Using Student Choice to Increase Motivation!
Anyone have students who do not want to participate in class? Have you tried just about every trick known to man outside of bribery to get those students to participate? I honestly answered yes to both of these questions at the beginning of my teaching career and became frustrated and disappointed at the same time. So, what changed? Lots!
I teach in a very rural high school in central Pennsylvania and we were fortunate to receive a Carol M. White PEP Grant back in 2010, which was the beginning of a new direction for our program. We began to make the switch from a sports-focused program to a more fitness-focused program. As soon as we made this switch, we started to see an increase in participation from our students.
Now that we had made the switch and had more students participating, we wanted to get the rest on board. And this is when we began offering a very wide variety of activities in class for our students to choose. We had the addition of a new fitness center, a nice sized auxiliary gym and of course our main gym. So, we decided that even with just two teachers (and sometimes one), we were going to give the students the power of choice. We turned our program into a quality fitness center just like the ones students will be exposed to for the rest of their lives. While we were very nervous with how this was going to go over, we were pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback from our students and even some parents. Student participation is through the roof and my frustration and disappointment have disappeared!
Please understand too, that we recognize that some students still really enjoy the team sports and other team type activities and they are still offered on a daily basis too. What we did was inject our program with a large number of cardiovascular type games to go along with some of our schools favorites, like pickleball, badminton, and volleyball. We introduced tchoukball, survivor and right now our new school favorite, sabakiball. By offering choice the number one piece of feedback that came in was from students who never wanted to play these types of games prior to our program shift. Because we do not force students into these activities, they flock to our fitness center or auxiliary gym.
Here is an example of one unit. We will introduce an activity in our main gym to all of our students. We also give the details on the other options that will be taking place in our fitness center and auxiliary gym at the same time. In our fitness center students have the opportunity to use cardio machines or work on strength circuits. Our auxiliary gym houses our spin bikes and we also have the space to offer yoga, super circuits, strength workouts, or any other variety of workouts the kids show an interest in that we can accommodate. Our current unit has sabakiball in the main gym, students working out in the fitness center, students on spin bikes, students doing yoga, and students doing a “deck of cards” workout.
My recommendation if you want to try this approach, is to start simple with activities you know well and that you know your students can sometimes handle on their own for short periods of time. We trust our students and sometimes when we are helping one group of students in the fitness center, another group is working out independently in the auxiliary gym, this is very hard sometimes to let happen, but it can be done! When we first started it was an activity in the main gym or the fitness center as options. Once our students understood our plan and goal and they got on board, we introduced an additional activity in the auxiliary gym. Now, like I said, we have 5 or 6 different types of exercise going on at one time.
To some this may sound like a recipe for disaster and chaos, but for our program and our students, it is a recipe for success! Our participation levels are very high, our fitness testing scores are increasing, our own personal frustration levels are low, and more importantly, our student approval ratings are HIGH!
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Student Enjoyment: The Key to Success in PE!
I share a peer-reviewed article from the Physical Health and Education Canada Journal, called Developing Student Enjoyment in Physical Education with my student teachers that are studying how to become Physical Education teachers at the Elementary and Secondary levels. The authors, J. Larusso, S. Pavlovich and C. Lu (2013) state, “enjoyment in physical education can be understood as the affective state or process of experiencing pleasure in physical education. It is critical for students to feel enjoyment in physical education for a variety of reasons, including: the promotion of healthy active lifestyles, the development of the whole child, ease of classroom management, and the improvement of physical education’s status and perceived value in the school system.”
My PE student teachers enjoy getting physically active on ice.
The importance of enjoyment in PE is on the rise in Ontario with the release of the updated Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum. The word “enjoyment” can be found 44 times compared to the mere 3 references in the old 1998 HPE document.
Lu et al (2013), share practical suggestions how to develop student enjoyment in our PE classes.
