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Success-Driven PE: The New-School Approach to PE

Posted 4 days ago - by Chad Triolet

Success-Driven Physical Education is one of my favorite topics to speak on when I have the chance to be in front a group of health and physical education teachers. To be honest, because of the traditional approach to teaching physical education, I think it is a critical concept that needs to be discussed as part of any staff development or teacher preparation program.  I believe it is a great concept to frame one of the biggest challenges we face as health and physical education teachers; old school vs. new school teaching.  I find it interesting that according to statistics, less than 15% of the students at any school are considered to be highly-skilled movers.  Yet, the old school programs cater to that small percentage of students based on the teaching methodology being used and the types of games and activities being selected for students.  There is no argument that health & physical education teachers teach 100% of the students that arrive in their classrooms and gyms.  So, why do we still see archaic programs that punish and demean the weak and honor the highly skilled?

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Fortunately, the new physical education does not subscribe to the elimination happy, exclusionary, winners vs. losers mentality.  Success-driven physical education is all about designing and implementing a student-centered program where ALL students have a chance to develop skills and concepts that will help them be lifelong movers who make healthy choices.  The nice thing is that we now realize that physical development is just like academic development (students learn in different ways and at different paces) and teachers are designing lessons that encourage participation by providing successful outcomes and proving appropriate challenges for everyone.  In the education world, we call this “differentiation”.  Quality health and physical educators have been differentiating lessons for years, but we seldom talk about the many ways we perform the task and hardly every say the actual word “differentiation”. 

Let’s take some practical examples and see how quality HPE teachers can promote a success-driven PE model.  My favorite topic during staff development presentations is push-ups.  Why do we have all of our students do an activity that many cannot complete correctly?  Sure, there are a portion of students who can do great push-ups, the athletes, but can everyone?  The students who cannot do a correct push-up are cheating in any way possible to complete the task without being ostracized by their peers.  What about a more developmental approach that focuses on building the strength and the skill needed to complete a proper push-up.  Kevin Neeld states that the three most notable limitations that he sees on a regular basis are; 1) lack of anti-extension core strength, 2) lack of scapulothoracic control, and/or 3) lack of pressing strength.  I find that information to be particularly interesting.

Let’s put this into different terms…would a teacher have every student bench press 100 pounds?  The answer is an easy no, right?  Then why do we torture students with this technical strength movement without building the strength and skill to complete it correctly?  The purpose of the push-up is to build upper body strength (and core strength too) or demonstrate it.  Could we do other exercises that all students can complete that still fulfill the same objective, like; planking exercises that focus on form, a plank shoulder tap that develops muscle stabilization, core strength, and balance, a crab kick (alternating leg kicks that go above waist level), or a negative push-up that focuses on good form?  What if you gave the students a choice, plank shoulder taps or quality push-ups? The athletes might like the challenge (can everybody say “differentiation”).  What about just getting the students down on their hands and feet and walk around like a bear for 30-seconds?  There are lots of options that will accomplish the same goal as a push-up and provide students a chance to be successful.  Now, I do realize that some teachers may be required to use a 90-degree push-up as a fitness assessment.  I am not saying that we should shy away from push-ups all the time.  My point is there are other more student-centered options to build upper body strength than the traditional push-up.

To keep the momentum going, let’s talk about sport skills.  As a physical education teacher, the goal is to teach students the skills and concepts that they need to be lifelong movers.  I want children to love to move and sweat and have fun.  My program was not about creating the next Peyton Manning, but creating a culture that encouraged and promoted being active.  The problem is perspective, and when you go into some gyms around the country, you will see teachers playing inappropriate sports activities with students who have no skill and knowledge about the game.  One ball and twenty-four students is certainly not a recipe for successful skill-building.  The less skilled players never touch the ball, which means they are not gaining any skill.  It would be like going into a math classroom and having only one piece of paper and a pencil for the whole class.  You only get to practice the math skill when you get a turn with the paper…yikes!  In my humble opinion, large group sports games are seldom appropriate for physical education.  Small-sided games and activities make much more sense from a developmental and success-driven point of view.  Students need chances to practice the basic skills in a variety of ways to develop the skills to play the game.  They also need time to develop the basic strategies and tactics necessary to be successful.  Too often, students are thrown into a large group games like sideline soccer and do not have the skills to participate effectively.  This is physical education malpractice, as far as I am concerned.  Not only is safety an issue but there is NO learning taking place. 

Times have changed and so must our physical education programs.  We must work in creative ways to encourage students to be active and enjoy moving.  Now more than ever, we need to build programs that are student-centered and success-driven to engage all of our students and promote being active and fit for a lifetime. 


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

Check out more Blogs by Chad!

5 Tips for Enhancing PE with Site Visits!

Posted 1 week ago - by Donn Tobin

It was the third session of the conference.   My rear end at this point had become numb from sitting on the hard gymnasium floor.  But the discomfort I was feeling did not break my concentration for the superb presenter, who happened to be a good friend of mine.  He and I had presented together before, so I already knew he could captivate an audience.  He was energetic, extremely positive, clear and precise, and oozed “master teacher”.   It made me wonder how he was with kids.  Although among his peers he was excellent, how would he be with his true population?  Did he teach somewhat the same?  Would these great and innovative activities translate over to a real class?  I was sure that he had to be roughly the same, and only hoped that I could one day get that chance.

Little did I know that the thought would soon be put in motion.  Sitting next to me was my co-worker, another excellent teacher in his own right.  We were both excited by the activity he was presenting, one which involved turning the gym into a living, breathing city with money, jobs, banks, etc.  Kids worked cooperatively, incorporated fitness and other skill-related activities.  It was a knockout.

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My co-worker leaned in close and whispered, “Donn, you know this guy, right?”

My concentration now broken, I tried to brush aside my annoyance long enough to answer him and get back to business.  “Yup, I know him.  He is a former New York State Teacher of the Year”, I quickly replied regaining my focus.

“He is good right?”  My co-worker did not wait for my reply.  “Do you think that this would fit in our gym?”

My brain feverishly broke away from the presentation, scanning my current schedule, class dynamics and other logistics for a response.  “With some tweaking, yes I think it could work for us.  How about we ask him if we could come for a site visit?”  We both looked at each other and instantly knew that was we needed to do. 

For professional teachers, one of the most beneficial things you can do is see what others do in their schools.  You are on their turf, different facilities, kids, equipment.  Just putting yourself in a different environment and seeing how that teacher works with their kids could make you a better teacher. What may work for them may not work for you and vice versa.   We had a reason for visiting him, as we were both very much impressed with the activity he had presented.  However, I also wanted to see him in his school.  We now had the opportunity to witness his nuances with the students, his overall teaching style, things that he posts on the walls of his gym, and other tells of his trade. Although this might not be exactly how he is on a day-to-day basis, I got a very good impression within a short period of time.

This made me think going for a site visit was not only good for our program, but good for ourselves professionally…and it was.  We were able to get some valuable information to bring back to our school, and implement in our curriculum. 

Thinking back, there are a few key items that made this visit a success:

  1. First, you need to ask the person you want to visit.  

    • This seems automatic, right?  Well it’s not.  Most professionals would be very willing to share what they are doing with others, especially one who presents materials for hundreds of educators.  But, for you to actually go to their school and see them with children?  That might be a different story.  This opens them up to seeing both the good and bad, not just the dynamic stuff.  What happens if they have a difficult population?  Their facilities are falling apart?  Administrators who are not physical education-friendly?  These are all signs that might become apparent the minute you step on school grounds.  So, it is not a guarantee this would happen.  My friend had absolutely no problem allowing us to come, and yes, he was as awesome with his kids as he was with adults!
  2. Know what you want to get out of the visit and what you are going to watch. Don’t just go to see another person teach. 
    • Go if they are not only amazing, but run an outstanding program.  I knew of a person who arranged for a site visit, but happened to come during a unit where the material was extremely similar to what they do.  Probably should have discussed their goals a little better with that person, huh?  Sometimes scheduling may not work in your favor, so do your homework.  Are there any staff development days without students?  What about half days for parent-teacher conferences?  Is there a program that runs a certain time of year? 
  3. Obtain approval from your Administrator.
    • Be clear, concise, thorough, and RATIONALIZE.  We sold both our Athletic Director and Principal on our site visit because of how we presented it to them.  We informed them about the program we were going to see, the teacher’s credentials/background, how it would relate to our children/program/school, and why it would be a detriment for us to not go.  We sold them on the idea that this program massively incorporates the common core, and is very appropriate for our kids. 
  4. Take lots of notes, or even videos if they allow it, and ask questions.
    • You only get one shot at this, make it count.  While my co-worker took picture after picture, I wrote copious amounts of notes and diagrams.  I asked questions to the kids participating, the teaching assistants, as well as my friend teaching the activity.  We wanted to make sure that we knew this program inside and out.  And no matter how well we re-created it in our gym, we wanted to be armed with as much information as possible.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for another one
    • Anything that will make your program better you should do.  I try to get a site visit at least once a year, or every other year if possible, but I don’t push my luck either.  I do not want my dministrator getting the idea I just want a day without kids.  I want my visits to count, and have significant meaning for our program.  


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

Check out more Blogs by Donn!

CSPAP: PETEs to the Rescue!

Posted 1 week ago - by Aaron Beighle

Some time ago, I wrote about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP). Previous to that blog and since then, the ground swell of support from national, state, and local organizations has continued. In fact, it seems that interest continues to grow at a faster rate than previously. Research is being conducted, stakeholders are being trained to implement CSPAPs, and most importantly, youth continue to be impacted by these efforts. Without a doubt, CSPAP is here and having an impact. But as I discuss often when I speak, is it here for the long haul….or is it just another “fly by night”, “here today gone tomorrow” (and all the other clichés) fad, destined for extinction?

To get the CSPAP movement going, I think all the right steps have been taken. Information about  CSPAP is everywhere. That was the first step. Next, stakeholders (physical educators, parents, educators, concerned citizens) are taking on the role of physical activity promoter, Champion, Physical Activity Leader (and any other name out there) in schools. Funding is being provided for trainings and often support groups are being generated from these trainings. This is all incredible. The CDC has generated a CSPAP Guide and trainings around it. It’s happening! Get excited!

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But is it sustainable? I am not one to be a wet blanket on the campfire, but we really need to look at this. Providing one-day trainings for in-service teachers year after year is not an answer….at least not for cost-effective, systemic change. Then how do we do it?

Please keep in mind, the remainder of this blog is written by a physical education teacher educator (PETE) who may be biased and might not reflect the perspective of all PETEs.

If CSPAP is going to continue to prosper, PETE programs must take on the role of preparing future physical educators to promote physical activity in the schools. The days of accepting a physical educator who only teachers soccer skills and the Virginia Reel are over. While those are important concepts to teach in a quality physical education program, the physical educator must take on a bigger role. One that involves politicking, managing events, advocating for youth, speaking to parents and other stakeholders about the benefits of physical activity, and the list goes on. But, where do they learn that? In teacher preparation programs, of course.

For PETE programs, this is going to mean choices have to be made. Do we integrate CSPAP concepts into existing courses? If we do that we have to decide what content to cut from the course. Do we add a CSPAP course? If we do that we have to decide what course to cut. At least from my experience, most PETE curricula are jammed packed with limited, if any, electives. Thus, adding a course means cutting a course. What type of experiences should students engage in during PETE courses? A while back some colleagues and I wrote an article about this very topic (Beighle, et al, 2009). Our philosophy was to integrate CSPAP learning experiences into existing courses. While not a universal approach, we have used it at my institute and found it to be effective. We are also exploring the types of experiences student teachers receive and work diligently to place them with cooperating teachers who promote physical activity in the school. One could argue that student teaching is the best place to see CSPAP implementation.

The potential for CSPAPs to impact the lives of children is tremendous. To maintain these efforts, a sustainable system for preparing physical educators to take on this role is needed. Fortunately, PETE is that system. My challenge is for PETE programs to step to the future and proactively prepare physical educators to make a positive difference in the lives of youth.


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

Check out more Blogs by Aaron!

HOW TO: Promote Literacy through PE!

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Scott McDowell

It does not take a huge leap to become a champion of literacy skills in your school.  As a physical education teacher, you have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with many students each day.  The position gives you the opportunity to promote fitness, healthy lifestyle choices, teamwork, and much more.  You are a role model and your reach can go even further when you integrate reading into your instruction.


One way to promote literacy skills in P.E. is to include a story into your game or activity.  One example is an activity I created with the use of a very fun book, The Great Fuzz Frenzy, by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens.  The book is a personal favorite and takes place in the world of prairie dogs that become intrigued over a tennis ball that is dropped into their underground home.  The fuzz of the ball sets off a fuzz-frenzy among the prairie dogs and eventually leads them into a dangerous situation with a hungry eagle. 

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Prior to playing the game I take time to read the book to the class.  If your class time is short and reading the book at the beginning of your lesson does not leave you with adequate time to play the game, try pushing into the classroom.  Going into the classroom to read the book a few days prior to playing the game will provide you with more time for movement, allow students to see you in a different light, and will help you forge relationships with other teachers.  Another idea is to host a 20-30 minute reading assembly for multiple grades or classes and make this book a highlight of the experience.


Once students know the story you are ready to introduce and play the game.  It is a great activity for outside or any large space indoors.  As always, make accommodations to the rules and set up based on your safety needs, equipment, class size, and space. 


Be creative, modify the rules, and adapt as needed.  Make up a name you feel will grab the attention of the students.  Our game was played with students in grades K-4 and was simply called, “Fuzz Frenzy!”


Equipment Needed:  Cones, lots of tennis balls (50+ and more is better), flags, 4-5 hula hoops


Activity Description:  There are two “characters” in the game: the prairie dogs that are trying to get the tennis balls, and the eagles circling overhead.  Create a large, safe place to run that has clearly marked boundaries on the sides and ends.  Try a rectangular space that is roughly 30 x 60 yards, scale it to your grade level.  Spread out a variety of equipment of various sizes as places where prairie dogs may stop to hide and be safe as they cross.  Create groups of 3-4 students.  Each prairie dog will wear a flag belt.


Line groups of students up behind a hula hoop.  Choose one team to come to the middle of the playing area to be the eagles for the first game.  On your signal to begin the game, a prairie dog may leave their hoop and try to make it across the field to the tennis balls.  If they make it across they are safe behind the cones (in the end zone).  They must run back across the field and put the tennis ball in their hoop (the prairie dog hole) without being caught by an eagle.  When a gopher returns to the hole with a tennis ball the team should yell “We’ve got FUZZ!!”  The next prairie dog tries to go across.  If a gopher has their flag(s) pulled while going across the playing area they must go back to their group and a new prairie dog attempts to cross the field.  If the student has their flag(s) pulled and has a tennis ball, they hand it to the eagle who then places it back in the end zone.  The student then returns to their group and a new team member attempts to steal some fuzz.


After 3-5 minutes or when the tennis balls are gone, rotate a new group to be the eagles in the middle of the field.


In the game, prairie dogs may touch an object as they go across the field and be safe for a 5 count at the object (1-fuzz, 2-fuzz, 3-fuzz…)  They must continue touching the object in the field to be safe.  The gophers may move from object to object to make it across the field without having flags pulled. 


Eagles must stay in the main playing area and may not go in the end zone past the cones where the tennis balls are scattered or in bins.  Prairie dogs that make it past the eagles and into the end zone are safe until they decide to cross back into the playing area and try to make it back successfully to their group.


Some easy modifications may include allowing multiple prairie dogs cross the field at once, limiting the number of objects they can touch on their way across, and changing the locomotor movement.


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

Check out more Blogs by Scott!

Keeping Students in Motion- Obstacle Courses

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Suzanne Hunter Serafin

One challenge that all physical educators face, regardless of demographics or environment, is keeping students in motion.
We live in a snapshot world where doing anything for more than one minute is tedious.
To ease some of that tedium, I use Obstacle Courses, and they are one of my favorites!

