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Encourage Activity with Reading in PE!

Posted 1 day ago - by Scott McDowell

As highlighted in an earlier post, all school staff members have opportunities to foster a love of learning through literacy or reading.  Physical education teachers are role models and often build meaningful relationships with all students.  Incorporating stories and children’s books into PE provides an avenue to encourage creativity through movement, dance, and social interaction.

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Years ago I listened to an outstanding professional at the Illinois Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance annual conference.  This master teacher shared with us one of my favorite activities to do each year during reading month, on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, or whenever you need a quick 5-minute warm up. 


Each year, I read the book My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss to students in grades K-2.  It is a very short book with beautifully colored images, and only takes a few minutes to read!  The first time I read it to the students, I do not provide any additional directions other than listening.  After I finish, I explain to the children that we are going to use the story to move around the gym.  I flip through the pages again and ask students to share what the emotions, moods, and images might look like if we were to act them out.  Finally, I ask students to find safe space and have them prepare to listen to the story again while acting out each emotion through creative play.   I loudly read the story and pause before turning the page to allow for students to think and move.  Students are led throughout the book to be horses, birds, bees, and more.  The creativity comes alive with each child’s own interpretation of the mood and animal.
Listen or watch the story.


Early elementary students love the opportunity to blend books and stories into movement!  It is no different than using music to lead movement and often will leave more to the imagination.  I encourage you to always read the book at least once before starting the activity if you have not read it to them previously. 

Here are a few other examples of books to use, as well as quick outlines of activity ideas:

  • From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle

    • The book is perfect for a warm up activity as it is very low-impact.  Have students find space and perform the movements as you read.  Students can perform the stretches and actions in their own space.  Read it again and have students partner up to perform matching/mirroring actions!
  • Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin/Eric Carle

    • Throughout the book, new animals are introduced.  Allow students to act out these actions in a safe space as you read the book. 
  • Stomp!, by Ruth Paul 

    • Kids love dinosaurs!  This book invites them to act out various locomotor movements (stomping, jumping, turning around, crawling, and more.)  Several pages require additional imagination and creativity!  A perfect task in their safe personal space but it also begs for the exploration of group work!
  • Pete the Cat And His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin/James Dean 

    • Pete the Cat is about the coolest cat around and students love the story.  The story has a reoccurring theme that can be read in a fun, rhythmic beat.  Create some basic dance steps for “My buttons, my buttons…”.  Ask students to act out emotions based on Pete’s button saga as you read and dance. Check out an audio/visual of this book!
  • Five Green and Speckled Frogs, by Priscilla Burris 

    • Have students in one large group.  Number students off or come up with another way for students to know it is their turn.  Designate another area as the pool.  As you read students will hop to the pool and leave the original group.  In the end all students end up in the pool.  Also try in groups of five and have frogs leave their groups to go to center of playing area where a large pool party can form!


The bottom line is that there is no “one-way” to blend literacy and movement.  You can keep it simple by introducing one book each month to a class, or a bit more complex by increasing the frequency to multiple times a month. Students love both reading and movement, and like mint and chocolate, it just works.


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Scott!

How to Develop an Effective Communication Plan

Posted 1 week ago - by Jessica Shawley

When physical education was relocated to regular classrooms due to gym construction, a parent commented on how they felt nothing was happening in P.E. due to the construction. This was far from true, and several non-P.E. teachers were quick to inform the parent about the wonderful learning happening regardless of the temporary relocation of P.E. class. When word got back to me about this exchange it made me realize I needed to communicate better with parents, especially during this time of construction.

What should we do to ensure our partners (parents, students, administration, colleagues, school board, local media, etc.) understand and support not only what is going on in our classrooms but also our profession as a whole?
Develop and implement a simple, consistent communication system.

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In my previous blog post, I unveiled 3 basic steps to a communication plan: Capture, Convert & Communicate Content. Here, I will expand upon step 3 on how and why to communicate with your various partners.


