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10 Things to Know Before You Start Teaching!

Posted 1 year ago - by Donn Tobin

As professional teachers, we all go through the adversity of student teaching.  This true introduction to teaching, whether positive, negative, or both, gives the candidate hope to gain enough experience to enable to hold their own when first landing a job. 

Here are 10 tips all physical education teachers should know before they begin teaching!

10 Things to Know Before You Start Teaching!

  1. Be on time. Always arrive to work on time or ahead of schedule.
  2. Plan for everything.  Sometimes things don't work out the way you had hoped.  So, whether it is a lesson, equipment, or facilities, have contingency plans.
  3. Be flexible.
  4. You're the expert. Realize that if you mess up in a lesson (as long as it is nothing major), the kids will not know the difference. 
  5. Time management. It's one of the hardest things to conquer. Initially you might take too long with a portion of your lesson, or perhaps stop a lesson too early.  I am one of those people who need to be at the airport 5 hours early, but I have become an expert at managing time. 
  6. Discipline. Create a discipline plan and stick to it. 
  7. Be friendly. Be-friend the custodial and secretarial staff members, you will need them. Smile and be coridal to co-workers... even if you don't mean it.
  8. Continue Learning. Read subject material and go to conferences.
  9. Recover your emotions.  The class that you are about to teach has no idea what happened the period before (no matter how nightmarish it was).
  10. Relax…this really does get easier the more you do it!


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Thinking back to my student teaching experience, I remember how difficult it was for me.  Back then, student teaching was compressed in only one-quarter of the college year, rather than the typical semester it now is.  I commuted from campus in my parents’ run down Chevy Blazer, driving 98 highway miles round trip to my assignment each day.  I taught high school in the morning, drove to my assigned elementary school each afternoon, followed immediately by mandatory coaching with the Varsity Field Hockey team.  Needless to say I was very busy.

Coming into the beginning of that school year, I felt very confident I would learn a ton of basic start-to-the-year procedures that I could make my own.  One of my assigned cooperating teachers was due to retire at the end of that year.  After meeting with him before the school year began, he informed me that I was his 30th student teacher.  Here this experienced teacher would definitely pass on his expertise and wisdom to me.  My expectations were one of pride; to be his last disciple in a long line of illustrious predecessors.  I was excited and nervous at this wonderful prospect.

My introduction was a shell shocking one to say the least.  In only the third day of school he told me I would teach the entire first couple of classes, with him “watching” me from his office.  The feeling of nausea was overwhelming.   I nervously asked him, “You are going to leave?  What if I need help from you?”  He responded, “I wouldn’t do this if I felt you were not ready.  I trust you.  You will be fine.”  How could he say that?!  He hardly knew me at that point.  With that he handed me his roster and left the gym completely.  I did not see him again until his (my) third period prep.  And believe me, I checked.  I frequently looked in the direction of where the PE office was, and still…nothing.  I realized that my on-the-job training became quite apparent, and I needed to do it very quickly. 

My first student teacher was “assigned” to me in my fourth year of teaching, and although at the time I most likely shouldn’t have had one, I did.   I knew that the methods used with me were not the most effective when teaching a future colleague.  I decided right then and there that I was going to be very involved in the process.  During successive years with other student teachers, I learned what works and what doesn’t, just like teaching your students.

I always am a bit guarded when I take a student teacher.  You are lending your classes to an inexperienced teacher who may or may not turn out the way you plan.   I only hope they turn out as good as, or better than me.  If the experience is not as good as you hope it may take a while for bad habits to get out of your classes when they leave. 

Enter “Robby”, my 7th student teacher.  I had heard he was a Major of the Year recipient from my alma mater, and couldn’t help but have high expectations from him.   Going in, I dreamt that he would dazzle me with the latest and greatest techniques the college had to offer.  This surely would not be a typical inexperienced teacher, and thought I might have a prodigy on my hands.  However, Robby struggled.  A lot.  I expected him to make mistakes, and to take advice and techniques from me to model from, however he wasn’t able to.  He knew his educational theory extremely well.  He was knowledgeable about a lot of subject-specific matter, but when it came to teaching actual kids, he had a hard time.  He came across as awkward to the children.  When he saw me do an activity or technique, he tried to copy it verbatim.  For whatever reason these techniques would morph into something different, and most of the time, become ineffective.  Things did not flow well naturally, which is to be expected.  However the learning curve was much steeper in his case.

One day near the end of his teaching experience, we both sat down in my office to discuss things over lunch.  Robby slumped down into the chair looking exasperated.  “Holy cow,” he blurted out.  “I am so exhausted after those four classes.  How do you do it?”

