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.
Active and Healthy Schools (AHS)
Looking for ways to maximize the amount of physical activity your students are receiving throughout the school day? Check out how Gopher's Active and Healthy Schools program can help you get there!
For my last blog I wrote about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP). As you will recall this multi-faceted approach is gaining momentum around the country. This time I want to focus on Gopher’s Active and Healthy Schools (AHS) Program. This program was originally developed a few years before the release of the CSPAP Position Statement by NASPE, but assists schools in implementing components of CPSAP and healthy living. AHS includes several modules including classrooms, playgrounds, healthy eating, sun safety, and outside of school. With each module, requisite materials to implement the program are provided. In addition, other equipment, strategies, and signage are available.
For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on the use of AHS to maximize physical activity during the school day. In my experience working with schools, most try to increase physical activity during the school day for a variety of reasons. However, the literature suggests that not all of these efforts are successful. Fortunately, the approaches utilized by AHS have been researched and shown to be effective. Interestingly, AHS was the basis of one large study conducted in Omaha, Nebraska, by Dr. Jen Huberty, now of Arizona State University. I will discuss this study later in the blog.
AHS materials include activity cards for classroom based physical activity. In our work with teachers, we have found long lesson plans or lengthy descriptions are not what they want. Thus, the activity cards provide simple activities that can be completed in a small space with short descriptions (usually fewer than 5 bullets). Many of the activities allow for academic integrations as well. Several teachers have suggested that the activity cards be stored in an easily accessible place (e.g., on the white board or on their desk). When students get fidgety or restless, teachers simply grab a card and provide an activity break. This approach improves behavior and concentration. In our research we have found this to be an effective strategy, specifically when the breaks were used to integrate academic content, for increasing activity and decreasing behavior issues. On a side note, I think it is essential that classroom teachers begin looking at physical activity as a teaching tool similar to a white board, centers, and reading groups, as opposed to something “added to their plate”. When I teach pre-service classroom teachers, I teach them that physical activity, while it is a break, is a tool that assists with classroom management, content delivery, and overall classroom morale. A teacher in one of our studies told us before the study she thought she couldn’t afford to “waste time on physical activity” when she had so much to cover. After the study she said, “I can’t afford not to integrate physical activity. My kids love it. I love it. And they are so much more focused. It’s changed my classroom.”
AHS also includes a playground module. The focus of this module is to use activity zones at recess. Activity zones are just what they sound like. A recess supervisor zones off areas of the playground for different activities. This can be accomplished with lines or cones. Examples of zone activities might be jump rope, dance, soccer, walking path, and tennis rally with a partner. During recess students can then move to zones as they wish. Zones can be changed weekly to replace activities that are not as popular or interest in them has waned. One strategy is for the physical education teachers to introduce a new activity each week at the end of a physical education lesson. This activity can then be used as an activity zone. Professors at the University of Northern Colorado call this the Recess Activity of the Week (R.A.W.). Another key component of the playground module is the recess supervisor. As I mentioned before, in our research in Nebraska we found the implementation of activity zones by a recess supervisor was effective. The supervisor circulates throughout recess motivating students, teaching new activities, and setting up the zones. Another key component of our research was the use of recreational equipment (jump ropes, playground balls, etc.) at recess. Students need equipment to be active. While the research on expensive equipment like slides, swings, and merry-go-rounds is not convincing, providing students with recreational equipment has been shown to be effective.
My experience working with schools using AHS has been successful. The program is turnkey, cost-effective, and sustainable. What else can you ask for? For further information I encourage you to visit www.activeandhealthyschools.com. For information on the research mentioned above contact me at Beighle@uky.edu.
Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program
In 2008 the term “Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs” (CSPAP) was coined. It is important to note that the components of a CSPAP are not new and have been in place at many schools for years. However, the introduction of the term and subsequent efforts by countless organizations is galvanizing physical activity promotion for youth at the school level and beyond. As CSPAPs become mainstream and more common in schools, they are poised to positively impact the lives of children and the entire school community.
A CSPAP is a school-based, multifaceted approach to physical activity promotion. The components are: Physical Education, Physical Activity During School, Physical Activity Before and After School, Staff Involvement, and Family and Community Engagement. These components are “comprehensive” in that virtually all physical activity opportunities fall under one component. From classroom activities, to volunteers from a local business helping with recess, to nurses from a local hospital conducting wellness checks for faculty and parents, to high school intramurals, to a middle school before school activity club, to the physical education teachers developing a Professional Learning Community focusing on better physical activity promotion during physical education, to parents participating in physical education demonstration nights, the opportunities to promote physical activity for the entire school community are countless.
