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Teaching Nutrition to Elementary Students

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Angie Armendariz

Nutrition: When, what and how do we teach it? Is teaching nutrition time consuming, too much work, or just simply not worth it? The answer is No! You can make a nutrition lesson as short or long, or as easy or challenging as you see fit. It’s all up to you, your class time and the other subjects or lessons you are teaching that collaborate with this lesson.

A couple of years ago, I was teaching a health lesson to my elementary students in regards to food portions. I noticed that as I spoke to them, they were not really interested in what I had to say. Especially, when I was telling them to reduce the amount of pizza slices and other types of foods they enjoy eating. I think the students pushed the ‘mute’ button on me. So I quickly over-rode the mute button by showing them a visual menu. I asked the coaches to watch the class while I ran and got my lunch from the locker room.

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I grabbed a frisbee, black marker, 4 star-shaped cut-outs I had on top of my desk and my lunch bag. This was a 5 minute lesson short and simple. First, I told students that the Frisbee was my plate as I flipped it upside down. Next, I used my black marker to make the letter T on the plate showing 4 equal compartments. I explained that we need foods from all the food groups in order to keep our bodies healthy. I then closed my hand into a tight fist and showed them a portion size. Finally, I placed my closed fist in each compartment of the Frisbee to show them that the portion did not get bigger. On each of the star-shaped cut-outs, I wrote out four of the key food groups: protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. I proceeded by taking out my grilled chicken in a Ziploc bag and placed in one compartment, which represented my protein. Next, I showed them my steamed broccoli in my snack bowl, which represented the vegetable group. Then, I showed them my dinner roll, which checked my whole grains off of the list! I also had a nectarine which I used to cover my fruit portion. They were amazed that all the food items fit in each compartment of the plate. During lunch, it was great to see the students making a fist and measuring the food portions the cafeteria staff had served them. As the students approached me they said, “Coach, you’re right! The food is portion size!” I said to myself Mission Accomplished!

The students really started enjoying the lessons and we used some of our grant money to buy food items. The grant money came from our CATCH grant some years back. We would talk about how to make better food choices and how to give the healthy foods a chance. It was so successful that we had aprons and chef hats made by a community member. The parent volunteers would help us pass out the snack of the day while the cafeteria staff allowed us to use some of their pots and pans. I brought all my pampered chef items from home, along with my colorful tablecloths, bowls and utensils. We designed our logo and our PTA association paid for screening on our aprons and chef hats. The students learned about Nutrition, presentation, culinary arts and portions. It’s so rewarding to hear students responses when you ask them: What they are making? Why is it healthy? How much should they eat? So give it a shot—it is lots of fun (for you and the students)!

Foundations of Adventure Programming

Posted 1 month ago - by Peter Boucher

What is Adventure Programming anyway?  Great question! Glad you asked…or are at least willing to investigate it a little bit further.  Adventure Programming is a cutting-edge form of experiential learning that can be infused into any Wellness, Physical Education, or Health (yes, AP can definitely be utilized in the classroom) curriculum without a ton of time or money. Of course, you will need some time to familiarize yourself with this style of intentional challenging and sequential teaching; but as a PE or Wellness teacher, it will come to you very quickly and naturally.  The wonderful end result will be that EVERYONE in your classes will have fun and benefit on multiple educational levels.  Adventure Programming fosters evident growth in students’ self-esteem, cooperation, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, self confidence, trust, activity levels, creativity and enjoyment.

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When we hear the term “adventure” in the education or camp world, we usually conjure up images of high ropes, harnesses, rock climbing, or a multitude of other non-traditional, often daunting, pursuits. Adventure Programming is in fact a series of cooperative, physical challenges and activities that are designed to build and improve cooperation, communication, respect, critical thinking, and teamwork amongst students.  Fitness and activity may certainly be included, and are usually sprinkled throughout the planned challenges while moving students through the activities and progressions.  It is about direct, active learning experiences that focus on finding and solving problems through movement challenges. High element adventure ropes courses are not necessary (but certainly are challenging and fun if they can be afforded) to begin or host an adventure unit or program within your own school curriculum. In fact, any successful and meaningful adventure program should begin with the “ground games” that are planned by the instructor to be collaborative, mostly non-competitive, active, challenging, and very, very fun. 

In a nutshell, Adventure Programming consists of planned, non-traditional games; warm-ups; trust exercises; group problem-solving activities; and group and/or team challenges.  All of these activities will evolve and progress as the instructor moves the class through these planned progressions. Students learn to work cooperatively and challenge themselves safely amongst the class/group in a supportive and encouraging environment.  The foundation for experiential learning of this nature is that “adventure” (trusting the process and not always knowing the path to the intended outcome) coupled with cooperative techniques will spark the optimal learning environment, which truly is “fun learning by doing.”  This is a terrific recipe for enjoyment and learning in a powerful Physical Education or Wellness class! 

What are your thoughts on implementing Adventure Programming in your professional educational world, recreational realm, or athletic team?  Have you tried it already?  Are you thinking about implementing Adventure Programming?  What has your experience been thus far?  Please let us know your thoughts or questions. Let’s learn together!

Increasing Differentiation & Choice in Physical Education

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

Students Acting Bored?

How I started a choice-based fitness curriculum to empower students, increase participation and improve my use of differentiation strategies.

Early in my career I inherited a traditional PE program and began working to transition into one that incorporated lifetime fitness concepts and activities. My students agreed they should be learning how to lead a healthy lifestyle yet their least favorite activities were those that provide the knowledge and skills to help them do so (functional fitness, etc.).  This inconsistency in perceptions coupled with my need for curriculum reform helped reinforce the reasoning behind my Master’s Degree research – a pivotal turning point in my career. I was able to incorporate various choice-based strategies and differentiation techniques within a new fitness curriculum. The results improved my program significantly.

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Overall, incorporating choice should be a student-centered learning process that is active, engaging, and goal-directed.  It should foster responsibility, promote decision-making and provide students with a sense of ownership. Incorporating choice also holds students accountable for their learning and ability to stay on task in an active setting.

Programming-based Choice Strategies:

1. Warm-ups: Providing instant activities with choice or a leveled progression helps students feel empowered and ‘hooks them’ for the rest of the lesson as they feel ownership of their learning. This also allows the teacher to work more one-on-one with specific students in need.

2. Sign-ups: After introducing several activities, provide choices within the same space (flag football, ultimate Frisbee, disc golf, walking, or yard games), or have students choose an activity within the same learning category (ex: Ultimate or Flag Football for invasion games). My students are on a weekly rotation. At the end of a three-week cycle they sign up for their favorite choice allowing them to be able to work with students from other classes and specialize in a preferred choice from the recent learning cycle.

3. Level of Competition: When students choose their level of competition for game play they experience more success, which sustains their interest and enjoyment. A ‘Competition League’ is for those who prefer to keep score, play through brackets, and have a higher interest in the activity (notice how I did not say higher skill level). A ‘Recreation League’ runs through a round robin format and for those who do not wish to focus on a win/loss rather more skill development in a less-competitive yet still engaging atmosphere. Sportsmanship is a priority for each league. This is a nice strategy to incorporate especially in net games (Badminton, Pickleball, Tennis).

Product-based Choice Strategies (Differentiation):

1. Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe: I modify game handouts so students can make self-directed fitness choices and learn content simultaneously. Offering two choices within a box (average and advanced) allows students to choose an activity that fits their ability level. Use the handout multiple times to eventually complete both levels and then have students compare and contrast their experiences.

2. Workout Logs and Fitness Plans: Once students learn fundamental fitness concepts and exercises they log their workouts on a choice-based log that offers a variety of exercises by each muscle group. Students also create personal workouts they can try in class or at home. Or I’ve designed a “Webquest” walking students through creating a fitness plan.

3. Station Choices: Stations and circuits become boring if not spiced up with variety and choice. Give two options or “challenges” when practicing skill work in stations. Incorporate technology and use QR code readers so students scan a choice to see their choice and then complete. Have students design station choices to empower them and take ownership of the learning process.