Here is a brief video of an Obstacle Course I recently used with my students! Don't forget to check out my tips and equipment ideas below.

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The initial response I hear from teachers regarding obstacle courses is that they require too much set up time and equipment.  I admit, when I first started using obstacle courses regularly I over-thought it and ran into these issues, but over the years I have created a good system (as we do with everything), and I see the positive effects they have on my students.


The most important thing I focus on each time I put an obstacle course together is making it equally meaningful for skill-building and good physical conditioning.  I always include skills that we have previously learned, as well as skills we are currently working on.  Obstacle courses can be a great tool for skill review. I try to include obstacles that everyone can be successful at, and skills that students will find challenging.


I have learned that the course can be straight, square or circular.  It can go one direction or both directions. Students can start at both ends tagging each other as they finish, go down and back or go one way with a separate path back.  Challenges can include racing each other or having students time each other.


The equipment does not have to be daunting.  There are a few key pieces, but beyond that, most of the equipment is probably already in your possession.

Key Pieces of Equipment-


Some Options: (there are too many to list)

I enjoy creating the courses as much as the students enjoy participating in them. I hope you enjoy the video and that it helps you create your own obstacle courses.


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

Check out more Blogs by Suzanne!

Our profession’s challenge to find balance between content rich activities and keeping students active has produced great strategies for blending content throughout student learning to provide more effective physical education.

The goal of this blog is to share how the USDA’s Choose MyPlate website can enhance classic game activities with valuable nutrition resources using the ‘10 tips’ Series.

My Plate, Nutrition in PE, Nutrition Lessons

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Classic games such as tag, pin knockdown and bowling became revitalized when I began integrating the MyPlate content. Once pin knockdown was enhanced using colored pins to represent food groups and tag games could represent the balance between “energy in” (food consumed) and “energy out” (exercise) students became more engaged and this provided valuable talking points at the end of lessons that extended the bond across the psychomotor, cognitive and affective domains. It was the priceless trifecta I was looking for and has challenged me to continue to enhance other areas of my instruction.


Before I move into specific examples, here are 3 tips to help you get started with blending content into activities if you haven’t already done so:

1) Balance: Finding the balance between how much talking and moving is the first barrier to overcome. Realize effective physical education requires students to talk and interact with one another to help process learning. Challenge yourself to plan for these teachable moments and begin to find a balance that works for you and your students.

2) Purposeful Progressions: Analyze your curriculum and identify activity or skill progressions that may lend themselves well to integrating content progressions such as nutrition.

3) Start Small & Keep It Simple: Once you decide when, how and what to do...you just gotta GO FOR IT! Try it, and then try it again and again. It gets easier and better each time.


FREE Resource: One valuable (and FREE) resource that will enhance your current curriculum and/or offer a starting point if you have no formal curriculum is: Choose My Plate. Here I use the 10 Tips series and the .pdf handout of the MyPlate as a student game board.


The MyPlate 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series offers one-page, reader friendly handouts with ‘10 tips’ on nutrition based topics. From “Add More Vegetables to Your Day”, to “Snack Tips”, to “Build a Healthy Meal”, to “Be an Active Family” there are over 30 choices. An educator could easily have a theme for each week of the year and have great nutrition talking points that can be integrated throughout the week’s activities and sent home with students or put in newsletters to communicate with families and promote health literacy. The information can be adapted for use in most any activity in my class.


Here are three examples of how I have integrated the ‘10 tips’ handouts into activity. To prepare for these, take a 10-tips handout and cut each tip out to make “tickets” then place them in team envelopes or mix them together depending upon the activity (See ticket sample and detailed game ideas on my website). I have put the food group tips into a word document and will share them to help get your started.

Activity #1: “My Plate in Motion” Bowling. After students knock down certain colored pins, or combination of pins, or for a strike/spare (whichever situation) they collect a tip from their team envelope or the food bank bucket (where a mix of tickets is located).  You can use the food group themed tips to have students build plates or collect all 10 tips from the envelope provided. You can do this style of activity with any skill development activity such as shooting in basketball or hockey.

Activity #2: “My Plate in Motion” Fitness. Set up fitness stations. After students complete a station they can earn a tip ticket for their team and take it back to their “home” location (hulahoop) and then go back out to exercise and earn more tips. Use the same strategy to build a plate or collect all 10 of one theme.

Activity #3: “My Plate in Motion” Relays & Tag. Take any standard relay or tag game and integrate the ‘10 tips’ tickets where students work together to collect all 10 tickets on a certain topic or theme.


Ultimately, I want to encourage our profession to keep students moving, having fun, and learning purposeful content. Use the Choose MyPlate resource as a springboard to promote nutrition and health literacy in a simple and fun manner as you continue or begin the journey of integrating content into your effective physical education program. If you are looking for some great ready-to-go activities, don't forget to check out these fun and easy-to-use Nutrition-Themed Games from Gopher!


Continue the conversation: What resources or tips have you used to help blend purposeful content into your activity and instruction? 


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

Check our more Blogs by Jess!

7 Essential Tips for Effective Classroom Management!

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Terri Pitts

With increasing class sizes in the gym, maintaining order can become difficult if you do not have the proper guidelines in place.

Check out my 7 strategies for maintaining order through effective classroom management below.


While it is different from that of an ordinary classroom, classroom management in physical education relies on many of the same principles: setting reasonable expectations, sticking to them consistently, modifying the rules for students who require help and maintaining vigilance.



  1. Create routines for entering the gym or outside play area, getting out equipment, beginning games, putting equipment away and exiting class. Once students know what to expect, they will be able to channel their excitement and energy into meaningful action.
  2. Learn your students’ names. This is the singular most important tactic in ensuring an efficient classroom. Teachers who take the time to learn the names of all students can provide timely feedback (positive or corrective) as needed from across the gym and often stop off-task behavior before it involves other students
  3. Back to Wall. When teaching, circulate around the gym with your back to the wall. This allows you to always face the students and stop off-task behavior as it is getting started. Turning your back on students might encourage students to engage in off-task behaviors.
  4. Proximity Control. Teachers who are successful with class management are constantly moving. If, as a result of scanning the classroom, the teacher sees behavior that is detrimental to the learning environment, the teacher can move within close proximity to the perpetrator(s) and undesirable behavior will often cease.
  5. It is said that good teachers have eyes in the back of their heads. The ability of teachers to know what is going on even if they are not watching a student or group of students is a skill that comes from knowing the students you teach. You need to be scanning the learning environment and processing what is happening in the gym. With practice you will be able to watch one student while talking with another.
  6. Verbal Positive Reinforcement. “I like the way Susie and Mark walked to put away their equipment. Susie and Mark, please put the equipment away again so we can all watch.” Positively pinpointing students reinforces the students who are on task and encourages students who are off task to do what is asked.
  7. Consequences for Behavior. Having consequences clearly posted next to the gym rules and consistently enforcing them, is a strong step for encouraging students to take responsibility for their own actions. If you do this……then this will happen!

There are so many P.E. teachers (elementary and secondary) that have effective behavior management strategies already in place. For those of you who have a successful strategy- please share below! 

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

Check out additional Blogs by Terri!

Music: Increasing Student MVPA and Steps!

Posted 1 month ago - by Maria Corte

Increase your students' steps and MVPA during class with this tip!

Fit Step Pro, Fit Step Pedometer, Fit Step, Gopher Fit Step, Pedometer

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A HUGE strategy that I use to motivate my high school students is to play loud, fun and powerful music while they move.  My student teacher and I recently did a study to test the impact music has on student motivation and movement.  We used our GOPHER FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers with our students to compare how many steps and how much MVPA time they got with and without using music while participating in the same exact fitness lesson.  As you could imagine, the day we used music the students increased their steps and MVPA time significantly!   Their steps increased by 16% and their MVPA time was increased by 12%

The key, however, is to pick music that is popular with the students, clean from inappropriate lyrics and meanings, has a fast BPM (beat per minute), and has a powerful feel. 

These are my three favorite websites that I use to download the perfect music:

  1. Instructor Music
  2. Power Music
  3. iTunes store/Genre/Fitness & Workout

Check out this great article on 7 Reasons You Should Listen to Music When You Work Out!


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

Check out more blogs by Maria!



Let's Dance!

Posted 1 month ago - by Chad Triolet

Looking for some ideas to spruce up your Dance Unit?
Let's dance!

Dance Ideas, Dance Activities, Dance Lesson Plans, Dance Unit


When I was in college, I took many classes to prepare me to be a physical education teacher.  As part of the coursework, I took one dance class (ballroom/folk dance).  Even though I had a lot of fun in the class, I did not learn much about “how” to teach dance.   When I first started teaching, dance was certainly not one of my strengths.  It is important to note that I loved to dance (always have) but I had no idea how to help my students develop an enjoyment for moving to music.   I knew that dance needed to be part of the curriculum because, in Virginia, there is a rhythms/dance standard for every grade level.  So, what did I do?  I taught a one day dance unit that focused on copying rhythms and patterns using lummi sticks.  I did this for several years always knowing that I needed to focus on dance more.

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Things changed for me one summer when I was able to attend the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute.  I decided to focus on my glaring weakness as a physical education teacher and attend a few dance sessions.  During the sessions, the presenters were demonstrating real-world approaches and lessons that I could incorporate into my teaching.  After taking part in the conference and getting some fabulous new ideas, I decided that I was going to revamp my dance unit (which obviously needed lots of work!).  I continued using the lummi stick lesson and refining the vocabulary terms that I would teach the students.  Then I added several new components, changing levels and speeds based on different types of music, creating simple four-component dances, teaching basic square dance patterns, utilizing technology (Dance-Dance-Revolution).  Things were really starting to come together and my dance began to span over a 3-week period (6 lessons).  As I continued to gain confidence, I realized that I was really enjoying the unit and I wanted to continue to add to what I was sharing with my students.  We started adding basic line dances to the mix (Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, etc).  We received a grant for GeoMotion Equipment.  Things were really starting to “hop” at my school.  Then things got even better…

In 2010 while at the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute, I attended a session title, “Rock This Party – Everyone Dance”.  The session was led by two gentlemen, JD Hughes and Chip Candy, and it was awesome!  It was over an hour long and full of amazing creative dances to a wide range of music.  I was hooked!  When I got back to school at the end of the summer, I met with my teaching partner and discussed different ways we could add more dance to our program.  She was on-board and we began teaching one dance a month to our students.  To start, we used some of the dances that I learned from the conference.  Later, we began picking popular music and creating our own dances.  In addition to teaching the dances, we also videotaped ourselves teaching the dance and then performing them.  We shared the videos with our classroom teachers and they began using them as Brain Breaks for their students.  The most amazing part of expanding our dance instruction was the change of the culture at the school.  The change did not occur over night but one year after sharing our monthly dances, it was clear that out students were more comfortable with their movements and really started to exhibit more confidence.  Our students started asking; “What’s the next dance?” “Can we dance to that song by ____?” and “Can we do another dance for warm-up today?”  It was AWESOME! 

If dance is an area that is a challenge for you, don’t give up and let it continue to be a “hole” in your program.  There are many great resources out there (including dance sessions at almost every PE conference in the country).  You don’t have to know everything, just demonstrate a passion for something new and sell it to your students.  I guarantee your students and your program will benefit from the new addition.

All of the dances we taught are posted on YouTube.  

Check out these great Dance Resources from Gopher!


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Check out more blogs by Chad!

5 Easy and Equipment-Free Time Fillers!

Posted 1 month ago - by Shannon Jarvis

Lesson end earlier than planned? Teacher running late to pick up their class?
Class need re-energizing?

Check out these 5 easy time fillers that you can use anytime, anywhere without any equipment! 

PE Time Fillers, PE Time Filler, Timefiller

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Every great educator needs a few activities in their back pocket to pull out when needed. Something they can go to without any equipment, something quick, something easy, something to fill time.Time filler activities are great for when a lesson ends earlier then expected, or if a teacher is running late to pick up their class from gym. They’re also great to re-energize the group, transition to the next activity, or use them to warm up or close down a class. 

Here are some of my favorite back pocket activities...

What are you doing?:

Have students form a circle. Choose one student to start out in the middle of the circle and act out something, let’s say riding a bicycle. Another student calls out their name and says “What are you doing?” The person in the middle replies back, “I am not riding a bicycle, I am …..” Then that student goes to the middle and acts out whatever the person before them said.   


Count to Ten:

Have the group form a circle. Choose one person to start by saying one or two numbers consecutively counting to ten. For example: the first person can say “1” or “1, 2” …the next person counts in order choosing to say one number or two numbers. Whomever says “10” is out and has to sit down.



First choose a target number- Let’s say 4. The first student starts counting at one and the next student follows in order. When a student reaches a multiple of 4 or a number with 4 in it, he or she must say “buzz” or they are out. Keep the game rolling at a fast pace. To make the game more advanced, you can also require students to say “buzz” if the digits add up to the target number. For example Thirty-one (3+1=4) would be a “buzz.”


Circle Relay:

Have students stand in a circle. Choose one student to be the runner first, they run around the outside of the circle until they get back to their starting point and then the next person takes a turn and so forth.



Students perform an action move to word commands that are called out. You can see this activity in action on PE Universe!


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Fundamental Tips for Teaching Throwing and Catching!

Posted 1 month ago - by Robert Pangrazi

Teaching throwing and catching to your students soon?

You don't want to miss these pointers from Dr. Bob Pangrazi!


Catching and throwing are complex motor patterns. Most complex skills should be practiced at normal speed. Whereas some locomotor skills can be slowed down to promote learning, doing so with complex skills such as throwing, striking, or kicking destroys the rhythm and force generation required to throw maturely. Consider the following teaching points when practicing throwing:


One of the least effective ways to practice throwing or catching is to have students find a partner. Undoubtedly, one partner can throw harder than the other and catching is difficult. Neither partner will be allowed to throw with maximum force because accuracy and catching the throws will be difficult.

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  1. Provide a variety of objects to throw, so students learn how varying weight and diameter affects throwing distance and speed.
  2. When children are learning to throw, stress distance and velocity, not accuracy. Throwing for accuracy hampers development of a mature throwing form. Tell students to “throw as hard and far as possible.”
  3. Avoid practicing throwing and catching at the same time. Many children’s throws will be inaccurate and hard for a partner to catch. Have them practice throwing against a wall (velocity) or on a large field (distance).
  4. Use floor markers like carpet squares or circles drawn on the floor to teach children proper foot movement (stepping forward and off the square or out of the circle).
  5. Beanbags and yarn balls are excellent for developing throwing velocity because they do not roll and travel as far as other objects



Catching uses the hands to stop and control a moving object. Catching is harder to learn than throwing, because children must track the object while moving into its path. Children usually develop mature throwing patterns before they display mature catching patterns. Catching is also hard to master due to the fear of being hurt by the oncoming object. When teaching the early stages of catching, use balloons, fleece balls, and beach balls, and foam balls—because they move slowly, make tracking easier, and do not hurt if they hit a child in the face.

  1. It is natural to dodge an object that may cause harm. Remove the fear factor by using projectiles that will not hurt children, such as foam balls, yarn balls, beach balls, and balloons.
  2. Use smaller projectiles as students improve their catching skills. Larger objects move more slowly and are easier to track visually.
  3. Prepare students for a catch by asking them to focus on the ball while it is in the thrower’s hand. Use verbal cues such as “Look (focus), ready (for the throw), catch (toss the ball).”
  4. Balls and background colors should strongly contrast to increase visual perception.
  5. Throwing the projectile at a greater height offers the child more opportunity to track it successfully. Beach balls move slowly throughout a high trajectory, giving children time to focus and move into the path of the oncoming object.
  6. Bounce objects off the floor so children learn to judge the rebound angle of a projectile.


Need "soft" activity balls for your Throwing & Catching Unit? Check out these great options from Gopher!


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

Read more blogs by Dr. Bob Pangrazi.

Tips for Incorporating Self-Defense in PE!