Parents & Students:

Let’s face it, these are our #1 partners. If they are happy, we are happy. At the start of each year, I compile an iMovie of the previous year as a “promo” highlights video. I use this as a kick-off to our annual parent informational night. Usually there is barely enough time to say hello and go over a few expectations. This traditional context at parent night seemed useless. I wanted to add more sustenance. I decided to mix it up and show parents what their child was going to experience. I wanted to inspire these parents to be a part of our superhero support team. The first time I showed the highlights video parents were thrilled. It made our presentation much more fun and focused on the positives of P.E. class while covering basic expectations for student success.

I show this same video to students at the start of the year. At the end of units I show students the video clips and pictures I took during the unit to create a lasting memory of their success. They really enjoy seeing themselves in action. I can then recycle these for the next year to kick off that same unit and as part of a ‘shuffle’ playlist of highlight movies at our annual family fitness night.

You may not realize it, but the power of email (or a phone call) cannot be underestimated. I have made it a goal to send at least one positive email per week to the parents of at least one student per class. Throughout the week, I write a quick note on my attendance sheet of a highlight I can share with a parent. The response from appreciative parents is priceless. I save these in an email folder so I can demonstrate parent communication to my principal. Remember to celebrate student success. Don’t just leave it up to the student to tell their parents – sometimes they forget.


Colleagues & Administration:

Share student success within your building by sending out regular emails with a note and picture of a moment with students. For example, when playing disc golf, a student got the first “hole in one” of the unit. It was a great shot! I took his picture standing next to the disc golf target and emailed it out to my colleagues later that day. I used it as a teachable moment with students as well, explaining how you get your picture in the paper when you get a hole in one on the golf course. The staff really appreciated the email. In fact, our school now regularly emails “shout out” moments. This helps spur conversations and congratulations among staff and students creating a positive community.

Another tip is to invite staff and administrators to in-class events or celebrations. You never know when a staff member is willing to come down and see students in a different setting during their prep time. Our administration participates in end-of-the-unit tournaments. Having the opportunity to play against your principal in Pickleball is a treasured moment.


School Board, Local Media & Community:

At the start of each school year, collect contact information for the current school board members and local media liaison. The school district administrative office usually has this information.

Anytime you put on an event, send an invitation to the school board and media liaison. If you put together a new and innovative unit and have some corresponding pictures, send a good news email to the school board and media about it. They really appreciate the invitations and enjoy supporting the students.

Our mayor recently attended our breakfast taste test event and expressed his interest to be more involved. Our annual fun run has made the front page of the local paper. I like to present annually to our school board on the success of physical education in our district. I share our highlight video and talk about any new grants we’ve been awarded or national initiative participation (Let’s Move, Fuel Up to Play 60, etc.). Community leaders and the local media rarely miss a chance for a constituent photo opportunity. 

Parent Support Team/PTO:

Never underestimate the power of your building-level parent support team. These superheroes will help build program advocacy and support events, and they love to be involved. Take advantage of their desire to help with school activities and initiatives. Keep them in the loop. Attend parent support team (sometimes called PTO) meetings regularly; I suggest quarterly or at least twice a year. All of the previous suggestions and methods of communication apply to the parent support team as well. 


Communication Method

Specific Applications:

What, Why & Sources

Highlight Video

Photo Slide Shows

Parents: Show at parent night.

Students: Start of year and end of unit highlights.

School Board: annual school board meeting presentation.



Parents: Good news on child, event invitations.

Colleagues & Administration: Learning highlights, event invitations.


Parents & School Board: Good news on learning and info on future events. Note: Most schools send e-newsletters. Be sure to have P.E. contribute a highlight to school e-newsletter, or create own to email/mail home.

Social media:


Parents, Colleagues & Community: Regular blurbs on student success or action shots are fun to share. Include information on future events, and post reminders. Social Media options: School or PE Facebook/Twitter (as school policy allows)

Class website or Blog:


Parents & students: To communicate events, class information, learning experiences, etc. Easy to create with free sources: weebly, wix, blogspot.


For ALL partners: regular entry to local media on events and participation in national initiatives demonstrates powerful P.E. program.



Class Dojo: Behavior tracking and communication

Remind: Allows one-way reminders to go home.



Communication Plan Example:

Weekly: Good news parent emails sent home.

Monthly: Update class website or blog.

Quarterly: Highlight email sent to colleagues and administration. E-newsletter home.

Semester: Same as quarterly but add in update to parents and school board.

Event Specific: Communicate with all groups.