Some of the suggestions include:
- Have students define what enjoyment means to them
- Help students make connections between enjoyment in PE class to enjoyment outside the classroom
- Ask for students input about activities that interest them, survey students
- Be a role model for enjoyment in PE and physical activity – share your idea of enjoyment with your students
- Use a variety of activities in your PE program e.g., low organizational games, cooperative games, small and large group games, outdoor pursuits, fitness pursuits, aquatics, multicultural activities
An idea emerged to have my student teachers share their enjoyment of physical activity with elementary students. With reference to the Canadian Sport for Life: Physical Literacy Movement Preparation Guide, my student teachers and I prepared a PE lesson with a focus on developing physical literacy with an emphasis on student success and enjoyment.
Here is the lesson plan for Grade 6-8 students using the learning outcomes of the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum
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Enhance Your Power Clean by Mastering this Key Position!
The Rack Position is an important position in our Athletic Development and Strength and Conditioning Programs as it is the receiving position in both the Hang and Power Clean. It's also a versatile position in that it allows students to either Push Press or Squat out of it. Maintaining proper body position and alignment is essential, especially relating to the elbows and wrists.
The below movements or exercies can be used to enhance the Rack Position:
- Press – Barbell, Single Arm or Double Kettlebell/Dumbbell Press or Push Press
- Squat – Front Squat, Single Arm or Double Racked Kettlebell Front Squat
- Hang /Power Clean
Thank you to Ashton, Maria, Madalyn and Alivia for assisting!
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Create a Parkour Lesson in 3 Easy Steps!
Sometimes a new innovative lesson is waiting for you right in your own back yard, well, your school’s backyard! Living in Arizona, the weather allows me to take my classes outside most of the school year. However, the track setting can sometimes get tiring. One day while I was watching American Ninja Warrior on tv, I noticed the athletes were always talking about how they use Parkour training to prepare for their event. Parkour is an activity in which participants seek to get from point A to point B, like in an obstacle course, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Typically skills such as jumping, climbing, and running are used.
Here are 3 easy steps I used to create a physical education Campus Fitness or Parkour lesson:
- First, I walked around my campus and tried to find anything that I thought would work upper body, lower body, cardio, and core. (ramps, walls, picnic tables, benches, stairs, railings, hills etc.)
- Next, I mapped out the campus to create a smooth flowing course. For example, I started just outside the gym, then worked my way around the campus and ended at the gym in time to dismiss class.
- I combine 3-4 items to make an obstacle. I call or label each obstacle a Challenge and label them 1 through 5. My objective for the students on Campus Fitness Day is to have them complete 5 Challenges before the end of the class period. We do each Challenge together as a whole class and I utilize the “Never Leave Anyone Behind” philosophy. My stronger students help and/or encourage those who need some extra time or assistance. Once all students complete Challenge 1, we move to Challenge 2 and so on.
Here are some photos of my students workin’ it during our last campus fitness day.
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What's Up with SHAPE America's 50 Million Strong by 2029?
If you attended the recent SHAPE America National Convention in Seattle you witnessed a special and very significant announcement. On brochures, poster boards, and temporary tattoos were the words "50 Million Strong by 2029." What did this mean?
This fall, students entering preschool will graduate in 2029: Fourteen years from now. SHAPE America has set the goal that all of these students, and as many others in earlier grades will by then be physically active and healthy. If you think about it, it is a brave, bold, and audacious goal. The same description was used when in 1961 President John Kennedy announced his "moonshot" goal: To put a man on the moon within the decade and bring him safely back to earth. At that time there was no certainty of success. In fact failure was much more likely. America had yet to put a man in space and trailed the Soviet Union in the space race. But Kennedy's announcement inspired the nation. And in just 8 years, Neil Armstrong stood on the moon's surface.
We all know that today too many of the students in our schools are far from being physically active and healthy. Worsening obesity and the associated negative health consequences will have a catastrophic social, economic, military, and emotional impact on the nation's future if left unabated. That is why so many groups outside of our schools are anxious to turn things around. While their interest is good for our students, we should ask ourselves how it might impact the health and physical education professions. We have seen examples from around the country of outside groups entering schools, running programs, and justifying HPE program and position cuts. It’s time for us to decide how to respond.
