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Beginning of the School Year Ideas

Posted 1 month ago - by Aaron Beighle

Beginning of the year calendarThroughout this blog I am going to provide random thoughts (from lessons learned to ideas I have seen others use) centered around the beginning of the school year. When I was about 10 years old, I remember our neighbor saying, “You have the most random thoughts.” Well 40 years later, and here goes, you get to experience what everyone in my life experiences: the randomness of Aaron. 

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Back to school is an exciting time full of anticipation and sometimes apprehension because of the unknown. Hopefully these ideas will lead to brainstorming that results in ideas that allow you to kick your year off with excitement and optimism.

1. Take an inventory.

If you haven’t done an inventory, how do you know what you have to teach with? As soon as you get finished reading this life changing blog, please go take an inventory. It will help you tremendously as you plan for the year. Check out my previous blog on Inventory Tips.

2. Develop a curriculum and yearly plan.

Once you know what equipment you have, you can plan your curriculum (assuming you know how frequently you have your students). If you don’t have a sequentially, thoughtfully, planned curriculum, I encourage you to consider going through the process throughout the school year. It is a long process but will be well worth your time.

See my previous post for steps to develop a curriculum. In the meantime, at least lay out a calendar of the entire year so you know what you will teach and when. This will ensure you have a balanced curriculum and allows you to plan lessons around seasons, assemblies, holidays, etc.

3. Integrate cooperative activities early.

As you plan your calendar, consider doing cooperative activities early in the year. Reviewing the rules is a typical beginning of the year activity; however, integrating activities to establish your gymnasium climate works well. Activities should foster cooperation, listening, communicating with more than your voice, and just getting to know each other in the context of physical education. One favorite is “In a Line.” Below is a very basic version of this challenge. There are many other creative ways to use this activity.

  • A basic challenge is for students are asked to get in a line alphabetically by their first name.
  • Another is to ask students to put their hands behind their backs. Without gestures or using their mouth, they must get in order of their birth month. The line starts with January and ends with December. This activity opens the doors for communication. Specifically, words are not the only way we communicate.

    Note: this activity will take longer with younger students and they may need help. Also, as with all cooperative activities, a creative set-up for the challenge helps and a debriefing to discuss what is learned is essential.           

4. Teach recess activities.

Early in the year, how about teaching recess games during physical education lessons? This is a great time to teach games that students can try given the equipment available. If possible, take the classes onto the playground to discuss recess expectations, safety, and etiquette. Providing this information to the classroom teachers and recess supervisors also helps keep the lines of communication open. Check out this blog for more information on maximizing physical activity during recess.

5. Create a positive, safe culture.

One of my biggest challenges when I was teaching was to start the year creating a learning climate. I wanted to get to the content right away and often neglected this step. I had the rest of the year to teach content, but I didn’t realize it. Now I look at this as “pay me now or pay me later”. Spending the early part of the year establishing protocol, letting students get to know me, and more importantly getting to know each class and each student is SOOOO worth the time. It allows teachers to tailor instruction based on what you know about the class and students. Without this step, I wasn’t teaching students, I was teaching my content. As I have said in other blogs, the students we teach are far more important than the content we teach.

6. Smile…all the time.

We don’t smile enough as teachers. Do you LOVE your job? Let your face show it. Let your colleagues know it. And PLEASE, let your students know it. Smile so much other people wonder what you are up to. Try it for a day. It will make your life so much better.

7. Be mindful of patience.

Those who know me are likely saying, “He’s writing about patience?” I am probably the most impatient person on earth so this is a battle for me. Be patient with your new ideas. Reflect on them and make changes. Be patient with your students as they learn who you are and what your expectations are. Be patient with parents. You all are on the same team. They want what’s best for their kids, just like you do. Be patient with colleagues. Who knows what they are going through. Be patient with administrators. I believe most administrators care about the health and well-being of youth…and teachers. However, believe it or not, at times, that might not be their priority.  

8. Learn something new about every student…asap.

This one takes work. Ask them what they enjoy. Find out about their superhero shirt. For high schoolers, find out about their job. The vast majority of humans love talking about themselves. See if I’m wrong. Tell them you love having them in class. Smile…all the time (Have I said that before?). It makes you approachable. This also takes being cognizant of the quiet student. Please don’t let them fall through the cracks. Our ability to teach is entirely dependent on our ability to get to know students and connect.

9. Make a plan for phone calls home.

I love phone calls home, positive phone calls. For this reason, I spent many a planning period early in the year calling every child’s parents to let them know I loved having them in class and telling them something specific I liked about their child. Work? Oh yes. Tedious? At times. Worth it? YES. Many parents have never heard the school say anything positive about their children. This helps build a bridge between you, the child, and home. It also helps establish rapport with parents if you have issues in the future. Oh, and my first year, I wouldn’t be above making one of my first calls home be to the PTA president. Networking!

10. Take care of yourself.

The early part of the year can be hectic. Please don’t neglect yourself. Get some you time, stretch (being on your feet all day can sneak up on you), laugh a lot (even at yourself), and do things you enjoy. Burnout is real. Don’t let it steal your spirit and your passion.

 

Four of my ideas are content related, the last six are about people. This year, consider making it your goal to focus on people. Parents, colleagues, students. That one tough student who grinds on you. Find out more about her. That one colleague who never smiles. Say, “Hi”, build a “no strings attached, I just want to know you” relationship. Via the school of hard knocks, I have found, and am still learning that life, in the school and out of the school, is so much better when my priority is people. The rest falls in place nicely. Have a great year!

tHRIVE!

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Five Passes: One Game, Endless Possibilities [Video]

Posted 3 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

Although the origin is unknown, the game “Five Passes” has been in the Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children textbook and lesson plans since 1972. In other words, it’s an “oldie but a goodie”. One beauty of this game is that it offers a plethora of variations to integrate many skills, concepts, and sports. Further, it allows for various curriculum and instructional models. As a qualifier, as with most things in life, Five Passes is not inherently good or bad. It has to be taught using effective teaching practices. Thus, simply using the information presented below alone for an entire lesson without the use of progression, skill instruction, questioning, scaffolding, differentiation, and/or an instructional model is not advocated. If you want to learn more about these, I encourage you to look into them as this blog does not allow space to delve into them in detail.

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The basic purpose of the game is for a team (preferably small-sided) to get five passes in a row to score a point. Typically, the game is played with a 5” dia coated-foam ball with throwing, passing, and catching as the primary manipulative skills used to achieve five passes. Using this as the foundation is where the fun starts. The remainder of this blog will outline various modifications to rules, scoring, and equipment that allow one game to turn into infinite possibilities for learning experiences.