This two-part series on communicating with partners may initially seem overwhelming for some but the importance of communication should not be underestimated. Take time to analyze your current communication plan and set goals for the rest of this school year and the next.

  • Who are your most important partners you wish to communicate better with?
  • What methods will you use to communicate?
  • How often or when will you communicate? 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Jess!

Traditional vs Progressive Physical Education

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Peter Boucher

We all know that daily Physical Education is important; actually it is CRITICAL, to students being active and successful in multiple components and layers of their everyday world.   All trending data indicates that students who are active for 30-60 minutes each day are going to be healthier, feel better, and have a more positive academic attitude towards learning.  Simply put, it is great to be physically active every day!

And we could probably talk (or blog) at length about the lifelong benefits connected to physical education, as those benefits are multiple: the increased fitness, emotional, and social benefits are lengthy and well documented.  My guess would be that any professional reading this blog would concur wholeheartedly to the positive attributes of being in a Physical Education class as often as possible in the K-12 educational world, and in college too for that matter.  The question quickly surfaces these days though, WHICH type of Physical Education class are we referring to or Which type of Physical Education do we prefer, Traditional or Progressive?

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Physical Education has evolved significantly over the last decade. It’s not necessarily “good” or “bad” but it is a hot topic these days.  PE has journeyed a long way into the lifelong skills arena and progressive PE teachers are instructing a whole slew of “new” skills and activities in their physical education and/or wellness classes these days.   Physical Education in the 21st Century is not the same PE from the 80’s, 90’s or even early 2000’s.  Physical Education slowly transformed throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. The PE that many of us grew up with was a healthy dose of team sports and traditional single and dual activities….basketball, floor hockey, tennis, soccer, etc.  Physical Education these days has steadily morphed into the fitness and lifelong skill zone…multiple fitness activities, skills, and etiquettes combined with boot camp classes, yoga, Pilates, tough mudder training, etc. Certainly both have an important place in PE moving forward.

So the question naturally jumps to “Which style of  PE is better?”  We all know that most schools do not provide enough daily PE or weekly PE which makes the limited active time on learning in Wellness or PE classes absolutely precious.  I have heard (and read) all sorts of spirited discussions related to which type of PE/Wellness class is better for the kids.  Traditional PE is highly touted for movement and social reasons with Progressive PE being encouraged for the fitness and lifelong skills.

I guess my question remains; Which PE Is better…Traditional PE or Progressive PE?  What do YOU think? Is one better than the other?  A hybrid format perhaps?  Tell us what you think…


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more hot topics, ideas, and trends!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

3 Critical Steps for Sharing Your Success!

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Jessica Shawley

The more I speak with parents, school board, administrators, local media, or other community members, the more I understand they DO want to share in our success and support us. They just don’t always know how, especially at the secondary level when students desire more independence. However, research shows that adolescents need as much adult support as elementary age youth. What should we do to ensure our partners understand and support not only what is going on in our classrooms (at every level) but also our profession as a whole? Answer: Develop and implement a simple, consistent communication system.


It’s time we stop hoping students will remember to tell parents about the great things they are learning or that our administrator will remember to share the wonderful things we do at school board meetings. It’s time teachers stop being afraid to regularly share student success. When you spread the word about the great things going on in your classroom, it is not (and should never be) considered self-centered bragging. It’s not about us! It’s about the students.

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Here are three critical steps for establishing and implementing your communication system. In Part 2 of this series, we will discuss specific tips, tools, and information for communicating with each partner group to kick-start your communication system.


Step 1: Capture the Content

My iPhone/iPad go with me everywhere. Students love to be photographed, filmed, and will even help you capture class content. I take some sort of highlight clips or pictures of each unit we do, especially culminating events or new activities. Before smart technology, our department purchased a nice camera we would carry around at select times. Before this, I would write down great class moments to have them on hand to share later. Carry around that notepad in your clipboard or bring along your smart device, as both the techie and non-techie alike can and should capture class moments.


    *Step 1 TIP: To get started, set a goal for how often you will start “capturing content,” whether it is writing down great moments or taking photos and videos. Will it be monthly, by unit, quarterly, etc.? You can even set a recurring reminder in your phone to help you remember it's time to capture content.