As always, activities should be purposeful, realistic and fun. Hold students accountable for their learning by setting an Activity Time, MVPA, or Step Count goal with pedometers. My students use Gopher FitStep Pro pedometers daily which makes it easy to assess their performance.

There is no “one-way” in our classroom. Providing more choice and incorporating differentiated instructional strategies helps empower students and increase participation. If you find yourself wanting more be sure to catch my webinar on Incorporating Choice & Differentiation in Physical Education. It will have in-depth specifics on these ideas plus much more ideas for viewers.


Webinar: June 27th, 2014 at 3:00pm (CST) Gopher Solutions Webinar Series


Join in the community and continue the conversation. What is one of your favorite ways to incorporate choice or use differentiation? Leave your comment or question below. 

Is it realistic to expect all students to reach specified fitness standards? What factors control fitness performance, and how much control do children have over their fitness accomplishments? Heredity directly impacts all aspects of health-related fitness. Various factors, such as environment, nutrition, heredity, and maturation, affect fitness performance as reflected in physical fitness test scores. In fact, these factors may have more to do with youth fitness scores than activity level. Lifestyle and environmental factors can also make a difference. For example, nutrition is a lifestyle factor that can influence test scores, and environmental conditions (heat, humidity, and pollution) strongly modify test performances. Fitness performance is only partially determined by activity and training.

Beyond heredity lies another factor that predisposes some students to high (or low) performance. Recent research has shown that differences in “trainability” are strongly influenced by genetic predisposition. Trainability explains why some individuals benefit from training (regular physical activity) more than others do. Suppose two students who are equal in ability perform the same workload throughout a semester. Student A improves dramatically, but student B does not. One can imply that student A has inherited a body that responds to training. Student A improves and scores well on the fitness test and concludes, “My hard work pays off.” Student B scores poorly and concludes, “Training doesn’t improve my fitness, so why bother?” Trainability and genetic endowment differences limit or enhance performance, making it important to have different expectations for students.

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A recent study showed that about 20% of adults fail to improve aerobic capacity with intense endurance training and 30% do not enhance their insulin sensitivity. These authors concluded that life-style interventions must be tailored to each individual’s genotype. It shows the importance of explaining to students why some will perform well with little effort, whereas others, no matter how hard they try, will never perform at a high level. Many physical traits illustrate genetic differences, such as speed, jumping ability, strength, and physical size in individuals. Understand that a few students will work hard to improve their fitness performance because they respond well to training. However the goal for teachers is to help students who have less genetic ability learn how to play, be active, and enjoy their bodies without worrying about how they compare to others.

Students want to succeed. They try to behave in ways that please the teacher and impress their friends. When the teacher says fitness scores can be improved by working hard each day, most students are believers. Students who have been exercising regularly expect to do well on the fitness tests—and teachers expect the same. But if their scores are lower than expected, students can be disappointed. They are discouraged if the teacher concludes that their low fitness scores reflect inactivity and lack of exercise. Such conclusions as, “You weren’t as fit as some of your peers, therefore you must not have worked hard enough” can be destructive. Conversely, it can be incorrect to assume that students who score high on fitness tests are active. Students who are genetically gifted may be inactive, yet still perform well on fitness tests. If teachers do not teach otherwise, these students incorrectly develop the belief that they can be fit and healthy without being active.   

Optimizing Skill Instruction

Posted 2 months ago - by Robert Pangrazi

Effective skill instruction is the cornerstone of a quality physical education program; it assures that students will learn skills as quickly as possible. Quality teachers become very adept at knowing how to balance practice and instruction. In most cases, instruction offered before students have tried the skill will be somewhat meaningless. They cannot relate to the points you deem important because they don’t see how it applies to them. One of the best ways to get students to listen to your instructional emphasis is to have them try the skill and then realize they need help. Once students realize their success rate is low and frustration sets in, they will want to listen. The following are a few suggestions to help you hold your students’ attention and increase their skill learning curve.

1.   Limit instruction to one or two key points. It is common to see teachers tell students many points about performing a skill. I call it “telling them everything they need to know and finding they remember nothing.” It is difficult to remember a series of instructions. Giving students several points related to skill performance leaves them unsure and frustrated; most learners remember only the first and the last points at best. Emphasize one or two key points and the let students practice the skill with their focus on the points you just mentioned.

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2.   Refrain from lengthy skill descriptions. When instructions last longer than 30 seconds, students become listless because they cannot comprehend and remember all of the input. Develop a teaching pattern of short, concise presentations alternated with practice sessions. Short practice sessions keep students from getting bored and offer you the opportunity to refocus your students on key points. If you need to instruct for longer than 30 seconds, break it into smaller segments. Allow students time to focus and practice the skills you emphasized after each instructional episode.

3.   Present information in its most basic, easily understood form. If a class does not understand the presentation, you—not your students—have failed. Check to see if students understand the material by observing them during practice. If they are not performing in a manner you expected, they probably didn’t understand.

4.   Offer individual feedback and move away. When you are offering a student corrective feedback, the tendency is to tell them how they should perform the skill and then observe them to see whether it helps. Usually, it is best to give the feedback and then move to another student so they can practice without fear of failing while you are observing. It usually takes some repetition before the feedback offered can be incorporated into a student’s skill performance.

5.   Separate the management and instructional episodes. Consider the following instructions, given while presenting a new game: “In this game, we will break into groups of five. Each group will get a ball and form a small circle. On the command ‘Go,’ the game will start. Here is how you play the game…” (a long discussion of game rules and conduct follows). Because the instructions are long, students forget what they were asked to do earlier. Or, they think about the group they want to be in rather than listening to the game rules. Instead, move the class into groups of five in circles (management) and then discuss the activity to be learned (instruction). This will reduce the length of instruction and make it easier for students to learn how the game is played.

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program

Posted 2 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

In 2008 the term “Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs” (CSPAP) was coined. It is important to note that the components of a CSPAP are not new and have been in place at many schools for years. However, the introduction of the term and subsequent efforts by countless organizations is galvanizing physical activity promotion for youth at the school level and beyond. As CSPAPs become mainstream and more common in schools, they are poised to positively impact the lives of children and the entire school community.

A CSPAP is a school-based, multifaceted approach to physical activity promotion. The components are: Physical Education, Physical Activity During School, Physical Activity Before and After School, Staff Involvement, and Family and Community Engagement. These components are “comprehensive” in that virtually all physical activity opportunities fall under one component. From classroom activities, to volunteers from a local business helping with recess, to nurses from a local hospital conducting wellness checks for faculty and parents, to high school intramurals, to a middle school before school activity club, to the physical education teachers developing a Professional Learning Community focusing on better physical activity promotion during physical education, to parents participating in physical education demonstration nights, the opportunities to promote physical activity for the entire school community are countless.

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As I have conducted workshops, given presentations, and written about CSPAPS over the last 7 years, I hear three common concerns. One, you are trying to eliminate physical education. My counter to that statement is, “Actually, I am trying to make physical education and the physical educator one of the most valued members of the school community.” For the most part the public understands the importance of physical activity. So, if we market ourselves as the physical activity person at the school and let the community know “I care about the health of every student”, how can we go wrong? No other professional in our communities understands youth, schools, and the importance of physical activity more than the physical educator. It is essential that we take this opportunity to make school the hub of physical activity in our communities. What better way to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and attitude to be active than with a CSPAP, which includes physical education?

Another concern I hear is “My school can’t do all five components. We’ll never be able to have a CSPAP.” I think we should look at a CSPAP as a menu of all the ways we can get our school community moving. Schools don’t have to eat from every category on the menu. For example, I have worked in schools where parental involvement is low. Getting families to attend a family night may be impossible. Or maybe an afterschool program is just not feasible. Whatever the situation, I encourage schools to start with the low hanging fruit. Pick something and go with it. Start small. Be successful with that and then grow. Think big, act small. Using this mantra will help schools grow a successful CSPAP.

Lastly, I hear, “AAAAAH, this is just another fad that PE is jumping on”. I have no way of knowing if the term CSPAP will be a fad or fade. I do know that youth will always benefit, physically, emotionally, and cognitively from physical activity. And for schools to reach their full potential, physical activity must be a part of the educational process. So will CSPAPs be around for the long haul? I don’t know. But to best serve our youth and community, physical activity in schools has to be.