We can choose to do nothing and let our future be determined by others. This may be the easiest but it is not the wisest choice. It risks marginalizing us further until we retreat into our gymnasiums and understandably be referred to as "gym teachers." Alternatively, we can take responsibility for creating the foundation for future success. We need to recognize that no one is better-qualified or situated to get America's youth physically active and healthy. Present in almost every one of the nation’s 100,000 schools, approximately 200,000 health and physical education teachers have more than a decade to guide America's 50 million students towards healthy living.
But where's the pride? We are more than just a delivery service. We all know that it is insufficient to simply get kids active and imagine that this is going to transform their lives. We all know that it is more important what children choose to do when they are not with us that is more important than what happens in our classrooms and gyms. In contrast to others, we alone have the opportunity to develop personal relationships with every one of the 50 million students and to help them see the relevance and value of health and physical activity.
So the question remains, "Will we do this?" Will we rise up to the challenge and recognize that it is insufficient to merely provide opportunities for our students to learn skills and be physically active. Many people diet but few actually lose weight. It's not good enough to teach but ignore whether or not our students are actually learning. And this is where the "50 million strong by 2029" comes in. We need to do whatever it takes to deliver on the promise of getting every – and I mean every – student in our schools physically active and healthy by 2029. Sooner if possible.
It's not going to be easy. If it were we would already be doing it. And no one is saying that the nation’s health education and physical education teachers aren't trying. But for us to succeed we must accept that "trying" is not good enough. We don't need to work harder but we do need to work smarter. We need to think differently about our jobs and be willing to work towards change. Schools are the perfect location for us to get all of America’s students physically active and healthy. They are with us almost the entire day. It's not hard to imagine ways in which we can change their behaviors through modifying the learning environment. Already, great things are occurring around the country with the introduction of active transportation to and from school, and before school, during school, and after school physical activities. But starting today, all of us must get on this bus if we are to succeed. Each one of us has to be the catalyst for change. Impacting the behavior of 50 million people sounds daunting. It doesn't need to be. Think about it at the school level. We are going to succeed one teacher and one school at a time. I invite and encourage you to be a part of this movement. These can be the best of times for the health and physical education professions.
Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, tips, and trends!
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5 Simple Tips for Creating a Sub Plan that Works!
I had to be out of work for a few days and needed to create lesson plans for my substitute. Being that I was in the midst of a unit, this mid-week interruption would surely create havoc to my curriculum. I decided to write up extremely detailed lesson plans. I was very thorough, having lots of descriptions, anecdotal notes, diagrams and charts of activities, tasks, and of course, the gymnasium. I wanted to make sure that whoever read my plans would have no questions of any kind.
I was proud of them. They were detailed, yet simple. Would it take a little time to read them? Yes, but definitely no longer than previous lesson plans I had written. I soon realized that it was slightly larger than I had originally hoped (it was multiple pages), however still very easy to read. I had spent a great deal of time on them, so there was no turning back now. As is the usual routine when one of us is absent, I wanted to fully inform and consult with my co-worker about what I needed done. All I would need from him is to let my substitute have access to the equipment and for him to keep an eye on the person. So, I handed him the papers, a gleeful, large smile plastered on my face. I intently watched him skim through them. What seemed like a decent amount of time (probably too long a period), he glanced up at me.
“Donn, are you sure that you want to leave this?” He asked. I became shocked and slightly annoyed at his question. “Why not”, I retorted. “I know it seems like a lot, however, if I don’t leave detailed plans, my kids will be missing a chunk of my unit. I don’t want them to be way behind. It is simple to follow...”
“Yea it’s easy to understand.” He looked at me with the hint of skepticism. “However you know how messed up things can be when it comes to subs,” he warned. He was right. My co-worker was referring to the many occasions where problems and snags with substitutes seemed all too common when one of us is out.
I waved off the suggestion. “That shouldn’t be an issue. I specifically put in Subfinder" (the computer program we use to request and/or arrange for a substitute) “for Ms. *****, and she was available. No problem.” This particular sub was well schooled in how to handle children, and one of the few, very competent educators suited for the gym.