Step 2: Convert the Content

Depending upon your audience and selected method of your communication (presenting at a meeting, sending an email, creating a website or newsletter, etc.) you will want to use a photo and video program to guide and simplify your ability to convert content.

For example, Apple users can utilize iMovie on MacBook (advanced user) OR on iPad (beginning user) to easily put together great highlight videos that can be exported to YouTube, iTunes or saved as a file to use elsewhere. I use iPhoto to organize photos and video by year and by topic. This allows me to easily import content into iMovie or other applications and also allows me to show slideshows of pictures to students. *Note: I recommend purchasing a 1TB (or larger) external storage drive as content fills devices quickly (thankfully, these are more affordable than ever nowadays).


Regardless of your ability level or available tools, anyone can conquer this step. Before I had my own devices, I used school-provided technology. I met with my technology teacher to learn how to best store my files on the school server, how much space I was allowed, and what programs were available to meet my needs. I took an in-district workshop on Microsoft Movie Maker and I went in after school to use the program on school computers and to receive assistance from my coworker. Utilize your local resources.

    *Step 2 TIP: Make it a professional goal to learn a new technology tool(s). For those who want to learn more about how to use Apple-based products, check out David A. Cox’s FREE PC Classes Online for informational tutorials on a variety of techy topics, including iMovie and iPhoto.


Step 3: Communicate the Content

There are many more avenues for communication these days, in some instances too many. Whether or not your school already has a media spokesperson or communication plan (regular newsletters to parents, etc.), this step is crucial. You can collect and convert content all you want, but if you don’t communicate the content to your partners then your content and effort is meaningless.

The challenge is establishing a communication plan that works for you. The goal of communicating student success is to generate support for student achievement and overall program advocacy. Keep it simple. Be consistent. Identify your partners or audience. Choose the type(s) of communication you will use with each group. Pinpoint when and how often you will communicate. See the table below for an example.


    *Step 3 TIP: Choose one new method of communication to try and set a SMART goal for when and how to use it. Team up with a colleague or find a professional learning community online for support.


Developing a Communication Plan:

Identify Your Partners:

Select Method(s) of Communication:

Determine When/How Often:


Class website or blog, Social Media, Apps, Newsletters, Bulletin Boards


  • Weekly?
  • Monthly?
  • Quarterly?
  • Semester?
  • Yearly?
  • Event specific?
  • Unit Specific?


Email, Phone, Social Media, Parent Night, Family Fitness Night, Class website or blog, Apps, Newsletters, Event Invitation


Email, Class website or blog, Social Media, Newsletters, Event Invitation


Email, Staff Meeting, Social Media, Event Invitation

School Board

Email, Presentations, Social Media, Event Invitation, Newsletters


Class website or blog, Presentations, Social Media, Newspaper articles, Event Invitation

Local Media

Social Media, Event Invitation, Newspaper articles

It’s important for students to see and hear validation of their hard work. Do you remember saving newspaper clippings of events you were involved in as a youth? I do!

In Part 2, we’ll expand upon the table in Step 3 providing specific tools, tips, and resources that will help you communicate your content. 

Reader Challenge: 

Analyze your current communication plan. What do you do well? What is your weakness? What have you always wanted to learn? Think about these “3 Steps” and formulate or revitalize your existing communication plan.


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

Dynamic PE: What is It and How Does It Work?

Posted 1 month ago - by Aaron Beighle

Last month I blogged about physical education curriculum (check it out). In that blog the components and development of a curriculum were presented. Towards the end I mentioned a curriculum I co-author, Dynamic Physical Education (DPE) for Elementary School Children (18e) and how a group of teachers in Lexington, KY are implementing the curriculum.

DPE, Dynamic PE

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With its beginnings in the 1960’s, this curriculum is widely used and respected throughout the field. It is evidence-based in that it combines the evidence from fields such as exercise science, classroom pedagogy, motor learning, exercise psychology and epidemiology to create student-centered, standards-based physical education lessons.