Mo’ Money

Posted 3 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Finding and Using Grant Resources to Bolster Your PE Program

When I first started teaching almost two decades ago, I came into a school that had an established physical education budget.  Each year, all of the Resource Staff (music, art, PE, media, and computer) turned in a “wish list” to our principal for approval.  It was generally accepted that we each had $300-$500 to spend each year.  If there was a need for a “big ticket item,” we could make a special request and it would be handled on a case by case basis.  Over time, the money started to get a little tighter.  Budgets grew smaller and we (the Resource Staff) were encouraged to find other ways to purchase equipment.  In physical education, we supplemented some of our funding by hosting a Jump Rope for Heart event each year which helped. 

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About ten years ago, I decided to try my hand at grant funding and never had to look back.  There are many grant opportunities that are available to health and physical educators.  Sadly, many teachers do not take the time to apply for grant opportunities.  Teachers give lots of reasons for not attempting to complete a grant application;

  1. I don’t know where to find the grants.
  2. I don’t have time to complete the grant.
  3. I have never done a grant before.
  4. Grant applications are too challenging to complete.

A wise teacher once told me, “you will not win every grant that you apply for, but you will certainly never win a grant if you never apply.”   That philosophy has paid dividends over the years.  I have definitely not won every grant but the equipment closet at my school has grown and my students have been the beneficiaries of the efforts.

Let’s focus on locations for finding grants.  An internet search will help get you started.   You can also visit some of the websites below to find health, physical education, and wellness grant opportunities.  In many cases, grant applications have gotten more simplistic to encourage participation and competition for each grant.  Many state AHPERDs are also trying to find ways to offer grant opportunities as a service to their membership. 


As mentioned previously, grant applications have gotten more user friendly to encourage application submissions. That being said, it is very important to put in a little planning time prior to completing an application.  Here are some specific things to consider when getting ready to apply for a grant.  First, always read the entire grant application.  There are many requirements that may influence your decision to move forward with the application (e.g. – matching requirements, non-profit status, certifications or endorsements that are needed, etc.).  If your school or school division does not meet those requirements, you will be wasting your time moving forward.  Second, once you have reviewed the application, check with your administrative team before continuing.  Administrative support is critical when applying for grants.  Administrators have a better understanding of school policy and finance.  Their knowledge and input can increase your chance of success and ensure that they are on-board.  Third, come up with a plan and share it with others.  Many of the grants available today have multiple components.  The components may include nutrition, physical activity, wellness, etc.  If others in your building will be impacted by the grant, make sure you have the support you need to make the grant a success.  It is important to remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself.  Fourth, take advantage of “experts” in your building or school district.  There may be other teachers in your school or district with previous grant writing experience that can serve as a mentor or help you with a grant proposal.  Some districts have grant writers who are a wonderful resource that can provide insight and support.  Remember that grant writing is not “easy” and that there are no guarantees to receiving funding, but if you focus on planning and collaboration your chances of success will increase.  

Field Day Fun!

Posted 3 months ago - by Chad Triolet

When I first started teaching 18 years ago, one of the biggest challenges was planning for my first field day.  Five years of college (changing your major your junior year will often extend your stay at a college) did nothing to prepare me for the planning and logistics of putting on a field day at my school.  Fortunately, my predecessor had left me some information for Field Day so that I could continue the tradition that she had started.  I inherited a competitive Field Day.  There were 10 stations and each student competed in 3-4 stations and tried to score points for their class.  Some activities were individual while others were team challenges/ relay races.  About three weeks prior to the Field Day, students would practice the events and then select their top choices.  After two years of dealing with poor sportsmanship (mostly by teachers and parents) and wasting instructional time to prepare for the events, I decided to scrap the Field Day plan that I had been using and re-think my approach to organizing and planning a Field Day.

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I decided that a cooperative field day that focused on student participation and teamwork made more sense to me and better fit my philosophy as an educator.  As I began organizing this new plan, my biggest concern was how it would be received.  After completing a successful “new” Field Day, my concerns were put to rest because everyone loved the new approach especially my administration.  As the school expanded over the years, we split our field day into a two day event to reduce the number of students on the field.  Although the original plan has changed some from year to year, the all-inclusive, team concept has remained. 

Below, you will find some tips that might give you some new ideas how to improve the logistics of your field day.

1.  Volunteers are a critical consideration.  Fortunately for my school, we are adjacent to our feeder high school.  Originally, I reached out to a friend who was the ROTC instructor at the school but a better fit for getting student volunteers turned out to be the lead guidance counselor at the high school.  She has been able to identify students with excellent academic standing who now serve as our primary volunteers.  It is important to note that in my state, Virginia, all students must now meet a volunteer requirement to graduate which makes using the students a win-win.  Another great source for volunteers over the years has been the military.  If you live near a military instillation, many of the personnel are encouraged to serve in the community as volunteers.  Working a field day is a great way to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to serve the community.  If these two options are not available, you can always use your parents (PTA/O) or reach out to local businesses in your area.  As a side note, it is always nice if you can provide your volunteers with cold water, a snack, or even lunch if your budget allows.  It is a real simple way to say thank you for making you look good by running all of your stations.

2.  Scheduling your date and time is very important.  Most field days take place at the very end of the year (many during the last week of school).  Getting your dates on the calendar as soon as possible is a good start.  Planning your schedule for the actual date(s) is important too.  Will all of the students be out at the same time or will you split up your groups?  How long will each group participate (1 hour, 3 hours, all day)?  We always scheduled at least 3 hours for our field day so that students would have plenty of time at each of our 10-12 stations.  Will your students travel independently or will they be grouped (by class)?  We always have our classes stay with their classroom teacher during field day.  We are able to track down student much easier because all the groups follow a station schedule throughout the field day.

3.  Activities that are selected can impact the success of your field day.  Some schools have a Field Day theme each year which I think is a fun and engaging idea (Pirate Day, Survivor Challenges, Wipeout, the Field Day Olympics, Field Day Rodeo, etc.).  If planning for a theme, make sure you connect each activity with your theme to create a cohesive field day.  Below are some additional tips to use as a guide when thinking about your activities.

  1. Be Creative - There are lots of ways to use equipment to mimic an activity so that the station connects with the theme.  If you need station ideas, use websites like or ask faculty members for their input.
  2. Keep It Simple - Due to time constraints, the station leaders may not have a lot of time to explain each station.  Keeping the activities simple will allow for maximum participation and fun.
  3. Collaborative vs. Competitive – If you volunteers are judging performances, you are putting them in an awkward position especially if they need to make judgment calls. Avoid this issue by involving all students and focusing on teamwork and collaboration rather than winning or losing.
  4. Safety Comes First – Safety should be the primary consideration when planning station activities.  I have been to field days where students were riding tricycles but were not wearing helmets or were wearing them incorrectly.  Protect yourself and your school from legal issues by thinking through your station activities.  If you are not sure about an idea, double check with your administrators.
  5. Water or No Water – Our field day is a three plus hour adventure that starts in the early morning.  Because of the time of year, it often starts out relatively cool but starts to warm-up considerably by 10 A.M.  Thankfully large sections of our field day area has some cover from the sun but having a few water activity stations helps cool our students off and refresh them throughout the 3-hour session.  We remind all students that they must wear tennis shoes the entire time (no flip-flops, no bare feet).  We also encourage students to bring towels with their names on them.  Before deciding to include water, make sure you consult your administrators and have some basic rules in place to make the activities fun and safe for all.

4. Breaks are an important consideration on Field Day especially if you are planning to have all students active at each station.  In our master schedule, we include at least two water breaks for every class.  These breaks can be used to stop by our water station (drinking only) and snack breaks.  Some schools also sell snack and treat items during the break times as a way to fuel the students and make a little money to offset field day expenses.  Again, this is another discussion that should be held with your administrators prior to planning snack sales.