He didn’t push the issue any further. He told me that it would not be a problem, wished me the best of luck, and each went our merry way…
…Fast forward to me coming back to work. I arrived early to get ready for the day. In walks my co-worker with a smile on his face. “So, did you miss me,” I asked.
He laughed, “Not really,” he kiddingly replied. Then his look turned quickly to concern. “However your plans weren’t exactly followed the way you wanted them to. Too many issues happened.”
He proceeded to explain that on the first day, one of our buses was in an accident, and children would be arriving to school late. There was a need for additional staff for bus duty, and he needed to go out to help. Apparently at that same time, the main office became extremely chaotic when the secretarial staff learned that too many teachers needed coverage for an in-district meeting, and coverage was short. A different substitute, not the one that was scheduled to be me, arrived approximately five minutes before my first class was to arrive. This person, who now had very little time to read through and organize the equipment properly decided to do a simple game of kickball instead. It apparently was going so well for her that she decided to do that activity the entire day! On the second day, another person arrived to fill my position. It turned out this would be the sub’s first time being in the gymnasium, and felt too overwhelmed being in dress shoes and a business suit for what my plans were dictating.
What a disaster. After all that time and effort it took, my kids were unable to do what I had hoped. This debacle taught me some valuable lessons and techniques when creating sub plans for the future that I will share below.
5 Simple Tips for Creating Sub Plans:
Be Detailed, but Brief
Still add in detail to write-ups, like diagrams; however keep the games “short and sweet”. If it is takes too long to explain or write a certain activity, scrap it.
Provide Emergency Plans
We all have a few activities that are simple to set-up and use minimal equipment. Select games that keep students engaged and moving. Try to select activities that students have been taught already, so it isn't completely new to them.
Keep It Simple
If you want to continue with your current unit, Keep It Simple. Try using short, simple instructions for tasks that are easy to perform. Also, include activities or skills that students have already learned
Add Important Information to the Top
Keeping pertinant information in an easy-to-find place means it will be seen. Ideas of what to include: schedule, necessary books or tools (attendance, discipline log, etc.), bathroom passes, pertinent student information (students with special needs, medical info, etc.)
Provide a whistle
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Tips for Successfully Grouping Students in PE!
I was having a discussion with a colleague at my state AAHPERD conference regarding discrepancies in physical education classes. Some examples include: Private School vs. Public School, Co-Ed vs. Same Sex, Heterogeneous vs. Homogeneous, along with socioeconomic factors like class size and grade level. We agreed that most of what we do canvases all of these but that modifications are often necessary.
To that regard I want to start with some basic information about my teaching environment:
- Suzanne Serafin – 8th grade P.E. Teacher
- Muirlands Middle School, CA – Public, 30% free or reduced lunch
- Average class size = 50 students, Co-d, by grade level
- 45 minutes of P.E. (instructional time) every day
Lions and Tigers and Bears …Oh My!
Physical education professionals have come a long way since the dark ages of two team captains picking teams. I still cringe when I see an old movie with team captains, or more recently, an after school program. I can’t help but wonder where these young energetic counselors working in after school programs learned this strategy. To my recollection, “we” stopped using team captains to choose teams in physical education 20 years ago. So how is it possible that someone who wasn’t even born 20 years ago thinks this is a good strategy? I have decided that it’s not a learned strategy so much as a survival instinct. Alpha students want to pick their own team so that they can win, survive, and dominate, on the playground. It’s in their DNA. So, when the most energetic (and loudest) students ask to pick their own teams, some truly believe they are doing what’s best for the kids, but “we” know better.
I want to share my ideas about creating teams where every student feels safe and challenged. I call it “Lions and Tigers and Bears”.
I use heterogeneous groups for the first several lessons focusing on skills and strategies. I encourage students with higher-level skills to support other students who are new to the skills. Once the majority of students have passed the assessments and they are ready to play an organized game, I ask students to choose one of three groups to be a part of:
Lions – Competitive, Experienced, Can self officiate
Tigers – Confident in skill and strategy, Recreational style of play
Bears – Continue to work on skills
Once they choose their group, I create fair teams within the groups. I have had great success with this strategy particularly with the students who want to work on skills. It allows me to really focus on their needs. The combination of giving students a choice and supporting their level of skill creates a great learning environment for everybody.