Posted 1 month ago - by Suzanne Hunter Serafin

The term “self defense” conjures many different pictures in a physical education teachers mind. 
We often start by thinking of combat skills and martial arts, which is a scary thought for a teacher with 50 middle or high school students, especially if the teacher has limited knowledge of the skills.
However, I believe that avoiding the subject entirely is a mistake.


Self-defense can be as simple as a one day lesson educating students about potential dangers and awareness skills, or as extensive as a week-long unit including physical skills and protective life skills. Either way, I believe a self-defense unit, of some manner, should be included in physical education and/or health classes everywhere. 

Here are two examples of how the subject matter meets National Physical Education and Health Standards:

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Standard 5:  "Demonstrates responsible personal and social behavior in physical activity settings"
Health Education Expectation 3: "Students will practice behviors that reduce the risk of becoming involved in potentially dangerous situations and react to potentially dangerous situations in ways that help to protect their health" 

My colleague and I have put together what we feel is an effective self-defense program for 8th grade students. We started by attending a Play it Safe teacher workshop. Play it Safe is a program designed for children and young adults. The program focuses on behaviors and practical physical skills necessary for self -defense and confidence building such as:

  • How to recognize and avoid bullies
  • The different types of bullying behaviors
  • How to counter teasing and meanness
  • Setting boundaries & projecting confidence
  • Stranger awareness, “Good vs Bad”
  • Trusting instincts
  • Inappropriate behavior and common child lures
  • The importance of reacting quickly and using your voice to attract attention
  • Escaping a bad situation
  • Age appropriate and practical physical skills for Self-Defense

It has been our experience that the ideal situation for teaching self-defense, to students age 12 and up, is to separate the boys and the girls. There are too many gender specific topics that you can’t effectively talk about to a mixed audience of this age.  During our self-defense unit we looked at our schedules and manipulated them  so that we had 4 days of gender specific groups.  Second, we decided what to focus on for the time we had allotted.  Some topics are appropriate for both groups, while some are not.  The information chosen for the girls was more extensive than the boys, which makes sense due to the significantly higher percentage of crimes against women. Finally, we determined what physical skills we were comfortable teaching. Those skills included: 1) How to get out of hand holds, body holds, and choke holds and 2) How to hit and kick vulnerable areas of an attacker

We placed our high jump mats on their sides against a wall to use as hitting and kicking targets, and used floor mats for release skills.  We divided our time between the workout room and the classroom giving both gender groups equal time in each modality. We provided a packet for students to take notes  and  to share with family or friends.  All in all, the unit required very little equipment and planning once we put together the basics.

The Play It Safe curriculum is easy to disseminate for your specific needs and grade levels. I highly recommend this curriculum and encourage all physical education teachers to think about including elements of self defense into their annual  teaching plan.


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

Read more blogs by Suzanne!

5 Ways Small Sided Games Make a BIG Impact

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

The use of “Small Sided Games” (SSGs) has given my program the biggest bang for my buck in terms of maximizing participation, inclusion, skill development, and assessment opportunities while keeping the learning environment enjoyable.   



Small Sided Games re-create the physical or tactical demands found in game-play but in a smaller setting while still allowing for improvement to fitness levels. Using SSGs has challenged me to re-think the “traditional”. I remember as a first year teacher I’d take 35 students out to one field for the softball unit and try to go through drills and then more drills for skill development and only go into full game play at the end of the unit. Most everyone was unable to hit more than once in one period (especially with my larger classes) nor had they had enough opportunities to practice hitting because I had not maximized the learning environment through SSGs earlier in the unit. As a former collegiate softball player and the current high school coach my favorite sport was my least favorite unit. It was terrible...until I learned about SSGs.

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Times have changed in our profession and thankfully, so have I. You should no longer see a team of 10 students playing another for two straight weeks of softball (or anything for that matter), especially at the elementary or middle level. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for overall true game play (like they’d experience in adult recreational leagues) but this should often be saved for late middle school or high school after a successful progression of other lessons and skill development through SSGs.

Here are my “Top 5” ways Small Sided Games can make a BIG impact in your program.

  1. Concept Knowledge: A purposeful progression of SSGs allows students to better learn concepts and tactical strategies. Example: A 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4 game of mini-handball in a smaller space with adapted situations (single focuses on “finding an open space” or types of passes) enhances content knowledge more quickly.
  2. Inclusion: SSGs allow for more successful inclusion of students of all ability levels. The layout of smaller teams and settings along with modified equipment is more manageable and flexible so that the needs of students can be met and all feel included.
  3. Success Rate & Maximum Participation: The smaller the teams the more opportunity each player has for participation, which maximizes skill development and a student’s success rate (not to mention enjoyment). When students feel more competent and successful their overall participation also increases.
  4. Assessment Use: The SSG environment allows for more authentic assessment situations because teachers are able to view all students in action in a specific situation with a select focus. Teachers can quickly identify needs and strengths of individuals and/or the class and make adjustments in instruction.
  5. Teacher Feedback: Lastly, because participation is maximized with a specific focus in a smaller setting the teacher is able to give specific feedback more often. The teacher-student relationship is strengthened because students feel a sense of value when teachers are able to show and speak interest to their progress as well as provide feedback during their learning.


Continue the Conversation: What is one of your favorite ways to incorporate Small Sided Games into your program? What is a favorite SSG you use? You can leave a comment below. Thanks for sharing!


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Read more blogs by Jessica!

In my nearly twenty year career, I have found that most people I have worked with thrive in structure. For students (both P-12 and university), structure provides familiarity and comfort, two essentials for learning. Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way. I remember teaching a Kindergarten class that exemplifies this well. Early in the school year we established that upon entering the gym they were to move around the teaching area using a locomotor movement I gave them. Their little minds and feet worked diligently to make this a routine. On this particular day we were not going to follow that routine because we had a guest performance with some equipment set up. Being a young, naïve teacher I simply met the class and said, “Today we are going to walk in and sit down on the circle.” Well, this class did what they were taught to do, they jogged in the teaching area, and then they ran….and ran….and ran. Despite establishing “Freeze”, when placed in this environment that was new, only half froze as they had done for months. Needless to say I was frustrated, embarrassed, and sweaty. That taught me that kids like structure, need structure, and if anything goes outside the realm of the established structure, great care must be taken to avoid chaos.

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            Besides consistent management, another strategy to provide student structure is a lesson plan template. This template provides structure, sequence, and continuity to a lesson. The structure I use is a four part lesson starting with an introductory activity, followed by a fitness activity, a lesson focus, and then a game/closing activity.

Introductory activity: Sometimes called an instant activity, this activity is used immediately upon entering the gymnasium. No sitting in squad lines for me. This activity prepares students for the lesson by getting them moving and establishing management protocol. There is limited instruction during this portion of the lesson which typically takes 3-5 minutes of a 30 minute lesson.

Fitness activity: This portion of the lesson is designed to expose students to a variety of fitness activities and teach them fitness principles. This component nor any component of my physical education lessons, is not designed to improve fitness levels in youth. Typically the activities are interval in nature with students alternating between cardiovascular activities and muscular strength, endurance or flexibility activities every 30-45 seconds. Examples include obstacle courses, jump rope, circuits, and teacher lead routines. Fitness activities typically last 7-8 minutes in a 30 minute lesson.

Lesson focus:  The focus of the lesson lasts 15-20 minutes and includes skill instruction. The emphasis here is repetition and refinement of skills to provide successful opportunities for students. Care is taken to ensure students understand the process of performing the skills so they can comfortably engage in physical activity throughout the lifespan.

Closing activity: This is a great way to end a lesson. Often the closing activity is a game that ties to the lesson focus, but not always. Students have the opportunity to apply skills learned during the lesson or previous lessons during this component. I always end my lessons with a game and avoid using the game as a bribe. I want the lesson to end with something fun for all students.

            In addition to providing structure, this template allows me to address multiple standards every lesson. For example, I have found addressing fitness during a one-time-per-year fitness unit does not allow the content to “stick” with students, thus I integrate fitness content in every lesson. I encourage you to use this concept or create your own lesson plan template and use it every lesson to provide structure and ultimately student success. Thrive!

The four part lesson described here is based on the template described in Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (17e). Pangrazi and Beighle.


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Hop Vs. Jump: Is It Really THAT Simple?

Posted 1 month ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton

Explaining the difference between a "Hop" and "Jump"-- Is it really that simple? 

Jumping, Hopping, Hop versus Jump

Establishing proper locomotive coordination through repeated athletic movement is a challenging, but rewarding activity for all student athletes, at all athletic capabilities. The ability to actively execute a walk, run, hop and jump are learned and inherent physical actions. The challenge in teaching proper locomotive execution is not necessarily the student-athlete physical limitations, but the nomenclature or language you convey in your instruction. For instance, off the top of your head, without searching for the literal definition, explain the difference between something as simple as a ‘Hop’ vs. a ‘Jump’.

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Not as simple as it may have initially seemed, right? It’s not as intrinsic as say the difference between ‘Spirit’ and ‘Soul’, but when defining and instructing student-athletes, one must be concise in the required physical action in order for the activity to be properly and safely performed.

I’ve consulted several colleagues and athletes regarding their interpretation or even perhaps, their definition of ‘Hop’ vs ‘Jump’ and was rather surprised to hear the multitudes of variances while cross comparing their examples.

Some suggested that a hop is performed exclusively while the athlete uses leverage in their foot to distribute force against the ground, while using a locked knee and erect hip position only. Some said, that a hop is less “active” then a jump, requiring less physical thrust in the hips and thusly resulting in a less dynamic activity (less energy expenditure and results in less vertically/height from the ground).

A jump on the other hand, was nearly unanimously considered a more “dynamic” athletic effort, requiring more energy expenditure as well as the incorporation of hip load and upper body effort.Their definitions included words and phrases like: powerful, full-body activity, higher vertical leap, requiring the use of both left and right legs, etc.

Often times this is the case, when asked to describe an inherently simple athletic movement; definitions and instruction come with confusing and complicated descriptions.


My objective in this blog is to describe how to properly instruct, in a concise manner, the proper execution of ‘Hop’ vs ‘Jump’.

As the old adage says, “You must walk before you run”. That sentiment holds true too, with regards to learning the ‘Hop’ before learning the ‘Jump’ as the former requires less coordination and instruction.

To Hop: Performed by simply plantar flexing the ankle (toes down), thusly the Soleus and Calve muscles are activated resulting in student-athlete leaving the ground. This action is performed with the use of a vertical hip orientation in a locked knee position. On the return (descent to the ground), the student-athlete must absorb the ground contact with proper absorption by bending the knees slightly with posterior hip flexion and slight forward torso lean. This can be performed from a single leg and a double leg action.

In brief, the ‘Hop’ is performed with a straighten knee, vertical hip and torso, flexion of the ankle and lower leg. It can be performed with a single or double leg action.

The Jump: is performed by simultaneously flexing the knee, with a posterior hip flexion while driving the arms behind the center of gravity (behind the body). The student-athlete then begins the ‘Jump’ action by driving the arms passed the hip, creating outward and vertical momentum. The hip then transitions from a flexed position to a vertical orientation causing the knees to become straightened resulting in vertical thrust. Similar to the ‘Hop’, the ‘Jump’ uses the ankle and lower leg flexion to further the vertical exertion. Upon, ground contact (descent), the student-athlete must absorb the impact by dorsi-flexing the ankle with posterior hip flexion and slight forward torso lean. The ‘Jump’ is inherently more dynamic and requires more athletic coordination.  

In brief, the ‘Jump’ is performed with a slightly bent knee, posterior flex hip, double arm drive and plantar flexion of the ankle. It can be performed with a single or double leg action.


I'm saying all this to explain that you can't just tell your students that a hop differs from a jump because you use only one leg for a hop and both legs for a jump. This is where the confusion comes in to play because it's actually all about how you load the leg and nothing about how many legs are used. These fundamental athletic activities are terrific modalities to develop balance, dynamic coordination and to develop joint, tendon and muscular stability and strength. 


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In my most recent blog, I wrote about the impact physical literacy is having on physical education teachers and how to develop physical literacy, a major outcome of physical education programs. Mastering physical literacy is a gateway to active participation for life, states Dr. Dean Kriellar, the creator of the Canadian Sport for Life, Physical Literacy Assessment for Youth (PLAY) tools. Dr. Kriellar says, “if we don’t measure it - it isn’t important. This will place physical literacy on an equal footing with literacy and numeracy.”

Today’s physical education classes are all about:

  • creating equitable inclusive learning spaces that help develop healthy active individuals who will thrive in an ever-changing world
  • helping students acquire physical literacy and health literacy skills, in order to make good decisions about their own health with respect to physical activity, healthy eating, relationships, substances, addictive-related behaviours and their own personal safety
  • helping students develop living skills that include; personal skills (self awareness and self monitoring), interpersonal skills (communication skills, social skills) and critical creative thinking skills (planning, processing, drawing conclusions, reflecting)

So how is physical literacy measured? This sounds like a job for a super hero or a group of super heros!  

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phys literacy, physically literate, assess physical literacy








The Action Plan:

I wanted to create an authentic learning experience for the Intermediate Physical Education student teachers at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) in Toronto, with an opportunity to work with “real” students to develop their practice and understanding of how to assess physical literacy. After speaking with a PE specialist at a local middle school (grades 6-8), he and I decided on a action plan to help middle school students develop competent movement patterns, self monitor their own personal fitness and to participate safely while encouraging their peers. The end goal in mind, to increase their physical literacy!

The How:

The student teachers helped deliver a 40-minute grade eight class during a one weeklong fitness unit. The PE specialist noted that he wanted to focus this lesson on helping all students improve their competency of a squat and push-up. The learning goals were identified:

Students will:

  1. Participate in physical activities according to their own readiness
  2. Identify strengths and areas of improvement related to their personal fitness
  3. Participate safely while supporting and encouraging their peers.

Using the Canadian Sport for Life Physical Literacy Assessment of Youth (PLAY) rubric, the student teachers created success criteria for a push-up and squat within the framework of the rubric: developing (initial to emerging) and acquired (competent to proficient) skill. The proficient level being an expert execution of the task assessed. 















The Thompson Educational Functional Physical Literacy and Functional Fitness Series charts were used as visuals/anchors for demonstration and to differentiate the activities showing modified versions of the push-up (modified push-up, push-up and t-balance push-up) and squat (squat and hand push squat). Check out the research behind these charts.

Physical Literacy Charts, Functional Fitness Charts, Thompson Educational Publishing Charts

The student teachers then asked the students to “choose their challenge” by demonstrating the 3 tiered push-up exercises (modified push-up, push-up, and t-balance push-up) and shared the identified “look fors” for developing and acquired movement competence of a push-up on chart paper posted on the wall.

Before “choosing their challenge” (appropriate tiered push-ups they can perform with competence) the students were asked to put their name on a stickie (e.g., John – push-up) and self assess their competence with respect to the push-up. Do they feel they are in the developing stages or acquired stages of movement competence for a push-up? 














In pairs, the students then tried to perform their chosen push-up trying to complete 5-10 repetitions. The students used iPads to videotape each other performing the push-up for self and peer assessment following the task. The student teachers facilitated self and peer assessment of students’ chosen push-up, helping students identify their strengths and areas to improve.

The same was repeated for the squat.

After completing both push-ups and squats, students reflected on their own performance using the following questions:

  • How did the movement feel? Were they able to complete 5 -10 repetitions with little effort or feeling fatigue?
  • How did the movement look on the video in comparison to the “look fors” for each stage of competency? 
  • Where did they feel they fell on the developing and acquired movement competence chart?
  • Were they correct with their self-assessment before the activity? If yes, why? It not, what did they have to improve upon?