5.  Organization is the true key to success.  Plan your date early and make sure it gets on the calendar.  Plan your activities early to ensure that you will have the equipment you will need.  Set your schedule and make sure that it works.  There is nothing worse on field day than have three classes at the same station at the same time.  If volunteers are running your stations, activity task sheets with instructions will be very helpful.  If planning snack sales, coordinate with the individuals who will be selling early so that they will understand the plan.  Make sure you plan the “menu” and advertise it to the students early.  Prepare your field day letter for parents in advance and make sure it is reviewed by your administrative team.  Send the parent letter and schedule out in plenty of time for parents to plan to attend and watch their children.

For more Field Day ideas, visit the following websites:

What are your favorite field day activities to get kids moving?

What are your biggest challenges with field day?

10 Tips for Hosting a Family Fitness Community Night

Posted 3 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Envision 100+ students and community members coming through your gym one evening to support physical education, health, and physical activity programming. Hear the sounds of joy as students share what they have been learning in school as well as challenge their families to some active fun. This can and should happen in our schools. One of the best ways to build partnerships and connect with your families and community is by hosting a Family Fitness Community Night. Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have time” or many of you have been doing this for years and are championing this call to action. The bottom line is you can’t afford NOT to do this. It’s an effective way to promote our profession and show its impact upon student health AND academics.

Here are 10 action points to get you started or re-charge your existing event:

  1. SAVE THE DATE: Select a date with your administrator and get it on the school and district calendar ASAP. May is a good time as it wraps up the year, gets families to think about summer activity plans, and it is also National Physical Education and Sport Month.
  2. COLLEAGUES: Get your faculty on board. Ask for volunteers and those willing to help promote the event. Have a grade level attendance challenge to get more students to the event.
  3. PARENTS: Get to a Parent Support Team meeting ASAP. This group of superheroes can delegate tasks to gather volunteers, booths, donations, snacks, contact the media, arrange for pictures, and more!
  4. MEDIA: Invite local media. It’s a great photo opportunity and story.  Ask for a pre- and/or post-event promotional article regarding the value of physical activity and physical education. Use resources from SHAPE America such as their “How PE is Critical to Educating the Whole Child” as a guide for talking points.
  5. COMMUNITY: Capitalize on partnerships. Contact local groups using a booth sign-up form. Provide a free table/outdoor space where they can showcase their family-friendly health and fitness opportunity (youth sports clubs, parks and recreation, fitness and swim centers, boy scouts, golf course, etc.). Many may offer an activity at their booth. For example, our youth golf program had a putting challenge and the lacrosse club had a shootout so kids could try the sport. It was a blast! These folks also contributed to giveaways.
  6. ADVERTISE & PROMOTE: Send a letter home in report cards, post the event online, use social media and your chamber of commerce, send out a postcard reminder before, and have the media help advertise the event.
  7. INVITATIONS: Invite your school board, superintendent and any other local celebrities (mayor, city council, legislators, athletes, etc.). It’s a great opportunity for them to connect with their constituents.
  8. EVENT FORMAT: Use a station punch card or simply use an open event ‘come and play’ theme! Offer simple activities students know well. Adult volunteers or student leaders can assist at stations. We had an event punch card that was marked off for each visit to a booth or activity station. Students visited a minimum number of booths and activities to qualify for giveaways.
  9. MUSIC & PICTURES: Be sure to play upbeat music in the background. Play a running slideshow of P.E. pictures or videos compiled from the year.
  10. FUNDING: Ideally, the event should be free and should have minimal to no operating costs unless you want to add more. For those who want additional funding, check out Fuel Up to Play 60 ( or seek local grants from banks or clubs to support snacks or other event materials.

From the simple to the more complex, these ideas will help you put together a great event and ensure your professional message has made its way HOME...where fitness and health habits must continue for students to succeed. A Family Fitness Community Night will celebrate quality physical education (“it’s not your grandma’s gym class anymore”) and connect parent and student through physical activity and encourage them to make a physical activity plan they can do together.

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My challenge to readers:

  • If you’ve never hosted an event, its time! Remember to keep it simple.
  • If you host an event regularly, get another area teacher on board and help them get started.

For Reader Comments & Questions:

What kinds of family fitness night events or activities have been successful for you? What other tips do you have to make these events successful?

You can leave a quick comment by clicking below.

Assessment in Physical Education

Posted 4 months ago - by Peter Boucher

In schools around the country, assessment and data are terms trending among teachers and administrators. It may be fairly obvious how educators can implement assessment and data when it comes to Mathematics or Language Arts; however looking through the lens of Physical Education may seem more difficult. There are a good deal of educators and school administrators who think assessing and tracking data on students during Physical Education class is unnecessary or even impossible. I, and many others in education, however, am in the other camp. I do see merit in using these tools with students when it comes to their personal fitness and Wellness. 

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I have been working in and around Physical Education, Fitness, and Wellness for my entire 20 year career (and counting) as an educator and administrator. One thing I can tell you is that education is always evolving, as it should.  Children are learning at a much faster and furious pace. As such, along with that rapid pace comes rising expectations for demonstrated skills by these children.  Since they are learning faster, they are also being expected to know more and “show what they know” in a more formal manner.  This 21st century learning is heavily embedded in data and the students exhibiting growth in their skill set.  By osmosis, these same expectations carry over into the realm of Wellness classes.  I say it is great that they do carry over; because with all the new technology and best practices available now, it is much easier and efficient to show this type of growth in PE and Fitness classes around the country.

 These assessments actually can provide many benefits to you as the teacher as well as your students.  Assessments and PE truly make a great partnership. As with any symbiotic relationship, they really do need each other. These assessments and the data they reveal, can be utilized in a multitude of ways in order to help encourage and support your school’s PE/Wellness program.  Still not sure how?  Take a look at these brief examples…

What better way to demonstrate growth in PE than to develop a Fitness or Wellness class/program along with a series of benchmarks and movements along the way to help children improve?  Education is about learning and improving your skill set (cognitive or physical). How perfectly this correlates to PE! 

Think about it, students enter your PE class, and then are presented with a series of challenges or “tests” to develop a foundational baseline, a baseline that is easily trackable and presentable.  Teachers then discuss with students individually where they are at relative to the program or personal goals and then send them off on individual plans and paths to improve their baseline scores and data.  Every move they make in class from then on is designed to help them improve their “fitness, fundamentals and fun” factors.  The journey begins!

Add to this programming the intrinsic factor of personal motivation and you are off and running even faster.  I have been around long enough to notice that once you add a quantifiable component, such as a number of crunches, pounds lifted, distance run time, enhanced flexibility, etc…, the internal competitive fires begin to be stoked.  People naturally want to improve, especially if someone is “keeping score.” In 20 years of teaching PE, I have seen very few K-12 students not want to better their scores for their benchmarks, no matter what the category.  The kids love trying to improve and surpass their own scores.  As long as you keep the scores individual in nature, then I believe this is a great way to motivate your students to improve their fitness levels.  They will jump at the chance to improve and the end result is kids being more active in you class. It’s a win for everyone!

Assessments are a necessary component in today’s world of education.  Teachers and students need to be able to demonstrate growth of student skills.  Armed with that premise, assessments and Physical Education really should not exist without each other. In today’s data-driven world, what better way to demonstrate students’ skills as well as motivate and encourage lifelong movement goals; inspire activity; and ultimately demonstrate improvement than to track the measurable progress of school children? 


Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Posted 4 months ago - by Don Glover

The National Board for Professional Teaching has developed 13 standards of accomplished practice for physical education teachers. They each describe an important facet of teaching Physical Education. The standards serve as the basis for National Board Certification in this field and, like our AAHPERD standards, give us direction and guidance.

When I first started teaching in 1967 the standards that we are so accustomed to today did not seem to play such an important role. ( at least not to a rookie teacher) However, I am now in my 46th year of teaching and that includes teaching in elementary, secondary, pre-school, adapted and post-secondary. I have discovered along the way, the importance of the standards that guide us.  There is one standard however, that in my opinion, is by far, the most important.  That standard is:

Accomplished teachers of physical education create and sustain a welcoming, safe, and challenging environment in which students engage in and enjoy physical activity. 