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Infusing Yard Games with Quality PE
What do you think of when you hear the words “yard or lawn games”? Do you infuse these games and activities into your PE program? How can you connect the physical activity aspect of yard games to your physical education program? For me, they are part of a quality physical education program. Physical education without a clear understanding of the benefits of lifelong physical activity misses a large opportunity to promote a healthy and activity lifestyle. Often, yard games are a vehicle for physical activity post-schooling. What happens in a society where no one knows the rules or has the skills to partake in yard games? Have we done our job if we just teach football, soccer, and volleyball?
In my program, there was a balance between many sport, individual, and recreational (yard/lawn games) activities. In my opinion, all are important and students need to be exposed to each to build the confidence they will need to be successful lifelong movers. However, there is also a social aspect of yard games that I find fascinating. There is nothing like talking a little smack when playing horseshoes or ladder ball. Could you imagine going to tailgate at a sports event without a Frisbee or Cornhole? I certainly cannot.
I find it very refreshing to see other PE teachers share creative ways to integrate yard games in their PE classes. Former Middle School National PE Teacher of the Year (2012), Jessica Shawley, is well-known for her Yard Games session at conferences. In the past, I have also offered a “RecFest” session to highlight creative ways to use these activities in physical education settings. The important concept to remember is that it’s not the traditional form of the yard game that is important. Finding creative ways to teach the rules and skills in fun ways that also include health-related fitness, skill-related fitness, and nutrition is what really broadens the reach of these games. There is a traditional way to play each of the games; however, adding some creativity and getting students and parents to realize there are fun ways to add movement to the games is essential. As part of many of my sessions, I share what I call “Cardio Cornhole”. The object is to work with your teammate to reach 21 the fastest (no 12oz. curls here). It’s all about speed and agility and most of all teamwork (for a description of Cardio Cornhole, scroll down).
As physical education teacher, I have seen the true value in adding yard games to my program. From horseshoes to table tennis, find ways to make these activities part of your program. Think outside the box and maximize student participation and fun while teaching the basic skills and rules for each game.
Students will find a partner. Each pair will collect 1 polyspot and 2 beanbags. Each pair will place the polyspot about 10-15 feet away from them (the teacher can designate the distance from the pair using cones). When the activity begins, both partners will toss their bean bag toward the polyspot using an underhand toss and try to get the bean bag on the spot or touching it. If a bean bag is all the way on top of the spot, it is worth 3-points, if it is touching the edge of the spot, it is worth 1-point. When both partners have taken one toss, the partners will quickly gather the bean bag add any new points to the total and return to the starting position. The first team to 11/15/21 points wins the round.
** Remind students that the faster they go the better their chances of scoring more points.
- Change the size of the polyspots to make the activity more or less challenging.
- Have students use different locomotor patterns when traveling to collect the bean bags
- Change the distances between spots and teams based on ability level
- Add fitness by having student complete a simple fitness activity every time they collect a bean bag (i.e. – elbow to knee squats, cross crawls, jump jacks, push-up shoulder taps, etc.)
- Change the way that they students can toss the beanbag (i.e. – non-dominant hand, through the legs, behind the back, etc.)
- Add a TASKCARD with different challenges for the team when they reach the amount of points designated by the teacher.
- Have the partners join another team and have a competitive match of Cardio Cornhole.
- The teacher can do an authentic assessment while students playing the game to assess the underhand throwing pattern or stepping with oppositional movement.
Don't miss out on these other fun Yard Games from Gopher!
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Joint Health in Children: What You Need to Know
The human body is constructed of various load-bearing structures, including, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints. These structures are dynamically designed to work in symbiosis with one another to perform pretty remarkable tasks, like absorbing falls, protecting the internal organs, and performing physical maneuvers, like accelerating, jumping, stopping and balancing.