 

Rules

Typically when taught, the first “challenge” is simply for the offensive team to get five passes in a row without the ball being knocked away or dropped. The defense works to prevent five passes. From there rules and tactics can be added one or two at a time. Adding them all at once is not advised as this takes extended time for instruction, and students are not able to absorb and apply all of the rules/tactics. Additional basic rules are provided below. Keep in mind, depending on the variation, other rules may be necessary.

  • The player with the ball can hold the ball for only three seconds.
  • The player with the ball can take only three steps.
  • The player with the ball can dribble three times.
  • The defense has to be arm’s length away from the player with the ball. The ball can be contacted/caught only by the defense while it’s in the air.
  • No pass backs for 4 vs 4 or greater.
  • At least three team members must catch one of the five passes if greater than 4 vs 4.
  • If the ball goes to the ground, that last team to possess the ball must give the ball to the other team. This prevents diving and scrums on the floor for the ball.
     

Game Progression

  • The first time teaching this game it is advantageous to do so in scattered formation. That is, one team is not going in one direction or the other. This allows students to get the hang of the concepts and strategy without confounding the process with directions.
  • Once the rules have been added and students are grasping the concepts, then directions can be added. This can be accomplished with a rule such as “if the blue team catches their fifth pass in the coned off area on the north side of the gym, they get two points. Red team, your coned off area is on the south side.”
  • One final step for a basic game designed to lead-up to a game such as Team Handball is to add a scoring mechanism. For instance, after the fifth pass, if a team can throw the ball into their goal, they receive two points. The variations discussed below have countless modifications that may require unique progressions.
     

Variations

The obvious variations for the basic Five Passes game are for any invasion game such as basketball, soccer, hockey, tchoukball, and ultimate. The most prominent change will be the equipment used, the skills needed, and scoring. However, the foundational information provided above remains.

 

Slam Ball

 

This version is a derivation of a version created by students at the STEAM Academy in Lexington, KY, and involves several levels of play (three will be described here). In addition to Five Passes, elements of volleyball and Saucer Slam are added. It was created as part of a “Game Tester” unit in which students created innovative, inexpensive, and inclusive games.

  • This version is played 2 v 2 and final pass must be hit (slammed) into the goal. The goal can be a cone, a cone with a ball on top, a clothes basket, Saucer Slam goal etc.
  • Next, four teams of 3 play on four small courts in a grid like space. One player from each team guards their goal in their grid. Teams can score on any of the other three goals and 2 to 3 balls are used.
  • Finally, to add an element of volleying in the game, the fifth pass must be set to a teammate who then spikes into the goal. This version may require a larger goal.

 

Speed Football

 

This adaptation was created by 3rd grade students of mine while teaching at the Episcopal School of Dallas. The small twist on the kick-off added an element of excitement and energy for them. This change also prevented the “losers walk” and game stoppage of a traditional kick off.

  • The game is played with a Fun Gripper Football rather than a traditional ball.
  • No steps are allowed and no dribbling. Older students may be able to dribble the football with their feet or hands but the elementary students could not.
  • Once a team scores, the person who catches the pass immediately throws the ball to the other end of the field. This serves as the kick-off and the ball has to go beyond the center line.
  • The team who catches the kick-off is immediately on offense. The only rule I added is a team could not score more than two touchdowns in a row.

 

Speed-A-Way

 

This game is another oldie but goodie created by Marjorie Larsen in the 50’s. It combines soccer, football, team handball, and many other skills. It is included here because teachers can build on Five Passes to teach this game. Below are some additional rules.

  • Players wear flags. If a player in possession of the ball has his/her flag pulled, the ball changes possession.
  • The ball can be advanced either by dribbling with hands, running (no more than three steps before a hand dribble), or dribbling with the feet.
  • If the ball is on the ground and in play, it cannot be picked up with the hands. It has to be transferred from the feet to the hands. Players can do this by lifting it to themselves, or a teammate can lift it to another teammate. Advanced students may be able to pass with their foot, ala a soccer pass, to a teammate down field.
  • Running the ball into the endzone is worth one point. Throwing to a teammate in the endzone is two points. Kicking to a teammate in the endzone is worth three points.
  • As with most games, rules, such as how many players must touch the ball, how many touchdowns a player can have, etc. should be added as needed to avoid one or two players dominating a game.

I will force myself to stop here. I am sure most of you kept thinking, “or you could do this” to each of the ideas presented above. And there are so many more variations that could be taught, all building on the foundational concept taught with Five Passes. I encourage you to try some of these or variations or your own ideas. Change things up. It might work or it might not. That’s okay. Ask students how to improve the game. Have them add rules or suggest equipment changes. Empower students to make the game their own. tHRIVE!

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Recess: Observations, Considerations, and Lessons Learned

Posted 6 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

From legislatures considering state level laws, to schools examining recess policy, to the release of the CDC documents and suggestions for Strategies for Recess in Schools, recess has received a considerable amount of attention in recent months. Throughout my career I have had the chance to be involved in many facets of recess. They range from implementing strategies as a teacher, to conducting research, writing papers, helping develop policies, and discussing the use of recess as punishment with my daughters’ teachers. On this latter point I would love to be able to report that the teachers were thoroughly impressed with my expertise, data, and suggestions. Well...not so much. Based on my experience, my intent here is to provide my observations, considerations, and lessons learned to help physical education teachers and other school physical activity champions.

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Define recess

When creating laws and policies it is essential that within this process recess be defined. Further, the definition must include language to ensure students are allowed to engage in physical activity of their choosing. Without this language loopholes will be found. For instance, I have heard, “Yes they have to sit out but it’s still ‘recess’ from learning” or “I’m not taking activity time at recess away, they are walking laps because they forgot homework.” Anyone’s blood boiling yet? One definition that helps specify what recess is and avoid loopholes is provided by the Active Living Research Brief. It defines recess this way: “Recess is scheduled outside of class time and allows students to engage in physical and social activities of their choice.” This can be better worded to meet your needs. However, the key is to ensure students have the chance to engage in physical activity that they choose, obviously with parameters, and minimize the chance for less than desirable loopholes.
 

Change the recess environment

Take a look at the recess environment at your school. Would you want to go there to be active? If there were 400 of my peers with one supervisor and I wasn’t confident or was afraid of being picked on, I wouldn’t venture out into that abyss. If there were two basketballs, a jump rope, and a bunch of dead grass, that’s not the active environment I would choose. We have to consider this. The research is pretty clear that zoning the recess environment off, providing inexpensive recreational equipment (not playground sets), training staff, and painting the space to be more appealing, all increase activity levels. The research and summary of these can be found in the ALR brief mentioned above. Also, Gopher has an excellent program called Active and Healthy Schools that can assist you in making your recess environment more appealing.
 

Teach recess activities in physical education

Almost 15 years ago I stumbled onto this phenomenon. I was doing research on recess and I noticed that the students were playing Four Ball Soccer (or how many ever soccer balls they had that day). This seemed very odd because most students would not think of this. If there aren’t uniforms, lines, and adults there to ruin it, they don’t know how to play soccer. I asked the physical education teacher about it and he said, “Oh we teach a bunch of recess activities at the beginning of the year so they know some options.” GENIUS. Of course, he had been doing this for 20 years and I was late to the dance. This strategy does not take away from physical education time; in fact it lends itself to what we are supposed to be doing, promoting physical activity. This strategy also allows students to see the link between physical education lessons and physical activity beyond the gymnasium. Some examples of activities that can be taught in physical education and then used at recess are:

  • Four Ball Soccer – Played like normal soccer except there are four balls used rather than one. Also, the player who kicks the ball out of bounds has to chase it. This tends to cut down on players kicking as hard as they can.

  • Dance Party – Teach some dances during a physical education lesson. At recess, turn on the songs and let them dance. They can do the dances taught or make up their own… as long as they are appropriate.

  • Walking interview – Designate a walking trail on the playground and provide students with cards with questions. This will help get the conversation started.


Equipment checkout

When I was teaching, equipment loss at recess was always a challenge and costly. I believe there are still missing playground balls on the Dallas Tollway, which was just a fence and tiny road away from the playground. On a trip to England several years ago I was shown yet another GENIUS idea. The school had a small shed that housed the recess equipment. At the beginning of the year each student was given a small token. A piece of wood they can decorate and put their name on works perfectly. Each week a different class served in the shed as the equipment managers during recess. Typically, only one or two students were needed per day. Students then gave the managers their token in exchange for a piece of equipment. When the equipment was returned, so was the token. If equipment was not accounted for, the last user was known. This process virtually eliminated equipment loss and put ownership/responsibility on the students.

These are just a few ideas. I ran out of space and didn’t get to address more ideas like indoor recess, intramurals, and teacher engagement. All great ideas that I have stolen over time. Give the ideas here a shot and see if it helps maximize recess time. Thrive! 

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Inventory Tips to Keep P.E. Equipment Organized

Posted 8 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

As a young teacher, “Let’s take inventory” might have been my least favorite quote from my co-teachers. Fortunately, as I have aged, I have come to realize its importance. In physical education, pieces of equipment represent our “instructional supplies,” and to meet our program objectives sufficient equipment is essential. Given its importance, it would follow that we take great care in knowing what we have. But, do we always know what equipment we have? If it is in working order, and is it really meeting our needs? This blog will discuss one strategy to help with this process and ensure we know what we have and what we need, at all times.

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Several years ago a new teacher asked me to help her with her equipment. When I arrived at the school the first thing I noticed is that she had over 100 hula hoops. I also noticed about the same number of Frisbee® discs spread around the equipment room. In our discussion, it became clear that she was extremely proud of a new Disc Golf Kit she had purchased. It came with Frisbees, plastic strips to be made into hoops, and cones. I asked her how she purchased the equipment and she said, “My principal said to get something I needed and I thought this would be good.” Several things went through my mind including “you already had what you need for Frisbee Golf” and “What did your inventory suggest you need?” I didn’t say the former, but I did ask the latter. Needless to say, she didn’t have an inventory. She didn’t know what she needed or even what equipment she had. Since this time, I have met and worked with several new teachers in hopes of avoiding this situation and maximizing equipment purchases.

When I was teaching, I was fortunate enough to work with two P.E. teachers who taught me the importance of a meticulous inventory. We did inventory twice a year and counted EVERYTHING. This allowed us to know exactly what we had, what we needed, and to ensure our equipment was safe. An up-to-date inventory allowed us to prioritize our needs and wants (this was tough for a 24-year-old) as to maximize our allocated funds. We could go to the principal and say, “We used to have 40 coated-foam balls, but 5 are worn after years of use. We need at least 36 to teach our lessons appropriately, maximize student activity, and ensure all students are learning. Are there funds available to purchase these supplies for the students?” If awarded a grant, or by chance (don’t laugh too hard hear) a building administrator came to us with some extra money, or the PTA wanted to support us with some funding, we always had a list that we could provide immediately before their generosity disappeared.

As I said earlier, equipment is essential for student learning in physical education. Because it is so important, we must know what we have and the only way I know to do this is with an inventory list. Here are some recommended steps for taking an inventory of equipment:

  1. Create an Inventory Sheet

    • Below is a snipet of the equipment needed to teach the curriculum we used as our foundation (Pangrazi & Beighle, 2016). This list is also in order of utility. That is, the first item is the piece of equipment we use the most, second, etc. The second part of the list is higher priced items that are not replaced as often, sometimes referred to as Capital-Outlay Items. Also note, there is a column to indicate the condition of the equipment, how many pieces we currently have, how many are ideal to teach a class of 36, and how many we need. 
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      Condition:         G = Good                                T = Trash

                              F = Fair                                   D = Donate

                              P = Poor 
      From: Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (18e). Pangrazi & Beighle. Pearson.

  2. Take Inventory
    • ​​​Allocate ample time to count EVERYTHING. This can be tedious at times, but it is so worth the time. Count everything. Yes, we counted all of the scarves and every jump rope. We also made sure the beaded ropes were not broken. We blew up beach balls to make sure they held air. Inspecting the equipment while counting allows teachers to know what they have and avoids situations such as pulling out scooters for a lesson only to realize five scooters have broken wheels.
       
  3. Enter Inventory
    • ​​I have to admit, we didn’t always do this, but if we would have ever lost our inventory, it would have wasted a lot of time having to redo it. With technology today, entering inventory in Excel or another program as you go is advised. This will expedite the process if available. With the data entered, it is simple to calculate costs to replace, how to spend money, etc.
       
  4. Determine Needs
    • ​The above three steps make it simple to quickly determine what is needed. If placed in an excel file with pricing information, teachers can quickly determine how much it would cost to get “enough” of a specific item. Or if told there is $200 to spend, a decision can quickly be made to purchase the highest priority item in that spending range.

This was a tedious process, but well worth it. In my experiences doing inventories for several schools, here are a few tips that help expedite this process and make the constant battle of having enough equipment a bit more palatable.

  • Organize Equipment

    • Use shelving bins, carts, and shelving will help keep your equipment organized and in great condition. Cardboard boxes work well, temporarily, but eventually fall apart. Plastic containers with lids or even milk crates can work too. 
       
  • Label Equipment
    • This makes it easy to find equipment, especially if you use containers with lids. For instance, labeling ropes by length is much easier than having to separate them and then count them. A “friend” had to do that several times before learning his lesson.
       
  • Determine District Policies
    • Find out your districts purchasing policies early on. This could impact how you create your inventory list. It’s always best to find out these processes early to avoid double the work.
       
  • Separate Recess and P.E. Equipment
    • This allows you to make sure you know what equipment is used for P.E. and ensures you use appropriately allocated funds for P.E. equipment. Hopefully separate funds are allocated for P.E. and recess.

Since sufficient equipment is essential for a quality program, it is important that we care for this equipment and keep an up to date inventory so we know what we have. Know this information can impact planning, lessons content, and ultimately student experiences during physical education. THRIVE!

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4 Fun Fitness Activities for P.E.!

Posted 10 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

As promised in my last blog, the following are fun activities to teach students about fitness and provide meaningful fitness experiences in physical education. 

Fitness Challenges*

Using 30-second intervals, the teacher leads the class through a variety of activities. Typically, cardiovascular activities are alternated with activities for muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.

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Example for a lesson with flexibility emphasis. Perform each for 30 seconds.

  1. Walking                            
  2. Abdominal challenges
  3. Locomotor movement (student choice)
  4. Flexibility challenges
  5. Flexibility content
  6. Push-up challenges
  7. Jogging
  8. Flexibility activities/review

Repeat the sequence twice for an 8-minute routine (which works well in a 30-minute lesson). If lessons are longer, this activity can be revisited in elementary schools. In middle and high schools, interval lengths could be increased which opens the door for great discussion on overload and progression principles. Fitness Challenges work particularly well at the beginning of the year or when you want to teach new challenges. You can also integrate 30 second tag games rather than 30 seconds of the locomotor activities.

 

Hexagon Hustle*

  • Use 6 cones to outline a hexagon inside the teaching area. On each cone is a sign (see below for examples).
  • When the interval music is on (usually it’s a 30/30 interval with 30 seconds of music and 30 seconds of silence), students move around the hexagon performing the activities on the signs.
  • As they move, they read the sign which indicates the hustle activity they are to perform as they approach the next cone.
  • When the music is off, the teacher provides activities from either flexibility, abdominal strength, or muscular strength/endurance.
  • After the 30 seconds of silence, the music automatically starts and students continue around the hexagon.

This works well for 8-10 minutes. For high school students, increase the distance between the cones and increase the interval time to 45-60 seconds. Signs on both sides of the cones allows you to alternate the direction and provide a variety of activities.

 

 

Scavenger Hunt  **

  • In small groups of 4-6, provide students with a Scavenger Hunt card (see below) and an item number to start on. This prevents all groups doing the same activity. Try starting with 45/5 (45 seconds of music, 5 seconds of silence) interval music.
  • When the music goes off, this signals groups to move to the next item on the list. Notice, the activities do not include repetitions or times (other than how long to hold each stretch). This avoids the “we’re done” syndrome from students. They will be working the entire 45 seconds (quality, not quantity).

As with other routines, halfway through the activity, stop the class to discuss the fitness concept of the day.

 

 

Racetrack fitness * **

  • Students are arranged using partners (Classroom Management: The Foundation of Effective Instruction)
  • In the middle—also known as “the pit” – are 6-8 signs (see below) on the ground.
  • Partner A reports to the pit and performs the first activity on the card. Partner B performs a locomotor activity of his/her choosing around the perimeter of the activity space (make this one lap or two).
  • When finished with the assigned number of laps, Partner B gives Partner A a high-five, and they switch places.
  • After a lap or two, Partner A goes back to the middle and Partner B returns to going around the perimeter.
  • This process continues until both partners complete all activities on the card.

I typically do this activity with continuous music. Halfway through I will stop the class and have a short discussion of the concept of the day. If desired, this activity could be done with an interval music with partners switching each time the music goes off. In this instance, a 30/10 interval might be in order. During the 10 seconds of silence, partners switch. You can also put mats in the pit for activities if desired, especially for older students.

These are just a few of the countless fitness routines and activities you can use or create to integrate the strategies to teach them about fitness, make fitness fun, and provide them with meaningful fitness experiences in physical education.

* Pangrazi, R.P. & Beighle A. (2015). Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (18th ed.) San Francisco: Pearson.
** Darst, P., Pangrazi, R.P. Brusseau, T., & Erwin, H. (2015). Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson.

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9 Tips for Making Fitness Fun, Educational, and Meaningful

Posted 11 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

My favorite fitness quote is, “FITNESS? I’m talking about ‘fitness’ whole pizza in my mouth.” If you didn’t just laugh, go back and read; it’s funny.

What’s not so funny is how we have traditionally taught fitness in physical education. Primarily as a result of “The Report that Shocked the President,” – a 1955 study based on a 6-party test of muscular strength and flexibility that found U.S. youth were significantly less fit than youth in European countries– we adopted the approach that physical education was going to “get kids fit”. That philosophy had a strong foothold in the field and was rarely questioned in the literature for nearly 40 years.

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In 1992, Corbin and Pangrazi suggested that maybe this isn’t the best approach, particularly fitness testing and holding ourselves accountable for the fitness levels of youth. The literature suggests that as a whole, we should teach fitness in physical education, if we implement fitness testing it should be educational and not an accountability tool, and we must consider the long-term impact of our practices on students’ beliefs about physical activity and fitness. Said another way, we need to teach them about fitness, make fitness fun, and provide them with meaningful fitness experiences in physical education, not get them “fit”.

Let me preface the remaining of this blog by saying I don’t think we will ever be able to get kids fit in physical education, but I think fitness should be a part of every physical education lesson. Below are strategies for making this happen and for making fitness as fun as possible.

  1. Use music. It can be a motivator…and it can be a distraction, so be careful. It can also be used as a tool to manage a class during fitness. See below for details.
     
  2. Aim for quality over quantity. All too often we instruct students to do “10 sit-ups or 15 squats” without even thinking about it. What if that quantity is too challenging, or too easy? For students, fun is associated with success. One way to foster success is to use timed intervals and focus on the quality of each activity or move. The teacher calls out a fitness activity and students perform the activity for a set amount of time. The best way to manage this is using interval music (ex: 30 seconds of music followed by 30 seconds of silence), or an App like Tabata. This also frees the teacher to move around and provide constructive feedback without having to watch a stopwatch to ensure equal intervals. Typically, intervals are 30-45 seconds for elementary students, and up to 1 minute for middle and high schoolers.
     
  3. Teach fitness concepts in every lesson. Once the children have gone through a few minutes of intervals, take a 30-second interval to briefly discuss the fitness concept of the day. This can be a fitness component at the elementary level (flexibility, muscle strength), or at the middle and high school level, a fitness term (overload, interval). You can repeat concepts throughout the year. This allows you to introduce, visit, and revisit the concept for more effective teaching.
     
  4. Use a variety of fitness activities and routines. After every 2 lessons, switch to a different fitness activity. This prevents boredom and allows you to spice up the fitness part of the lesson. Some students may not like traditional push-ups, but will do wall push-ups, elevated push-ups, or push-ups on a medicine ball.
     
  5. Provide lots of specific positive feedback. “Wow, you are working hard today, Pedro,” or “Y’all are amazing today, I’m seeing some hard workers,” or “Anesia, if you keep your toes pointed forward that will help. Your work today makes me proud.” Avoid questioning effort. Remember, especially in elementary levels, students tend to equate effort and skill. If you tell them you don’t think they are working hard, you are telling them they are not good at it. Kids have bad days too. Sometimes getting down to do a plank for a few seconds, a smile, a wink, and a, “I sure am glad you are here today,” is all it takes…and it’s free for teachers.
     
  6. Progress from easy to difficult. Early in the year use activities where you teach a variety of fitness skills. In doing this, I start with the easiest. For example, push-ups are a great activity, but we rarely teach progressions and always wonder why kids can’t perform them. Here is a list of progressions starting with the easiest to help students work toward success.
    1. Push-up position. Just being able to hold themselves up is a start.

i.Wave to a friend

ii.Wave a foot

iii.Wink and smile

iv.Wave a foot and a hand

v.Shake hands with a friend

vi.Scratch your knee

vii.Shake your booty

  1. Knee push-ups. Knees below the chest.

i.As it becomes comfortable, move knees backwards to add a challenge

  1. Flat tires. Start in push-up position and lower body to ground. Use knees to get back up and repeat.
  2. Wall push-ups. Move the feet farther away to increase difficulty.
  3. Regular push-up.

  1. Allow student choice. Once students have a variety of abdominal activities, push-up challenges, flexibility activities, cardiovascular activities, etc., in their bag of tricks, let them choose. Create fitness activities that provide them a chance to show the activities they prefer. The easiest way to do this is to say, “Show me your favorite push-up challenge while the music plays (see #2 above). This allows them to choose the workload and the activity.
     
  2. Let students create. At the middle and high school levels, after they have been exposed to a variety of activities and concepts, let the students create their own fitness routines. It serves as a great way for students to “relate” (See PRAISE blog) to a fitness activity, allows them to demonstrate they understand the concepts, and you will probably get an activity idea or two from them.
     
  3. Build relationships. Creating interval music allows you to get around and talk to students, help with technique, address issues, and just get to know your kids. If you are strapped to the boom box (if you are younger than 30 ask an old person what that is) because you have to start and stop the music, or are worried about the stopwatch, it’s hard to get to know your students.

Putting these ideas into a fitness activity within a lesson takes just a bit of planning. My next blog will discuss fun activites to teach students about fitness and provide meaningful experience in physical education.

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Five to Thrive: Tips for Physical Education Teachers

Posted 1 year ago - by Aaron Beighle

In my last blog I discussed the role small changes in perspective can have using my brother Trent’s story as an example. I ran out of space so I want to expand on the term “Thrive!”

At the time of Trent’s passing I was working on a presentation for my final class for a course I teach for classroom teachers. The purpose of the class is to train future classroom teachers to integrate physical activity in their classrooms and promote lifelong physical activity in schools. I was looking for something to leave them with that was bigger than physical activity and frankly, bigger than education—something to go back to throughout their career. As I mentioned last time, Trent’s favorite song was “Thrive!” by Casting Crowns. I’ve always thought THRIVE is a strong word. So much so that I use it as my email signature as a reminder to myself with each email I send. It means: live with vigor or prosper. Some have said it is more than surviving or existing. At the conclusion of the course I was teaching, I had five things I wanted to leave the future teachers with. Being the genius of creativity that I am, I came up with “Five to Thrive” (just do a quick Google search and you’ll see lots of other folks have thought of it before me) as the ending piece to the presentation. The first part of the presentation is Trent’s story. Here are the concluding “Five to Thrive”.

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1. Commit to making a positive difference and write it down

My guess is that most of us got into physical education because we care about youth and want to positively impact their lives. As we go through our careers many of us lose our zest or passion for what we do. Sometimes it’s just for a season and sometimes longer. To combat this I encourage educators (or anyone) to write down what a “commitment to making a positive difference” looks like. A personal mission statement of sorts.

For the final exam of the courses I teach, I have my students write themselves a letter titled, “The Teacher I Want to Be”. I encourage them to write it thinking of the teachers who impacted them. I also encourage everyone to re-read this letter yearly as a reminder of their heart and passion. This process serves two purposes. One, during difficult times, a personal letter with a personal mission statement can be invigorating or that little lift a person needs. Two, this statement helps shape one’s big picture (vision) career wise.

This big picture is made up of pieces— a puzzle if you will. Identifying the pieces of our puzzle allows us to stay targeted, relentless, and positive. It helps us eliminate minutiae in our lives. If something is not represented by a piece of the puzzle, don’t worry about it. In reality, as educators we are forced to give some things like standardized testing a small piece of the puzzle. Some things we have to deal with in order to be educators who get to make a positive difference. However, some things we don’t have to put in our puzzle. Negative chatter in the teacher’s lounge. Colleagues who focus on coaching and not teaching. Teachers who want to argue about dodgeball. Feeling unappreciated. These negative thoughts tend to suck the life out of our teaching and our joy. When this happens, it’s a great time to read your letter/statement and remind yourself of the puzzle pieces. Your own personal statement allows you to shape your puzzle and remember your commitment to making a positive difference.

2. Respect yourself and others

We have all heard the Golden Rule since we were young children, learning to play with others. But man, it’s hard to live. A student talks back. BAM! There goes the “teach this kid a lesson” mode. He needs to learn to respect me. Yes, you are right, but is this the time? What has this child gone through to get to the point that he will disrespect you? It could be something you did, or it could be something that happened outside of physical education. Although it is difficult at times, it is essential that we treat students, teachers, faculty, etc., like we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. Boy howdy I wish that were as easy to do as it is to type. It’s a daily struggle for me.

One way we can show this to students is to know their names. It’s free (and takes some work for some of us) but it shows a student we care enough to know their name. Similarly, get to know students as individuals. This takes work. It takes effective management to free yourself so you can ask students about their weekend. Ask them about their siblings or their weekend hiking trip. How do you know they went on a hiking trip? Because you got to know them beyond physical education. How do you know they sleep on the floor with 5 other siblings?

Think about what it would be like to be a student who goes through a day of school and no one asks them how they are doing…or cares how they are doing? No one says their name. No one acknowledges they exist. Some of you are saying, “That’s not my students.” I challenge you to prove me wrong by getting to know your students so that you can definitively say that. Email me if you do. Treat your students like you want your own kids treated. Every child deserves to have a teacher who thinks they matter; respect them enough to be that teacher.

3. Believe what you do matters

If you don’t believe what you do matters, find something else to do. I don’t say that to be crass, but to encourage you to find something that fulfills you and brings out your passion. It has been said that, “When you lose your why, you lose your passion.” Genius. I know of teachers who sit in a chair and watch students play in a gymnasium every day….and they have done it for 30 years. I have talked to these teachers; they have no life in them, no pizzaza. And they don’t think what they are doing matters. They have no “Why”. Apparently they have never been told all the benefits physical education can have.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Although I would say “career” as “job” has the connotation of an undesirable chore, but the statement is so true. It happens from time to time, but rarely do I dread Mondays….I am lucky. Something that has taken me some time to figure out is that none of my work is about me. I have had to get rid of the mirror and have chosen to serve others. My wife would argue that the mirror shows up from time to time and life becomes about me, but I am working on it. I can say that I feel the best when I focus on the fact that what I do matters and it helps others. How could life get any better?

4. Relationships precede learning, and well, everything

The students you teach are far more important than the content you teach. Teddy Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In most fields or endeavors, the most successful people, or leaders, are those who can connect with people. A major part of connecting with someone is to show them you care.

For some, connecting and showing you care can be difficult. The easiest way I have found to connect with others is to ask them about themselves. I was recently at a hospital and the tech wheeling our friend to see her baby was far less than friendly. As we got on the elevator I asked, “So are you starting or ending your shift?” He responded with something about his school schedule, and off our conversation went. Ten minutes later he dropped us off at the nursery, smiled, asked if we needed anything else, and said, “Have a great night.” One question is all it took.

This holds true for students. Yes at times you will find out WAY more than you want, but ask questions, talk to them, and as I said before, get to know them. You cannot teach them if you do not know them. Connect.

5. Live with purpose

In some ways this circles back on much of what’s already been mentioned. To thrive and live with vigor I think we first have to ask, “Why do you do this?” This is your why and defines your passion. Marketers will tell you to identify the “why” of the product first. Ask then, “Why do you do what you do?” This will be identified and evident in your personal statement discussed above.

We are not here to just survive each day. I firmly believe we are all here to make a positive difference for others in some way. For most of us we have chosen to make a positive difference in the lives of youth through teaching. Think about how dependent our society is on education. More importantly, think about how dependent your students are on you. For many, you are a lifeline (possible the only lifeline) to a productive, healthy life.

 

In summary, I want to leave you with my take-home message for my students.

  • Know what you do matters.
  • Love students….all of them.
  • Teach with passion.
  • Lead with tenacity
  • Live with purpose.
  • Know your big picture
  • Focus on the important pieces
  • Thrive!

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Changing the Way You Keep Score

Posted 1 year ago - by Aaron Beighle

“Why do you even keep score?” This is the most common question my mom asked every time my brothers and I would get in an argument over a game. In fact, other than, “straighten up and fly right,” it’s probably her most famous quote to us. Typically our arguments centered on scoring and were grounded in my middle brother changing the rules. I am the youngest of three boys, Dana, Trent, and me. To say my middle brother, Trent, was competitive would be a major understatement. He was so competitive that, “cheating,” was his thing. He would change the rules in the middle of the game and always to take advantage of the poor innocent baby of the family. If you ever played a game with Trent and he wasn’t cheating…well you were naïve, he was cheating. This drive and competitive spirit followed him to adulthood and some could argue it served him well. He worked full-time, went to school full-time, and raised a family. From there he built an engineering firm from the ground to a juggernaut in the industry with offices across the country. Words like tenacious, focused, and driven were perfect descriptors.

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In August of 2004 during a meeting at work Trent had a seizure. After extensive testing it was determined that he had a brain tumor and a decision was made to remove it via surgery. After the surgery the surgeon revealed that he couldn’t get all the tumor, and radiation was prescribed. During this time, because of the seizure, Trent couldn’t drive and he couldn’t work. Up to this point in life two things defined Trent: work and family. And in his words, his priorities were “a little out of whack”. No work meant more time with his family, specifically his wife, Valerie, who served as chauffer. After months of radiation, great news, the tumor was not growing. Everyone was ecstatic, but for Valerie reality set in quickly. As they were driving home she told Trent she was worried things would get back to normal. Trent took the hint and “got it”. He was faced with the notion that all his life he kept score because he was competitive and now he needed to change how he kept score. No longer could Ws, bottom lines, profit margins, and getting the deal be his focus. He started to understand mom’s question, and now asked, “How do I keep score?”

And oh how he changed how he kept score. He started keeping score by the lives he touched. He didn’t lose his tenaciousness; he just turned it to mission work in Swaziland, construction work in New Orleans, playgrounds in Jamaica, and anywhere he found people at risk. I will never forget where I was on I-75 in Vandalia, OH, (we were coming back from getting BBQ for dinner) and he said, “I just changed how I keep score.” And he continued with something to the effect of that small change can change how you impact the world. Impact the world? I am not a big impact-type of thinker, but that was obviously in Trent’s wheelhouse.

As Trent was changing the world, in August of 2014, he had another setback, a stroke. As usual with a stroke he lost use of one side of his body and as you might expect, he started rehab immediately. And to no one’s surprise, he made huge progress in a short amount of time. He was driven. Until September 26th, 2014. Valerie called and said they were taking him to the hospital. A few hours later I get a text from my dad, “He’s gone.” Until that moment I’ve never understood when people say their knees buckled or they felt like they had been punched in the gut. Now I do.

I know this is a lengthy lead in but I share that because Trent’s message for the last years of his life was, “Do something, before IT happens”. His IT was a, “Tuma,” (his word not mine). It resulted in a complete change in perspective. His small changes in perspective changed the world for countless people. So what does this mean to physical educators? If you believe in the butterfly effect or the domino effect, what small tweaks can you make that will make a difference in the lives of youth?

To get your mind rolling, here are some adjustments I have considered, tried, and pondered in the last two years:

  1. How do I view students (or athletes)? As pawns in a little game of testing or a little game of (insert your sport here)? Or do you look at students (of all ages) as our future? Are behavior problems a disruption, or a chance to impact students? In most cases the root of misbehavior will break your heart. It’s the behavior you don’t like, not the child.  As educators, students are our future. We get to impact students and the future. We must remember that the foundation of everything we do is relationships. Carl Buechner once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel…” Think about your favorite teachers. Chances are, they weren’t your favorite teacher because they taught you to conjugate a verb or divide a fraction or throw a ball. They were your favorite teacher because they made you feel good…or accomplished…or worthy…or that you mattered. Every student needs a teacher that makes them feel this way. Be that teacher. We have to believe the students we impact are far more important than the content we teach. Reaching students is our way to positively “impact the world.”

  1. How do I see education? Is it a job or a passion? Are you leading students to water? Making them thirsty? I recently read that the best part about education is that it matters and the worst part about education is it matters. That’s pressure. But a great pressure. Do your students know you love education? Physical education? Do you need to tell your face that you love physical education? SMILE more. Be respectful of the entire education experience students receive. Attend math nights, literacy events, plays, and concerts. For me this part requires a balance between family and career and I have to consciously balance it all. But it’s worth it. Education is our vehicle to positively “impact the world”.
     
  2. How do I look at physical education? “It’s a job for me,” or, “it’s the best career in the world”? If you are like me, you go back and forth on this one. My challenge is to get myself to keep looking back to “it’s the best career in the world”. The only thing constant in physical education is change. We have a history of changing foci (in theory) every 10 years. From gymnastics, to fitness, to perceptual motor programs, to movement education, back to fitness, academic integration…and now, “physical literacy”. And if I am honest, it’s a bit frustrating. As a field we must keep doing things better and we need to do better things. We need to really look at who we are, where we have been, and how that impacts the foothold we have in education. Do we really want to argue over dodgeball, whether students call us coach, and whether other teachers allow students to call it, “gym”? Or do we want to step back and say, “Why”, why do we do what we do? Because we care about the health of youth. Right? As you can see it’s hard for me to tease apart students, education, and physical education. Especially when I think of my “why”. Physical education is the path most of us have chosen to positively “impact the world.”

  1. How do I approach life? Am I just existing or am I thriving? Do I live with vigor? For me it depends on the day. While in the hospital Trent’s favorite song to listen to was “Thrive,” by Casting Crowns. The song speaks to the notion that we have to do more than survive in this life. At times we will need help thriving and at times we will provide the help to others. I remember when I was teaching there were days I just didn’t have it. But as soon as the 2nd graders came bounding down the steps into the gym with their endless energy (and it was endless), they helped me. I was fortunate to have two incredible educators and even better people as co-teachers who would also give me a kick in the pants at times as well. My point is that as a field and as educators we have to have each other’s backs to help everyone thrive. I am running out of space so I will expand more on thriving in my next blog.

In sum, we often make slight tweaks or modifications in how we keep score during our physical education lessons. What if we made small changes in how we keep score on our impact? Just what if….We can impact the world! Thanks Trent. THRIVE! 

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Motivating Students? I'm not a Sport Psychologist

Posted 1 year ago - by Aaron Beighle

Motivation, and the fundamentals of motivating youth, is something we know is important, but I think it’s something we don’t fully grasp and fully optimize. In my experience, some of this disconnect has been that the nuggets of valuable, applicable information for teachers is buried under theory. While theory certainly has its place, weeding through theory can be confusing, frustrating, and at times futile (at least for me). Further, while most teacher preparation programs have a Psychology and Sociology of Sport class, covering the content of what could be at least two courses during one course doesn’t provide much time to dig deep into how to motivate students.

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In my schooling, specifically my graduate work, I have had the opportunity to take three or four Sport/Exercise Psychology courses. I approached all of these courses knowing I wanted to work with youth. While I probably should have been listening more intently during classes, I was doodling ways to make the theories come to life for teachers. To this end, the following acronym was created. It combines parts of Achievement Goal Theory and Self-Determination Theory and attempts to make them applicable. To quality, I understand that some disagree with combining theories and borrowing pieces and parts, but in my experience this has worked for teachers and therefore I am sharing it here.

P.R.A.I.S.E.

Perceived Competence – 

In a nutshell, this is a student’s beliefs about her abilities. The key is that it is the student’s beliefs. So how do you make a student perceive herself as being competent? Provide her with successful experiences. Start with the easiest activity first and then invite students to try more difficult skills or activities. Ensure the number of repetitions they receive is maximized. How do you do that? See my previous management blogs, but in short, be efficient with management and instruction. Provide individual, meaningful feedback to allow students to refine their skills. Repetition and refinement are essential. Focus on the process…the product will follow (sometimes).

Encourage students to perform your cues. Most students can perform the cues to hitting a tennis forehand. They might not be able to hit a cross-court game winner, but focusing on the process provides the chance for success and learning. I am not an “everybody gets a trophy” advocate, but I am an “everybody gets a chance to be successful in physical education” advocate. 


Relatedness – 

In brief, this means make a connection. This connection can be with you and the students, student to student, or student to activity. Build relationships with students. Focus on “getting to know” your students…more than you know your content. Sometimes we focus so much on outcomes, objectives, and our perfect lessons/activities and lose sight of building relationships with students.

Try to find something with which you can connect with each student. I used to get up and watch cartoons on Saturday morning because I knew my students watched “Recess”. I knew as much about T.J. Detweiler and the Ashley’s as they did. I also listened to music that made my ears bleed, but it was what middle schoolers listened to. And I wanted to make sure it was appropriate.

Provide time and activities that allow students to connect with each other. Cooperative activities early on and throughout the year lend themselves to this, but any small group or partner activity does as well. Let students invent games…and use some of them later. Using the game invented by a student you struggle to connect with just might be the key to getting him/her to connect with you and others.

 

Autonomy –

This simply means to let students have some say in their learning experiences. For instance, provide an easy (catch the beanbag with one hand), and medium (catch the beanbag with two hands) or a difficult (catch the bean bag with the back of your hands) activity. Or simply teach by invitation and say, “If you like that activity, keep doing it. If you want something that might be a bit more difficult try this.”

During fitness activities use music to time an activity and let students choose the workload. “While the music is on, pick your favorite upper-body challenge and see how many times you can do it.” This lets students select the intensity.