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When I was starting out in the Physical Education business I was all about fitness.  The psychomotor domain was my top priority.  I remember stating at a 1980 Physical Education workshop, “that my students were active for twenty five minutes of my thirty minute class period”.  I have heard this mantra stated many times by many teachers over the years.  Where has it gotten us? I was one of many that believed that the best way to get fit students and to create future fit adults was to find ways to turn them on to exercise/activity but I was always looking for the latest fitness fads and trends. I was looking in the wrong domain---I should have been looking in the AFFECTIVE DOMAIN.  I should have been looking for more ways to create a better learning environment than looking for more games and activities. Students want to belong-they want to contribute to the group. An article that helped me understand this was published some time ago in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and was written by columnist David Brooks, it states: “Everything we are learning about the brain confirms the centrality of attachments to human development and the wisdom of Adam Smith’s observation that the “chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved”. 

How many times have we heard a coach or athlete say, “our team has chemistry, we are like a family”. Yes, an athletic team forms attachments and great long-term memories are born.  Why can’t these attachments be formed in Physical Education class?  I think they can be formed and if they are, it is my belief that once we make that emotional connection our students will have a better connection to the psychomotor domain. 

How can we make that connection?  It is tough for us and for our current majors because we spend so much time teaching them about the psychomotor domain and the “way things have always been done” We need to give future and current teachers concrete steps to establish a safe and welcome learning environment for students.

Here are my top ten suggestions for creating a positive learning environment.

1. Teach students, starting at a young age, how to praise and encourage.  This is a tough skill for many students to learn.  Have them brainstorm phrases they could use to encourage and praise and then post the list on the gym wall.  Give them practice opportunities to use these phrases and words. You let them practice motor skills - they should also practice social skills.

2. Put the students into TEAMS and keep the teams together for at least a semester.  When the students report to your class, they get into their teams and form a circle rather than a squad in a straight line.  The students should brainstorm “team names” and agree on one that they can be proud of.

3. The teams should come up with a “team Pact” or a list of at least six rules and regulations that the team will abide by in order for them to be able to function effectively as a team.  Everyone should sign the pact and it could be posted on the gym wall. 

4. Team Breaks. Much like a football or basketball team when they break out of a huddle or time -out they put their hands in the middle of the circle and in unison shout their team name. Every time our Physical Education students do a team break, they are strengthening attachments to that team; it helps them take pride in their team.

5. Welcome to the gym.  Every student deserves to hear their name spoken at least once during the day; it should always happen in Physical Education class.  The teacher should model a greeting by showing the students a correct high-5 along with a smile while saying the students name.  Each day there could be different greeters at the door or perhaps a team could be a greeter on a certain day. Coming into the gym should be a happy welcoming time!!!!

6. Team warm-ups.  Each team should be able to, after a team break, warm –up together.  This may mean 4 different warm-ups might be done during the class period.  I am not saying discontinue large group warm-ups but I am advocating for small group, (team), warm-ups as well.

7. High-5 your teammates, as well as your opponents, after every competitive contest.

8. Team Building should be the first unit of the year and it should be repeated at least twice during the year. This unit will strengthen relationships and make each team stronger.  Make sure to use self-assessments that measure attitude and effort after the unit ends. Also, have each team do a team report card so they can review progress they made as a team.

9. Teach Character Education.  Almost all of our States either require or encourage Character Education but very few Physical Education teachers have had any experience teaching it.  When our students have a deeper understanding of RESPECT, FAIR PLAY, HONESTY, TOLERENCE, PRIDE, DISCIPLINE, etc. they will be better able to foster attachments and look forward to participating in Physical Education.

10. Create your own.  I would like to know what your favorite technique is to strengthen your learning environment.  Please send your favorite affective domain teaching tip to Don Glover, (

Some physical educators may be too “stuck” like I was, on only looking for fitness/fun activities.  After all, we are teaching physical education and fitness should be one of our top priorities. Nonetheless, we can help students toward an active lifestyle if we create an emotionally supportive atmosphere in the gym. Then, I believe, students will become intrinsically motivated toward that lifestyle. 

The evidence is so overwhelming that an enriched and emotionally supportive environment is necessary if students are to grow mentally that to ignore this aspect of education should not be considered. Thirty-plus years of research prove that children, thrive in this environment. Perhaps today more than at any other time in history we need to provide an environment for students that has as its central goal to be a place to belong. 


Teaching with Commands, Echoes, and Sound Effects

Posted 4 months ago - by Shannon King

When thinking about all the great educators I have come across in my short career (9 years), I think about what makes them successful. How have they molded me to be the educator I am today? What do we have in common? Management. Classroom/Gym management. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching a math class of 22 or a gym full of 88 students, if the teacher lacks management skills then learning may not take place or perhaps not be at the desired level of learning compared with a teacher who is very skilled in managing.

As I reflect on my own gym management, I realize I teach with commands, echoes, and more recently, sound effects. I find that having a set of key words and teaching students how to react to those key words, allows us to use our time effectively. I am able to transition my students from one activity to another quickly with a series of short phrases. This gives us the opportunity to spend more time in moderate to vigorous physical activity because time is not wasted during transition.

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Commands are words that I use to move my students in and out of different formations for various activities or games. When giving a command to my students, I state the command first, allow a second for them to process how to react, then students began to move into action when I say, “go.” For example, if I need students to all have their own space in the gym I would say, “Scatter like Ants, GO!” followed by a short countdown for them to be in a spot ready and spread out. Some commands are used to get their attention, or to start and stop an activity. For example, to get my class’s attention I might say “Hey Hey Team!” and they would respond, “Hey Hey Coach!” and give their attention to me. Below is a list of commands that I use with my students and how my students respond to those key words or phrases.

  • “Homebase” …Students go to their given seat or squad line
  • “Peanut Butter and Jelly” …Students find a partner quickly and stand face to face
  • “BLT” …Students find a small group of three
  • “Short Stack” …Staying in their squad lines, students make 8 lines on one side of the gym leaving a large gaming area
  • “Banana Split” …Splitting their squad lines in half, students make a total of 16 lines, 8 on each end of the gym leaving a gaming area in the middle.
  • “Scatter like Ants” … Student spread out all over the gym
  • “Face Off” … Students stand face to face in parallel lines
  • “Circle Up” … Students get in one big circle in the middle of the gym
  • When I want to start an activity: “All Set?” …They respond, “You Bet!” and starting playing
  • When I need them to stop: “Freeze, hands on top,” …They respond with their hands on their head and say, “that means stop

Echoes are very similar to commands, in that students complete an action upon hearing them. Although with echoes, the students repeat back the command while completing the action. I find echoes to be a great tool for teaching younger elementary students, PK-1st grade especially. I find that teaching with echoes keeps their attention and engagement, while helping those lost ones to follow suit. We have all had experience with students who may zone out or tune out the teacher’s directions, but when you have a whole gym full of students repeating them, it is a nice way to reengage or redirect negative behaviors. Below is a list of echoes I use with my students.

  • “Stand up and freeze”…Stand up and freeze (with hands on top of head)
  • “Rotate”… Rotate
  • “Turn and Face”… Turn and Face (students go from facing one direction to another, south to north, etc.)
  • “180”: 180 …same as turn and face, but with a jump spin
  • “360”: 360 ... Just to for fun and to reengage students.
  • “Eyes on me”… Eyes on you
  • “Hands”… Hands (students show their hands), “Together”… Together (students inter lock them together), “Lock it”… Lock it (students place their hand in their lap)

Sound effects are a recent addition into our gym and I am having so much fun learning how to teach using them. Sound effects make for a joyful and amusing environment. They also help to keep students engaged and energetic about moving. Sound effects are when I move my hands a certain way and the students will respond by saying or doing a sound effect. It’s so FUN! When teaching the students the different ways to respond to my hand gestures or movements, its brought new energy into the gym. Below is a list of hand motions I do, followed by the sound effect my students say.

  • Spiral my finger upward to the sky: “Whhhooooo Hoooooo!”
  • Move my hand across the front of the body: “Whoooaaaa!”
  • Fist Pump (waist high): “Yesssss!”
  • Hands on face: “Gasp!”
  • Hands move up and down three times: “Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn!”