Things to Ponder…

The teaching and learning experience was a positive and engaging for both students and student teachers. It was student centred with an emphasis on the learning process that included critical thinking, self-awareness and discussion about healthy lifestyles. Engaging students in critical thinking allows them to assess their personal level of fitness, interpret the results and use the information to develop personal fitness goals. Measuring physical literacy helps students to identify their areas of competence and areas of movement that need improvement. Teachers need to be sensitive to the environment created when assessing physical literacy and provide one that promotes success for all students. I invite you to share your ideas about assessing physical literacy.

For more information about key messaging for assessing physical literacy visit:

  1. The Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators: Fitness Key Messages
  2. Canadian Sport for Life 


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

Read more blogs by Carolyn!



3 Tips for Keeping Unprepared Students Moving!

Posted 2 months ago - by Natalia Brown

Students coming unprepared to your PE class?
Check out these great ideas for how to keep unprepared students moving and participating!

Wouldn’t it be great if all your students came to your class prepared to participate?!  Unfortunately, that is not the case every time. As physical educators, we strive to keep our students moving, but safety comes first. So, if a student is unprepared, they will be unable to participate in most activities. As teachers who specialize in physical activity we need to be creative with our approach. Here are some ideas on what to do with those unprepared students. 

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  1. Place signs with different types of exercises in each corner of the gym. Students walk around the perimeter of the gym and perform an exercise on the sign each time they get to an exercise corner. Examples of exercises are push-ups, squats, toe touch stretch, mountain climbers, sit ups, arm circles, lunges, and back extensions. You can add any exercises that don’t require a lot of room or equipment to perform. 
  2. Students can take notes on the key points of the current lesson
  3. Provide students with a work sheet of questions based on the current lesson to complete during class instead of paticipating in the activity

In conclusion, ensuring that our students are learning about physical activity in a safe way should be our goal. Having your students sit out without any form of mental or physical stimulation defeats that goal. Let’s all be creative in how we teach all our students! 


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Finding Focus in PE: What is Our Brand?

Posted 2 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

Brands are everywhere! Branding a product involves creating an image that the public can identify with. Many people can identify a brand after hearing just a few notes from the jingle or seeing only a small portion of a logo. Branding is powerful!

What is our “brand” in physical education? What do we do that only we can do and the public can identify with? 

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On a recent trip I was on four flights and sat with seven seatmates (one flight had the middle seat empty….YES!). Fortunately, or unfortunately, my seatmates were chatty and the topic of occupations came up. After telling them what I did, I asked, “What is physical education to you?” I received seven distinct and vastly different answers. That, to me, is a branding issue. Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we do better than anyone else that the public can identify with?

Historically our mission in physical education, on the surface, has been muddled…from the German and Swedish influence with emphasis on gymnastics and exercise, to focusing on fitness, to a games and sports approach impacted by the military, and many in-between. As a field, our focus has jumped from one emphasis to the next latest and greatest topic. Some would argue our jumpiness has come from a desire to be sought after and significant in the eyes of education. However, regardless of our motivation, underlying most of the approaches in physical education is the desire to get people moving.

In the last two decades an approach to physical education that has been called for is that of physical activity promotion. Said another way, “WE ARE THE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PEOPLE”.  This “brand” resonates with the public and it is what we do better than anyone else. We are the experts!

To some, the notion that physical education is about physical activity promotion causes uneasiness. Concerns sound like “If we do that, what happens to teaching skills?” Or “What about my fitness content?” My response is, “YES. Teach skills.” Students will need them to be active. And “YES” use your fitness content to teach students about fitness and show them all the fun ways they can become fit. However, while doing so, keep an eye to our primary objective, the thing we do best and the public can identify with - physical activity promotion. When we teach skills, make sure students are active; how else will they learn the skill? When we teach fitness, make sure students are moving and experiencing how fun intense activity can be; how else will they learn to love moving? Use a variety of teaching styles and curriculum models. Most, if not all, have their roots in getting students to love moving.

While I can go on and on with this topic, I think the growing consensus in the field is that our “brand” is Physical Education = Physical Activity. We are better at it than anyone else, and the public gets it. It is refreshing that as the field begins to embrace this brand we can begin looking to strategies to best promote physical activity for all students through physical education.


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

Check out more blogs by Aaron!

Simple Tips for Getting Your Superintendent On Board!

Posted 2 months ago - by Tim Collins

Need to get your Superintendent on board?
Superintendent, Tim Collins, shares his tips and suggestions for gaining support below!


There are several key factors that will force a Superintendent to consider funding or helping to fund a program or initiative.  There are many small factors that help influence and foster the potential for financial support or adjustments and flexibility to make sure that the program has the potential for growth:

  • Data driven research.
  • Matching funds from a booster program.
  • Donated community labor.
  • A commitment to work ethic that goes above and beyond normal.
  • Assistance from Special Ed Programming.
  • The ability to sustain the program long term.

There is no single factor that weighs more heavily than the other.  The need and growth of programs is dependent upon a variety of variables, so it is impossible to state that one of the above factors is more important than the other. 

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If a program needs financial support, for personnel or capital needs, then there is no question that matching funds, or a financial contribution from an outside source, is a major factor in helping to influence a Superintendent.  A Superintendent understands the political ramifications of saying, “No thank you” to a business, booster club, or individual who wants to contribute financially to a school program.  In our personal lives, we would all work hard to find a hundred dollars, if we knew that our Mom or Dad was going to give us a hundred dollar match.  This reality is true for a Superintendent as well.

There are many small business owners, in every community, that have the potential to donate in-kind labor to a variety of school district programs and projects. 

  • Can a superintendent say no, if the Basketball Boosters volunteer to do the cement work, and erect basketball hoops, on every elementary playground in the district?  The district’s obligation is to pay for the hoops and the cement. 

  • Can a superintendent say no if the Softball Association will level all infields and build dugouts on every field in the district?  The district’s obligation is to purchase the materials. 

  • Can a superintendent say no if the Tennis Boosters are willing to pay for two extra tennis courts at the time the district is reinvesting in their tennis courts?  In return the district has to allow the association to have practice and summer tournaments on the district’s courts.

There is no question that the school district needs to make sure that the donated labor is skilled labor and has certified insurance.  The district needs to protect for current and future liability.  This level of donated labor, on these specific projects, allows the district to then spend their fund balance on other projects district wide.

The power of receiving cash contributions or in-kind labor is contagious and repetitive.  When other businesses see the power of their colleagues’ contributions, they ask what they can do.  Typically, individuals who donate their time or money once, will typically do it again down the road. 

If you need support from your Superintendent, make sure you are able to have one or more of the key factors outlined in this writing. 


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Self-Evaluation in PE: The Key to Effective Instruction

Posted 2 months ago - by Chad Triolet

One of the most valuable tips that I received during my teacher preparation years in college concerned self-evaluation.  My professor shared that he had been using a system of self-evaluation which helped him grow professionally each year and focus on improving instruction.  Each year, he kept a “journal” based on instructional practices and at the end of each semester, he reflected on what and how he taught during the term.  Each time he did this, he noted one area of excellence which he would continue to maintain and one area of weakness which he would focus on improving. 

At the time, I did not process the ultimate value to this best-practice concept.  When I started teaching, I did little to no self-evaluation because I thought I was doing a “good job”.  After several years of teaching, I began reflecting on my instructional practice by keeping a journal.  I made a point to collect what I called the “needs improvement list” each semester.  I tried to keep the list short so that I felt I could make changes to improve in my areas of weakness.  The process was truly an eye opening experience that helped guide my future professional development choices.  About a decade ago, I began making a concerted effort to concentrate on my areas of weakness by searching out professional development activities to bolster those areas.  I truly believe that this had the largest impact on my ability to provide a quality program for my students that never got stagnant and continued to raise the bar.

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As an educator, we focus a lot of our time on student achievement and tracking progress.  Rarely do we, the teachers, take the time need to evaluate our instructional practices and their impact on student progress/achievement.  Currently, most states have increased teacher accountability by increasing the standards for teacher evaluation.  Unfortunately, the process is not improving instructional practice but rather creating stress and animosity.  According to Pat Puleo (1993) in the California ASCD Newsletter, “studies show that evaluation is ineffective after five years” (Robbins & Alvy, 2003, p.104). It is my contention that if teachers spent more time performing effective self-evaluation/reflection, we would notice an increase in teacher effectiveness.

The 100 million dollar question is; what strategies should teachers use to focus on self-improvement?  The process can be more or less formal based on your needs.  In my experience, just keeping a personal journal has been extremely beneficial.  Of course, there are more formal options that have checklists and focus on targeted goals (for a sample of more formal checklist and rubrics, click on the links below).  Clearly, there are lots of options that can fit each educator’s needs.  The key is to make self-evaluation part of your professional growth process.

Check out these links for excellent self-evaluation resources -



Robbins, Pamela M. & Alvy, Harvey B. (2003). The Principal’s Companion: Strategies and Hints to Make the Job Easier, California: Corwin.

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For the Love of Play

Posted 2 months ago - by Troy Urdahl

Do you remember all the neighborhood and pick-up games we used to play when we were growing up?  Most of us likely carry very fond memories of playing games like sand-lot ball, kick the can, ghost in the graveyard, or capture the flag.  Many times these games went on until dark and we played with friends of all ages.  Today’s youth live in a play-deprived society.  As youth sports increase in structure and competition has become out of balance with “play,” our youth have fewer opportunities to simply have fun and play.  American society finds itself battling obesity, diabetes, and a host of other issues related to inactive lifestyles and poor diets.  Rates of youth mental disorders and suicide have also seen increases (Gray, 2013).  Even amidst significant societal changes over the past fifty years, one constant that possesses the power and ability to promote and reinforce the fun and value of play has been physical education classes and school sports.  Dr. Stuart Brown (2009) explains, “The power of play is intensely pleasurable.  It energizes us and enlivens us.  It eases our burdens.  It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” Play helps children develop their moral, physical, emotional, social, and intellectual capabilities and as educators, we shape the learning environment and experiences of our students. 

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In Joe Ehrmann’s book, InSideOut Coaching, he recommends each coach answers the question: what does it feel like to be coached by me?  This is a great question for all teachers to ask, too.  What does it feel like to be taught by me?  Are my classes engaging, fun, and a positive experience for students?  Or is class drudgery?  When your students gather in 20, 30, or 40 years at a class reunion, how you will be remembered when they share memories of your class?  Will students remember your class fondly, or will your classes invoke negative memories?  Unfortunately, the answer is not always that we will be remembered warmly.  It is hard to believe, but the following is a real excerpt from an adult looking back on physical educational experiences as youth.  “The exception to otherwise pleasant childhood play: those f*!#ing gym classes. Drill, verbal abuse, elitism, a sense of futility, and occasionally fear. Yuck” (Strean, 2009, p. 217).  Our physical education classes have the ability to produce great joy and life-long positive habits or conversely, a lifetime of negative emotions. 

Think about our own lives. Tony Wagner (2012) reminds us that “Adults do very little in their free time where there isn’t play, that they aren’t passionate about and without purpose.”  Our students are no different.  The fact that play is fun should not mean it is a break from learning.  Play is learning.  In fact, Dr. Brown states play is our brain’s preferred way of learning (2009).  This is where some of the most valuable life lessons are gleaned each and every day (Gray, 2013).  Let’s remember to keep play alive as a valuable part of every class.  Each class, ask yourself what element of fun play you have included.  Engagement will increase, effort will skyrocket, and your classes will become laboratories for learning life lessons.  Students will thank you and remember you for it! 


Brown, S. L. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin.
Ehrmann, J., Ehrmann, P., & Jordan, G. (2011). InSideOut coaching: How sports can transform lives. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Gray, P. (2013).  The play deficit: Children today are cosseted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up.  aeon. 
Strean, W. B. (2009). Remembering instructors: play, pain and pedagogy. Qualitative research in sport and exercise, 1(3), 210-220.
Wagner, T. (2012). Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world. Simon and Schuster.

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9 Free High-Intensity Circuit Designs!

Posted 2 months ago - by Maria Corte

Need new high-intensity circuit designs for your students?

Maria Corte shares her favorites below!! 

free HIIT circuits, strength circuits, strength routines

These cutting-edge, creative circuit designs are high-intensity, fat burning, strength and conditioning workouts which uses a wide variety of fitness equipment including kettlebells, fitness bars, medicine balls, strength bags, balance trainers, resistance tubing, kickboxing gear, agility courses…etc. These circuits advance students from station to station with or without a timer in the most unique and “out of the box” ways imaginable! Whether you want your students to lose body fat or gain muscle, these unique, challenging circuits will push their limits that they didn’t know they could reach! Finally, your PE students will improve their fitness levels and your athletes will become super explosive and strong. Check out my favorite circuits that I use with my students at Mesa High!

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Traditional Sports with a Fitness Component

Posted 2 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Have you given thought or begun to investigate how you can infuse more fitness activities into your traditional physical education classes, wellness activities, or recreational sessions?  There is a powerful undercurrent right now in the U.S. to incorporate fitness pursuits into physical education classes.  With all of the focus appropriately on enhancing and improving fitness in the United States, most professional physical educators are striving to add fitness components to the more traditional sport activities typically taught in American PE classes.  Are you asking, “How can I add more fitness to my PE classes without compromising my traditional activities?”  Many Wellness and PE teachers have been trying to figure out how to do this, and thankfully many teachers have already figured out ways to do just that. With all of the nutritional hazards, sedentary trends, and climbing BMI’s in our nation, it is more important than ever that we help our children be more active and fit.  Here are a few specific ways that creative professionals have incorporated fitness into their current PE and Wellness classes:

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  • “Perpetual practice” is a term we use to add activity to traditional sport classes. Simply put, take the practice session and skill sessions and add a perpetual movement component to them.  Take every opportunity to morph the static and “standing around and waiting” practice lines into constantly moving practice lines.  Students should no longer be standing around waiting topractice; they should be jogging and moving throughout the entire session.  It takes a little more planning and a little more set up; however, it is worth the effort.  Just about every practice session in every traditional sport can be adjusted to be constantly moving if you give it some thought and preparation.  Keeping kids moving while they practice skills can be fun fitness if you plan for it.
  • Incorporate “Hybrid” Traditional Sports.  How you ask? Traditional sports such as soccer and basketball have a fitness component internally built in to them.  However, you can add a perpetual movement component to traditional sports such as football, baseball, softball, and most others by adding modified versions.  Football, and most sports, can be played in a similar fashion to Ultimate Frisbee or Speedball, where the football can be run, thrown, and defended but in a non-stop format. You are still utilizing the major rules and skills, but in a manner of perpetual movement.  Try it, the kids love it!
  • Utilize “Multi-Sports.”  Having already mentioned Speedball and Ultimate Frisbee, these fitness-skill activities and others like them are perfect examples of incorporating activities that require multiple skill sets from traditional sports into fun fitness games for PE/Wellness classes.  These Multi-sport activities have traditional skill practice embedded within them already, but more importantly host a fitness and constant movement foundation.

These are just a few ways to incorporate fitness into more traditional curriculums and classes. There’s a multitude of ways to add fitness activities to your PE/Wellness classes.

What are you doing in your classes or school that is similar?  What are you doing that is different and creative? I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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Becoming a Leader and Getting Involved

Posted 2 months ago - by Donn Tobin

After speed walking across the campus in order to escort a presenter to their room, I happened to run into some colleagues of mine.  I was volunteering as the Assistant Conference Director at my local zone conference.  This meant that I arrived at the site around 6:30 AM, helped set up various spaces for presenters, set up signs in the hallways, and troubleshot other various tasks for the day.  I am sure that at this time I had walked the equivalent of several miles even though the conference had not officially started yet.  One of my colleagues noticed that I was sweating fairly profusely for such an early time of day. 

“Donn, are you getting paid for this?” my younger colleague asked me. 

I replied, “No...” my voice trailing off, wondering where he was going with that question.

“Then why are you running around killing yourself?  The conference will be great either way, so why bother doing this at all?”

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Ok, I didn’t need to be “running” around the massive HS campus, and I didn’t need to think that every bit of my voluntary job was an imperative urgency.  However he did make me think about why I was bothering at all.  And the answer was very clear for me, because I wanted to. 

