Parkour in Physical Education
Parkour is a great way to get students active with their surroundings inside or outside, and to get them excited about taking safe risks and enjoying movement.
This can be a lesson, a unit, or if you need a day devoted to purely fitness, using your gyms wrestling room or outside area, this can be a fun way for students to get their CREATIVE on!
What is Parkour?
- Parkour is an art of movement in which you train the body and mind to overcome obstacles.
- It emphasizes strength, flexibility, balance, body control, creativity, fluidiyt, discipline, and precision.
- Parkour movements include running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and crawling.
- Parkour training focuses on safety, responsibility, overcoming fear, and self-improvement.
Source: Apex Movement
Student Learning Targets:
I use four learning targets with my students throughout our Parkour unit and use a rubric to assess them on each.
- I can show body control by the way I use agility on the course. Agility is the ability to change directions quickly.
- I can show body control on the course by the way I maintain my balance.
- I can show power by the way I jump vertically.
- I can show coordination and use various parts of my body by the way I run, vault, climb and roll.
Once we've established and reviewed the learning targets, we move into the activity (sample below).
When teaching Parkour to my students, I first introduce various movements and have them practice each in 2-minute circuits. Next, I combine the circuits into a workout. Finally, I ask students to work in small groups to develop a parkour course or workout.
- 2-Minute Circuits for Practice
- Drop and Roll
- Vertical Wall Runs
- Hand Stands and Wall Stands
- Combine the circuits to create a workout
- Students move through on their own
- Students move through on their own
- Design A Course
- Have students work with a small group to develop a parkour course
- Use the equipment provided without moving
Upon completion of the lesson, I use the below rubric to assess students on the learning targets as defined above.
Parkour Standards-Based Rubric/Assessment:
The student recalls and applies a range of skill and techniques, recalls and applies a range of strategy, and recalls and applies information to perform at a high level.
The student recalls and applies skill and techniques, recalls and applies strategy, and applies information to perform effectively.
The student recalls skill and techniques, recalls strategy, and applies information to perform.
The student rarely/never shows skill or techniques, does not show strategy, and rarely/never works for achieve success.
Need additional resources? The Lets Parkour PRO app (available on iTunes® for $1.99) is a great resource for teaching Parkour in PE. The app features 112 elements or movements with a detailed lesson and video of each.
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Back to School PE Teacher Checklist
The start of the school year brings excitement for the year ahead and the opportunity to help students build healthy minds and bodies, but then there’s that familiar feeling of, oh boy, I’m not organized yet! It can be so overwhelming. Where should I begin? How did I get ready last year? Where’s my checklist?
I’ve yet to meet a teacher who didn’t fret over getting organized for the upcoming school year. Teachers love being ready when the students arrive, and we want to provide the best year and experience possible. My organization practices are ever evolving, and I absolutely love hearing about other teachers’ organization tips, tricks, and hacks.
Here is my “Beginning of the Year Checklist” that helps my department organize our start of year process. Our checklist helps guide our efforts and delegate responsibilities so we are ready for our students on day one. This checklist came about because of the many post-it notes and notepad lists I repeatedly found myself making each year. I eventually began typing up the basic, recurring tasks we did each year and developed a comprehensive checklist to guide our beginning of the year workdays. It’s nice to have a starting point versus starting over from scratch each year. I simply print off a copy, add or remove to-do items, and assign tasks. Here’s access to an electronic copy of the template you see below: Checklist Template.
Here are some general recommendations for your Start-of-the-Year Organizational Process:
- Start an electronic “to-do” list in addition to the written ones so you have a starting point each year.
- Be flexible. You may not get to it all but identify the MUST DO items and get to those first.
- Have organizational support materials on hand: file folders, highlighters, note pads, file trays, etc. so you are ready and able to quickly organize your material.
- Scan documents into PDFs and file electronically. Thankfully, our office printer has this option. I scan and save work orders, purchase orders, equipment wish lists, inventory lists, and syllabi to a department-wide shared folder. Being able to search for things electronically versus losing them in the many piles of papers that build up in the office helps maintain some sanity.
- Delegate. Don’t do it all yourself if you work in a department. We’re all in this together.
- Make a “Start of the Year” folder where you save the beginning of the year checklist and templates for your class syllabi and policies. Share this folder with your colleagues if you work in a department.
