Increasing Differentiation & Choice in Physical Education
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.
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 “ebquest” 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.
10 Tips for Hosting a Family Fitness Community Night
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (www.fueluptoplay60.com) 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.
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.
Walking the Plank or Building Rapport? Using the "2x10 Theory" to Connect with Kids
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
The "Meet or Beat" Challenge: 3 Simple Ways to Motivate Students Using Pedometers
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.
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: email@example.com