Since you are reading this blog I can honestly say that you are already more than your average physical education teacher.  There are plenty of people out there who are probably very good at their jobs, go to work in the morning, go home after they teach/coach/run an after school program or club, and that is it.  I felt that it was necessary for me to get involved. 

I decided at first to take a leadership position in my local affiliate of my state AHPERD.  I had already volunteered on several district committees and initiatives, so branching out to subject-specific activities seemed like the right progression for me. I didn’t need to.  However, I felt that I had some value, and no matter how small, I could be a part of something bigger than my local school district.  And I have.  Since then, I have branched out to be on a state-wide AHPERD committee, taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and become a part of the GOPHER family.  I can honestly say that I have found numerous advantages to becoming a leader in my field.  The following may hopefully persuade you to do the same:

  • You DO have something to contribute.  Have you ever been to a conference session and overheard someone near you say something like “Oh, we do that but we do it differently like this…”?  That drives me nuts.  For whatever reason they chose to sit on the sideline, but they most likely have something great to share, so why not share it?  Yes, you do have to get yourself out there, and yes, there may be people who disagree with your methods.  But, you may have a different perspective or take on a similar activity.  No one can discredit your suggestions especially if it is for the greater good.  Each person has experienced life/career/etc. differently.  If you feel it has worth and can make others better, share.
  • It could open doors for you (job opportunities).  There have been a few occasions where my involvement gave me the opportunity for a side job.  Think about it for a minute…two candidates, same basic credentials, however one person is known for doing things within our field and the other person has never been heard of before.  Get the picture?  An employer is more likely to be interested in the leader than the other person.
  • Networking makes you a better teacher/professional.  Just by being in contact with others within your field gives you the opportunity for new ideas and advice, as well as a sounding board for questions or concerns that you may have about your own job.  I do not buy in the adage that a veteran teacher has all the answers, because they do not.  You can always improve.  I have incorporated many ideas from other teachers that have helped make my physical education program better.  Does it really matter who it came from?  If it benefits my kids, than it is worth it. 
  • Becoming a leader could make you a better public speaker.  Ok, this might be a hard sell.  I know of plenty of people who do not enjoy speaking in public.  However you already do!  If you teach children and/or classes, you are already a public speaker.  Yes, it would be different in front of your peers, but that does not necessarily make it tougher.  You already survive with kids…and they tend to be our biggest critics anyway! J
  • Becoming a leader will help make our field great!  I have heard over the years that PE programs are getting cut, losing positions, losing funding, etc.  One of the reasons why we remain relevant is due to leaders in our profession.  There are so many benefits to living and learning about a physically fit lifestyle.  Other professionals are constantly coming up with new methods and techniques, research, and products to help advance our career.  You become a role model for others to aspire to.  You need to become a part of it too.  Don’t watch it unfold on the sideline, be in the know and help it along.  Remember that no matter how shy or amount of experience you have, you can help lead us too!

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

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Every Minute Counts: The Art of Using Instant Activities

Posted 2 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

From when students first enter the gym to when they leave, every minute counts. Employing instant activities as part of your daily routine prepares students for learning both physically and mentally and helps you capitalize every minute. 

Pedometer, Instant Activity, Instant Activities

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Starting with even the simplest routine makes a difference. My middle level students no longer enter the gym and sit (Boring! Not to mention counter-intuitive to an active learning environment). Now, they walk around the perimeter of the gym, enjoying music and talking with one another. Once the music stops they go to an assigned location for announcements before further activity. This is our basic warm-up. It has reduced behavioral issues and the use of music really ‘hooks’ the kids. While students are warming up I am finishing preparations, checking in with students, and taking attendance via my pedometer system.

As you get more comfortable with a basic routine, you can begin to differentiate or add layers that align with your current objectives and help review previously taught content. Instant activities can vary from locomotor movements to dynamic warm-up progressions to small-sided games to skill review or skill-related movements. Once you establish and practice the given expectations as to how the warm-up routine will work (safety, use of and set up/take down of equipment, amount of pedometer time they need to earn, where it is posted each day, how it works with attendance, etc.) the instant activity runs itself. Our entire department uses the same routine. We have three classes going at the same time and it works really well. The teachers work together on developing new progressions and at teaching it to students.

Once our students learn the basic walking warm-up the next routine has them perform dynamic movements that prepare their bodies for further movement. We pre-teach our students these movements and they perform them in a “Four Corner” layout. Another progression is to add the game of “Active Rock-Paper-Scissors” to this format for a different level of fun and social interaction. I’ll leave you with a description of this routine below and a video of my students in action. I hope this blog inspires you to re-examine your current routines and work to make them more active, purposeful and fun for students. Keep it simple at first and build from there.

Activity Description: Rock-Paper-Scissors Warm-up

The classic game of rock-paper-scissors (R-P-S) can be used in the physical education classroom in many ways. Here’s a video of a recent favorite we have used as a large group fitness activity and warm-up challenge.

Students continuously travel from one corner to the next performing previously learned dynamic warm-up movements. Before moving to the next corner, students must challenge someone to a game of ‘action-based’ R-P-S where they jump up and down four times and show their choice on the fourth landing (count out loud: 1-2-3-show). To play “Rock” students land with both feet together and hands down at sides, “Paper” is landing with hands straight out to side and both feet spread apart (make a flat wall), or “Scissor” is landing with both feet spread apart front to back (like open scissors).

If a student wins the R-P-S challenge, they read the Four Corner Fitness Activity sign (sample included) for movement to perform as they travel to the next corner to find someone new to challenge. If a student loses they find another person in the same corner to challenge. If they lose three times in a row they travel to the next corner regardless. The activity is inclusive for all abilities, can go on for any amount of time, can be used as a warm-up or a longer large group fitness activity (though I’d recommend you change up the different versions of Rock-Paper-Scissors or types of dynamic movements) and can be used to promote positive relationships amongst peers.  The combinations are endless!

Check out my students in action performing the R-P-S warm-up!


  • Use a different version of R-P-S: Bear-Fish-Mosquito.
    • Bear = arms up and arched in claws.
    • Fish = hands together making a fishy swimming motion.
    • Mosquito = hand(s) pinched close like a stinging bug.
      • (Bear eats Fish. Fish eats Mosquito. Mosquito zaps Bear.)

  • Have students jump up and down six times instead of three.

  • Promote positive relationships: Challenge students to play against a different person each time so they interact with others. They can shake hands after and say, “thank you”. Or have them introduce themselves before play, etc.

Continue the Conversation: What are your favorite instant activities or warm-up routines you use with your level of students? What are some of your favorite websites or resources with physical education warm-up ideas?

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Simple Ideas for Hosting a Successful Family Fitness Night

Posted 2 months ago - by Terri Pitts

Reaching only students with the message about the importance of health and fitness isn't enough—parents need to receive the message too! Schools around the country are going for the gold with Family Fitness Nights designed for kids and their families too! So, you might be wondering how to plan a fun Family Fitness Night—check out some tips and ideas below!


So, how do you spread the word and get parents and students interested in your school’s Family Fitness Night? First, you must appeal to a wide range of ages - preschool to seniors – by partnering with other community organizations and agencies to provide health screenings and activities. You must begin publicity early and advertise the event to as many people as possible.  Use a variety of ways to promote events to different audiences (backpack flyers, websites, signboards, newspapers, posters, etc.).  Add delicious nutrition and fun fitness to the agenda.  Serve tasty, healthful snacks (work with the Child Nutrition program) and get everyone involved in some active fun-- Nobody wants to miss out on fun and food!  Plan for door prizes and encourage exhibitors to provide useful give-away items.

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Next, you’ll need some creative ideas for getting students and their parents on board! One idea for a family fitness night is to set up as many different PE related activities as you can that encourage parents to participate with their kids.  This way, the kids get to show the parents what they've learned during PE, and maybe even teach them a thing or two.  It’s great to offer a variety of activities, including ones that can be set up outside (jump ropes, sack race, hoops, horseshoes, scoops, hop ball relay) and others that are set up in the gym (Wii, dance pads, climbing wall, target throw, putt-putt, bowling, balance beam). To help keep the focus around fitness as a whole, another great idea is to have a nurse come to do blood pressure checks, etc., or invite other health and fitness experts from the community to come and set up a booth where they can share their information.  Kicking off your Family Fitness Night with a keynote speaker, such as a local celebrity, well-respected individual, sports figure, fitness expert or a health professional, is a great way to get the students and their parents motivated! Another way to kick off the fitness night is to play a movie that is brief, educational, and entertaining. To switch things up a bit, consider hosting a themed Family Fitness Night, like a Turkey Trot around Thanksgiving! This provides a fun variation to the regular Fitness Night and will keep students and their families interested. One idea for a Turkey Trot is to have the families participate in a walk-a-thon and in order to participate, they bring a can of food that will be donated to the local food pantry.  Another idea is to take a typical school event, like a school dance, and make it healthy. Usually there are snacks sold at dances, but they typically consist of chips, candy and soda. Swap out the “junk food” for healthier options like fruit, veggies and water.  You can easily turn a dance into a Family Fitness Night by having your students perform a routine at the beginning of the night and invite parents and grandparents to come and watch the students perform.


Students are taught about both health and fitness throughout their time in school.  Some students choose to share the information they learn with their families and some do not.  Family Fitness Nights are a great way to get the message about the importance of nutrition and fitness to everyone--- in a fun way!   


Have you hosted a Family Fitness Night before at your school? What are some of your favorite ideas for Family Fitness Nights?


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High Intensity Interval Training (HI2T) is the ultimate cutting-edge workout to challenge both the hardcore athlete and novice exerciser.  This high intensity interval-training format takes concepts from a “CrossFit” or “P90X” routine and incorporates them into a physical education class setting.  When used within a periodized training plan, HI2T is both an effective and efficient method for developing athlete’s physical abilities.  HI2T is also the most effective workout to simultaneously burn body fat, improve cardiovascular/muscular fitness, and increase metabolic rate.  Moreover, the versatility of HI2T makes it easy to manage large training groups or class sizes especially when time and space is limited.

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  • Students my work with a partner or by themselves
  • For larger classes partners/stations works best
  • The lesson is called the “300 Workout”
  • The workout = 300 reps w/ 10-30 reps per set
  • The sets should take approx. 45-60 sec. to complete
  • 4-8 exercises are included in each workout
  • The entire workout should take approx. 30-45 min. (not including the warm up)


  • The reps should be executed at a fast speed (explosive)
  • The students must finish all of the reps of one exercise before going on to the next exercise
  • There should be minimal rest intervals
  • The goal should be to move from one exercise to the next as fast as possible
  • Allow a 1-2 min. rest interval after completing the entire sequence each time
  • If working with partners, eliminate the rest intervals
  • The entire workout should take approx. 30-45 min.



  • Train fast twitch muscle fibers (recruitment/hypertrophy) (fast oxidative fibers)
  • Improve capacity of phosphagen & glycolytic energy systems 
  • Increase tolerance of lactic acid (lactate threshold/removal from muscle)
  • Improve function of cardio-respiratory system
  • Increase metabolic rate (BMR/post-workout)


  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle power
  • Speed endurance
  • Muscular endurance
  • Mobility
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Muscle hypertrophy
  • Loss of fat weight
  • Metabolic rate


  • Simultaneous improvement of multiple fitness variables
  • Shorter workout, faster (and better) results
  • Greater calorie expenditure during workout
  • Increased post-workout metabolic rate
  • Promotes loss of body fat


  • Simple movements/exercises
  • Reduced teaching time
  • Reduced injuries
  • Adapt to skill/fitness levels
  • Variety in workouts
  • Flexible design of workouts
  • Accommodate large groups
  • Minial space requirements
  • Minimal equipment requirements

300 Workout

Excercise Equipment Reps

Swinging Dumbbell Lunge

12 or 15 lb Dumbbell 20 (10 Each Leg)

Hindu Push-Ups



Wall Squats

 Med. Ball 20

Romanian Dead Lifts (RDL)

Olympic Bar 10

Weight Plate Series 
   Standing Rows
   Military Press
   Biceps Curls
   Tricepts Extension

 25 lb (or up) 
Weight Plate
(10 Each Exercise)

Pilates 50

--  --

Superman 50



  Total Reps (1 Set) 100
    x 3
    300 Reps Total

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Back Pain: What to Look for and How to Address It

Posted 2 months ago - by Frank Baumholtz

Back pain have you out of the game?
Check out these tips to relieve discomfort!


I see students, athletes and clients on a daily basis that deal with back pain.  It’s not always acute pain from an injury, but rather dull, achy, annoying discomfort.  Many times the cause of the discomfort is unknown.  Students and office workers sit all day, everyday and do very little to gain length and mobility where they need it.  And they’ll usually come in walking funny and/or complaining that their back is bugging them.  My first step is to do a simple assessment and take a look at their posture and movement abilities.  Below is a picture of postures that you might see.

Back Pain, Posture, Back Posture

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(Image Source)

If posture is normal, I’ll move on to the Functional Movement Screen.  This will give me some general information on how to proceed.  If, for some reason there is pain, I stop there and refer out.  It’s always good to error on the cautious side.  Pain is a good indicator that something is going on. Once there is good posture and movement we’re able to determine a starting point, the right exercises can be implemented and the wrong ones can be avoided.  This is crucial in your exercises programming.  The last thing we want is to have exercises reinforcing bad movement patterns. 

Move well and get strong are our two primary goals.  Low Back Pain and discomfort is debilitating if you've ever experienced it.   So first off, If you're having acute pain get it checked out by a doctor.  Once cleared, getting moving again is essential.  Here is a routine I do with my clients and athletes that are dealing with that nagging low back. 9 out of 10 times, opening up the hips and T-Spine will relieve low back discomfort.

Remember, The day to day grind of our lives takes a toll on our bodies. Some people sit too much, some stand all day and some do the same small task, all day, every day. These repetitive patterns are, whether moving or not, are contributors to your situation.  Your training regimen should be specifically designed to help you move better, get stronger and ensure you attain your goals. It should also off set the repetitive and overuse patterns that you do every day. 


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First Aid Topics in Physical Education

Posted 2 months ago - by Angie Armendariz

Have you ever wondered, as physical educators, what influence we have in contributing to the health and medical fields and professions? As physical educators we teach our students many topics such as: dental hygiene, nutrition, drug and disease prevention, functions of the body systems, solutions to resolve conflict and how to report emergencies. When we educate these students, we give back to our health and medical care communities in ways we may not realize. The reason I decided to share this topic is because we never know who will be the next surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, EMT or pharmacist. I will share two short stories I have experienced that show the impact that teaching these topics has on students.

            My colleague has been working for many years at the same school in the same profession. He taught Health lessons on Thursdays to students during his physical education class. One time he drew a colorful heart and went over the functions of the heart. The students were intrigued and kept asking questions and he kept giving them answers. Well, two years ago my colleague ended up in the emergency room and underwent triple bypass heart surgery. To his surprise, waking up groggy and in pain a male nurse asked him, “Are you Coach Garcia?” My colleague didn’t have his glasses on and responded, "Yes. Why do you ask?" The male nurse responded, "You were my Coach a long time ago". My colleague laughed and said, "So, what are you doing here?" The male nurse responded, "My favorite part of physical education (PE) was Thursdays Health class- I loved all of your drawings."

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            I teach first aid basics such as how to handle nosebleeds, cuts, bruises, burns, and how to dial 9-1-1. I love to role-play scenario’s with the other coaches at my school. We go all out by use different props, glue paint, makeup to mimic burns, bruises, and abrasions. We also use the siren on our megaphones and bring dollar store phones to use for calling 9-1-1. The students love all the acting yet, we explain that these are real life situations and we must react quickly to save lives. We get standing ovations from the students and they always ask us when is the next scenario will be.