I looked him over.  He actually looked as if he was going to collapse.  “Things get easier with time,” I replied.  “You get used to it.”

He didn’t look reassured.  “I have been at this for a while now, WHY are things not getting easier?”  I noticed the tone in his voice had become higher as he spoke.  “The kids listen to you.  They try hard.  You speak with humor and they totally get it.  This seems so easy for you…”

I noticed how frustrated he seemed to be.  This comment is so common when working with young and/or inexperienced teachers.  They expect things to work well right away when in reality, they don’t always happen like that.

I can recall a very similar conversation that I had with one of my mentors which went down almost the same way.  In my first year of teaching I asked the same thing to my co-worker, a woman who was an institution in the school that I now teach in.  I was there part-time and was frustrated that things were not going as smoothly as I had hoped.  She had been teaching for 37 years, on the verge of retirement, and her enthusiasm for the job still glowed as brightly as I imagined it did in her youth. 

Her reply to me has been one I have not forgotten.  It was simple and insightful.  “Because I have been at this much longer than you.  I am much older than you.  The kids know me.  Like it or not, kids understand this.  This does not mean that you are not a good teacher.  It’s just that experience plays that much of a difference.”

She was absolutely correct in that experience makes a world of difference.  That is how we grow and improve.  By definition, experience means insight into observation of facts or events.  We learn from others as well as ourselves.  We make mistakes and hopefully learn to not repeat them.

Thinking about Robby helps me remember what I have gone through in my work.  


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends, and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Donn!


Quality PE Matters: An Analysis of the UNESCO Quality PE Policy

Posted 1 year ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

At the beginning of the academic year, I express to my pre-service HPE teachers…

I don’t think that teachers of other subject disciplines such as math, science, music have to not only learn about “how to teachbut to also think about becoming an advocate for “what they teach. I believe this holds true for Health and Physical Education teachers everywhere.

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Over the past ten years, teaching pre-service HPE teachers at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), at the University of Toronto, I have shared the Active Healthy Kids Canada Physical Activity Report Card that examines how families, peers, schools, communities and built environments are contributing or not contributing to the overall physical activity in children and youth.

The report card has been used as a tool for public awareness, advocacy strategies, research and practice and policy change to get kids more active. Despite its efforts over the years, the message still remains that we are failing to meet the target of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day for proper growth and development for children and youth in Canada. In fact, only 9% of children between the ages of 5-17 years old get the 60 minutes of “heart-pumping” physical activity they need daily as reported in the 2015 report card.

 The faces of the report cards over the past decade have shared powerful images that capture the very essence of key issues that have contributed to this state of inactivity or can mobilize systemic change that physical activity and quality physical education matter:



 Ensuring quality PE in the elementary years to providean active start (2010  AHKC Report Card)






Making the connection between physical activity and academic learning that exercise increases student attentiveness and readiness to learn (2009 AHKC Report Card)





Bringing back more opportunities for students to engage in unstructered, creative play (2012 AHKC Report Card) 






Unplugging our kids to have less screen time (2008 AHKC Report Card)







Creating more opportunities for active transportation to combat sedentary behavioiurs (2013 AHKC Report Card)



It is no secret that sedentary lifestyles are linked to health concerns of non-communicable diseases, that “sitting has become the new smoking”, and that…


This image is found on Thompson Educational Publishing’s website, another powerful image that captures the very essence of the possible effects on our kids growing up digital in replace of play.




So, now what?

First, we need to invest in more quality Physical Education for change to happen. Once, a wise professor of mine told me, “Three things need to be in place for systemic change”…

  1. Soung Pedagogy: We do have current ways of thinking about how to teach HPE with curriculum models such as TGFU (Teaching Games for Understanding), TPSR (Hellison’s model on Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility through HPE) that contribute to an inclusive, student-centred learning space for HPE to come alive. I have recent blogs on these pedagogies you can access.
  2. Effective Resources: In Ontario we have the long awaited 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum that reflects the needs of students in the 21st century. We have also have companies like Thompson Educational Publishing and Gopher that support the delivery of quality PE with evidence based resources.

  3. Supportive Beliefs and Values: This is the biggest barrier to ensuring quality PE is implemented with the same importance and percentage of curriculum time as other subject.

So, I continue to share my voice as an advocate for quality PE with my pre-service teachers, in the hope that, they will find their voice to be a champion for quality PE in their schools and communities.


Next, we need to use advocacy tools, such as the recent UNESCO Quality PE Guidelines, released on January 29, 2015, which emphasize why we need to invest in quality PE.

