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.
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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.
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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.
To hear more from Aaron on CSPAP, check out his Gopher Solutions Webinar- Enhancing Your School's Physical Activity Program! (Aired 3/21/14)
Active & Healthy Schools (AHS™) products are available Only From Gopher and help you implement the 5 components of CSPAP.
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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.
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