- Ask others how they organize their start-of-the-year process. This is a great topic to search for on Twitter or ask others about on Voxer. See my previous blog (Web Based Toolbox for Professional Development) on how to get connected via these social media options.
My Sample Checklist for Start of the Year:
Rosters, Forms, Signs & Copies
Locker Room, Office & Presentations
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Curriculum & Department Planning
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Should Varsity Athletics Count as PE?
I am not sure how many schools around the country offer students credit for physical education if they play a varsity sport, but I know there are many and this trend has me frightened. At my school district, this is not an option even though many students think it should be and some of their coaches do too. I honestly never gave this much consideration until I found out that my three nieces who live in central Ohio have this option and love it. Let’s just say Uncle Jason was not liked after I shared my opinion. Maybe after you read my concerns and opinions you won’t like me much either, but I am hopeful that responses will be shared that bring a level-headed discussion on the matter.
My biggest worry/concern with students using a varsity sport for PE credit is that there is no teaching taking place about the lifetime fitness aspect that students need to understand. I loved high school athletics and was blessed with the opportunity to play a sport every season of the year, but I can honestly say thinking back that none of my coaches taught me about lifelong fitness. I was taught what I needed at that moment for that particular sport. So, if students are given the opportunity to forgo PE, who teaches them about proper exercise and the fitness principles that coincide? Especially since after high school the number of students continuing their athletic careers is extremely small and only gets smaller after college.
Another concern I have revolves around who monitors how active students are on their respective teams? My oldest niece tells me that as long as she is on the softball team for one season, she does not have to take PE at all for the rest of her high school career. This absolutely blew my mind! One season on a team and that is all you need. I see two problems with this situation: 1) Students need a knowledge base on fitness and health for a lifetime and they can’t and won’t get that in one season of a sport, and 2) If schools are using sports for PE credit, doesn’t this make it very easy for schools to eliminate PE positions? Again, I loved my high school coaches, but they did not teach me anything in regards to a healthy, active lifestyle after high school. Something else that scares me is what do we do with those students who join a sports team just to avoid PE?
As a coach in addition to a PE teacher, I do see the other side of the coin in this discussion. I understand that students in a PE class in the middle of a circuit training unit who are also in the peak portion of their sport season could be overexerting themselves and even impacting their performance. As a track coach, I have had this issue on my own team and my athletes have maybe not been at their best. I will say that in most instances as a staff, we are all very understanding of game days and expectations for those students playing that day. My biggest concern is again those students that are just on a team to avoid PE. What happens when I am lenient with a student who goes to the game and never plays a minute?
My suggestion (which I may bring up with my own administration) is to have a PE course designed for athletes, which meets not only their current fitness needs based on their athletic season, but also the lifelong fitness needs they will have down the road. This course could be an option for athletes to take as opposed to the traditional PE course. This idea has its drawbacks, the main one being that students that are not athletes may feel left out.
Again, I am not dealing with this situation currently at my school district, so maybe I am living in a dream world, so those of you in this situation, please share your thoughts and opinions. I want to know more about how schools handle this matter in an effort to prepare myself if the conversation is ever started by my administration! I am counting all of you to educate me!
Super-Size Your Target Games with SturTee!
Let’s face it; students like to be challenged, yet also need to be set up for success.
Students enjoy when teachers change things up, they live for the experience of “the next great challenge” in their learning and relish it when we can provide a mixture of activities that give them this feeling of challenge and self-accomplishment. The SturTee™ Game Set helps me accomplish all of these things.
I really enjoy target games and invasion games and value the importance of throwing and catching development in an appropriate manner. My middle school students love invasion games and I try to offer a wide array of options when it comes to the student learning outcomes invasion games deliver with the goal that all students will feel challenged and enjoy the creative variety of activities I can provide.
Thankfully, the SturTee™ Game Set helped me to change up the height and size of the target/goal during specific target and invasion-based games so students had a new challenge to face for both scoring and defensive sides of the game. I enjoyed watching students discuss their strategies when using the SturTee™ and we were able to compare and contrast these strategies in our lesson closure so we could all learn from one another.
One of my favorite uses is during 3 vs. 3 “cone ball” where the target in the invasion game is a simple cone. If you hit the cone your team gets a point. If you knock it over your team gets two points. No goalie needed, just create your playing space and use Ultimate Frisbee-style rules to make it happen. It is a simple game that involves teamwork, strategy, invasion skills, catching, throwing and many other concepts such as ‘finding an open space’ to receive the pass. It can also be modified in a zillion different ways to accommodate for all levels of learners. This seemingly very non-traditional game reinforces many skills and anyone can be successful at playing it. Once students have used the cone as the target for scoring on, we progress to using the SturTee™ as the target. The students love the big, colorful target and how the beach ball pops off the stand.