            I have two memorable moments that I would love to share with everyone because we always have an impact of students’ lives. One is when I taught a health lesson about how to call 9-1-1. The next day a teacher brings a copy of a newspaper clipping that I have laminated and use as a reference. One of my students, while waiting in the car for his mother, saw an elderly lady get attacked by a swarm of bees when a beehive fell to the ground. He called 9-1-1 using his mothers cell phone and was able to get the ambulance and fire department their within minutes. The lady survived. My second memorable moment was when I walked into the hospital cafeteria while visiting my grandmother. A young man in scrubs approached me and said, “Excuse me. Are you Coach Armendariz?” I replied, "Yes, why do you ask?". He said, "I am working in the ER as a nurse". He then mentioned that he really enjoyed when I taught the summer enrichment courses about first aid. His goal is to be a doctor in the emergency room at that hospital and he thanked me for introducing him to that profession.

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Hydration: Why Water is Important for Growing Bodies

Posted 3 months ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton

Up to 60% of our bodies are composed of water....
Are your students and athletes consuming enough? 

hydrate, water consumption

For generations, coaches, teachers, trainers, and nutritionists have reiterated the old adage that the human body is made up of 60% water. So, wouldn't it be logical that that we should consume water frequently as a part of our daily routine? Well, it may be a no-brainer for most of society, however, with youngsters, that is rarely the case.

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It pains me to observe young athletes and PE participants begin physical activity without consuming a single drop of water within a day. It's easy to observe the student athletes who are ill prepared nutritionally and are ill-hydrated.  Their lackluster performances reflect that and are certainly behind the figurative eight ball compared to their properly fueled and hydrated peers. Not only does proper hydration aid in athletic development and consistency, but as the temperatures outside rise, water consumption is more and more important at regulating proper body temperatures and bodily functions. 

Society has been inundated with sugary, inexpensive and potentially addictive drinks that are made far too readily available, particularly when products companies specifically and directly market to the youth with flashy advertisement and celebrity endorsements. The fact is, sugar, carbonated, chemical filled drinks provide the body with very little hydration, have little to no nutritional value and lead to elevated blood sugar, increased risk of obesity and tooth decay. 

As educators, particularly PE teachers, we must place a more enthusiastic emphasis on proper and effective means to achieve hydration. We need to counter the flashy advertising ploys made by the major drink companies, by directly promoting water consumption to our youth with our own style of marketing. 

Here are a few ideas for how to promote water consumption with your students!

  • Establish a fundraiser to help aid in reusable water bottle purchases for all students.
  • Choose a day to allow students to customize their water bottle, emphasizing creativity and creating a sense of pride in their creation, which would undoubtedly result in students using and filling their bottles between classes.
  • Educate on fun and healthy ways to add flavor to water: adding fruit slices can be a fun and customizable way to add a little natural sweet flavor along with minerals while maintaining proper nutritional value of water.
  • Allow students to create and log journal entries on their daily water consumptions.
  • "DRINKING 8 is GREAT" a slogan to remind students to aim for 8 glasses of water a day.

With all the emphasis placed on nutritional education for our growing youth, we need to urge the importance of proper water consumption and hydration. I've observed how vitally important it is for elite athletes to properly hydrate before, during and after training and competition. I believe this mentality can be enthusiastically deployed on to young students to help aid in their physical and mental performance in the classroom and improve their overall all well being, a goal all educators should wish to achieve. 


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Rock-Paper-Scissors Warm-Up

Posted 3 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

The classic game of rock-paper-scissors (R-P-S) can be used in the physical education classroom in many ways.
Here’s a video of a recent favorite we have used as a large group fitness activity and warm-up challenge. 

Students continuously travel from one corner to the next performing previously learned dynamic warm-up movements. Before moving to the next corner, students must first challenge someone to a game of ‘action-based’ R-P-S where they jump up and down three times, showing their choice on the third landing. To play “Rock” students land with both feet together and hands down at sides, “Paper” is landing with hands straight out to side and both feet spread apart (make a flat wall), or “Scissor” is landing with both feet spread apart front to back (like open scissors).

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If a student wins the R-P-S challenge, they read the Warm-up Activity sign to see the next one to perform, and travel to the next corner to find someone new to challenge. If a student loses they find another person in the same corner to challenge. The activity is inclusive for all abilities, can go on for any amount of time, can be used as an active warm-up or a longer large group fitness activity (I’d recommend you change up the different versions of Rock-Paper-Scissor movements or types of dynamic movements) and can be used to promote positive relationships amongst peers.  The combinations are endless! 


  • Use a different version of R-P-S: Bear-Fish-Mosquito.
    • Bear = arms up and arched in claws.
    • Fish = hands together making a fishy swimming motion.
    • Mosquito = hand(s) pinched close like a stinging bug.
  • Have students jump up and down six times instead of three.
  • If a student loses three times in a row, they travel to the next corner and continue play.
  • Promote positive relationships: Challenge students to play against a different person each time so they interact with others. They can shake hands before they face-off or after. Have them introduce themselves before they play, etc.
  • End with a culminating class challenge: When a person wins, the person they beat will travel with them and will cheer them on as they find a new winner to challenge. As people continue to win their traveling cheer team will grow until two teams remain and do a final face-off in class.

Want more on Rock-Paper-Scissors? See my 2012 NASPE Talk Blog Post on Racquet-Skills Rock-Paper-Scissors and how I use it to teach tennis scoring and game play.

Continuing the Conversation: What other ideas do you have for using the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors?  


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HOW TO: Plyometrics for Elementary PE

Posted 3 months ago - by Natalia Brown

Hesitant to introduce plyometrics training to your students in your elementary PE class?
You may already be doing it and are not even aware that you are!

What is Plyometrics?

Plyometrics, also known as jump training, includes exercises that rapidly stretches the muscles and then rapidly shortens it.  It is a training technique used to increase muscular power and explosiveness.  It helps improves your fast-twitch muscles, vertical jump performance, leg strength, and agility.  Plyometrics are designed to produce fast and powerful movements from your body.  In addition, plyometrics training also aids in injury prevention.  

Some fitness professionals think plyometrics are great, while others question the safety and appropriateness for young children.  However, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association all support the use of plyometrics, provided they are done correctly with proper supervision.  

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Guidelines to Follow When Implementing Plyometrics in Elementary PE:

  • Proper supervision is required to ensure proper technique
  • Consider the bone structure and maturity of children
  • Include age appropriate exercises
  • Exercises should be moderate and less intense
  • Avoid hard surfaces as much as possible – grass is best
  • Warm up well prior to beginning any plyometrics program
  • Avoid doing plyometrics training on consecutive days

Examples of Plyometric Exercises for Elementary PE:

  • Hopping
  • Skipping
  • Jumping
  • Sprinting
  • Jump rope
  • Hopscotch
  • Jumping jacks
  • Standing jumps
  • Standing hops
  • Squat jumps
  • Clap pushups

Equipment You Can Use to Perform Plyometric Exercises:

Check out these great IntroFit™ products, available Only From Gopher! They are designed specifically for beginners and are a great way to introduce plyometrics to your Elementary students!

In conclusion, physical educators do not need to avoid the inclusion of plyometrics training into their physical education programs.  By following the simple guidelines, plyometrics training can be effective and fun.  

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

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Crossing the Curriculum in Physical Education

Posted 3 months ago - by Chad Triolet

It is amazing reflecting upon my college experience to recall the number of best practice concepts that were folded into our learning experiences.  One of the big projects we completed in our elementary methods course was a cross curricular unit.  Each student selected a topic and then created physical education lessons that met all of the state physical education standards and reinforced concepts related to the subject chosen.  At the time, I chose Native Americans and created a unit that reinforced a wide variety of concepts related specifically to Native Americans but also reinforced language arts and math concepts.  It was a lot of work and required a good amount of research but it really made me realize the impact a physical education program can have on academic achievement.  As I began my teaching career, I took that experience with me and began to search out ways to integrate core content in my physical education program.

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There are many opportunities to reinforce core content in physical education classes.  This effort to support language arts, math, history, and science should not come at the expense of teaching physical education standards and content.  The key is find creative ways to reinforce the core material while keeping true to the goal of teaching the skills and concepts related to developing lifelong movers.  Below you will find some suggestions on ways to reinforce core content in PE.

MATH - Skill drills in physical education provide many opportunities for students to practice counting in multiples.  Student can also be given points for completing different tasks.  As the points add up, students will need to use basic math skills to compute their score.  Another skill that is easy to incorporate is pattern building.  This can be done as station work or as part of creative relay races.  Money can be used as a reinforcement for completing tasks thereby giving students additional exposure to the look of various types of currency (coins vs. bills) and how to count it.   There are also many opportunities to discuss math vocabulary that relate to physical education (i.e. – angle, measurement, perimeter, distance, etc.).

LANGUAGE ARTS – When students enter the gym, a great way to reinforce language arts is to have the students read instructions for their warm-up.  If doing this, keep the language simple and post three or fewer basic instructions.  Physical educators can use spelling words in a variety of creative ways to help students (i.e. – jump rope spelling, word sort challenge, GeoMat spelling, etc.).  PE teachers can also reinforce key vocabulary using a Word Wall.

SCIENCE – One of my favorite ways to support science was to perform experiments in physical education class.  The practical use of experimentation vocabulary when learning about heart rate or burning calories is a great way to reinforce these important science concepts in physical education class.  There are also many opportunities to highlight science related vocabulary that is used during PE classes (i.e. – speed, friction, angle of trajectory, fulcrum, lever, aerodynamics, etc.).  There are other awesome activities that use student knowledge of science concepts (i.e. – Habitat Survivor (dodging and fleeing), Evaporation (tossing flying discs at a target), Rocket Launcher (striking and catching pool noodles), etc.).

SOCIAL STUDIES – Social Studies is made up of a variety of sub-disciplines like civics, economics, history, and geography.  Each discipline has unique vocabulary that can be highlighted in physical education classes.  If organizing students into squads or teams, using history vocabulary as team names is a simple way to reinforce the terms (i.e. – Presidents, important Native America tribes, important historical battles, famous Black Americans, etc.).  There are also many opportunities using creative activities that are specific to social studies content (i.e. – anything that deals with the Olympics can be connected to Greece, Chinese jump rope has a natural connection to the history of China, etc.). 

The key to crossing the curriculum is using the resources available to you at your school (other teacher and/or your administrators).  For me, it has always been pretty simple because my wife is a 5th grade teacher.  In many ways, her knowledge and expertise with the core content has helped me be a more effective physical education teacher.  I realize that this may not be your situation but I also know that there are many teachers in your school that would be more than willing to provide ideas on ways that you can help their students be successful.

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

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Physical Education: A Laboratory for Life Lessons

Posted 3 months ago - by Troy Urdahl

As educators and advocates for Physical Education and activities in our schools, we do not need much of a sales pitch on the value of participation in PE and other school programs that promote and encourage student fitness and an active lifestyle.  We are keenly aware of the many benefits of participation.  However, this message is not reaching everyone. 


Last fall an article in The Atlantic titled “The Case Against High-School Sports” sparked debate across the country and within the media regarding the place and role of games and competition in and amongst our schools (Ripley, 2013).  The author of The Atlantic’s article asserted the United States would be well-served to devote precious school resources toward increasing student achievement, rather than subsidizing game-playing in our schools.  Using the European model as an example, the author asserts sports should be a community function, not a school enterprise.  The same debate occurs at the state and local levels with new standards or curriculum requirements that are too frequently forcing Physical Education courses to become electives.  So, if someone stops you in the grocery store aisle and asks how Physical Education will improve the future life of their child, how would you respond?

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The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has compiled extensive research on the benefits of high school activities and similar evidence exists for Physical Education (e.g. PHIT America).  Life lessons that complement other academic lessons are taught every day in our classrooms and in our gyms, courts, rinks, pools, and fields.  Hard work, dedication, dealing with adversity, communicating with others, academic success, health benefits, and the like are quickly cited as benefits of participation.  This past year’s media coverage underscores our need to trumpet physical education and school activities as laboratories for life lessons.  During physical education students can hone those skills that can lead to a healthier and more successful life by improving their fitness, learning to deal with and mitigate stress, experiencing goal setting, developing emotional and social skills, teaching self-discipline, and molding moral development and leadership abilities.  The value of our traditional classrooms is undoubtedly great, but these classrooms are not able to replicate the learning environment provided by the skilled Physical Education instructor.  We need an emphasis on science, math, English, and social studies in our schools.  So, too, do we need (now more than ever) an outlet to teach our youth how to work with, communicate, and succeed in an oftentimes competitive environment.         

In a Huffington Post counter-commentary to “The Case Against High-School Sports,” writer Kai Sato (2013) offers testimonials from business leaders discussing what they look for in their employees:

We try to recruit people that can work in a team environment, are competitive and driven, and it is not a pre-requisite, but many times athletes have those traits, says Ken Marschner, Executive Director of UBS (Sato, 2013).  

In my 30 years in the business world, I have found that what an athlete brings to the workplace is discipline, teamwork, a drive for success, the desire to be held accountable and a willingness to have their performance measured, says Steve Reinemund, former Chairman & CEO, of PepsiCo (Sato, 2013).

The skills developed through Physical Education are difficult to reproduce in a traditional classroom setting.  Physical Education remains as, and should be promoted as, a valuable laboratory for life lessons; a laboratory which plays an integral role in the promotion of citizenship skills and education of our youth.  Please, do not be afraid to champion this truth at your next opportunity.



National Federation of State High School Associations. (2013). The case for high school activities. 

Ripley, A. (2013, October).  The case against high-school sports. The Atlantic Monthly, 312(3), 72-78.

Sato, Kai. (2013, September 27).  The case for high school sports.  The Huffington Post.

PHIT America: A movement for a fit and healthy America.  (n.d).  Benefits of P.E. in school. 


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Getting Beyond the Gym Walls

Posted 3 months ago - by Scott McDowell

How can you maximize your time with students? 
How can you reach more stakeholders? 
How can you show staff, students, administration, and the community that what you are teaching is rich in meaning and more than just a 30 minute lesson? 

I encourage you to think “outside of the box” or beyond the gym walls.  Collaborate to create opportunities that impact learning through meaningful moments and also causes a ripple effect within the school and beyond. 

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Here are just a few ideas:

Physical Change

While teaching at East Elementary in Lake Bluff, Illinois, I implemented a program called “Physical Change.”  Atop the stage in the gym sat an empty 5 gallon water jug.   Each month students were given a physical task.  Upon completion of the task at home students were encouraged to bring in “sweaty pennies” to add to the jug.  For example, during one month the assignment was jumping jacks and the suggested ratio was 1 penny for every 10 jumping jacks.  Some students chose to bring them in each day while others collected them at home all month and then made a single deposit.  At the end of the month we chose a charity to donate the sweaty pennies to and then started over.  The students were motivated to practice the skill, solicited the help of family members in the process, and saw the effect they could have on others through their contributions. 


Strengthen Important Bonds

As a teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary School I collaborated with my staff to implement two activities that improved our school culture and strengthened the bond between staff and the community.  In the fall we held a “crazy” kickball game at a local park.  Twenty to thirty staff members participated in the game and many others sold popcorn, dressed as the mascot, or took on other tasks.  We encouraged families to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the local food bank.  Each inning various rules were implemented to make things more exciting.  Students and parents had the opportunity to see their teachers laugh, play, and work together.  This annual activity has been an October staple for the last 5 years in Lake Bluff.  Later that year we created another fun activity and this time collaborated with our district’s middle school staff and the central office.  Working together we hosted a staff basketball game that had a suggested cost and all donations went to the Wounded Warrior Fund.  Some staff played basketball while others took the initiative of creating cheerleading squads, selling food, or working the crowds.  It was standing room only on our first attempt and once again students had the chance to see their teachers participating in healthy physical activities that had a ripple effect beyond the walls of the gym. 