Unfortunately, many non-ergonomic daily events, like sitting or slouching can cause imbalance, impingement and truncation of range of motio. These repeated, biomechanically inefficient actions combined with a poorly balanced diet can lead to a bevy of chronic issues like Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Gout. All ultimately lead to degeneration of the joint and drastically reduce functionality and range of motion.
To reduce and even eliminate the chance of the development of arthritic conditions, particularly juvenile arthritis, we must be proactive in keeping the joints healthy through the promotion of proper physical activity. Physical activity promotes dynamic recruitment of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which all support the joints, allowing for stable and prolonged health. Physical activity also creates intuitive proprioceptive environments, which leads to loading the joint in to deep and lengthy ranges of motion. Range of motion is not an overnight fix however; as it takes patience, persistence, and dynamic modalities to adequately recruit the surrounding muscle fibers, which in time, will strengthen the joint throughout the full range.
There are several modalities to accomplish this goal, namely Static Stretching, Jumping (plyometrics), Weight Lifting/Bodyweight Exercises (Yoga) and Running. Studies have shown that even after signs of arthritis have begun, physical exercise, in a controlled and supervised environment, can strengthen the degenerative joint and mitigate the continuation of the arthritis.
Another major component of joint health is diet. Far too often juvenile or early-onset arthritis is exacerbated by over consumption of inflammatory dietary choices, such as, a high intake of simple sugars. Calcium rich foods like dairy and meat products have shown to reduce the weakening of bones and Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish can reduce inflammation within the joint. Healthy movement is key to healthy living and healthy moving comes from healthy joints.
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5 Skill-Based Basketball Games for PE!
I asked my K-8th grade students what their favorite basketball games are that we play in PE.
Below are their top five picks, including a video demonstration of each!
Around the Gym Knockout
This game is played just like the original knockout game, where you try to get the person in front of you out by scoring a basket before them. However, in ‘Around the Gym Knockout’, when you are eliminated from one goal you move on to the next goal and join that game. In our gym, we use four to six basketball goals at a time. To start the game, we divide up among the goals and each goal is treated as a separate game. Students enjoy this game because they don’t have to wait till the end of the game to keep playing. Once eliminated, they move on to play with a new group of students at the next goal. Check out Around the Gym Knockout in action!
Evenly divide your students into 6 lines; each line has their own basketball. It’s best to color code your equipment in this game to avoid confusion as seen in the video. On the whistle, the first person in each line takes one shot from their cone. If the basket is missed the students quickly rebound their ball and shoots from everywhere until a basket is made. The first of the six people to make a basket is safe and returns to the end of their line, while the others are out. Once out, the only way back into the game is if your teammate makes the first shot from the cone, all players from that team rejoin the game. **House Rule** If there is one player remaining from a team and they make their first shot by the cone, all players eliminated are back in the game regardless of their team color.
Dribble Tip Over
Scatter cones all over the gym floor, various sizes if available. On signal students dribble around the gaming area tipping or set up cones on the various signals, then switching out with the next person in line. Variation: have two groups of students each with different jobs, picking up or tipping down cones. Check out Dribble Tip Over in action!
Pass, Dribble, Shoot, SCORE!
Scatter polyspots on the gym floor surrounding the basketball goals. On the signal a student in front of each line passes the basketball over their head to the person behind them. The line continues to pass over their head until the last person in line receives the basketball. The last person then dribbles to any polyspot on the floor and shoots the basketball. If the student makes the shot, they pick up the polyspot and bring it back to their line. While the person is shooting the line moves back to make an empty spot at the front of the line for the shooter to start passing the ball overhead when they return. When all the polyspots are taken up, the game is called and a point value is given to the each different colored spot (Don’t give point values to the spots until the end, so students will focus on shooting not adding spots). Have the teams add up their spots, and the line with the most points wins the game.
Students dribble in the gaming area trying to stay in control of their ball. While dribbling with one hand, students use their other hand to knock away someone else’s ball. Students must remain in control of their ball. If a student loses control of their ball their turn is over. When your turn is over the student returns to their line and hands the ball to the next player.
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