            The DPE curriculum is divided into four parts. The lesson begins with an introductory activity. As with all components of DPE, this is an activity-based learning experience as soon as the students arrive (not sitting for us). This sets the management tone for the class and provides instant activity for students. The introductory activity typically lasts 2-3 minutes in a 30-minute lesson. Next, is the fitness component of the lesson. The purpose of this part is to teach them about physical fitness and expose them to a variety of fun fitness related activities. Emphasis is placed on personal best and enjoyment with small bouts of instruction associated with fitness concepts. This component typically lasts 7-8 minutes. Following fitness is the lesson focus. This component lasts 15-20 minutes and is designed to teach students physical skills. Emphasis is placed on repetition and refinement of skill with instruction focused on the process of movement (e.g. appropriate skill technique), not the product (e.g. how many baskets a student can make). The focus of the lesson is success-oriented and provides students with skills necessary to engage in physical activity for a lifetime. Finally, the lesson ends with a game, or closing activity. This is a time for students to apply skills learned during the lesson focus. The game also allows students to end the physical education lesson with a positive fun experience.

            The structure of a four-part lesson ensures students engage in activity immediately upon entering the teaching area, experience vigorous physical activity, learn skills, and have the opportunity to apply those skills in success-oriented games. To some, on the surface, this structure appears restricting. However, our experience has found that a major strength of the curriculum is its flexibility. A structured curriculum guide with detailed instruction for lesson implementation works well for new teachers and teachers with limited experience teaching an activity. As teachers gain experience with the curriculum they find that it is very malleable. For example, if a teacher finds a new fitness activity, they can easily replace the activity in the guide with their own activity and see how it works. If it works well, we encourage teachers to document the new activity and use it other times throughout the year. Teachers also make note of the activity in the Curriculum Guide so they remember to use this activity the following year.

            DPE is also flexible in that a variety of teaching models can be implemented simultaneously. For instance, at the secondary level, teachers have used Sport Education for an entire lesson or just during the lesson focus. The curriculum is also flexible because it can work in virtually any physical education environment. Lessons can be modified to fit 30-minute lessons or 60-minute lessons. Activities can be adapted to large or small classes. The curriculum can be used in schools that have gymnasiums, multi-purpose rooms, or no gym at all. The DPE textbook includes assessment templates which can be modified to meet teacher and programmatic needs. And as stated above, the curriculum can be used by novice teachers or implemented and modified by seasoned veterans.

            As I mentioned in my last blog, there is a need for systematically developed curriculum in physical education. However, the development of a curriculum is labor and time intensive. Fortunately, DPE allows teachers to tailor an existing curriculum to fit their needs. If you get a chance, take a peek at DPE. I did, and it changed my career. 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends and ideas!

Read more Blogs by Aaron!


I believe that all successful businesses, and school systems, are always looking for ways to be creative and improve their business or organization.  Great ideas grow into systematic change when the leadership at each site is willing to listen to; research data, philosophical concepts, emotions, the latest in technological approaches, and every once in awhile a “dream” that has no data attached to it!  When hiring for leadership positions it is important to have individuals who have; strong work ethic, great communication skills, depth in educational knowledge, and a caring approach to everyone that they come into contact with.  It is also extremely important to have leadership that is flexible and willing to try ideas that go against the norm and require some patience and understanding.

Stabilityball, stability chair, ball chair, classroom ball chair

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I believe that all successful businesses, and school systems, are always looking for ways to be creative and improve their business or organization.  Great ideas grow into systematic change when the leadership at each site is willing to listen to; research data, philosophical concepts, emotions, the latest in technological approaches, and every once in awhile a “dream” that has no data attached to it!  When hiring for leadership positions it is important to have individuals who have; strong work ethic, great communication skills, depth in educational knowledge, and a caring approach to everyone that they come into contact with.  It is also extremely important to have leadership that is flexible and willing to try ideas that go against the norm and require some patience and understanding.

Over the past several years we have had some of our staff transition to Standing Desks or Workstations, use walking paths during the school work day, and on-site yoga and Pilates classes starting at 3:20 p.m.  There can be a negative public perception centering around walking paths and workout classes on-site.  Leaders have to be able to withstand that negative public perception and accept the fact that more staff will physically work out if the workouts are of convenience and they are with a positive group of peers.  If employees want to go for a 30 minute brisk walk during the middle of the day, either around a break time or lunch time, that should be encouraged and the public will soon recognize the increased enthusiasm and job performance of those employees.  We encourage our community to use our indoor walking path at Hastings High School, why would we not do the same for our employees?