Also, Dr. Dean Dudley, from Macquire University- Australia, led a webinar on the Thompson Educational Publishing Huddle using the UNESCO policy as a springboard for policy makers and PE teachers to invest in quality PE for all. Dr. Dudley, defines quality PE to be “a planned, progressive, inclusive learning experience that forms part of the curriculum across all the levels, primary to secondary for students throughout their school careers … a one size fits all is failing our students”.

Heath benefits of investing in quality PE such as:

  • More physically active and literate children and youth
  • Reduces risks of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer
  • Less likely to smoke, become pregnant or engage in risky sexual behaviours and use drugs

Inclusivity….one of the major themes for quality PE resonates with me. Dudley suggests that PE can be a platform to overcome stereotypes and stigma towards mental health, disabled, minority groups, and gender as an example. Empower girls to be more active. Typical roles around gender should be challenged. Move away from splitting games into boys and girls as a default and ensure that male and female achievement in PE is treated as equal. Engage marginalized groups as PE can break down language and ethnic barriers and encourage intercultural dialogue and understanding. Include non-traditional North American games in your program such as Tchoukball, Cricket, Danish Longball and other games of the world. 

The UNESO Policy also emphasizes that investing in quality PE can increase physical literacy, civic engagement, and academic achievement. Recently, there has been a lot of attention on physical activity and academic achievement and Dr. Dudley’s expresses that we need to change the conversation to what else can quality PE do?

Quality PE as highlighted by Dr. Dudley:

  • Has a great capacity to improve social skills and reduce student anxiety at school in their social groups
  • Increases motivation to attend school and motivation to learn – kids are more likely to stay in school if they feel a sense of belonging and connectedness
  • Uses more of a play-based learning framework than any other subject which helps students be creative, problem solve and build behaviour and social dynamics that empower them to learn more effectively

So, how we can make Quality PE happen?

  • Promote high levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity during PE time
  • Use student-centred, differentiated active learning strategies to improve students’ perceived physical competence – “help kids feel they have the capacity to have a “go” and be successful” states Dudley.
  • Develop a broad range of movement skills, knowledge of concepts and game strategies to increase competence and physical literacy
  • Promote and assess social and personal skills e.g., responsibility through inclusive PE

UNESCO recommends 120 minutes of PE curriculum per week with an increase up to 180 minutes of PE curriculum per week in secondary schools. PE time is independent of health education time.

Last thought from the UNESO Policy to ponder… A gap remains between policy and practice despite all the benefits. Research shows that 97% of countries globally have compulsory PE. Yet, in 54% of countries, PE has a perceived lower status than other subjects. Only 53% of elementary schools have qualified trained PE teachers.

What are you doing or what advocacy tools do you use in your school communities to change peoples' believes and values that quality PE matters?

Check out the recent 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity on Children and Youth (formerly the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) that is, for the first time, taking a stand on play in nature and outdoors with its risks for healthy child development.  


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends, and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Carolyn!

What Can Track and Field Do for Your Student-Athletes?

Posted 2 years ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton

Did you know that the world’s second most popular sport, from a participatory perspective, is Track and Field?
It trails only to the sport of soccer.

In fact, the Olympic mantra, ‘Higher, Farther, Faster’ pays homage Track and Field. Yet in America, track and field is categorized as a tertiary sport with the likes of badminton and lacrosse.

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American athletes, particularly young developing athletes, are often forced by coaches or teams to become hyper-specialized in their chosen sport and the pay-to- play arena is an increasingly necessary component of that commitment, requiring ten to eleven months annually in said sport.

This rigorous commitment often leads to young athletes developing motor-unit functionality specifically catered to the demands of their sport, but leaves enormous gaps in their overall athleticism.

Often, these hyper-specialized sports require hyper-specific body types (somatotype), which results in multitudes of willing and capable athletes on the outside, looking in, leaving many directionless or worse, hopeless.

That’s why Track and Field is the quintessential athletic endeavor; it’s not just track events like sprinting or distance racing, but also field events like jumping, both vertically and horizontally, and throwing. It caters to all body types, personalities athletic potential and all somatotypes.

The five components of athletic development are as follows: Strength, Speed, Flexibility, Coordination and Endurance. Those five components are all magnified and exemplified in Track and Field. In fact, I can’t name any other sport that even comes close. It creates an opportunity for an athlete to become truly multi-dimensional or obtuse in a very acute athletic world.

Now I’m not dismissing the notion that athletes ought not to focus their energies on a particular sport or modality within that sport, but I am arguing that stronger, faster, flexible, coordinated, and fit athletes are athletes that are adaptive and can endure.

