The emphasis is that they are not racing against each other. They are running/walking to beat their first time. If he/she performs better, the student receives a star sticker to place on the card next to their time. From then on they are trying to beat their own personal best time on the card. The students really get excited when they record their times. Sometimes they beat it by a few seconds or miss it by a few seconds. We discuss what they can do to decrease their times. For example: jogging in places they usually have to walk, using their "free energy" by leaning forward (leading with their chest) going down hills, watching the top of the hills as they run up, etc. I stand in the middle of the course and call out the time lapsed so they know where they need to be on the course, and my teaching partner stands at the finish line to call out their times when they finish.

Cards and pencils are at the finish line so the students can record immediately. We collect the cards after everyone is finished and check their times. The cards are stored in a card file. This procedure only takes a matter of a few minutes. The beginning of each class period we remind them of their fastest time on their card, so they know what time they need to beat.

At the end of the unit we have our students fill out a rubric and write a meaningful paragraph about their progress during the unit, using their cards as a reference. I've even had my fifth and sixth grade students draw bar graphs of their progress. Some of them even took them home to make their graphs on the computer. The unit ends with a school-wide cross country meet. Everyone receives a participation ribbon. The top 20 runners in each division (example: 1st grade girls, 1st grade boys....) receive ribbons. I've been wanting to add a walking division for those students who will never be runners.

The course includes several hills of varying inclines and declines.

5th and 6th grades= 1 mile
3rd and 4th grades= 1/2 mile
1st adn 2nd grades= 1/4 mile
Kindergarten= 1/8 mile

The rubric we use at the end of the unit looks like this:(You may want to ask different questions than we did.)

Scoring Guide:

3 Pts. = every day
2 pts. = most days
1 pt. = some days
0 pts. = never

___ I gave my best effort during the Cross Country unit.
___ I came dressed (shoes and clothes) to run.
___ I stayed focused and on task.
___ I was able to run or jog the entire course.
___ I walked, jogged, and ran the entire course.
___ I participated in the cross country unit every P.E. day. (*Note: This means the student was present each P.E. day and was not excused from participation.)
___ I earned stars.

*ON THE BACK OF THIS PAPER, WRITE A 4-5 SENTENCE PARAGRAPH ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR PROGRESS DURING THE CROSS COUNTRY UNIT. (It is SO interesting to read what they write. Encourage them to be honest with themselves and you.)


I have moved this unit to the track area and have given students the option of deciding the number of laps they think they can run in a 30 minute period. They then are timed each day and try to beat their own "personal best" time on their card. This way an advanced runner is running to his/her ability level as well as a non-runner run/walking to his/her ability level.

Teaching Suggestions/Tips:

Make sure you time your students at least 5 times for them to get a good over-all look at their "running picture". (If the weather doesn't permit outdoor running on a particular day, have them run for a number of minutes indoors, giving them stars for running different lengths of time - ie. - 5 minutes=1 star, 8 minutes=2 stars, etc.

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities:

Our disabled students walk a designated distance on a flat surface for a timed score. The length depends on the disability. We have a 200 meter track at our K-4 facility, located in the middle of where our cross country route is. Our 5th and 6th grade disabled students are placed in an adapted physical education class, rather than a mainstreamed class.

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Posted on PEC: 1/4/2004 and has received 88 votes.

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