A few years ago some of our teachers incorporated Stability Ball Chairs” into their classrooms.  I was very skeptical when this decision was made.  As a former elementary teacher, I could only imagine the number of times that students would be bumping into other students, falling off of their stability balls, or knocking their work off of their desktops.  The stability balls have proven to be beneficial for not only students who had some excess energy to burn off, but they have also been beneficial as motivating some students to stay focused on their work.  Students love their stability ball chair and do not want to lose the privilege of using it during the school day.

Over the past four years, several schools in our area have incorporated what I will label as, “Physically Active Learning Centers.”  Teachers can take their students into these rooms during reading or math time and the students are engaged in specific activities that require both mental and physical activities at the same time.  Some of these activities could also be accomplished in the regular classroom setting, but it is safer in the Active Learning Center.  There is research that indicates some students who have reading weaknesses, will improve in their reading skills when combining physical activity with academic repetition.

The main point of this blog is to emphasize that any of the above mentioned changes can only take place with flexibility from the leadership position.  All staff will dream and incorporate positive physical activities into the school day if they know that their site leadership is open to new ideas and are flexible.

Check out Moving Minds for more great products to engage minds through physicla activity in your schools!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Read more Blogs by Tim!


How to Create a Learning Environment in PE!

Posted 1 month ago - by Chad Triolet

What's on the walls in your gym?! Are they bare or maybe covered with sport stars and athletes?
Find out how to take your boring gym walls and turn them into a colorful learning environment that reinforces core content for your students! 

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When I started teaching 20 years ago, I was faced with the unique situation of having a brand new gym.  Although the school was over 40 years old, they were in the middle of a massive renovation when I was hired.  The back half of the school was under construction and part of the new edition of the school included a gym and a media center.  Needless to say, I was very excited about the many possibilities that a new gym brought my way.  For the first 4 months, I got to watch the construction and had to patiently wait my opportunity to get in the new “gymnatorium”.  The walls were bright white, the floors were unscuffed hardwood, and there was a nice sized office and equipment closet.   When I was finally able to get into the gym the students and I were so pumped to be in this wonderful space!  It didn’t take long for me to realize that something wasn’t right.  Once you got past the fact that the space was great, you realized that the walls were blank and boring.  I decided to come up with a plan and do something about it, immediately

I went to my principal at the end of that week and proposed some changes to the walls in the gym.  I asked her if I could paint the walls.  Her first questions was, “What exactly are you planning to paint, sports figures?”  I immediately told her that I wanted the gym to be a place to reinforce learning for the students and I wanted to paint a huge United States map and on the opposite wall a giant map of the state of Virginia.  I also wanted to paint a word wall near my office that I could use to reinforce vocabulary.  Based on her reaction to my plan, she was a little bit surprised that I wanted to include academic content; but, she was very supportive and we made arrangements to purchase some paint.  Later that month, during a teacher workday, I began my painting project.  (It is important to note that I have no artistic talent whatsoever.)  I found copies of the maps, printed them onto an overhead sheet and projected the maps on the wall and began tracing the lines.  I traced using permanent markers then went over the lines with paint.

The new artwork had an instant effect and finally added some color and pop to the gym.  I decided to continue coming up with content to add each year thereafter.  You can see the results of this labor of love throughout  Please note, after my second year, I had other PE teachers who helped with the painting (although I did spend most of the time on the 12 foot ladder when needed).

The purpose of this blog is to help PE teachers understand that all space in a school needs to maximize student learning potential.  The gym or utility room that most PE teachers use is a classroom.  Students come each day ready to move and learn.  If paint is not an option, then utilize posters.  Create bulletin boards that reinforce core academic content or health and physical education content.  Use whiteboards, chalkboards, or chart paper to share information that students need to know.  The more students see the material and use it as part of their activities, the better the chance of retention when it matters.  Nothing makes me sadder as a PE teacher than to walk into a “boring” gym.  I feel bad for the students who go into it and I feel bad for the teacher who has lost their pride in creating an exciting and engaging learning environment for those students.

Gym walls, gymnasium wall art



Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Chad!