As I have conducted workshops, given presentations, and written about CSPAPS over the last 7 years, I hear three common concerns. One, you are trying to eliminate physical education. My counter to that statement is, “Actually, I am trying to make physical education and the physical educator one of the most valued members of the school community.” For the most part the public understands the importance of physical activity. So, if we market ourselves as the physical activity person at the school and let the community know “I care about the health of every student”, how can we go wrong? No other professional in our communities understands youth, schools, and the importance of physical activity more than the physical educator. It is essential that we take this opportunity to make school the hub of physical activity in our communities. What better way to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and attitude to be active than with a CSPAP, which includes physical education?
Another concern I hear is “My school can’t do all five components. We’ll never be able to have a CSPAP.” I think we should look at a CSPAP as a menu of all the ways we can get our school community moving. Schools don’t have to eat from every category on the menu. For example, I have worked in schools where parental involvement is low. Getting families to attend a family night may be impossible. Or maybe an afterschool program is just not feasible. Whatever the situation, I encourage schools to start with the low hanging fruit. Pick something and go with it. Start small. Be successful with that and then grow. Think big, act small. Using this mantra will help schools grow a successful CSPAP.
Lastly, I hear, “AAAAAH, this is just another fad that PE is jumping on”. I have no way of knowing if the term CSPAP will be a fad or fade. I do know that youth will always benefit, physically, emotionally, and cognitively from physical activity. And for schools to reach their full potential, physical activity must be a part of the educational process. So will CSPAPs be around for the long haul? I don’t know. But to best serve our youth and community, physical activity in schools has to be.
Classroom Management: The Foundation of Effective Instruction
As my first blog I thought I would focus on a topic I find overlooked, but essential to quality physical education, classroom management. Have you ever finished a lesson and thought, “That was a great lesson, I am gooooood.” Or, “Wow! I might be in the wrong profession, that was awful.” Chances are classroom management was a driving force behind the quality of the lesson, good or bad. Here, classroom management will refer to teacher practices that enhance transitions, provide efficiency, and allow the teacher to nurture positive behaviors in physical education. In short, quality classroom management is a hallmark of an effective physical education lesson.
First things first, successful teachers can stop and start their classes efficiently. I really struggled with this when I started teaching, but I learned a few tricks along the way. A consistent signal (whistle, “Freeze”) cues students to assume a predetermined position (I use hands on knees, eyes on me). If equipment is in use, students place the equipment on the floor as to not be distracted. Once the signal is given teachers should scan the class to ensure 100% compliance within 5 seconds. Phrases like, “Wow, Faith had her hands on her knees before I finished the word freeze. Thanks! That’s what I am looking for” serve effective managers well.
Many activities in physical education have students working with a partner or small groups. While at one point I was determined that counting off was effective, I have learned otherwise. To make physical education efficient, routines for moving from an individual activity to a small group are essential. One strategy is to call out “Toe to Toe” or “groups of two”. This cues students to quickly find a partner. Rules such as “once you make eye contact that is your partner” and “if you take more than two steps come to the middle to find a partner” make grouping students efficient. Similarly, designating the center circle the “friendship spot” provides students a spot to find a friend.
As a formerly long winded teacher, over the course of twenty years I have learned shorter is better. Concise, thorough, and thoughtful instructions allow me to maintain student attention and provide the necessary content. How can I say what I want to say but be brief? To help, the instruction typically include “when” before “what”. “When I say ‘Go’, hustle to the green line and get a yarn ball to toss and catch in good spacing.” These short bouts (less than 30-45 seconds) increase student retention and maximize physical activity during physical education. Students are given small bouts of information and then allowed to practice. After students practice, the class can be frozen and another bit of information or skill cue provided. This process continues with activity interspersed with concise bouts of instruction.
Equipment retrieval is often a time of inactivity, misbehavior, and frustration. To minimize these issues one strategy is to spread the equipment around the perimeter of the teaching area. This allows for swift retrieval, allows more activity, and decreases student frustration. When retrieving equipment, students should always be provided an activity to engage in once they have the equipment. Telling a student to hold on to a piece of equipment is inactive and asking for behavior problems.
While not an easy task, effective classroom management allows teachers to create a safe, non-threatening, structured environment. In turn, students can learn to joy of physical activity while moving.