Overuse injuries, particularly in hinging joints are observed more frequently now and particularly in younger and younger athletes. See “Tommy John’s surgery” or “Tennis elbow”. That is a scary notion that sport, a seemingly health-based endeavor, is actually leading to potentially unhealthy athletes.

At the 2015 NFL Draft, it was reported that nearly 85% of selected players came from a multi-sport background, many of which competed or participated in track and field. If the most popular sport in America sees the value and pragmatism in multi-sport athletes with regard to their athletic potential, why can’t we promote that to our own sport communities?

There is a poignant expression that states, “Dumb men make simple things complicated and brilliant men make complicated things simple”. That can’t be truer for world of sport. Most sports are so dynamic, intricate and often convoluted, it takes a savvy eye just to keep up with what’s going on mid-play. Again, here lies the beauty of track and field. You run (sprint, hurdle, distance), jump (vertical or horizontal), throw (javelin, hammer, shot and discus), and relays (4x1, 4x2, 4x4 etc). Its self-explanatory and it doesn’t necessarily demand expensive equipment or accoutrements to participate. It is truly sport, personified.

Track and Field is an individual pursuit, and due to that demand, it can help facilitate in an athlete finding his or her own athletic spirit, not specifically relying on the “team” to fulfill their athletic destiny.

As coaches, it’s our responsibility to develop the foundation for which an athlete’s house it built upon. In my opinion there is no better place to start laying that foundation than on the track or in the field.  

Check out great Track and Field equipment for your student-athletes!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends,and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Tamesha!

Incorporating Fitness Trends into Physical Education

Posted 2 years ago - by Maria Corte

P90X®, INSANITY®, FOCUS T-25®... We've all seem these Beachbody® programs advertised on TV or heard about them from a friend, maybe even tried them for ourselves.

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BUT, how can you incorporate these programs and other fitness trends, like Crossfit or Zumba, into your physical education program?

Find out below!

I've found that most of my students have heard of these programs, but very few have actually tried them. The feedback I get is that they are too expensive, and they're right, they are! 

One of my main goals as a physical educator is to expose my students to as many different types of fitness activities as I can before they graduate. Hopefully they will not only gain a little experience and knowledge in each of these trends, but find something they really enjoy and will continue with. 

Here are a few tips for incorporating these trendy DVD's into PE:

  1. Buy the DVD set
    • Whether you buy the set yourself or use your PE budget, step one is to buy the DVDs!
  2. Try it yourself
    • Before asking your students to complete a video, always try it yourself! I usually do this over the summer when I have some free time. I do this because my experience with these "trendy" fitness DVDs is that they are either a bust or I feel like they may not be suitable for the fitness levels of my students.
  3. Design a lesson using portions of the DVD
    • Choose parts of the videos that you can incorporate into a circuit or lessonl Make sure they are easy to follow. Keep in mind the fitness levels of your students. If you choose a portion that is too physically difficult, they will not have success or use proper technique.

Additional tips:

  • Play the actual DVD one time per class so they can have a true experience of what it's really like
  • Incorporate these new exercises in weight room circuits or in a fitness class
  • Make signs to help guide the students through a circuit, or partner or group format

My students have really enjoyed being able to try what they see on TV. Not only do they stay abreast by trying these cutting edge fitness programs, but they are also getting in great shape along the way!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great trends, tips, and ideas!

Check our more Blogs by Maria!


Make Life Easier with Google Calendar and Google Forms!

Posted 2 years ago - by Suzanne Hunter Serafin

Do you struggle to keep your equipment organized between teachers? What about scheduling spaces for large PE departments? Maybe having issues getting students to return their syllabus at the beginning of the year? 

Have no fear, Google Apps are here!
Check out how my school uses Google Calendar and Google Forms to help keep us organized and make life easier below.

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Google Calendar:

This year we used Google Calendar to improve our Physical Education program's efficiency and communication.

How We Use Google Calendar to Stay Organized: 

We created one shared Google calendar for the physical education department. We then use the calendar to organize our activities, equipment needs, and space needs. Each teacher is able to see what the others have planned for the day and also long term, ensuring we aren't double booking equipment or space! This App also allows you to make changes and will notify the others when a change occurs. The Google Calendar has helped us to maintain efficiencywith our lessons and has helped "keep the peace" among the staff at my school.

Google Forms:

This year a light bulb finally went off and we decided to use Google Forms for our syllabus and student information.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Google Forms takes the paper out of the process, but more importantly it takes the collection portion out of the picture as well! This leaves more time for you to get your students active! 