All Core, All the Time

Posted 1 month ago - by Frank Baumholtz

Check out the video examples below for 3 great exercies to work your core!

½ Turkish Get Up

The Turkish get up is one of the main exercises I utilize in all of my programs.  I wrote a previous article on the form and technique of the Turkish Get Up (Check it out!). 

The ½ or seated position in the Turkish Get Up is a great variation to work on the bottom position of the full exercise.  In the recent phase of our workout, we increased the weight and repetitions.  3 sets of 5 with a medium to intense weight selection.

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Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press:

The bench press is a mainstay in most strength and conditioning programs.  The Single Arm Dumbbell Press is one of my favorite variations of the bench press- it challenges the core like no other.  As the dumbbell descends, it will feel like you are going to fall off the bench.  Without holding on to anything and using your core, resist that motion and press the dumbbell back to the starting position.  Try it out.  If you’re a bench press fan, You’ll love it! 


Single Leg Squat:

It is always amazing to me that many can squat with a ton of weight on their shoulders, but can’t do one single leg body weight squat.  Don’t get me wrong, we still squat.  However, as we move through life and  athletics  for that matter, we transition to a single leg.  If we never gain control in a single leg pattern, bad things will inevitably happen.  Not only is this an outstanding knee dominant pattern, it will challenge the core as well.  You can even try loading it.

When you start programming your routines, try to focus on how you can challenge the core in each and every exercise. All core, all the time. You'll want to keep in mind that the muscles of the core are not just the rectus abdominis. You've got to think global. 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great activity ideas, trends and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Frank!

The FUN Factor: Culminating Events in Physical Education

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

Think back to your school years (K-12) and recall a favorite physical education or physical activity memory. Does field day, a special field trip, a jump rope for heart event, or dance performance come to mind? Perhaps it’s your first athletic competition or a final state tournament appearance? As physical educators and coaches, we are in the ‘memory making’ business. I heard this term at a recent workshop and it really stuck with me. I can recall many favorite memories from childhood regarding my physical education and athletic participation. It was an indispensable part of my personal development.

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When it comes down to it, students may not remember daily lessons but they will remember the “experiences” and the feeling of being successful at something in your class or the lack thereof. Students who leave with more negative experiences than positive create future barriers against our profession. We need to make sure our classrooms are emotionally and socially safe as well as be purposeful in creating positive memories. This will help students transfer their learning and become our advocates as the future parents and community leaders they are sure to become.


Learning should be challenging and fun. Culminating events are the ‘FUN Factor’ and a very effective way to create positive memories in physical education. Use this “FUN Factor Formula” to guide you and check out my “FUN Factor” blog resource page where you will find several go-to resources!  


The “FUN Factor” Formula:

  1. Identify the need. Reflect on your teaching and ask: What area can I improve? What curricular units need some ‘jazzing’ up? What have I wanted to do and haven’t yet? What new tradition do I want to instill in my program or school to showcase student success?
  2. Identify the type of event. Will it be in-class, school-wide, or cross-curricular in nature? Here are some examples I’ve experienced (more can be found on the web and Twitter):
    • In-Class Events: End of unit celebrations with goofy awards created by students (see badminton birdie picture above), Dance performances, “Design Your Own” game/routine, Obstacle courses, Sport-Education based tournaments, Jump Rope for Heart events, Speed Stacking or Jammin’ Minute activity break world record days, and Just Dance-a-thons.
    • Large Group or School-wide Events: Family Fitness Night, All-school fun-runs (can align with holiday celebrations), Field trips, Special schedule tournaments (I’ve seen an all-school bowling tournament blow me away!), and Fuel Up to Play 60 events.
    • Cross-Curricular Events: Working with math and social studies teachers to use student pedometer steps to track progress along the “Oregon Trail.” History facts and math skills are reviewed in PE and students take their step data to math to graph and analyze. Working with the technology teacher to integrate use of fitness apps (students develop reviews and then try out in PE class) and tech students develop a PE website.
  3. Keep it simple and start small. You can’t do it all, all of the time. As teachers, we usually have too many things we want to do. Remember to choose one new thing and build from there.
  4. Develop a support team. Involve parents (superhero volunteers!) and students (the more they are a part of the planning, the more successful the event will be as it increases buy-in). Depending upon the event you will also need one or more colleagues on board. Ask early and stay organized so their time is valued. Remember to return the favor when they need it.
  5. Follow through and just go for it (and more than once!). Every event has areas of improvement. It is crucial to reflect, improve and do the event more than once before throwing it out because “it didn’t work.” Sometimes you just have to go for it and enjoy the moment with students. If they see you having fun, they will have fun too. Before you know it you will have a wonderful tradition at your school such as my program’s annual fall fun run (see picture above).
  6. Document and share your success: Sometimes this critical step is overlooked. Have students send invitations to parents, administrators, school board, the media and local leaders (mayor, etc.). Have a plan as to who will help take pictures and video of the event so you can share it with students as a way to cement the positive memory.  


