The Orange Theory Classroom

April 23, 2018

The Orange Theory Classroom


Recently, my wife finally convinced me to head back to the gym. For several months, she had been attending a place called “Orange Theory Fitness” and fell in love with it. As a runner, running on a treadmill is boring, don’t enjoy the typical gym-rat environment; and cannot be trusted to just show up at a gym on a regular basis when I have time. Begrudgingly, I showed up for a free trial last week, and I quickly became enamored with the model. For that hour, I could not stop thinking about how the Orange Theory model of fitness instruction is exactly what effective instruction should look like on a regular basis…hold on, stick with me – I swear this will make sense.

So how is a fitness center anywhere near quality instruction?

Throughout the hour class, I experienced a number of effective and engaging instructional practices. As a student, I was completely engaged, felt empowered and supported throughout. Below, I have listed each instructional area that I observed during the workout, and I included connections to effective instruction (starting with personal relationship building – a foundational quality of effective instruction).


Academic Choice

On how we encourage voice and choice in learning… “One of the best ways is to show students curriculum and ask ‘How do you want to learn this?’ Curriculum is not top secret!” – Shelly Vohra

Students at all levels crave voice and choice! They want to have a say in what and how they learn. Although we rotated through the three major stations (treadmill, row machine, floor/weight exercises), we were also provided an alternative exercise as an accommodation.

Providing choice in how students accomplish their learning provides for more student ownership and control. These can be as in depth as research project choices, or as simple as a choice in questions answered at the end of your lesson. Check out Paula Denton’s work on this very subject, or this presentation as a crash course.


The Growth Mindset

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

At the beginning of our course, our instructor emphatically stated: “If you don’t get to your goal today, don’t worry about it. You will totally get it and can try again next time if you need!”

Consider how powerful it would be if every teacher, everyday, said the following to their students after reviewing the mastery objective: “I realize that this may sound challenging – it is! I am here to support you. If you don’t get it right away, YOU WILL get it next time!”


Pacing and Momentum

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hour days” – Zig Ziglar

At the beginning of the workout, we spent time stretching and getting an overview of the session. Throughout, we were provided with frequent verbal pacing reminders so we were never guessing as to when we should switch, and what our next rotation would be (e.g.: “treads, you have two more minutes before we switch!”).

An effective lesson includes smooth and seamless transitions (no more wasted time!). Teachers should prepare their students for what is going to come next in the lesson – students want, and need, to know what to expect and it is our job to cue them.


Data Driven Instruction

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

– W. Edwards Deming

Your workout performance is measured and determined by your heart monitor data (projected on a big screen). You are also provided with different color schemes to more proactively analyze your performance.

How often do you plan to rotate throughout the class to closely check on student work?

Do students know how they are being assessed on each assignment? Too often, we wait until students have handed in their work, where it is too late to provide the student with timely and effective feedback.


Explanatory Devices

During the workout, we were provided with a number of digital, printed, and in-person displays on a variety of instructional areas. Each treadmill had the same printout: a chart that includes a “skill level” guide along with parameters one should try to achieve. First, you determine whether you are a “power walker”; “jogger”; or a “runner.” You then note your individual goals for each level of workout intensity (speed, incline, time, etc.). As an additional support, there were big screen TVs that showed someone performing EACH individual exercise just in case you needed a ongoing guidance.

At each group rotation, provide students with a checklist for what they need to accomplish. Include extensions where appropriate so students know exactly what they are supposed to do, and what to do if they finish early. For management reinforcement, include a reminder about your classroom norms and/or group work expectations (or even how they should be talking).


So What?

First of all, there is an abundance of research that supports the aforementioned areas of instruction. These areas are essential for effective instruction to occur (See research by Saphier, Haley-Speca, and Gower through the Studying Skillful Teacher series).

What does this all mean? Well, first of all, I’m now signed up for a month of Orange Theory Fitness (and no, I’m not getting paid for this!), and I feel great that I’m obligated to be more active. More importantly, my understanding of effective instruction has been solidified even further – if you have a passionate, well-planned educator in a classroom, even the most challenging and less than desirable learning can be made fun, engaging, and data driven.

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