How We Use Google Forms for Syllabus Collection:

Parents are directed to the department web page where they read the syllabus online. Once they've read through the syllabus, they click on the link to the form. Once they fill out the form and hit send, all the information we need is stored in our Google account and can be accessed at any time. Teachers may also sort the information as needed.  Another benefit is the easy access to information. We no longer have to go through a file of papers to find student information. The information is at our fingertips online through any computer, tablet, or cellular device. There’s a bit of a learning curve, as teachers need to have some knowledge of Google Sheets, similar to Microsoft’s Excel program, but I guarantee it’s worth taking the time to learn!


Google offers a variety of other applications such as, Docs (similar to Microsoft Word) and Slides (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint), that also make great tools for Physical Education!

If your school isn't already set up with a free Google for Education account, you are able to use the apps through a personal e-mail account as well.


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends, and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Suzanne!


In reading other postings on this blog, I’m struck that most authors are encouraging us to do physical education better, rather than do it differently.

What's the difference? Is it important?

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I believe that there is an important distinction and that this distinction is one that all physical educators should seriously think about.

To me, doing physical education better makes me think first about my teaching skills, and second on the content I choose to teach to my students. Few would disagree that all of us should try our best to possess and display good teaching skills. Of course, most of us don't start out that way. As novice teachers, we begin our careers with rudimentary skills and then through trial, errors, and feedback, gradually hone improvements. Instead of worrying about controlling and managing our classes, we slowly become more concerned about student learning. "Good" teachers aren't content to go through the motions but rather expect to see changes in their students’ behaviors.

For new teachers, instructional content is secondary to class conduct. It's pretty embarrassing to have out-of-control classes. Fortunately, as our teaching skills improve, curriculum choice questions replace class control concerns. Instead of looking outside and interpreting the arrival of spring as time to begin softball or soccer, we start asking ourselves, "What should I be teaching?" Or maybe even more pointedly, "What should my students be learning?"

Getting to this stage represents arrival at a new level of professionalism. It's now more about them and less about us. We don't think so much about what we like to do, but rather what do our students need and want to do. And all of this creates wonderful new opportunities for us to think differently.

While thinking differently might inspire us to change the content of our curriculum, I want to suggest that this is not enough. The problem is that our profession is never going to get the respect we'd like if we remain focused on the curriculum delivered during class time. It doesn't much matter how innovative it is, the PE curriculum alone is not going to save us. Faced with financial woes, school districts will almost always choose to reduce or eliminate physical education and the arts rather than other curriculum content areas.

Having weathered the last few years of financial crisis, it's easy for us to forget the program reductions and position cuts that health and physical educators have witnessed nationwide. Sadly, the threat has not been eliminated and will continue to remain unless we truly begin to think differently about how we deliver health and physical education. And to me, the place to begin is thinking outside the curriculum.

Taking a business analogy, it matters little what a company wants to sell if consumers are not interested in buying it. And in our case, the public cares little about the health and physical education professions and our dedication as health and physical educators.  Why should they? Do we care about the future of other professions? While there's nothing wrong with us striving to be better teachers – kudos to us – in honesty that's not what the public is seeking nor is it especially worried about the quality of our teaching.

The challenge to all of us in moving ahead and in thinking both about our profession and our teaching careers is to reimagine ourselves and the changes we need to make to be respected by others and secure their support in the future. We ignore or choose not to do this at our peril.


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Steve!

Integrate Brain Breaks at Your School with Technology!

Posted 2 years ago - by Aaron Beighle

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.

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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...

  4. 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!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Aaron!


3 Attention Grabbers for Effective Classroom Management!

Posted 2 years ago - by Scott McDowell

How many times have you told your students to “FREEZE”, and then had to repeat it 5 additional times just to FINALLY get their attention? 

Students do not always respond to a simple call for stoppage of play.  Asking a 5 year old to stop his body during a game of tag may be the hardest thing he/she is asked to do all day!  This can be a serious safety risk when students continue playing while others have stopped.  Additionally, you want to save the loudest “FREEZE” for that moment that you see something about to happen and you need to prevent it immediately. 

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Use attention-grabbing calls that will require students to respond both verbally and physically.  Over the years I have enjoyed coming up with my own, but some of my favorites come from other professionals in the field. Find out more about my 3 favorite attention grabbers for effective class management below!

3 Attention Grabbers for Effective Classroom Management:

What's Up?!:

While at a T.E.A.M. workshop at Northeastern Illinois University, I walked away with a simple three-step attention grabber from Dr. Chris Cavert.  Throughout his active presentation Dr. Cavert would call out, “What’s up?” and the response was simple, “The sky!” (hand/finger pointing up).  Often we did only this step and it was used to regain focus during small or whole group instruction.  However, when desired, the other two steps could be implemented and required more physical and mental commitment from the participant. 

