2. Measuring heartbeats

Consider asking a science teacher to help you show your pupils how to measure their heart beat or have a go yourself using Resource 3: Heart rate to help you. This is an excellent introduction to actual measurement, as it can be done without any instruments other than one watch with a second hand for the teacher or pupil to use; it can also be integrated with a number of enjoyable exercise and recovery activities, and provide a good basis for a sustained cross-curricular focus, for example, a ‘healthy bodies’ week. Such a practical activity captures pupils attention and involves them.

Resource 3 tells you how to measure heart rate, and gives some further information about heart rate and age, and exercise to help you with the activity in this part.

Case Study 2: Measuring heartbeats

Mrs Ansah explained to her pupils how to measure their heart beat by holding their left wrist with the middle fingers of their right hand and counting the pulses. She asked them to practise this for a few minutes. Her pupils were very excited to do this – none of them had felt their pulse before. Mrs.Ansah made sure that every pupil could find their pulse, either at their neck or their wrist.

She then asked them to stand up and sit down quickly ten times and then feel their heart beat again. The pupils were surprised to see that it had become faster. She asked them to count it for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6 to get the rate per minute.

Mrs Ansah asked the pupils to think why these changes might happen and listed their ideas on the board, e.g. they needed more energy. She was pleased with their thinking and saw them trying this out in the playground during their break.

Activity 2: Measuring heart rates after exercise

Before the lesson make sure you can measure your heart rate at your neck and wrist. Practise showing your family and friends how to do this before you try it with your class! Resource 3

  • Show your pupils how to feel their pulse at their neck and wrist, and make sure every pupil can feel their heart beat in at least one of these two locations using their middle finger.
  • You begin the lesson by telling your pupils that they are going to do an experiment. During the experiment they must sit completely still, and in absolute silence.
  • Using your watch (or any clock that shows seconds), ask pupils to find their pulse, and then count how many beats they feel during one minute. Ask your learners to write down their heart rate but not to talk.
  • Now try some moderate exercise (e.g. walking for two minutes) and ask them to take their pulse again.
  • Wait a minute and take it again. Record the results
  • Next they could do other exercises like skipping, running and then measure their heart beat and record their results. Remember to leave time for the rate to go back to normal between exercises.
  • Ask each pupil to list on the board their resting heart beats after walking and after skipping for each pupil.
  • Discuss with them the different results they have for each activity, e.g. Why was their pulse higher after skipping rather than walking?

3. Planning to teach for understanding