2. Measuring heartbeats

Consider asking a science teacher to help you show your pupils how to measure their heartbeats 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 cross-curricular work, for example, a ‘healthy bodies’ week. Practical activities such as this will capture pupils’ attention and involve them.

Resource 3 tells you how to measure heart rate, and gives some further information about heart rate, age and exercise to help you with Activity 2.

Case Study 2: Measuring heartbeats

Mrs Simpito explained to her pupils how to measure their heartbeats 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 Simpito made sure that every pupil could find the pulse, either at the neck or the wrist. They all measured their pulses whilst sitting and noted this down, or remembered it.

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

Mrs Simpito 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 break time.

Activity 2: Measuring heart rates after exercise

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

  • Show your pupils how to feel the pulse at the neck and wrist, and make sure every pupil can feel the heartbeat in at least one of these two locations using the middle finger.
  • 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 pulses, and then count how many beats they feel during one minute. Ask them to write down their heart rates but not to talk.
  • Next, try some moderate exercise (e.g. walking for two minutes) and ask them to take their pulses again.
  • Wait a minute and ask them to take their pulses again. Record the results
  • They could then do other exercises, for example skipping or running, and then measure their heartbeats again and record their results.
  • Ask all pupils to list on the board their resting heartbeats after walking and after skipping.
  • Discuss with them the different results they have for each activity: for example, why were their pulses higher after skipping rather than walking?

3. Planning to teach for understanding