After students respond to the first question he followed it up with, “What’s down?”, and the response was, “The ground!” (with finger pointing down).  Lastly he asked the question, “What’s around?” and students would spin and point to all other students saying, “Everybody else!”  With this three-step approach you will most likely have everyone ready for instruction regardless of the initial response time. 

I used this for many years with students in grades K-6.  It became habit throughout the halls, lunchroom, or classroom. I used it often for refocusing on the task or attention to the instruction, stopping the activity, or just to check if they were listening.


Where Are You?!:

While attending an IAPHERD Conference in St. Charles, Illinois, I had the opportunity to observe National Teacher of the Year, John Thomson.  During Mr. Thomson’s presentation, he asked participants to respond to the question, “Where are you?!”  The class/group would freeze and respond with, “Here I am!”  While saying this, the players would put both hands and arms in the air and make their bodies as big as possible.  This action required the participants to stop, let go of others or materials, and respond immediately.  There were additional steps that went more in depth and included additional body movements. 

I found this activity most impactful with my K-3 students and this attention-grabbing, echo style response engaged my students more than just asking them to “FREEZE.”



Lastly, utilize this simple Whole Brain Teaching strategy that will promote engagement during your instruction.  As the teacher, your job is simple, you say, “class.”  The class’ job is easy too, as they respond with “yes.”  The engagement comes with how you say “class”.  If you say, “Class, class, class,” in a very soft voice, the students should answer with an equal tone while saying, “Yes, yes, yes.”  If you say, “Oh, CLAAAAAASS?”  They should respond similarly with, “Oh, YEEEEEES.” 

This may not be the most effective strategy to use during a large field activity or during a chaotic game with lots of noise in the gym.  But when you are delivering instruction or checking for engagement, this may be something you want to pull out of your toolbox.  Find out more about this strategy.


Ultimately, classroom management should be an on-going project for all teachers, as we must constantly evolve to meet the needs of a variety of learners each day.  We certainly need to have some set practices and a firm grip on how your classroom operates throughout the lesson.  

But as professionals, we must continue to seek out new tools to put in the “toolbox” because students and classes are not static.  Students will change and new students will emerge each day, month, or year!  Implement whole brain teaching responses and attention-grabbers into your instruction to boost safety and not lose all your hair…

What are your best practices for getting student attention during class?


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, ideas, and trends!

Check out more Blogs by Scott!

Fuel Up to Play 60: Promoting School-Wide Wellness

Posted 2 years ago - by Jessica Shawley

Have you heard of Fuel Up to Play 60?! Wondering how it can impact your school and program?

Find out more about the program and how it promotes school-wide wellness below.

What attracted me to the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FU2P60) program is how the mission aligns with my goals as a physical educator AND it isn’t just a physical education-only grant.

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You're probably thinking, "Wait. Say that again?! You were looking for something that wasn't just a PE grant?"

Yes, I was looking for an opportunity to emphasize wellness as a school-wide initiative. FU2P60 helps schools build comprehensive programs that promote a culture of wellness school-wide, which includes and supports health & physical education, and is built upon student leadership. This is what I was looking for to help me team up with colleagues and cultivate wellness partnerships.

This is my fourth year as a Fuel Up to Play 60 Advisor and each year the program expands throughout our school. For example, near the end of last year, the technology teacher at my school approached me with the idea of bringing Fuel Up to Play 60 into her classroom. A little back story, with previous funding, I had provided teachers with some of Gopher’s Active & Healthy™ Schools program materials to bring ‘brain energizers’ into classrooms to help students take breaks from prolonged sitting. This teacher had successfully added these brain energizers to her teaching and now wanted to educate students on the importance of regular breaks from sitting and emphasize making healthy choices, especially if their career choice would include sitting in front of a screen.   

The technology teacher became a program advisor with me. With FU2P60 grant funding, we purchased equipment to keep at her end of the school for physical activity breaks from prolonged periods of sitting. Other teachers were allowed access the equipment as well. The students loved being able to get outside or into the hallway to move and then return to their work, often with more vigor. This was made possible through the “In-Class Physical Activity Breaks” Play.

Next, we purchased an iPad mini™, GoPro® camera, and educational materials/posters for the “Snack Smarter in School” Play. Students utilized the technology equipment to take videos, interviews, and snapshots of our students in action during a variety of activities. The technology teacher used Food Cards to review nutrition content previously taught in physical education. Students built healthy plates, analyzed food labels, and formatted information into tables as part of their technology skill building. Students created original posters with healthy messages and participated in contests for giveaways. Students even developed a FU2P60 student website we will use to post pictures and promote the program overall.