Physical Challenges

Take time to develop challenges that ask your students to apply their knowledge and skills, encourages goal setting, promotes teamwork and respect, and pushes them to finish what they start.  Lundahl Middle School Physical Education Teacher Fred Kaiser, a 2008 Teacher of the Year, has implemented several programs over the last 15 years that have made ripples far beyond his own community.  His students have the opportunity to participate in a 24 hour run, a fitness marathon, self defense units, and much more.  As a state and national presenter, Fred has been able to share his successes and inspire other educators to develop similar activities that motivate students and go far beyond the walls of Lundahl.  Inspired by Fred’s work, I developed a Hurly Burly in Lake Bluff for my second grade students.  Rather than running one mile at a time my students ran a quarter mile.  Students were put in teams and their only challenge was to never quit during the two-hour team run.  It became a right of passage for our students leaving second grade each year.  After five years of the program, I had nearly as many parents running the challenge as I did students and it became necessary to stop students at times because they were completing 5 to 6 miles!  Students were self motivated and determined to finish.  Students received a shirt and a post-race pizza party.  Since student teaching for Fred Kaiser in 1998 I have not stopped thinking “out of the box” and seeking ways to reach beyond my daily instruction.  To learn more about Fred and his programs, you can check out his website.


Blending Curriculums

Want to sell yourself to your staff?  Go ask them what they are doing and how you can be a part of their efforts in the classroom!  Look for ways to bring their curriculum into your space and tie it into movement.  Research is showing that learning is improved when students are engaged in hands-on activities and/or physical movement.  While teaching in Lake Bluff I sought out my kindergarten teachers and asked if we could work together to create a Literacy-Movement Lab for students.  Our 25 minute Friday lab included literacy skills combined with activities such as tossing, balancing, tumbling, jumping, and cup stacking.  The kindergarten team determined my groupings each week and students viewed the extra time as exciting and meaningful.  Did it require extra planning, collaboration, and giving up some prep time?  Yes.  Did it make a difference in the lives of my students?  Yes, and I am sure you can figure out what parents, teachers, and my administration thought of the efforts. You can view a video of the program on PE Universe!


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Maintaining an Outdoor Classroom

Posted 3 months ago - by Suzanne Hunter Serafin

Check out this video blog for ways to organize your Outdoor Classroom!

Suzanne uses the Mangus™ Recess Rack available Only From Gopher for her outdoor classroom!  

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Motivating Students in Order to Promote Positive Behavior

Posted 3 months ago - by Donn Tobin

     I quickly survey the class sitting in front of me as I transition from one activity to the next.  Keeping instruction short and sweet is very important to me, so I try my hardest to be brief but to the point.  I see that most of them are quietly sitting in “pretzel” position, their hands to themselves, and intently watching and listening to me this time all except for “Danny”, sitting near the back of the class.  “Danny”, who a second ago began to lie down on the gym floor making snow angels , now abruptly sits up, pokes the back of the child in front of him, and begins to violently spin in a 360 degree circle, all while instruction is taking place.

     Does this sound familiar?  Do you have classes where the dynamics sometimes make things really, r-e-a-l-l-y challenging?  We all have different types of students in our school.  Some of them are excellent listeners, follow directions, and always seem to do the right thing.  Some of them, unfortunately, are not.  They may have issues (personal, physical or behavioral) going on.  They may not value or care about school.  Whatever the lack of motivation may be, it is our job to try to get kids “turned on” to physical activity, and get excited to participate in physical education.

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     Luckily most elementary school children love coming to and participating in PE.  I realize that it may not be for everyone.  It is imperative to try to connect with all children, and by utilizing different teaching strategies, it is possible to promote positive behavior with them.  The following are a few examples of some positive strategies that I have used in my school:


  • Student of the Month Award.  This award is given to a student in every class each month.  A student that has had great effort, good sportsmanship, is an excellent listener and helper, and does an all-around great job in my class gets this award.  I have given this award to children who have really tried to improve behavior if they are struggling in my class.  I do not base it on athletic skill.  This student is given a certificate, has their picture taken which my colleagues and I post out in the hallway each month.  Students really look forward to this at the end of each month, and some former students have told me that they still have their picture and certificate from many years back.  For some, this can be a motivating factor in itself.  Does every child get one?  No, however by the time they leave my school (my school is K-5), they have a very good chance of getting it.
  • NBA Sneaker Contest.  I got this idea many years ago from another PE teacher.  I contacted an NBA Basketball Equipment Manager and asked him if he could donate the largest size sneaker that he had for this school initiative.  The gentleman sent me what he claimed is Dikembe Mutombo’s size 22 Nike sneakers.  Each class of every grade level in the school gets a class score when they leave at the end of physical education.  The highest score a class can get is a “3”, the lowest, “0”.  Classes that demonstrate good behavior, effort, cooperation will score the most points.  If a class receives a lower score one day, it is a really easy way to assess them (and to notify their classroom teacher).  Most classes are very unhappy about this, and are motivated to do better.  The class from grades 1-2, and 3-5 with the highest amount of points get to keep one of the extremely large sneakers in their classroom.  Every two months we announce a new winner.  In case of a tie, a special mark is made in our grade book if a class was as perfect as possible (“3+”).
  • Sneaker Cutouts.  For 30 minutes of physical activity outside the school day, children have the chance to decorate, and cutout a paper sneaker to be placed on the gymnasium wall.  Children can fill out as many as they wish.  The only stipulation is that it must be signed by a parent/guardian in order to have it on the wall.  It is great to see students take sneaker sheets at the end of each class, and to see our gymnasium walls filled with them is such a sight to see!
  • Individual Behavior Plans.  I have run many different varieties of a behavior sheet for children.  For those who need a push I base a plan on the need for improvement.  It may be for a sticker, certificate or even a small token (i.e.: mini ball, yo-yo, pencil).  I make sure that I communicate with the parent/guardian to make them aware that I need their help to come from home when trying to improve behavior.
  • “Sticker Time”.  Kindergarteners can be tough... they are babies!   For some this is their first experience with school.    Most come to my gymnasium VERY excited, and in turn can be draining.  In order to get them under my routines and in control of their behavior, I initiated “sticker time”.  If a student at the end of the class did not need a time-out, and was a good listener, they receive a small sticker.  This incentive changes several months in where students only earn the sticker on the last class of the week that I see them. 
  • P.B.I.S.   Stands for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support.  This is a school wide program where we (the physical education staff) are included in a building behavior system.  Students can earn tokens for being observed doing something good.  These tokens are cutout paws (we are the Lakeview Bulldogs) that children can accumulate for other incentives based in their classroom.  Staff members all have paws to hand out on different colored paper so it can be tracked where the student got the paw from (bus, monitor, special area, nurse, etc).  I have been known to give both individual and/or class paws to help reinforce good behavior.  This system only works if all staff members buy into it. 


What are some ways that you motivate your students? 

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Posted 3 months ago - by Terri Pitts

The ever increasing pressure to cram more instructional time into the school day in an attempt to boost test scores has put the squeeze on recess in districts around the country. The trend can be traced back to the late eighties and was accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Districts under pressure to show academic progress began to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction in Nevada explains, “If you have a 15-minute recess scheduled, you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom. You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It’s become a luxury we can’t afford.” Nationwide, principals state that 89 percent of discipline-related problems occur at recess or lunch.

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But all work and no play for kids has not set well with many parents-and teachers. Now there is some momentum to keep recess, fueled by several forces. There's the nation's obesity epidemic and First Lady, Michelle Obama's, spotlight on childhood health. New brain research is drawing clear links between physical activity and learning. 

Georgia State's Professor, Olga Jarrett, states, "There is this assumption that if you keep kids working longer, they will learn more," says Jarrett. "It's misguided." Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. "With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games, figure out what's fair, and learn a lot of social behavior that they don't learn in P.E. and in the classroom," she says.

Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:

- Are less fidgety and more on task
- Have improved memory and more focused attention
- Develop more brain connections
- Learn negotiation skills
- Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts
- Are more physically active before and after school


Continuing the Conversation:

— Do you think kids need recess? Why?

— Is recess just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of recess or unstructured time? Do you still have recess?

— How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during recess? Was it beneficial for you?


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Move Them or Lose Them

Posted 3 months ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton

P.E. is exactly what it stands for Physical Education, but from a student’s perspective it’s P.E.N (physical education now) and rightfully so. Students sit attentively all day in class, when they come to PE, their objective is to have fun and blow off a little steam. Unfortunately for them, a typical Texas school day consists of 8 hours, yet students attend a formal PE class only three sessions a week, and as little as 45 minutes per class. Students frequently struggle to achieve the standard 60 minutes of daily activity, so utilization of every moment of formal PE class is of the utmost importance.

Common mistakes I tend to see PE teachers make are requiring students to sit in squad lines to take roll, give long lectures about what the students will do for the day, and simply distract from the task at hand, to be physical active and engaged. This antiquated procedure results restlessness amongst students and only adds frustration to the teacher as they struggle to hold the students attention and potential engagement.

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Criticisms I’ve often heard Physical Educators iterate is that it requires far too much added work, extra equipment and will be more of a hassle then it is worth. However, my observation is the advantage of instant activities is to get the entire class moving. There is very little teacher involvement and it often can be achieved with little or no formal equipment. Keep in mind that it’s Instant Activity, so the students are engaged physically for a matter of minutes. My typical instant activities are vigorous and last upwards of a continuous three minute block. During that short time, the activities promote heart rate acceleration which increases the amount of blood being pumped to the brain. This creates a more attentive student who’s ready to engage in the daily lesson. They can't help but to stay focused, quiet and attentive to instruction because they've become physically activated and physiologically engaged. I then use their recovery period to begin my brief but comprehensive instructional session. Once I’ve completed my instructions to the class they've recovered, regained their second wind and are again ready to become active.

The name of the game is to use every available moment to physically engage my students, help create a sense of accountability pertaining exercise and a love of P.E. I often find myself borrowing instant activities ideas from fellow PE teachers but my favorite place to find creative and engaging instant activities is PE Universe. If you need ideas on what type of activities you can instantly do in your gym here is a link form PE Universe http://www.peuniverse.com/search/?query=instant+activities. Remember you can take other ideas you learn from others and make it your own.

What are some instant activities that you use with your students?

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Tamesha!

Back-to-School Icebreakers and Team Building Activities

Posted 3 months ago - by Maria Corte

The first day of school is right around the corner! Maria Corte shares her Top 5 icebreakers and team building activities for the first week of school! Check them out below!

Ice breaker activities are a great way for students’ to connect with their classmates and teachers upon returning to school.  The first few days of school many students are unsure about the class and their relationships with other classmates.  Creating a warm and friendly climate for your class is essential for your student’s success as well as the success of your program.  Making your class inviting and comfortable will not only give your students the confidence to perform well, it will also make you more familiar with your students to decrease any potential management issues.  The following are my top favorite activities that help me, as a teacher learn all the amazing personalities I’ll have the pleasure of working with all semester.

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Rock Paper Scissors Tournament

Students pair up and throw R, P, S shoot.  The winner finds another winner, while the defeated student now cheers on the person that defeated them. This goes on until there are only two students left in the tournament.  Now you have half the class cheering for their “guy” and the other half of the class cheering for their “guy”.  It’s loud, it’s fun and it never fails!

Hint: When you get to the last two remaining students, the winner is now the best 2 out of 3.  



Instruct your students to find other students with the same common interests or likes. The first common interest I use is their favorite COLOR.  Next, MONTH they were born and finally FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR OR SENIOR.  Once they have their group, they sit down in a circle and go around stating their name and grade.  (When doing the birth month, have them state their name and the DAY they were born)

Hint:  This activity allows the teacher to immediately identify students who will be leaders, followers, loud, shy, etc…


Partner Tag

Have students find a partner and decide who chases who.  Once the music starts, the student who is chasing will spin around three times before finding and catching their partner.  Once they catch or tag their partner, they reverse roles and the chaser now gets chased. 
Next, have the partners’ pair up again, but this time link arms.  They will now pair up with another group of two linked partners, making it 2 on 2.  They repeat the above process, but must stay linked with their partner, even on the beginning spinning part.
Next, have the linked partners link arms with the linked partner(s) they were chasing making it 4 on 4.  They repeat the above process, but this time the chasers will only spin once.


Team Juggling Name Game

Now that you have groups of 8 from the above Partner Tag game, have them get in a circle (standing) and give each group 3 tennis balls.  They will number off from 1-8 consecutively.  Now have the #1 student take one tennis ball and toss it to #2 student while saying their name and their #.  For example, Joey who is # 1 will say “Joey 1” before throwing it to the #2 student.  This will continue until the ball gets back to #1 student.  Now have the students mix up in the circle and stand next to two different people. Start with student #1 again and have them toss the ball consecutively.  Add another ball and then a third ball to make it more challenging.  

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Maria!

What Do I Do Now?

Posted 3 months ago - by Natalia Brown

Are you looking to spice up your PE lessons?  Do you see some of your students standing around with the “What do I do now?” look on their face? If you answered yes to these questions, then circuit training is right for you.

What exactly is circuit training?

  • “An intensive form of fitness training in which a group of exercises are completed one after the other.  Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time before you move on to the next exercise.” (Oxford Food and Fitness Dictionary)

What are the benefits of curcuit training?

  • Develop overall body strength and aerobic fitness
  • Enables you to have many different activities going on concurrently
  • Allows all students to work at their own levels
  • Allows all students to achieve success
  • Students get a lot done in a little amount of time with a lot of people
  • Eliminate any standing around and looking around

Here are some tips:

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  • Circuit training usually works best if they are set up along the perimeter of the available space which will help with the rotation
  • Choose activities or skills students have previously worked on or that is done regularly
  • Set up stations prior to class arrival
  • Divide students evenly between stations
  • Ensure that there is enough equipment for everyone in each station
  • Place signs with words and pictures of each activity for each station
  • Demonstrate the activities at each station prior to students starting
  • Play upbeat music to keep students engaged
  • Have fun

Students will start the activity at their station upon a signal from the teacher.  The teacher could either say the word go, blow a whistle, or start music.  After 30 – 60 seconds of performing the exercise at their station, teacher signals for students to rotate to next station.  Continue this format until students have completed all the stations within the circuit. 

To make the station a bit more challenging students can write down the number of completed reps of each exercise on an index card.  The next time they do the circuit they will try to beat their previous score. 

Anyone can develop a circuit.  It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of space, and a little bit of equipment.  Circuit training is something your students can do at home with family and friends.  They will learn skills that will help them lead a healthy lifestyle.  Most importantly, they will have fun!

Circuit training example #1 – without equipment

  1. Mountain climbers
  2. Curl ups
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Push ups
  5. Jog in place
  6. Superman
  7. Burpees
  8. Triceps dips
  9. Side to side ski jumps
  10. Crunches

Circuit training example #2 – with equipment

  1. Jump rope
  2. Bicycle crunches
  3. Hula hoops
  4. Hip raise
  5. Basketball shooting
  6. Touch the shoulder push ups
  7. Ring toss
  8. Lunges
  9. Aerobic steps
  10. Squats

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Natalia!




Kid + Ball = Play

Posted 3 months ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

Developing Physical Literacy Through Small Sided Games

Our son and his community rep Under 12 soccer team were asked to be ball people at the University National Men’s Soccer Championship last fall, hosted at the University of Toronto. The boys assumed their roles with excitement and awe as they stood by the sidelines with a soccer ball in hand; ready to throw into the play when indicated by the referee.

Driving home I asked my son, “how did you like that experience?” He was quick to answer that they were all told not to fidget or play with the soccer ball on the sideline and to be ready at all times. He then added, mom, doesn't that person know that “Kid + Ball = Play!” As a former physical education teacher and now educator involved in Physical Education Teacher Education, I smiled and thought to myself… what a tag line to aspire to… providing all children and youth with the competence and confidence to move their bodies, have fun and keep active!

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In a time when our children and youth are living very sedentary lives, when play is almost becoming extinct and sport is becoming very specialized at an early age and less accessible to many, it begs the question; What is the role and purpose of Physical Education in schools and communities in the 21st century?