With these factors in mind you have the perfect formula to get yourself started with integrating more or improving existing culminating events in physical education. Remember, we are in the memory making business, so be sure to create positive memories that will last a lifetime and help support the development of lifelong learners and movers. Contact me or visit my resource blog for more information, handouts, and ideas. Best of luck!


Continue the conversation: What culminating events have become traditions in your teaching and how have they helped your program? What event have you always wanted to do and haven’t yet?


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Do you have a Curriculum? Are you sure?

Posted 1 month ago - by Aaron Beighle

For several years I provided numerous trainings for the Centers for Disease Control Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool. As I conducted these trainings, I became keenly aware of the confusion surrounding “just what is a physical education curriculum?” What I found was that most physical education teachers, at least those attending the trainings, did not have a curriculum. Some had a yearly plan (a week-by-week list of activities, games, and skills), some had it “right up here” (pointing to their head), and some had nothing. Very few, if any, had a true curriculum. For this reason, I think it is important as physical educators to examine our written curriculum to ensure students are receiving a quality program.

From my perspective, a curriculum has three components: background information (frequency of meetings, class size, PE philosophy, etc.), lesson plans, and assessments. Others in the field may disagree, but in general, these are the meat of a curriculum. The following is a brief list of those steps:

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1.Write a philosophy

2.Write a series of statements to define the curriculums (e.g., The curriculum is appropriate for all children; Activities allow students to meet national standards)

3.Document environmental factors (e.g. gym size, number of days per week students have physical education)

4.Develop content standards and student objectives. (Fortunately SHAPE America has done this for us)

5.Choose child-centered activities

6.Organize the activities into a yearly plan, and lesson plans.

7.Evaluate and modify the curriculum

This final phase is especially important. A quality physical education curriculum is a living document. I was told a long time ago that I should teach 20 years, not one year twenty times. Constantly evaluating curricula and lessons helps avoid this.

A quality physical education curriculum, among others, is standards based, physical activity based, inclusive, prepares students for a lifetime of activity, and process-based. In addition, the curriculum must be flexible. It must be malleable to the ever changing environment, either at the school, district, state, or national level. That is, if a standard changes, or the number of minutes you have your students per week (humor me…that could happen right?), you shouldn’t have to change your entire curriculum. Likewise, if you attend a professional development workshop and find a new activity that fits within your physical education philosophy, you should be able to integrate that into your curriculum.

I am fortunate to co-author such a curriculum, Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (there is also Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students by Darst, Pangrazi, Brusseau, and Erwin). This curriculum guide is accompanied by a textbook describing more activities not included in the guide. I am currently working with a Professional Learning Community in Fayette County Schools in Lexington, KY. For the first year, the curriculum was used as written in the Curriculum Guide. That is, the teachers followed the week by week lessons described in the book. During this process they took notes and modifications were made to the curriculum. For example, our curriculum uses a four part lesson. The lesson begins with an introductory activity, next is a fitness activity, afterwards the lesson focus is implemented, and finally, a game or closing activity is taught to wrap up the lesson. Teachers decided they liked some of the introductory activities with some of the fitness activities so they switched them. Also, they decided they liked specific lesson foci at different times of the year so they switched that too. Also, individual teachers learned some new activities at a workshop and they implemented those where appropriate. Every two-to-three months these teachers meet to discuss previous lessons and upcoming lessons are presented in an active professional development. Modeled after work being done in Mesa, AZ, this creates a true Professional Learning Community built around a common language via a common curriculum.


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