Here is an example of dialog and how I used Sound Effects the other day when teaching a Christmas Dance. “Great Class, you just learned part 1 of Christmas Cookies.” (Whooooo Hooooo!) “But there’s a second part” (Whooooooaaa!) and it’s kind of hard (Gasp!) “If you don’t pay attention to the beat you’ll be lost” (Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn!) “Now let’s try it to music!” (Yesssss!)

By teaching with commands, echoes, and sound effects, I am able to capture and keep my students attention and most importantly, not waste time. My students know I am a mover and I am a doer. They know when I say or do certain things, they need to respond quickly so we can do more. They are proud we spend most of our time together active and moving.

To sum up great advice I was given by amazing educators: make your expectations known, define them and then raise the bar. I believe the more you expect, the better your results will be. I would love to hear your fabulous ideas and great managing tools used in your gym in the comments below or send to Shannon King


.It’s a New Year…How About a S.M.A.R.T. start for your students?
by: Chad Triolet, Chesapeake Public Schools

This is my inaugural blog so I thought I would focus on a timely topic as we begin 2014…New Year’s Resolutions.   We all know and understand the basic concept behind a New Year’s Resolution…come up with something that you can do, or stop doing to improve you in the New Year.  On principle, I really like the idea but the realities of the success of this “magical self-improvement effort” are tenuous.  This whole concept all boils down to goal setting.  For years, like many people, my quest to complete a New Year’s Resolution ended in failure. In 2001, I decided to try something different, can you say S.M.A.R.T. goal?  I wanted to exercise more and lose a few pounds so I decided to train for my first ever “road race”.  In early January I signed up for a local 8K (5 mile) race.  I did some research for this New Year’s Resolution and found an 8K training program that would get me ready in the 3 months I had to prepare.  I printed out a calendar and kept track of my progress until race day.   Over the 3-month span, I lost over ten pounds and felt the best I had in years.  I was hooked!  I continued to up the distances until I completed my first marathon in October.  For the first time, my New Year’s Resolution was a success because of the way I set my goal and kept track of my own progress.

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After my own personal success, I started using the concept of the New Year’s Resolution to teach goal setting using the S.M.A.R.T. goal concept each January.  With primary age students, I keep the concepts simple.  We talk about things that their parents have mentioned (they are going to exercise more, stop smoking, stop drinking sodas, etc.).  We discuss how to turn those open-ended goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals (see the S.M.A.R.T goal sample).  We also discussed practical ways to set measurable goals to increase the chance of success.  Having students write down a personal goal (with help) and share it with parents is a great way to reinforce this important concept. 

With the older students (4th and 5th graders), we focused on fitness.  We pulled out the fall fitness test scores and talked to the students (once again) about the importance of fitness and living an active lifestyle.  Based on the fitness data, we decided to focus on improvement using the Pacer test (FitnessGram).  Using a 4x6 index card, we created a simple form so that students could track their progress and set goals as they perform the Pacer test each month until they took the final test in May.  Each month, the students set a new goal and try to improve or maintain their previous score.

Goal setting is a critical concept to teach students.  Not only is it a foundational skill for improving personal fitness, it also is a great lifetime skill that can be used in many different areas.  Physical education teachers have many opportunities to teach concepts and skills (like goal setting) that will have a positive impact on student development. 

So, the question is…What is your New Year’s Resolution and how can you help your students learn about this important goal setting opportunity?

Effective goal setting starts by being S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable/Achievable
R – Realistic/Relevant
T – Timely


Classroom Management: The Foundation of Effective Instruction

Posted 4 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

As my first blog I thought I would focus on a topic I find overlooked, but essential to quality physical education, classroom management. Have you ever finished a lesson and thought, “That was a great lesson, I am gooooood.” Or, “Wow! I might be in the wrong profession, that was awful.” Chances are classroom management was a driving force behind the quality of the lesson, good or bad. Here, classroom management will refer to teacher practices that enhance transitions, provide efficiency, and allow the teacher to nurture positive behaviors in physical education. In short, quality classroom management is a hallmark of an effective physical education lesson.

First things first, successful teachers can stop and start their classes efficiently. I really struggled with this when I started teaching, but I learned a few tricks along the way. A consistent signal (whistle, “Freeze”) cues students to assume a predetermined position (I use hands on knees, eyes on me). If equipment is in use, students place the equipment on the floor as to not be distracted. Once the signal is given teachers should scan the class to ensure 100% compliance within 5 seconds. Phrases like, “Wow, Faith had her hands on her knees before I finished the word freeze. Thanks! That’s what I am looking for” serve effective managers well.

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Many activities in physical education have students working with a partner or small groups. While at one point I was determined that counting off was effective, I have learned otherwise. To make physical education efficient, routines for moving from an individual activity to a small group are essential. One strategy is to call out “Toe to Toe” or “groups of two”. This cues students to quickly find a partner. Rules such as “once you make eye contact that is your partner” and “if you take more than two steps come to the middle to find a partner” make grouping students efficient. Similarly, designating the center circle the “friendship spot” provides students a spot to find a friend.

As a formerly long winded teacher, over the course of twenty years I have learned shorter is better. Concise, thorough, and thoughtful instructions allow me to maintain student attention and provide the necessary content. How can I say what I want to say but be brief? To help, the instruction typically include “when” before “what”. “When I say ‘Go’, hustle to the green line and get a yarn ball to toss and catch in good spacing.” These short bouts (less than 30-45 seconds) increase student retention and maximize physical activity during physical education. Students are given small bouts of information and then allowed to practice. After students practice, the class can be frozen and another bit of information or skill cue provided. This process continues with activity interspersed with concise bouts of instruction.

Equipment retrieval is often a time of inactivity, misbehavior, and frustration. To minimize these issues one strategy is to spread the equipment around the perimeter of the teaching area. This allows for swift retrieval, allows more activity, and decreases student frustration. When retrieving equipment, students should always be provided an activity to engage in once they have the equipment. Telling a student to hold on to a piece of equipment is inactive and asking for behavior problems.

While not an easy task, effective classroom management allows teachers to create a safe, non-threatening, structured environment. In turn, students can learn to joy of physical activity while moving. 

Adventure Fitness

Posted 4 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Adventure Fitness might be a new term to many in the Physical Education, Fitness, Recreation, and Wellness world.  However, if you are a teacher or instructor of children (or anyone for that matter) and you would like to utilize movement activities with a dash of fun, critical thinking and cooperation in some of your lessons, then don’t wait to become more familiar with Adventure Fitness!

Adventure Fitness is a newer form of adventure programming (many of you may know it as Project Adventure.)  Project Adventure really is the company name that brought adventure programming, team building and cooperative learning to life in the 1970’s and beyond. Adventure Fitness came about in response to our nation’s need for fitness and movement and can be viewed as a more perpetual and vibrant form of adventure programming.  Many of the more traditional games of adventure programming focus on cooperative activities, problem-solving, and critical thinking. On the other hand, Adventure Fitness “speeds up” these types of cooperative and inclusive games in a fashion that encourages lots of movement and activity without time for participants to be removed from play or even excluded for any amount of time.  It is the best of both worlds from the Wellness perspective.  Participants are still collaborating, cooperating, and thinking critically in the middle of the activity; however, they are participating in the activity at a more rapid and continuous pace.  The greatest benefit I have personally witnessed as a teacher, coach, camp counselor, facilitator, and father, (yes, I do use these activities with my children, mainly at birthday parties and large gatherings) is that kids have a blast playing adventure fitness activities without realizing they have been “working out” for 25-30 minutes at a time. I always wait until the end of the class or session to make that announcement! All the children know is that they are having fun running around, smiling and laughing with their friends while the teacher continues changing and adapting rules as the activity progresses.  The children usually seem surprised and disappointed when it is time to end class; however, it’s important to wrap up the session by asking a few questions about what they learned; how they feel (tired?); and did we reach our lesson goals?  Whether running an Adventure Fitness session for children or adults, the participants are always left wanting more time for the activity. They always ask to play it again.