As a course instructor of pedagogy for Health and Physical Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University in Toronto, I challenge my beginning teachers with this very question as they engage in teaching and learning experiences that will contribute to their understandings as teachers. Two very influential bodies of research and practice are the notion of physical literacy and curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding.

Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada defines physical literacy as,

Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person

  • Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
  • They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
  • These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.” (Mandigo, J., Francis, N., Lodewyk, K. & Lopez, R. 2009).

Think about your physical literacy journey from birth to present. Think about the number of fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, skipping, throwing, swimming that you have acquired or you wish your students to acquire in your PE programs. Think about the experiences that contributed to your motivation to move or your confidence to move. Now think about what that will look like in your PE programming to develop physical literacy for all your students.


Physical Literacy, Physically Literate Students



This leads to how to develop physical literacy through small-sided games. The curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) simply put, allows students to understand the why before the how – game tactics before skill.  

TGFU a strategic games-based approach, which emphasizes students’ understanding of and performance in the many tactical aspects of game play, was first proposed by Bunker and Thorpe in the early 1980’s as an alternative to traditional, technique–led approaches to games teaching and learning. Over the past decade, TGFU has acquired great momentum in Canada as an effective game pedagogy and is embedded in our PE curriculum documents.

TGFU is a comprehensive, student-centered approach to help students acquire the knowledge of game strategies, movement skills, decision-making skills and team building skills through small-sided games (4 vs. 4, 3 vs. 3). Students become more independent thinkers and less reliable on their PE teacher or coach to make decisions in game play situations. The use of novelty type equipment such as a rubber chicken allows for the learning to focus on tactics first and then skill development follows.

Through small-sided strategic games students develop their competence and confidence to play, have fun and are more active. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids who saw a ball wanted to play?!


For some more information about physical literacy or TGFU check out some of my 'go-to' resources that I share with beginning teachers:

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Carolyn!


SHAPE America and the Importance of Professionalism

Posted 3 months ago - by Dr. Steve Jefferies

As you probably know, this year’s biggest professional event was the national AAHPERD convention in St. Louis. Any kind of convention or professional meeting is something I eagerly anticipate and get on my schedule. It's not so much the presentations or formal meetings I look forward to - although for the most part these are fun – but the people I get to meet. Turns out the more I go, the bigger my group of professional friends develops. And chatting with people about what they're doing professionally (and sometimes personally) is really the best part. It gets you recharged and reenergized and more often than not gives you something new to try when you return home. In honesty, I don't get how so many physical and health education teachers never go to professional events; in fact intentionally choose to avoid them. How do they keep inspired? How do they keep up with what's new? And how do they truly serve the best interests of the students they teach?

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I understand being professionally involved can be expensive. But I also know that it can be done because every year I see the same teaching colleagues from around the country negotiate ways to get their school districts or universities to help fund them. Seems that where there is a will there really is a way. And not surprisingly these same people are the ones who are most active professionally, making presentations, advocating, and generally inspiring their colleagues and the public by what they do in their classrooms.


Now, I'm not suggesting that good things are not happening in the classrooms and gyms of the thousands of teaching colleagues who choose not to be professionally involved, but I do find it shortsighted. Every month on pelinks4u we report news from around the nation of PE and health program and position reductions and cuts. In too many places we just “don't get no respect.” Unfortunately, we have to ask ourselves, "Why should others respect what we do if we don’t bother to share the good news?" It's one thing for us to know that our students are learning a lot from our teaching, and an entirely different (and often false) thing to assume that others know about it. It's like a business creating a great product and not advertising. You can imagine the consequences. But this explains why it's so important for all health and physical educators to get professionally involved in addition to teaching well.


We may not need to teach the world to sing but we sure do need to promote ourselves and our profession. This involves public relations and marketing in our schools and supporting our state and national professional associations. If you've never been to your state legislature or Capitol Hill, here's what happens. Each and every day a procession of lobbyists and special interest advocates stops by the offices of your elected legislators. They try to persuade these key decision-makers to support their interests. And of course the more often legislators hear the same message the more they listen. What does this mean for you and me? Simply stated it means that if we don't have a seat at the table we find ourselves on the menu! No champions to defend us or support what we do. It becomes a self-fulfilling behavior and explains the perennial struggle we face for professional respect.


So, in conclusion, if you aren't already a member of SHAPE-America (the new name for AAHPERD/NASPE), or your state professional association I encourage you for your own self-interest to join both. These are the groups who do their best to represent us in our states and capital. They try to do what most of us don't have time or expertise to do. But they need your support. There's a reason that AARP, the NRA, and others wield such power: Membership. Size does make a difference when it comes to influence. Sadly, less than 10% of the people presently teaching health and physical education belong to AAHPERD or their state professional association. Maybe you are one of them? If you think about it, the cost is trivial in comparison to what it would mean to you, your family, and your colleagues to lose our jobs. For us to move forward successfully into the 21st century we all need to be TEAM supporters. Please join us. Together we can do great things.

Check out more tips, trends and ideas on the Gopher PE Blog!

Getting Parents Involved in Physical Education

Posted 3 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

A common obstacle teachers face when starting a new school year is how to get parents involved in Physical Education. Check out a few of Aaron Beighle's ideas for how to involve parents in PE below!


As a young teacher with no children of my own, I was scared to death of parents. Parent-teacher conferences, writing report card comments, visits to class, saying, “Hello” in the car pool line….all frightening duties. I didn’t know what to say or how to relate to them…people with kids were sooo old and unapproachable. Boy howdy was I wrong. The one thing I learned is that to truly impact the lives of students and teach them, parents were my best ally. I had to get them involved. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work alongside, observe, and collaborate with some incredibly creative, energetic physical educators. For this blog, I will share just a few of the ideas I have garnered (aka stolen) to get parents involved in physical education. It is important to note that these activities can all be advertised via a physical education newsletter.

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PE Nights/Demonstration Nights--

PE nights and Demonstration nights are very similar. The goal is to get parents into the gymnasium to showcase what is happening in physical education. For PE night, parents and students participate in a physical education “lesson” together. For a demonstration night, parents observe and often participate in a fun culminating game or activity. Again, this is a time to showcase the fun activities students engage in during physical education and to educate parents about your physical education program. Common feedback from parents goes something like this, “PE wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”


Active Open House-- 

Most schools have an Open House at the beginning of the year. What better way to promote PE? One strategy is to loan pedometers to parents to wear while at the Open House. When parents return the pedometers, provide them with an informational flier explaining the importance of physical activity and physical education. We used to include dinner table questions for families to discuss. Also during Open House, steering parents to the gymnasium to engage in activity stations works well. Stations tend to work better than a game. Getting into a game midstream can be uncomfortable for some parents. Stations allow them to work in. Also, stations allow the PE teacher to circulate and meet parents.


Fitness Self-Testing-- 

I promote the use of Fitness Self-Testing for a variety of reasons. It allows teachers to communicate with parents, explain the terms “physical activity” and “physical fitness,” and assess relevant PE content knowledge. Morgan and Morgan (2005) provide an in-depth discussion of how to implement fitness self-testing. Once complete, teachers can send home information about the importance of regular physical activity, the role of physical fitness in youth and explain the role of fitness in physical education. This holds true for other assessments as well. I think any time we can reach out to parents with thoughtful fliers, newsletters, and feedback to promote our programs we should do it.

Parents are a great ally in our efforts to promote youth physical activity. Above I have provided just a few ideas to get them involved and to educate them about physical education. Other ideas include recruiting parents to volunteer at field day or charity events or to just have them visit a physical education lesson and participate with their children. These strategies allow us to promote physical education during school and outside of school with the adults who are most influential in the lives of youth.

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Aaron!

Kids Are Not Little Adults

Posted 4 months ago - by Robert Pangrazi

K-2 students have short legs in relation to their upper body and head that causes them to have a high center of gravity and make them “top-heavy.” This helps explain why these students fall often and have little success when trying to perform activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. Growth gradually lowers the center of gravity and gives children increased stability and balance. However, it is important to understand how normal growth and development limits student success in many physical activities.

In the elementary school years, muscular strength increases linearly with chronological age. In other words, as children grow older they become stronger. Pre-adolescent children show few strength differences between the sexes. Boys and girls generally perform similarly in strength activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. In the past, teachers have accepted lower performances from girls even though they are capable of more. Expectations should be similar for elementary school boys and girls.

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Strength differences do occur among children of widely differing weight and height, regardless of sex. Differences in weight and height should be considered when pairing children for competitive activities such as running together, physical contact, or games that require strength. Problems occur when a student is paired with someone who is considerably taller, heavier or more mature and therefore stronger. When matching students for safety reasons, remember that weight and stature are much more important than the gender of the students.

Strength is an important factor for success in performing motor skills. A study that weighted factors that contribute to the motor performance of children showed that strength or power or both in relation to body size was the most important. High levels of strength in relation to body size (relative strength) helped predict which students were most capable of performing motor skills. The amount of body fat was the fourth-ranked factor in the study and was weighted negatively meaning overweight children were less proficient at learning and performing motor skills. Body fat acts negatively on motor performance by reducing a child’s strength in relation to their body size. Overweight children may be stronger than normal-weight children in absolute terms, but they are less strong when strength is adjusted for body weight. This lack of relative strength makes it more difficult to perform a strength-related task (e.g., push-up or curl-up) compared to normal-weight children. The key point is that overweight youth deserve special consideration to keep them “turned on” to physical activity. Have different expectations for children rather than giving an entire class the same physical challenge.

Teachers have long understood and discussed differences in maturity among students. Youngsters are often referred to as being immature or more mature than other students; but this is usually in reference to the emotional maturity of youngsters. Another type of maturity, skeletal or physical maturity has a strong impact on student performance in physical activities. The method used to identify physical maturity is to compare chronological age to skeletal age. Ossification (hardening) of the bones occurs in the center of the bone shaft and at the ends of the long bones (growth plates). This rate of ossification gives an accurate indication of a child’s maturation and is identified by X-raying the wrist bones and comparing the development of the subject’s bones with a set of standardized X rays. This offers a more accurate indication of a child’s physical maturity. Children whose chronological age is ahead of skeletal age are said to be late (or slow) maturers. On the other hand, if skeletal age is ahead of chronological age, such children are labeled early (fast) maturers.

Studies examining skeletal age consistently show that a five- to six-year variation in maturity exists among youngsters in a typical classroom. For example, third graders (8 year olds) will range in skeletal age from 5 to 11 years. It would be inappropriate to ask a 5-year-old child to perform tasks that 11-year-olds are expected to accomplish. The message here is that even though students in a classroom are about the same age, there are large individual differences in maturity. Monitor and adjust program activities to allow students to progress at a rate suitable to their level of maturity. 

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more Dr. Bob Pangrazi!

Yard Games Fitness Fun in Physical Education

Posted 4 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Considering implementing a Yard Game unit this year? Check out these five great tips from Jessica Shawley, 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year!

Horseshoe, Horseshoes, Horse Shoe, Yard Game Adaptations, Balance Disc Gamebeanbags, bean bag, cornhole, corn hole, yard games

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A game of horseshoes at my school isn’t your typical experience. I’ve added new twists to traditional yard games to foster creativity and add an element of fitness. Yard games offer a different level of socialization, cooperation and creativity than traditional sport and fitness units. Everyone can be successful regardless of athletic ability or fitness level. Yard games are also a great activity for connecting students with their family. Teach them in late spring so the learning is carried into the summer and fall months as an activity with their family and friends for weekends, family reunions, BBQs, sporting events, or a trip to the park.

To integrate yard games into your curriculum, be sure to follow these tips:

1. Use the “Jig-saw” method: Divide class into the same number of groups as there are games and assign one group to each to learn all rules, scoring, set-up, take-down, and modifications. One person from each group then combines to form a new group. Members take turns teaching their newly learned game to the rest of this new group (over one or more lessons).

2. Use the Sport Education model: Student-led teams come up with a name, choose roles (manager, scorekeeper, equipment manager, captain), practice the games, and plan for a culminating event. As you research the Sport Education Model framework, you can modify it to your level and available time frame.

3. Integrate health-related fitness: Play “half-court” games so students have to move back and forth instead of stand in one location. Have fitness stations and equipment to work on muscular strength/endurance or flexibility while students wait to throw. Pairing with a high intensity activity allows yard games to be a rest station or bonus when the workout is complete.

4. Integrate skill-related fitness: Require the use a balance disc or dome to balance on while throwing, challenge students to use their non-dominant hand to throw, or have skill-related fitness challenge stations to complete while students wait their turn. There are many fun ways to incorporate the skills of coordination, reaction time, agility, and balance.

5. Cultivate Creativity: After students learn the traditional games have a “create your own yard game” challenge. Teams must create a new or modify an existing game by adding, subtracting or modifying a minimum number of rules (scoring, how to play, etiquette, etc.). Teams practice and then present their new games to another team or the entire class and try them out. You will be amazed at what students create. One of my recent favorites was using the “triple jump” footwork skill from the track unit as the movement form to throw horseshoes. Very creative indeed!

Incorporating all or some of these five tips will ensure an enjoyable yard games unit. You will also appreciate the way yard games allow you to interact with students and strengthen relationships in a non-traditional activity setting.

Join the community and continue the conversation: What’s one of your favorite yard games or strategies to “amp-up” the fitness aspect of lower impact activities such as yard games? Leave a comment or question below.


Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Jessica!

Turkish Get Up

Posted 4 months ago - by Frank Baumholtz

Need a new exercise for your strength and contitioning class? Personal Trainer and Physical Education teacher, Frank Baumholtz, provides you with the steps and demonstrates how to complete a Turkish Get-Up! 


One of the best lines I’ve taken over the last few years is one from Dan John.  “If it’s important to you, do it every day. If it’s not important to you, don’t do it.”  In all of my training programs, we always foam roll, warm up, go through dynamic-movement prep and perform Kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups.  Everyday! 

The Turkish Get Up is the ultimate core exercise.  It’s the yoga move of strength and conditioning.  You have to have mobility, strength and coordination.  You need to be able to breathe while under load and take the body through the full range of motion.  We don’t isolate muscles and movement patterns, we integrate them. 

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One key note to remember is that bony prominences of the body (Heel, heel of hand, elbow, knee, etc) are points of stability.  Use them to your advantage. 

Turkish Get Up:

  1. Starting Position-- Positioning the kettlebell (KB)

    1. Start in the fetal position
    2. Pull the KB close to the bdoy with both hands
    3. Extend your top leg and roll to your back
    4. Press the KB up with both hands
    5. KB side knee should be flexed and foot flat
    6. Abduct the straight leg roughly 45 degrees from your mid line
    7. Place off hand flat on the ground
    8. Keep wrist neutral (knuckles to the ceiling)
  2. Roll To Press
    1. Control breathing (breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth)
    2. Roll into the off-side shoulder, pressing the KB to the ceiling.
      * This is a very small controlled motion, don't rush
  3. Elbow
    1. Press throught he shoulder and up to the elbow
    2. Roll back to your back
  4. Post (Seated)
    1. From the elbow, press through the hand to the steated position
    2. Keep the off-side heel into the ground. It might want to pop up, but don't let it!
    3. Return to your back. Make sure to control through the elbow on the way back down
  5. High Pelvis
    1. From the Post, extend the hips to the sky/ceiling.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
  6. Bend
    1. From the High Pelvis Position, Bend sideways placing your knee directly under you.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
  7. 1/2 Kneeling
    1. From the Bend Position, bring your torso up into the ½ kneeling position.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through the bend, your seat and elbow on the way back down.
  8. Full
    1. From the ½ Kneeling Position, stand tall keeping the KB directly above you.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through the ½ kneeling, bend, seat and elbow on the way back down.

Progression Ideas:

  1. Part: Work only to the position where you can control the kettlebell and return to your back each time
  2. Whole: Perform a full Turkish Get Up, under control, without stopping

Turkish Get Up Progression with Pictures:

  1. Starting Position: