STEAM and Physical Education: Meeting the Curve
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.
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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Twitter is Dumb!
This was my quote about two years ago. My guess is that some of you read that quote and thought, “Finally someone who will agree with me that Twitter is not all that.”
Unfortunately I am probably going to disappoint you, but please keep reading.
I am going to share my hesitant, maybe even reluctant, journey into Twitter, my experiences as a relative newbie, what I have found to be the benefits, and one concern I have based on my experiences. My hope is that this can be shared with the Twitter naysayers as a way of getting them to at least look into Twitter because I think there are many benefits. My perspectives are fluid, so I welcome discussion.
Twitter has been around since March 21st, 2006 (I looked it up). While many educators have been involved and were forward thinking enough to see the utility of Twitter since the early days, it seems that the use of Twitter by physical educators for professional development, learning, sharing, and interacting with a Professional Learning Network (PLN) has really ramped up in the last 3-4 years. The potential for Twitter is immense and many are starting to see this. I, on the other hand, am one of those slow uptake people.
One reason for my apprehension is my hesitancy to jump on the bandwagon of the next fad in physical education, and we have our share. Some of my apprehension is that I am a people person. I like face-to-face interaction. I think this interaction is the foundation of relationships. In workshops, gymnasiums, and classrooms, personal interactions provide energy, context, and opens doors for communications. While I present and listen to webinars, podcasts, etc., I thrive on face-to-face interaction with others. I like people (most of them). For these reasons, reading a tweet such as “Be sure to attend the #physed twitter chat 2nite@gophersport “ was not initially attractive to me. Please know, there is much more to Twitter than the simple posts you read; this was just my perspective early on.
So how did I get started? I started by following sports talk radio folks and some artists my daughters liked so I could find out if they were in concert near us. Over the next two years I listened to workshop presenters, colleagues, students, and teachers talk about their PLN. I saw them meet people at conferences who they knew from Twitter but had never met face-to-face. From there I started following some physical education folks. I was still against social media as a professional resource. It’s called “SOCIAL” media right? LinkedIn was for professional interactions. I was and still am a Facebook stalker. I rarely post other than to say, “Thanks for the birthday wishes” and to post the obligatory first day of school pictures for our four girls. Face-to-face I can do. I love presenting. Talking to physical educator teachers, hearing and seeing their passion is what I love. Typing to people I may or may not know just doesn’t feel right. I know this is a bit contradictory considering I am writing this blog and do my share of writing books and articles.
In the last 1.5 months I have ramped up my own involvement via tweeting, reading Twitter chats, even occasionally making comments (WHOA) AND I LIKE IT. I am guessing I like it for the reasons many others like it. It allows instantaneous interactions. I can see a teacher from Australia’s ideas instantly. While email would serve the same purpose, the teacher from Australia can share her work simultaneously to hundreds or thousands.
Twitter provides physical educators with a support network/PLN. Considering many of us are literally on an island (our teaching space) and might have limited chances for interactions with other #physed teachers, this is a great benefit. PLNs are also significant given the trend for decreased professional development (PD) dollars and thus PD opportunities. Twitter also provides a national and global perspective. Posts and interactions with teachers from around the world has great potential for improving teaching and the field. While not as official sounding, Twitter is simply fun. Like Facebook, with Twitter you feel you know some of the folks you follow or are following you, but you may have never met them in person or haven’t seen them in 20 years. A bit weird, but fun. This list is limited and I am sure readers can come up with more reasons they love Twitter. My point is to let those riding the Twitter fence see that there are upsides and it’s worth looking into.
My only real concern about Twitter is the lack of accountability for posts. (Please know that I know that many forms of electronic media have similar issues, I am just focusing on Twitter.) There is no vetting or refereeing process associated with Twitter posts. This means anyone can post anything at any time. If you think about that it’s both scary and exciting. I understand that it is up to the reader to decipher the content and make judgments as the utility of a post. However, what if the reader is not as educated or up to speed on what #QPE is? What if the post is a video of poor teaching practices? Or inaccurately quoted research? I know reporters do this ALL the time, but at least they have the excuse that they are “outside the field”. With Twitter, it’s our own posting content that lacks evidence or contradicts what is generally accepted as best practice. I am not sure of an answer for this, but I believe it is worth discussing in the Twitter chat world.
I hope this blog will push #physed teachers and other professionals to look into using Twitter. The benefits outweigh the negatives, particularly if Twitter is used without accepting everything for face value. Yes, some folks are out to promote themselves and will use shameless self-marketing and some will post a quote that in no way reflects the research article it claims to quote; however, in a very short amount of time, I have learned to filter those posts (that means I don’t get bent out of shape over them) and focus on the positives associated with Twitter. If you have never used Twitter, I hope you give it a try. If you use Twitter, I hope you use it with a filter that helps you maximize its potential.
Follow me @AaronBeighle
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Make Every Minute Count... Including the First One!
Do you make every minute with your students count?
Even the first one?
Continue reading for three simple and quick ways to get your students instantly active!
It’s a cool fall day (we can all dream, can’t we?) and Ms. Pitsburg’s 3rd grade class enters the gymnasium and reports to their individual jet logo painted on the floor.
They immediately sit on their spot, criss-cross. As Ms. Pitsburg has a brief conversation with the classroom teacher, the students peer around the room trying to determine the activities for the day by the equipment around the room. As the students begin to get fidgety, Ms. Pitsburg turns her focus to the class with “Wow! You all are sitting so quietly. Well done!”
Okay, okay, anyone cringing at this scenario yet? In full disclosure, for the first 2-3 months of my teaching career, this is how I taught. Students entered the gym and immediately sat in the squad lines (and I won’t even start on how long it took to get them to remember their spots).
Around Christmas of my first year of teaching, I discovered the wonders of Introductory Activities (some refer to them as Instant Activities or Warm ups), and oh, how they changed my life.
As a field we are beginning to see ourselves as physical activity promoters, and engaging students in physical activity at least 50% of each lesson is accepted as a goal in physical education.
In my experience as a teacher and teacher educator, I have found that the first few minutes of any lesson set the tone for the rest of the class. In fact, I would argue that first minute is the most important. For this reason, I think introductory activities are pivotal for every lesson. An Introductory Activity (Intro) is the very first physical activity students engage in immediately upon entering the gymnasium.
Often, teachers do other administrative tasks while students wait for instruction on lines or in squad spots, and then they get to the activity. For example, I have worked with teachers who meet the class at the door, allow the class to enter to sit on spots, explain the day’s lesson, ask for questions, in some cases, take attendance, and then they move to the Intro. This is not truly an Intro.
The process I described can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes. In a 30 minute lesson, 5 minutes is 17% of the lesson. Thus, teachers striving to get students moving for at least 50% have an uphill battle for the next 25 minutes of a lesson. If you do have to take attendance, there are lots of strategies for doing this while students are active. While beyond the scope of this blog, if you need some attendance strategies please contact me.
Intros take place within 30 seconds of the teacher receiving the class from their classroom teacher.
Greeting a class might look something like this, “Good morning 3rd grade. I love those smiles. I have lots of fun Frisbee activities for us today and some great tunes. Let’s hit the floor jogging today. Go!” Students then jog in general space within the teaching area. After all the students have entered the space, the class is frozen on command such as “FREEZE” or a whistle, and the active lesson continues.
Beyond providing immediate physical activity, introductory activities allow the teachers to set the tone for classroom management. For instance, moving and freezing students three times assists in establishing effective management that will enhance lesson efficiency. The Intro also gets the students ready for an active lesson.
For me, Intros typically involve limited instruction. Complex rules or instructions yield decreased activity. Also, most of the Intros I use are designed for 2-4 minutes. Beyond that, students will lose interest. Besides, I have other activities for the lesson. I am just using the Intro to engage in activity, get them ready for physical activity, and establish management. To do this, below are some simple, but effective Intro samples.
Move and Freeze:
Students move using a teacher-instructed locomotor movement. On signal, students freeze in the pre-determined “freeze” position. I usually use hands on knees with elementary and hands on waist for middle or high. While simple, this activity works great at the beginning of the school year when establishing management protocol is the focus.
Students are instructed to enter the gym and walk on the perimeter. I use this sparingly because it reminds me of the ole “take a lap”. However, it can be fun for students and is an active way to start the lesson. Some teachers use the walking trail while students enter and then quickly move to another introductory activity after the first “freeze”.
This is my all-time favorite because it allows for integration and students love it. Students move in general space. When the teacher says, “High Fives” students give as many high fives as possible until the instructor calls out another locomotor movement. This process continues for 2-3 rounds. Modifications include counting by fives, “High Two”, behind the back fives, and my favorite, low fives and they only count if your feet are off the ground and your hand is below your knee. This one is great fun to watch!
These are just a few. I encourage you to dig around and look for more. Intros or Instant Activities or Warm Ups can be found in lots of resources. The key is to truly use them instantly in a lesson. This will help maximize activity, prepare students for the lesson, and establish management procedures. Plus, students will “get their wiggles out” and be more willing to listen to your brief instructions following the Intro.
Give it a shot and make every minute count, including the first one.
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Integrate Brain Breaks at Your School with Technology!
As the evidence supporting the integration of physical activity grows, movements such as Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAPs) are becoming mainstream. With this, the role of the physical education teacher is expanding and many physical educators are capitalizing on this chance to promote physical activity during the school day.
In the last ten years, ideas for integrating physical activity or brain breaks in the school day have exploded. There are books, programs, websites, products, curricula, and countless other strategies geared towards getting students moving.
One strategy that is cost-effective, fun, and easy to implement is the good ole fashion homemade video. While technological advances mean you don’t have to get out the camcorder (if you are younger than 30 ask an old person what a camcorder is), you can use your phone to record a video and BAM, your students can be moving to it in less than 10 minutes.
The best strategy I have seen are videos such as those on the YouTube channel, Mr. Noble’s Fitness World. Billy Noble is a physical education teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in Lexington, KY. During his 10+ year teaching career, he has generated countless videos such as the ones posted online. He even has his student teachers create their own characters as a part of the student teaching experience.
There are two reasons I like this approach:
The videos are cost-effective, or cheap. They don’t cost a dime. Well maybe if you need the knee high socks and some Chuck Taylor’s, you might have to spend a few bucks.
They can be made quickly. Just turn on the music, move to the music and hit stop. No editing, no rehearsing.
The videos you see took Billy less than 10 minutes to make. Just a bit of creativity to come up with the characters. Thematic (Halloween, School festival, etc.) videos can also be easily created. Videos highlighting upcoming physical education lessons or reviewing previous lessons can be made. The possibilities are endless.
Once the videos are made, they can be used in several ways:
Morning Movement Time:
The first way is for a morning, school-wide movement time. Most schools have morning announcements. These videos can be a part of the announcements and used to get the days started actively.
Activity or Brain Breaks:
Even if school announcements are not used, the videos can be made available to teachers through a video system or DVD. If the teachers have access to the videos at any time, classroom breaks can include the teacher clicking on the link to YouTube and letting the video play. Ideally, the teacher will engage in the activity with the students, but if he/she won’t, a video is still a great strategy. That is, some teachers might want to integrate physical activity in the school day because they don’t want to lead an activity. However, they will let their students be active if they have a video to turn on.
Activity with Content:
Another idea might be working with the classroom teacher to make videos that are active reviews of academic content learned in the classroom. The idea of working with classroom teachers brings me to my final idea...
Get students in the videos:
Students can work together to create their own video. While this might not be feasible during physical education time, I have worked in afterschool programs that allowed groups of students to choreograph and perform a dance for their video. This dance was then used during the morning announcements. I have also worked with a PE teacher who used the video as a behavior incentive. Essentially students who were having behavior issues were given behavior goals. Their reward for meeting these goals was getting to appear in the videos. They became stars in the school….for positive reasons.
Homemade videos add a local, personal touch to classroom physical activity time. They are cost effective and fun ways of integrating physical activity and brain breaks into the school day. Give it a shot.
For additional ways to get your students moving during the school day, check out Moving Minds by Gopher!
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Dynamic PE: What is It and How Does It Work?
Last month I blogged about physical education curriculum (check it out). In that blog the components and development of a curriculum were presented. Towards the end I mentioned a curriculum I co-author, Dynamic Physical Education (DPE) for Elementary School Children (18e) and how a group of teachers in Lexington, KY are implementing the curriculum.
With its beginnings in the 1960’s, this curriculum is widely used and respected throughout the field. It is evidence-based in that it combines the evidence from fields such as exercise science, classroom pedagogy, motor learning, exercise psychology and epidemiology to create student-centered, standards-based physical education lessons.
The DPE curriculum is divided into four parts. The lesson begins with an introductory activity. As with all components of DPE, this is an activity-based learning experience as soon as the students arrive (not sitting for us). This sets the management tone for the class and provides instant activity for students. The introductory activity typically lasts 2-3 minutes in a 30-minute lesson. Next, is the fitness component of the lesson. The purpose of this part is to teach them about physical fitness and expose them to a variety of fun fitness related activities. Emphasis is placed on personal best and enjoyment with small bouts of instruction associated with fitness concepts. This component typically lasts 7-8 minutes. Following fitness is the lesson focus. This component lasts 15-20 minutes and is designed to teach students physical skills. Emphasis is placed on repetition and refinement of skill with instruction focused on the process of movement (e.g. appropriate skill technique), not the product (e.g. how many baskets a student can make). The focus of the lesson is success-oriented and provides students with skills necessary to engage in physical activity for a lifetime. Finally, the lesson ends with a game, or closing activity. This is a time for students to apply skills learned during the lesson focus. The game also allows students to end the physical education lesson with a positive fun experience.
The structure of a four-part lesson ensures students engage in activity immediately upon entering the teaching area, experience vigorous physical activity, learn skills, and have the opportunity to apply those skills in success-oriented games. To some, on the surface, this structure appears restricting. However, our experience has found that a major strength of the curriculum is its flexibility. A structured curriculum guide with detailed instruction for lesson implementation works well for new teachers and teachers with limited experience teaching an activity. As teachers gain experience with the curriculum they find that it is very malleable. For example, if a teacher finds a new fitness activity, they can easily replace the activity in the guide with their own activity and see how it works. If it works well, we encourage teachers to document the new activity and use it other times throughout the year. Teachers also make note of the activity in the Curriculum Guide so they remember to use this activity the following year.
DPE is also flexible in that a variety of teaching models can be implemented simultaneously. For instance, at the secondary level, teachers have used Sport Education for an entire lesson or just during the lesson focus. The curriculum is also flexible because it can work in virtually any physical education environment. Lessons can be modified to fit 30-minute lessons or 60-minute lessons. Activities can be adapted to large or small classes. The curriculum can be used in schools that have gymnasiums, multi-purpose rooms, or no gym at all. The DPE textbook includes assessment templates which can be modified to meet teacher and programmatic needs. And as stated above, the curriculum can be used by novice teachers or implemented and modified by seasoned veterans.
As I mentioned in my last blog, there is a need for systematically developed curriculum in physical education. However, the development of a curriculum is labor and time intensive. Fortunately, DPE allows teachers to tailor an existing curriculum to fit their needs. If you get a chance, take a peek at DPE. I did, and it changed my career.
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Do you have a Curriculum? Are you sure?
For several years I provided numerous trainings for the Centers for Disease Control Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool. As I conducted these trainings, I became keenly aware of the confusion surrounding “just what is a physical education curriculum?” What I found was that most physical education teachers, at least those attending the trainings, did not have a curriculum. Some had a yearly plan (a week-by-week list of activities, games, and skills), some had it “right up here” (pointing to their head), and some had nothing. Very few, if any, had a true curriculum. For this reason, I think it is important as physical educators to examine our written curriculum to ensure students are receiving a quality program.
From my perspective, a curriculum has three components: background information (frequency of meetings, class size, PE philosophy, etc.), lesson plans, and assessments. Others in the field may disagree, but in general, these are the meat of a curriculum. The following is a brief list of those steps:
1.Write a philosophy
2.Write a series of statements to define the curriculums (e.g., The curriculum is appropriate for all children; Activities allow students to meet national standards)
3.Document environmental factors (e.g. gym size, number of days per week students have physical education)
4.Develop content standards and student objectives. (Fortunately SHAPE America has done this for us)
5.Choose child-centered activities
6.Organize the activities into a yearly plan, and lesson plans.
7.Evaluate and modify the curriculum
This final phase is especially important. A quality physical education curriculum is a living document. I was told a long time ago that I should teach 20 years, not one year twenty times. Constantly evaluating curricula and lessons helps avoid this.
A quality physical education curriculum, among others, is standards based, physical activity based, inclusive, prepares students for a lifetime of activity, and process-based. In addition, the curriculum must be flexible. It must be malleable to the ever changing environment, either at the school, district, state, or national level. That is, if a standard changes, or the number of minutes you have your students per week (humor me…that could happen right?), you shouldn’t have to change your entire curriculum. Likewise, if you attend a professional development workshop and find a new activity that fits within your physical education philosophy, you should be able to integrate that into your curriculum.
I am fortunate to co-author such a curriculum, Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (there is also Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students by Darst, Pangrazi, Brusseau, and Erwin). This curriculum guide is accompanied by a textbook describing more activities not included in the guide. I am currently working with a Professional Learning Community in Fayette County Schools in Lexington, KY. For the first year, the curriculum was used as written in the Curriculum Guide. That is, the teachers followed the week by week lessons described in the book. During this process they took notes and modifications were made to the curriculum. For example, our curriculum uses a four part lesson. The lesson begins with an introductory activity, next is a fitness activity, afterwards the lesson focus is implemented, and finally, a game or closing activity is taught to wrap up the lesson. Teachers decided they liked some of the introductory activities with some of the fitness activities so they switched them. Also, they decided they liked specific lesson foci at different times of the year so they switched that too. Also, individual teachers learned some new activities at a workshop and they implemented those where appropriate. Every two-to-three months these teachers meet to discuss previous lessons and upcoming lessons are presented in an active professional development. Modeled after work being done in Mesa, AZ, this creates a true Professional Learning Community built around a common language via a common curriculum.
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CSPAP: PETEs to the Rescue!
Some time ago, I wrote about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP). Previous to that blog and since then, the ground swell of support from national, state, and local organizations has continued. In fact, it seems that interest continues to grow at a faster rate than previously. Research is being conducted, stakeholders are being trained to implement CSPAPs, and most importantly, youth continue to be impacted by these efforts. Without a doubt, CSPAP is here and having an impact. But as I discuss often when I speak, is it here for the long haul….or is it just another “fly by night”, “here today gone tomorrow” (and all the other clichés) fad, destined for extinction?
To get the CSPAP movement going, I think all the right steps have been taken. Information about CSPAP is everywhere. That was the first step. Next, stakeholders (physical educators, parents, educators, concerned citizens) are taking on the role of physical activity promoter, Champion, Physical Activity Leader (and any other name out there) in schools. Funding is being provided for trainings and often support groups are being generated from these trainings. This is all incredible. The CDC has generated a CSPAP Guide and trainings around it. It’s happening! Get excited!
But is it sustainable? I am not one to be a wet blanket on the campfire, but we really need to look at this. Providing one-day trainings for in-service teachers year after year is not an answer….at least not for cost-effective, systemic change. Then how do we do it?
Please keep in mind, the remainder of this blog is written by a physical education teacher educator (PETE) who may be biased and might not reflect the perspective of all PETEs.
If CSPAP is going to continue to prosper, PETE programs must take on the role of preparing future physical educators to promote physical activity in the schools. The days of accepting a physical educator who only teachers soccer skills and the Virginia Reel are over. While those are important concepts to teach in a quality physical education program, the physical educator must take on a bigger role. One that involves politicking, managing events, advocating for youth, speaking to parents and other stakeholders about the benefits of physical activity, and the list goes on. But, where do they learn that? In teacher preparation programs, of course.
For PETE programs, this is going to mean choices have to be made. Do we integrate CSPAP concepts into existing courses? If we do that we have to decide what content to cut from the course. Do we add a CSPAP course? If we do that we have to decide what course to cut. At least from my experience, most PETE curricula are jammed packed with limited, if any, electives. Thus, adding a course means cutting a course. What type of experiences should students engage in during PETE courses? A while back some colleagues and I wrote an article about this very topic (Beighle, et al, 2009). Our philosophy was to integrate CSPAP learning experiences into existing courses. While not a universal approach, we have used it at my institute and found it to be effective. We are also exploring the types of experiences student teachers receive and work diligently to place them with cooperating teachers who promote physical activity in the school. One could argue that student teaching is the best place to see CSPAP implementation.
The potential for CSPAPs to impact the lives of children is tremendous. To maintain these efforts, a sustainable system for preparing physical educators to take on this role is needed. Fortunately, PETE is that system. My challenge is for PETE programs to step to the future and proactively prepare physical educators to make a positive difference in the lives of youth.
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Free Lesson Plan Template- Providing Structure in Your Class!
In my nearly twenty year career, I have found that most people I have worked with thrive in structure. For students (both P-12 and university), structure provides familiarity and comfort, two essentials for learning. Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way. I remember teaching a Kindergarten class that exemplifies this well. Early in the school year we established that upon entering the gym they were to move around the teaching area using a locomotor movement I gave them. Their little minds and feet worked diligently to make this a routine. On this particular day we were not going to follow that routine because we had a guest performance with some equipment set up. Being a young, naïve teacher I simply met the class and said, “Today we are going to walk in and sit down on the circle.” Well, this class did what they were taught to do, they jogged in the teaching area, and then they ran….and ran….and ran. Despite establishing “Freeze”, when placed in this environment that was new, only half froze as they had done for months. Needless to say I was frustrated, embarrassed, and sweaty. That taught me that kids like structure, need structure, and if anything goes outside the realm of the established structure, great care must be taken to avoid chaos.
Besides consistent management, another strategy to provide student structure is a lesson plan template. This template provides structure, sequence, and continuity to a lesson. The structure I use is a four part lesson starting with an introductory activity, followed by a fitness activity, a lesson focus, and then a game/closing activity.
Introductory activity: Sometimes called an instant activity, this activity is used immediately upon entering the gymnasium. No sitting in squad lines for me. This activity prepares students for the lesson by getting them moving and establishing management protocol. There is limited instruction during this portion of the lesson which typically takes 3-5 minutes of a 30 minute lesson.
Fitness activity: This portion of the lesson is designed to expose students to a variety of fitness activities and teach them fitness principles. This component nor any component of my physical education lessons, is not designed to improve fitness levels in youth. Typically the activities are interval in nature with students alternating between cardiovascular activities and muscular strength, endurance or flexibility activities every 30-45 seconds. Examples include obstacle courses, jump rope, circuits, and teacher lead routines. Fitness activities typically last 7-8 minutes in a 30 minute lesson.
Lesson focus: The focus of the lesson lasts 15-20 minutes and includes skill instruction. The emphasis here is repetition and refinement of skills to provide successful opportunities for students. Care is taken to ensure students understand the process of performing the skills so they can comfortably engage in physical activity throughout the lifespan.
Closing activity: This is a great way to end a lesson. Often the closing activity is a game that ties to the lesson focus, but not always. Students have the opportunity to apply skills learned during the lesson or previous lessons during this component. I always end my lessons with a game and avoid using the game as a bribe. I want the lesson to end with something fun for all students.
In addition to providing structure, this template allows me to address multiple standards every lesson. For example, I have found addressing fitness during a one-time-per-year fitness unit does not allow the content to “stick” with students, thus I integrate fitness content in every lesson. I encourage you to use this concept or create your own lesson plan template and use it every lesson to provide structure and ultimately student success. Thrive!
The four part lesson described here is based on the template described in Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (17e). Pangrazi and Beighle.
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Finding Focus in PE: What is Our Brand?
Brands are everywhere! Branding a product involves creating an image that the public can identify with. Many people can identify a brand after hearing just a few notes from the jingle or seeing only a small portion of a logo. Branding is powerful!
What is our “brand” in physical education? What do we do that only we can do and the public can identify with?
On a recent trip I was on four flights and sat with seven seatmates (one flight had the middle seat empty….YES!). Fortunately, or unfortunately, my seatmates were chatty and the topic of occupations came up. After telling them what I did, I asked, “What is physical education to you?” I received seven distinct and vastly different answers. That, to me, is a branding issue. Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we do better than anyone else that the public can identify with?
Historically our mission in physical education, on the surface, has been muddled…from the German and Swedish influence with emphasis on gymnastics and exercise, to focusing on fitness, to a games and sports approach impacted by the military, and many in-between. As a field, our focus has jumped from one emphasis to the next latest and greatest topic. Some would argue our jumpiness has come from a desire to be sought after and significant in the eyes of education. However, regardless of our motivation, underlying most of the approaches in physical education is the desire to get people moving.
In the last two decades an approach to physical education that has been called for is that of physical activity promotion. Said another way, “WE ARE THE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PEOPLE”. This “brand” resonates with the public and it is what we do better than anyone else. We are the experts!
To some, the notion that physical education is about physical activity promotion causes uneasiness. Concerns sound like “If we do that, what happens to teaching skills?” Or “What about my fitness content?” My response is, “YES. Teach skills.” Students will need them to be active. And “YES” use your fitness content to teach students about fitness and show them all the fun ways they can become fit. However, while doing so, keep an eye to our primary objective, the thing we do best and the public can identify with - physical activity promotion. When we teach skills, make sure students are active; how else will they learn the skill? When we teach fitness, make sure students are moving and experiencing how fun intense activity can be; how else will they learn to love moving? Use a variety of teaching styles and curriculum models. Most, if not all, have their roots in getting students to love moving.
While I can go on and on with this topic, I think the growing consensus in the field is that our “brand” is Physical Education = Physical Activity. We are better at it than anyone else, and the public gets it. It is refreshing that as the field begins to embrace this brand we can begin looking to strategies to best promote physical activity for all students through physical education.
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Getting Parents Involved in Physical Education
A common obstacle teachers face when starting a new school year is how to get parents involved in Physical Education. Check out a few of Aaron Beighle's ideas for how to involve parents in PE below!
As a young teacher with no children of my own, I was scared to death of parents. Parent-teacher conferences, writing report card comments, visits to class, saying, “Hello” in the car pool line….all frightening duties. I didn’t know what to say or how to relate to them…people with kids were sooo old and unapproachable. Boy howdy was I wrong. The one thing I learned is that to truly impact the lives of students and teach them, parents were my best ally. I had to get them involved. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work alongside, observe, and collaborate with some incredibly creative, energetic physical educators. For this blog, I will share just a few of the ideas I have garnered (aka stolen) to get parents involved in physical education. It is important to note that these activities can all be advertised via a physical education newsletter.
PE Nights/Demonstration Nights--
PE nights and Demonstration nights are very similar. The goal is to get parents into the gymnasium to showcase what is happening in physical education. For PE night, parents and students participate in a physical education “lesson” together. For a demonstration night, parents observe and often participate in a fun culminating game or activity. Again, this is a time to showcase the fun activities students engage in during physical education and to educate parents about your physical education program. Common feedback from parents goes something like this, “PE wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”
Active Open House--
Most schools have an Open House at the beginning of the year. What better way to promote PE? One strategy is to loan pedometers to parents to wear while at the Open House. When parents return the pedometers, provide them with an informational flier explaining the importance of physical activity and physical education. We used to include dinner table questions for families to discuss. Also during Open House, steering parents to the gymnasium to engage in activity stations works well. Stations tend to work better than a game. Getting into a game midstream can be uncomfortable for some parents. Stations allow them to work in. Also, stations allow the PE teacher to circulate and meet parents.
I promote the use of Fitness Self-Testing for a variety of reasons. It allows teachers to communicate with parents, explain the terms “physical activity” and “physical fitness,” and assess relevant PE content knowledge. Morgan and Morgan (2005) provide an in-depth discussion of how to implement fitness self-testing. Once complete, teachers can send home information about the importance of regular physical activity, the role of physical fitness in youth and explain the role of fitness in physical education. This holds true for other assessments as well. I think any time we can reach out to parents with thoughtful fliers, newsletters, and feedback to promote our programs we should do it.
Parents are a great ally in our efforts to promote youth physical activity. Above I have provided just a few ideas to get them involved and to educate them about physical education. Other ideas include recruiting parents to volunteer at field day or charity events or to just have them visit a physical education lesson and participate with their children. These strategies allow us to promote physical education during school and outside of school with the adults who are most influential in the lives of youth.
Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends and tips!
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