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There are many benefits to planning and playing adventure fitness activities for your physical education classes, Wellness sessions, staff trainings and retreats, recreation programs, and athletic practices. The applications are limitless!  Let me hear from you. Have you used Adventure Fitness or Project Adventure types of programming before? How might they work for you in your professional environment? What has been your experience as a participant or facilitator? 

Zero Hour Physical Education

Posted 4 months ago - by Tim Collins

Five years ago, the coaches, physical education teachers and administration, pulled together to discuss what improvements could be made for our students at Hastings High School.  An anonymous survey was conducted and it was very obvious that the students wanted a challenging, and comprehensive workout, which challenged them physically, mentally and emotionally.  It was at that point that SPARQ was created and students have to be ready to go by 7:00 AM.  Think back to the time when you were seventeen years old – would you want to leave home by 6:15 AM in order to get to the high school to work out by 7:00 AM?

The SPARQ course uses diverse training components to improve a student’s speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.  The course is directed towards students who want to take fitness to the next level.  Students can work out for more than 45 minutes as the class has a start time of 7:00 AM. The student is then able to shower and have a quick breakfast prior to the start of their second hour class.  The class is offered three mornings a week which then allows the student to sleep in, or have extra study time, the other two days out of the week.

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Our student athletes gravitate towards this course because it allows them to have an intense workout and they can work on specific skills during their athletic team practice at the end of the day.  The rest of our student body is drawn to the class because of the engaging teaching staff, the motivation, and bonding that occurs at the very start of the day.  One of our students has lost over 100 pounds during the four semesters of participation.  There are many students now gravitating towards SPARQ because they hear other students talking about it.  When you participate in SPARQ you become part of the SPARQ team.  There is no question, that just like other teams, there is a bond that occurs when you sweat, fail, succeed, push yourself and others around you to reach new goals.  The program helps to improve your mind set, inner strength and motivation as you begin each and every day.

The number of students signing up for SPARQ continues to increase annually.  We now have an all-female SPARQ class and they are reaching an intensity level that we could not have seen before.  All students in the program are challenged, at a high level of intensity, by our instructors.  There are many times that a student will be told what they need to hear rather than being told what they want to hear.  There is no question that the students are responding to the challenge.

A program, like SPARQ, is successful because of the high energy and positive staff engaging the students!  It also takes high school administration, and coaches, who support the concept and are willing to encourage students to participate.  When you have the above ingredients, it makes a prefect recipe for success.

Our SPARQ students come out of the program, on a daily basis, with high energy and a positive approach to start the day.  Their self-esteem is improved and they understand the concept that you will never have any regrets if you challenge yourself and put in a lot of hard work.  All of the students fully understand that pushing yourself mentally, and physically, is something that they need to do for the rest of their lives.

Simply put, this program should be replicated in every high school across America.  

Ugh, the knot in my stomach begins and its not the lunch I just quickly consumed in less than 10 minutes so I could get back to the gym to set up for the afternoon. No, it’s time for 5th period. You know, that ONE class where the troublemakers, unmotivated movers, and drama queens are all mixed in? This concoction of teenage turbulence can turn any teacher’s stomach. I think you can probably picture this class for yourself. Yet, so what?

The age-old saying, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” could not be more true for teachers. In today’s world of education where a “test” reigns supreme in deciding a child’s future (ugh...disgust) and countless other factors have all contributed to this generation’s inability to find a healthy balance in life; physically, academically, and emotionally speaking. Thus the importance of positive student-teacher relationships could not be more important. Physical education teachers have the privilege (and sometimes pain) of being able to reach more challenging students because of our unique teaching atmosphere. Even the most challenging students deserve a fair shot and I want to share one practical theory that has proven effective and helped me make connections with students.

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Myron Dueck, a Canadian Principal, was the keynote at a conference and put into words what I had been doing all along: The “2x10” theory. Picture a piece of 2x10 lumber. No, you don’t use the 2x10 to make the student walk the plank out of your classroom... You use that picture for this: BUILD a relationship. Based upon a strategy from the book Connecting with Students by Allen Mendler, the "2 x 10" theory is where the teacher commits to spending two minutes each day for 10 days (2x10) trying to connect with a challenging student (obvious disclaimer: connecting appropriately and within the context of the school day). Simply put, purposely plan to give a bit of quality time in class each day for ten days and see what happens.  You will be amazed at the results. You may protest you do not have the time to do this. But isn’t a mere two-minutes worth it if a student is costing you and the class several each day? Sometimes the extra investment in that “one” now will help the rest of your class down the road and allow you to spend more time with others that have not received your focus. Don’t knock it until you try it!  And sometimes it doesn’t require the full two minutes, nor the ten days...once a student knows you care and you are consistent in your caring, you become a positive connection for them and they will be more likely to respond appropriately in class and reduce negative behaviors.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started and develop a plan for your 2x10 Theory:

  • WHO? Though you cannot reach all students right away, you have to start somewhere. Pick one or two students per class to focus on. This doesn’t mean you neglect the others, it just means you will be intentional with these because the relationship needs building, they need extra support because of something going on at home or they have been a discipline issue and you do not want them get out of control.
  • WHEN will you speak with them? Before class? At the end of class? During warm-ups (all the more reason for self-directed instant warm-ups)? During circuit training stations or transitions? Can they help with equipment? Create opportunities for connection. You may even just have to be their partner for an activity. Anthony’s tennis partner was gone a few days. I learned so much about this kid just by asking questions as we worked through tennis drills. I don’t have any problems with him anymore and I now know how rough home is for him. He’s doing really well all considered.
  • WHAT will you talk about? Ask open-ended questions. What are your interests outside of school? What did you think about today’s lesson? How did you like the activity?
  • WHAT if they don’t seem like they want to talk to you? Then you do the talking! You are the adult. Don’t have hurt feelings. Be persistent and don’t give up. By the 10th day they will be the one doing all the talking. Believe me, Josh has a hard time being quiet while he helps me take down and pack up the pedometer station each day. I’ve learned more about teenage boy fashion preferences than I thought I ever could.
  • Smile and be a persistent, positive role model Inevitably, this strategy will work with any student though I chose to highlight the 2x10 theory in the context of challenging students because I think it is a helpful analogy to remember: Use that “2x10” piece of lumber to help build a bridge and connect with the student rather than make them walk the plank!

Comments? Reflection Question: What other strategies have worked for you when dealing with difficult students?

Contact Jessica Shawley at:

Providing an atmosphere that is motivating, encouraging, and safely encourages risk-taking is a challenge we face daily as physical educators. Using pedometers daily has helped me overcome this challenge. Pedometers are not a toy; they are a powerful learning tool. Here are three ways in which I use pedometers and a strategy I call the “Meet or Beat” Challenge to help motivate students, incorporate this great technology and bring informal assessment into the classroom.

It starts with this simple idea: in addition to giving an overall pedometer movement goal for a lesson, I often challenge students to “meet or beat” their activity time, MVPA, or step counts in various aspects of the lesson or throughout a unit sequence.

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Student-Centered ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

Simply stated, the students set a goal (activity time, MVPA, or step) and try to meet or beat it. Encourage them to think about the type of activity, the amount of time they plan to spend on it, etc.). You can also have them track their progress with a log so they can analyze their results (the free software with the FitStep Pro provides a printout for my students).

Taking this one step further, you can stop halfway through a lesson and challenge students to meet or beat their current number. Depending upon their ability, have them remember their number and reset the pedometer to begin tracking again, or ask them to double that current number and try to reach this new goal (ex: 500 steps at mid lesson, so try to be at 1000 steps by the end). This intra-lesson extension of the challenge is a good way for students to monitor their perceived exertion/effort throughout class, helping them finish strong. I have found this especially helpful with small-sided or cooperative games where modifications to encourage movement are added part way through a lesson.