Allow students to opt out of participating two times per semester or grading period. No excuse needed, they just don’t have to be active and it doesn’t impact their grade. Sometimes you don’t feel like being active; afford that opportunity to students. I use this with university students and it works well.

And please consider your dress out policy. This is a topic for a different blog or discussion, but I find it hard to believe that failing students because they don’t want to change clothes in a locker room full of their peers does much to motivate them. (Stepping off my soap box). Create tracks/sub-courses (e.g. Team Sports, Innovative, Individual, and Fitness) at the high school level and allow students to choose the track they want to take that grading period.

 

Individuality –

In full confession this isn’t a part of either of the theories I mentioned above. However, my acronym was PEARS before that….and that just didn’t work. This too involves getting to know your students. Treat them fairly. Meet them where they are, not where you are.

Emphasize that activity choices are individual. Physical education is exposing them to as many as possible, and they get to pick what they enjoy and what has meaning to them. Ask students what they like and don’t like. Treat students as individuals once you get to know them. I hope I am making it clear that I firmly believe the first step to motivating students is to get to know them as individuals.

 

Social Support – 

Keep in mind the role peers play in student decisions. Involve family when possible. At the middle or high school levels this gets tough. This might be a good reason to ask students, “What kind of social support do you need to be active? Peers? Family? Significant others?” Physical activity clubs can also help create a culture of social support. Walking, hiking, intramurals (intramural does not mean just team sports), and orienteering clubs are all great ways for students to be active and connect with students who have similar interests.

Be a role model. Regardless of the age you teach, students watch you and emulate you. Be aware of your actions. Eye rolls, scowls, ignoring students, rude comments in a moment of frustration. They all leave an impact. Frankly, our students look up to us. Give them something good to look up to.

 

Enjoyment –

Essentially this means busy, happy, good. I am teasing. Just making sure you are paying attention. “FUN” is not the only thing we are about in physical education. We have content to teach and we are about education/learning. However, “FUN” should be a major part of everything we do, just as physical activity should be a major part of what we do. The challenge is to provide learning experiences to teach our content that are active and are fun.

One way to make lessons fun is to make students successful, which goes back to Perceived Competence. In her book, No Sweat, Dr. Michelle Segar provides an anecdote of a client who reports she has never had a fun experience being active. Never. Wow! Think about that. Did she have physical education? If she did, what does that say about her experiences? Eek. Creating a safe (physically and emotionally) environment through effective management increases the chances students will have fun. Using a variety of activities in a balanced curriculum also helps ensure students will experience fun activities in physical education.  

 

In summary, in our efforts to promote physical activity for all youth, I think we are wise to borrow from the exercise/sport psychology literature to seek ways to motivate students. Above are just a few ideas. My intent is for teachers, as they teach, prepare lessons, or reflect to think “…did I include any elements of P.R.A.I.S.E? Could I include more?” I think the answer will be, “Yes” to both. And your students will be better for it. Give it a shot and see if it helps. Thanks for being teachers and THRIVE!

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STEAM and Physical Education: Meeting the Curve

Posted 1 year ago - by Aaron Beighle

Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programs are popping up in high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools across the country. (Note: Some use the acronym STEM and some include Arts in the acronym.)

To better prepare students in the fields of STEAM, the federal government has prioritized the development of programs, academies, and schools emphasizing these areas. This push, as well as data suggesting STEM jobs make up 20%, or 26 million, of US jobs (From stemedcoalition.org) leave me thinking that STEAM education is here to stay.

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As most of you would agree, in STEAM education, physical education is essential for all the reasons we support. However, as with any school, it is important that the physical education program “fit” into the school philosophy. I am not suggesting that physical education should exist in these schools simply as a support class for STEAM courses. In fact, I would suggest that physical education be a part of these programs because it would be the only course in which they learn the skills, knowledge and attitudes requisite for a lifetime of physical activity.

STEAM typically focuses on an integrated curriculum where multiple content areas are blended during learning experiences. Problem based learning (PBL), discovery, and exploratory learning are emphasized. Students are typically actively engaged in the learning experience looking for solutions. In my mind, this is where the excitement for a physical educator begins. How can we take those educational tenants, which are not unique to STEAM, and infuse them into a physical education program that maintains the goal of preparing physically literate students? Frankly, I think we do much of this already; we just need to let other educators know and highlight what we do.

Like most of you, STEAM is new to me, but I can’t help but wonder what STEAM physical education can look like. In the elementary ages, guided discovery could be used to initiate student problem solving. Cooperative, adventure education type activities could be used to further their decision making, problem solving skills with groups. This is an excellent strategy for teaching students about group dynamics, what leaders do, how to disagree, how to learn to cooperate and communicate. All are strategies many of us use but would lend themselves to PBL and exploration. Allowing students to invent games given a set of equipment. Exploring equipment uses. Physical education teachers could collaborate with science teachers to generate learning experience in both spaces, based on friction, momentum, force, etc. When learning about Internet searches in computer sciences, students could search for physical activity videos to do in the classroom, in physical education, or at home. Pedometers in physical education lend themselves to mathematics lessons with real data to calculate averages and generate graphs. Teachers could collaborate to infuse dance and music in an arts program.

In middle and high schools, the opportunities are endless as well, particularly if we provide students with a strong content foundation to build on. For instance, one approach might be to provide a lab/lecture/activity based course that on the surface resembles a traditional health and physical education class. This course, taught using PBL and exploration, would provide fundamental knowledge such as why physical activity is important, basic nutrition, stress management, the FITT principle, lifelong physical activity skills, etc. Once students have this knowledge, then the real fun would begin. For instance, in a computer engineering course students might be faced with the problem, “When students enter middle and high school their physical activity levels drop. Using app development skills and computer engineering skills, generate a strategy to get students more active.” Is that possible? I don’t know but is fascinating. In physics students might learn about viscosity and friction and be able to link that information to arteries, cholesterol, and heart disease that the learned about in the foundations course. And that is just a start of what could be accomplished. Letting young technologically savvy, physically literate students develop strategies to improve health is exciting and promising.

In sum, STEAM education is here to stay. From my perspective, physical education has a tremendous amount of upside in this approach to education. With some thoughtful preparation and creativity the possibilities are truly endless. As I said, this is not to say physical education is a primer for other course work; this is to say our existing content can be strengthened to fit perfectly in a STEAM approach and strengthen the learning experiences as well. Given the push for STEAM programs, I think it is essential that physical education begin considering how what we already do can lend itself to these programs. 

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