The technology teacher developed several activities that infused nutrition with technology skills. It truly is a successful cross-curricular partnership.  

Fuel Up to Play 60 is a natural platform to help teachers collaborate and enhance their curriculum through student health and wellness. The possibilities are endless! This blog is only one success story from my Fuel Up to Play 60 experience. There are many more and you can view other stories here. Overall, the initiative is an excellent way to help establish partnerships within your school that promote the importance of physical activity and nutrition.

The program provides the option to apply for grant funding annually. You are not required to apply for funding to be a part of the program. It is completely FREE. As an experienced grant-writing teacher, the FU2P60 application process to be very user friendly, even for first time grant writers. Your local dairy council will provide support with the application process and overall program. All you have to do is ask. There are two upcoming deadlines for 2015-16 school year grant funding cycle (June 16 & November 4, 2015) where your school can qualify for up to $4,000 in funds to support the Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Plays.

Continuing the Conversation: What do you currently do to support wellness in your school beyond your classroom? What partnership opportunities might there be in your school or community that could begin next year? 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!


5 DIY Projects for the Best Field Day Ever!

Posted 2 years ago - by Shannon Jarvis Irwin

Are your students bored with the same field day activities year after year?

Bring excitement back to field day with 5 DIY projects for the best field day ever!

Field Day is my students’ favorite day of the year, and I am right there with them! It’s a day full of fun, excitement and friendly competition. A celebration that summer is almost here and all of our hard work throughout the school year comes to an end.

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Personally, I believe the wetter and messier the field day, the better! Many of my activities and stations are things I put together myself. Nothing too complicated you just have to be willing to put in a little time.

5 DIY Field Day Activities:

1. Jumbo Slip-N-Slide

Jumbo Slip-N-Slide first made its appearance in my field day about 9 years ago. It's super easy to assemble, and if done right, you can reuse it for next year! At my school, we have two Jumbo Slip-N-Slides in difference lengths, one for the lower grades, 1st-3rd that is about 25ft long and one for the older grades, 4th-8th that is about 35ft long. 


  • Pool Noodles, enough noodles to cover the perimeter of the slip-n-slide

  • Heavy Plastic Sheeting (higher MIL the better, I used 6mil)

  • Scissors

  • Strong Duct Tape

  • Medium Temp Glue Gun (optional)


  1. Roll out your sheeting and decide what length you want your slip-n-slide to be. Add about 3 extra feet (to roll the ends in later) and cut away the excess.

  2. Lay out the pool noodles to full desired length of your slip-n-slide, leaving the extra footage evenly on each end to roll later.

  3. Secure the noodles end to end to create one really long noodle by using duct tape.

  4. Secure the noodle to the plastic sheeting with your glue gun or by using duct tape about every 3 ft.

  5. Roll the long noodle inward. Make sure you roll it in at least 2 feet. Use glue gun or duct tape to secure about every 3 ft. Repeat on the other side

    • Tips: Seek out extra hands to help roll the noodle, keep the sheeting tight around the noodle, and remeber the more your roll, the narrower your slip-n-slide will be.

  6. Repeat the same process at each end of your slip-n-slide. When finished, it should look like a shallow pool.

  7. Seal and secure the entire slip-n-slide by using duct tape. Completely cover the inside perimeter of the slip-n-slide on the seams. Make sure you use duct tape all the way around the slip-n-slide, its important not to leave a gap where water can get in.

  8. Flip it upside down– this is the most important step! It took me years to figure that tip out, but by doing so, you should be able to get a couple years use out of the same slide.

  9. Add water, maybe a little baby oil, and let the fun begin!

2. Splash-A-Mole

Splash-a-mole is super fun and super easy to build! It's a watery twist to the popular arcarde game Whack-A-Mole. This activity made it's grand appearance into our field day in 2014. I first saw a similar activity on PE Universe as a game called Gopher Splash by John Theiss. I've found a few tweaks I will be making for next year and will include those below.


  • 6' x 8' Tarp
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • 5 Gal. Bucket Lid
  • Zip-ties
  • PVC Stand (supply list below)


  1. Lay out your tarp flat on the ground.
  2. Use a 5-gal bucket lid and maker to trace circles on the tarp. Make sure your circles are not too close together or near the edges.
  3. Cut out your circles.
  4. Build your PVC pipe stand using the supplies below
  5. Attach tarp to stand with zip-ties

PVC Pip Stand Supplies: (all pipes are 1 ¼")

  • 1- 92" (Top Rail)
  • 1- 82 ¼" (Bottom Rail)
  • 2- 75 ½" (Side Rails)
  • 4- 12" (Foot Rails)
  • 2- 2 ½" (Foot Rails)
  • 4- Elbow Connectors
  • 4- End Cap Connectors
  • 2- Fout-Way Connectors


3. Giant Bubbles

Bubbles can be entertaining for all ages, even if you’re not the one making the bubbles. The amazed look faces when a BIG bubble is being made makes my day.