Activity-Centered ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

Whether you run on a block schedule where half of class has one focus and then you switch or perhaps each day is different, use this extension to compare two different activities. Example from a block lesson in Ultimate Frisbee Unit: 30-minute cardio workout on the track followed by 30-minute lesson of Ultimate. I would challenge students to take their activity time, MVPA, or steps that they accumulated during their cardio workout and try to meet or beat this number during Frisbee. Even if not on a block schedule, have students try to meet or beat their performance from a previous lesson (you may have to help them remember their previous number through use of an activity log or other system such as the FitStep Pro software).

I enjoy this extension because it challenges students to begin comparing and contrasting different activities. During our lesson closure we compare/contrast the fitness benefits, how you can make an activity more active (jogging while waiting for a pass) or ask which activity was more enjoyable and why.

Teacher-Centered  ‘Meet or Beat’ Challenge:

This is a personal favorite, though I use wisely as overuse may cause it to lose its luster. Wear a pedometer and challenge students to a “meet or beat” the teacher day. Now, let’s be clear, I am not doing this to show up students but rather to be a good example and show them I am willing to do the same work I ask of them. I still set an overall lesson goal but I also challenge them to meet or beat my data. This is something you have to have fun with and try a variety of ways, whether it is a routine lesson or a new activity: Dance with students during Just Dance, run the Pacer test with them (Yes, I have done this!), join a team that is down one player, etc. The challenge really gives me a great excuse to get in there with my students, thus setting a good example. I try to pick activities where I can still move about to safely supervise and provide feedback. You could even empower students to develop their own “meet or beat the teacher” challenge. Now that sounds like fun!

These strategies will work with any pedometer. Though I must say I now only use the Gopher FitStep Pro pedometers because of their ability to also track activity time, MVPA and download student data into an activity log, which has helped take my program in a great direction.

Motivational Strategy: The “Meet or Beat” Challenge

  • Student-Centered: Students set a goal and work at it. Check halfway through to analyze progress and re-assess level of effort needed to finish strong.
  • Activity- Centered: Compare two different activities or lessons and try to meet or beat the data from a previous lesson. 
  • Teacher- Centered: Students have fun trying to meet or beat their teachers effort, as well as enjoy seeing them participate in their activities.

*Remember, always set an achievable goal ALL can ‘meet or beat’ as the overarching goal for the lesson so that the students are set up for success.

This is just one strategy to motivate students, bring some fun and informal assessment into the classroom, and integrate pedometers appropriately. Leave your comments below or share with us one way you use pedometers to help motivate students.  Contact Jessica at:

Inclusion in the Least Restrictive Environment

Posted 4 months ago - by Robert Pangrazi

If you wonder why inclusion is such an important practice in schools, think about this. What if you had a child or a brother or sister who had a disability? You would care about your sibling or child regardless of whether they had some type of disability. What if you were told your brother would never be allowed to do the things that other children do because of their disability? What if they told you that your child could never be placed in a regular school and would have to be isolated with others who had the same disability? Certainly, you understand that the disability would place limits on your brother, but wouldn’t you want him to be around other students in a regular school setting. Inclusion offers students with disabilities a chance for socialization and the opportunity to learn how to cope in society. Many people with disabilities have accomplished much. We all want the best for all students. Even though there are times when inclusion seems to make your job harder, don’t forget that it may also be your shining moment because you helped someone who didn’t have the same opportunities you had. Taking care of others less fortunate is the mark of a great teacher and a great society.

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The term “least restrictive environment” (LRE) is used to help determine the best placement for students with disabilities. This concept refers to the idea that not all individuals can do all of the same activities in the same environment. However, the concept of zero reject entitles everyone of school age to some aspect of the school program. No one can be totally rejected because of a disability. All students, regardless of ability level, must have access to physical education. Thus, once it is established that a child has unique physical education needs, it is essential that the most appropriate educational setting be determined.

For a given student, the LRE can vary from day to day and could change within a given lesson. It will also vary depending on the unit of instruction and the teaching style. For a student in a wheelchair, for example, a jump-rope activity might be very restrictive, whereas basketball or Frisbee activities would be less restrictive. Consistent and on-going judgments need to be made since curriculum content and teaching styles can change the type of environment the student enters. In physical education, the environment is more than the physical surroundings (e.g., the equipment, the students, and the gym), but also the environmental climate created by teacher choices and attitudes. It is short-sighted to place students into a situation and then forget about them or to assume that one teaching style or activity will always create the LRE. Evaluation and modification of environments need to be continuous. Chances are that the LRE may change over time. However, the goal never changes; that we offer all students successful experiences for all programs offered by schools.

This topic is interesting to me because many times I’ve heard comments such as: exercise grows brain cells, exercise does a body good, and active kids make better learners. So, I decided that if this is true, let’s get it going!  I knew that my students were getting quality physical education activities and lessons. So, my hypothesis was that by the end of the school year my students were going to be more intelligent. Those classroom teachers were going to be so proud of my contribution to increasing testing scores.  Well, just wait a minute; I knew that my students were getting the physical activity component yet what about the core subject criteria? Did I really know if the students were mastering skills and on task? Did they understand math, science and could they express themselves in a written assignment? No, I did not have that vital and important information.

I then questioned myself, if our students are healthy in gym class how could I bring in the healthy mind component? I knew that would come from collaborating with the classroom teachers. When the teachers brought their students out to physical education class I asked the question, “Is there a certain task, skill or subject that your students are quite not grasping?” There first reply was why and I then said that I would like to help them (teachers as well as students) by combing physical education activities with classroom subject areas. The classroom teachers were excited and volunteered the information I needed. I did explain that I would incorporate different subjects and skills depending on the physical education activity and it would not be every day. They were grateful and eager to help especially after I mentioned our goal was to increase student learning.  I shared with them that physical activity made them more alert and the students could focus more on the challenging tasks.

Like the passionate and enthusiastic person that I am, I started researching information on exercise and learning, attended conventions and discussed ideas with other physical education colleagues. This is where I learned that incorporating physical education and core subjects could be as simple and creative as you want it to be to develop a healthy mind.

I will share one game that a colleague of mine shared at an in-service that helped students with science, math, sport skills and conditioning.

The name of the activity is called $10.00 and a Bone. The activity can be used with all grades K-5 with adaptations. Before starting this activity we discussed the skeletal system and function of the bones. Next we practiced counting play money (all dollars). Then students were divided into teams of 5 or any number that accommodates your class size. Each team gets a colored, laminated skeleton that is cut into segments. They will be working together to build a skeleton. We reminded the students that there would be stations all around the gym and when they performed and completed an activity they must come to the banker (coaches) that will give them $1.00. In my class $5.00 buys a bone. So the team members can put their money together to buy a bone to start their skeleton. The first team to build the skeleton and all the bones are in the appropriate places wins! The students learn science terms, bone functions, perform math functions and a get moderate to vigorous workout. These students go back to the classroom alert and ready to learn.  So we developed a healthy mind and a healthy body by combining physical activity and core subjects. Give it a try! Ignite some minds and bodies!

Neck Strengthening Exercises

Posted 4 months ago - by Frank Baumholtz

The cervical musculature is a neglected region in most strength and conditioning programs. With the recent attention being placed on concussions managment protocols, a well rounded strength and conditioning program is essential. Although concussions cannot be totally prevented, there are steps that need to be implemented into covering all of the bases. Below are 3 exercises we implement into our overall S & C Program to address the neck musculature.

*Contact and get approval from your physician before trying any of these exercises.

Static Stability Ball Holds



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  • Hold each position for 10-30 seconds
  • Maintain proper posture and keep the shoulders and chin packed
  • Breathing should be controlled. In through the nose and out through the mouth filling the belly then the chest with air.

Shoulder Shrugs



  • Maintain proper posture and keep the shoulders and chin packed.
  • In one smooth motion, breath in and elevate the shoulders. Hold for a count at the top and return to the starting position. Refrain from rolling the shoulders forward or backwards.
  • 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions

Farmer Carry

  • Maintain proper posture and keep the shoulders and chin packed
  • Hold the top rim of the weight plates and walk under control with normal gait (Dumbbells or Kettle Bells may be used)
  • Walk using a normal gait
  • Begin with 20-30 feet and increase as tolerated
  • Weight selection should put traction in the arms, but not too heavy as to cause the weights to drop out of the hands.

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