Here are some helpful tips if you want to incorporate a Giant Bubble station at your next field day.

First, you need to know that the ideal weather conditions for giant bubbles are a humid and overcast day. I teach in Texas, so humidity is not a problem, but that hot Texas sun can be. I generally have more stations than classes on field day, so I always make sure my classes visit this station early on before the sun gets too hot. Afternoon field days might be a little tricky with a bubble station. I would recommend putting the bubble station in a nice shaded area, if possible.

Second, the secret to creating a solution that will make BIG bubbles is glycerin. Glycerin can be found in the pharmacy section at most stores. Another secret to bigger bubbles is allowing your solution to settle for at least an hour before the first use, overnight is even better. 

Below you will find instructions to make your own bubble solution and large wands.


  • 5-Gallons Distilled Water
  • 12 Cups of Dawn Original Dish Soap
  • 18oz Glycerin 
  • Kiddie Pool
  • Butterfly Nets (from the Dollar Store is fine!)
  • Scissors


  1. Gently mix together the water, dish soap, and glycerin in a kiddie pool or other holding container
    • Be careful not to create a lot of foam/froth when mixing the bubble solution. Also try to keep students from shaking or swirling the wands in the solution
    • Cut bottoms off of butterfly nets. Leave some of the netting as it helps the solution stick to the butterfly net.

4. Snowball Fight

Snowball Fight is my absolute favorite field day station!

A snowball fight at the start of summer?? Yep, that’s right!!! Students throw snowballs at each other made from baking flour and panty hose. Messy? Yes. FUN? Oh yeah! 

This DIY project can be time consuming, so the more hands on deck helping make the snowballs the better. I recommend making one snowball per student. The same snowball can be used over and over again until all the flour runs out. Each time the snowball is thrown a little flour comes out through the panty hose, leaving a white mark on your hit target.

Your students will love this DIY field day project. All you need are the supplies listed below and follow the simple directions on the video.


  • Baking Flour
  • Panty Hose (Knee Highs are easier to work with)
  • Cup
  • Scissors

5. Car Wash

Creating things out of PVC pipes can be so easy! Check out this awesome carwash my eight year old son designed for our field day this year. I am so excited to see this in action. We order two large Viking Tricarts from Gopher for the students to ride on and go thru the carwash. So FUN! I am super stoked about these Tricarts too! They have been on my PE Equipment dream list for a couple of years now.

Below are pictures and all the items you need to put this awesome DIY field day project together. 


Supplies: (All PVC Pipes for this project are 1")

  • 36- 2½' Pipes
  • 7- 4' Pipes
  • 2- 1½ (Used at top front to hang sign)
  • 8- Four-Way Connectors
  • 15- T Connectors
  • 15- Elbow Connectors




Using the picture above, piece together all your cut PVC pipes and connectors. We used PVC glue and glued each upside U section together, leaving the sidebars unglued to help with storage, as soon in the picture below.

Water Valve Supplies and Assembly:

Once fully assembled, drill your holes using a 1/8th drill bit in your desired locations. We have some holes drilled on top crossbars to create a water curtain and some drilled on the sidebars for a side spray. Be careful not to over drill, so your water flow has enough pressure to go through all the pipes. That’s it; now you just add your decorations.

Suggested Decorations:

  • Mop Heads
  • LOTS of pool noodles
  • Car sponges
  • Regular sponges
  • Plastic table cloth
  • Heave duty string to hang items with
  • Scissors or electric knife to cut noodles

You most certainly can cut some cost by not covering the pipes with noodles and just adding the center decorations. I wanted the “wow” factor and went the extra mile with ours.

To cover the pipes with noodles, I just used an electric knife (scissors would work too) to cut the noodle in half and then sliced long ways down one side of the noodle. To create the sponge balls, I cut sponges into 1” strips and layered 6 strips in a crisscross pattern and used string to tie them together in the middle. Really the sky is the limit when it comes to decorating.

Have fun building your DIY Carwash! I would love to see pictures!! 

Create extra smiles this field day and try one of our DIY projects. I would love to hear about how it went. If you have a great DIY project yourself that you would like to share or have any questions, contact me

Check out these other great field day activities your students will love!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Shannon!




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