The even better news, from my viewpoint, was the framework of the game can be used in a multitude of ways, year round, whether it be practicing your throws to a target or playing grid-style defender games. I really get my ‘bang for my buck’ out of this game set because it comes with 24 foam balls that are the perfect size for any throwing, catching, or hitting activity and everyone in the class can have their own or at least share with a partner. Stretching my budget as far as possible is an important factor in my purchases of game sets and SturTee™ meets those requirements.
Refresh the fun in your throwing target games today with the super-sized power of SturTee™! Get a SturTee™ Game Set for your classroom today!
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Promoting Physical Activity and Well-Being
It is never too late to experience the benefits of physical activity and social interaction and their connection to well-being.
I am blessed to have a group of girlfriends who commit to one another three times a week to meet and work out together in our neighborhood, despite the cold temperatures or early hours of the morning. We each come from different experiences, exposures, and opportunities of various physical activity throughout our lives. A common thread that weaves through us in our adult lives as we strive to keep physically active, is not only to reap the health benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, but to experience the emotional and cognitive benefits as well. Developing a strong mind and body to cope with life’s challenges and stresses leaves us feeling good about ourselves and ready to take on each day after every workout.
Being the Health and Physical Educator among the group, I share my knowledge of proper execution of fundamental movement patterns - push, pull, squat, carry, and lunge with several exercises that target multi-joint and large muscle group movements using our own body weight, resistive tubing, kettle bells, and free weights. In turn we provide each other with motivation, comradery, and friendship in these early morning training sessions that enhance our mental and physical health, as well as our well-being.
Connecting Physical Education and Well-Being
Ontario has a renewed vision for education that places student well-being as one of the four core goals to ensure students learn and thrive now and in to their future. “All children and students will develop enhanced mental and physical health, a positive sense of self and belonging, and the skills to make positive choices” (Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Teaching Education in Ontario. 2014, pg. 3) Recognizing that teaching the whole child through physical, cognitive, social and emotional domains, is a responsibility for educators to support through student centered, inclusive, respectful learning environments in Physical Education.
We have seen a cultural shift of Physical Education from a traditional, sport specific focused program to a comprehensive holistic approach to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to be healthy and active across their lifespan and to be resilient in an ever changing world. With physical literacy and health literacy as an outcome of the Ontario’s Health and Physical Education program, students can engage and take part in a program that shifts from disease prevention to more health promotion.
Here are some simple strategies to promote physical activity and student well-being in Physical Education:
- Purposeful Instruction – Make explicit connections between physical, cognitive and affective domains for students through simple questioning throughout the class or as a consolidation activity at the end of the class. This allows students to develop “self awareness and self monitoring skills to help them understand their strengths and needs, take responsibility for their actions, recognize sources of stress, and monitor their own progress, as they participate in physical activities, develop movement competence and acquire knowledge and skills related to active living” (Ontario Health and Physical Education grades 1-8. 2015, pg. 98) These personal skills, part of living skills, in the Ontario HPE curriculum are integrated with the other curriculum components: Active Living, Movement Competence, and Healthy Living and can help students develop a positive sense of self and overall healthy development.
- Promote Physical Activity as a Positive Experience – Consider how you present the notion of physical activity in your PE class. Too often in the past, physical activity has been used as punishment in PE class as opposed to a positive healthy experience as seen here in the film, Mr. Woodcock, that perpetuates societal negative views of “gym class”.
One effective strategy I like to use to promote physical activity is a “Victory Lap” around the gym or field as a positive way to have students celebrate a completed task.
- Maximize Participation – think outside the box for program planning and use of facilities to maximize active participation. Move more sit less. Get rid of elimination games. Implement small sided games such as 3 vs 3 or 4 vs 4 to maximize opportunities for increased movement competence, confidence, and enjoyment.
Here is a story of how Katie Ansell, an elementary PE teacher in Ontario, changed her practice after watching the Thompson Educational Publishing Huddle Connect Webinar on Self-Regulation and Learning that focuses on physical activity and mental health and well-being.
- Moving Entries - “Instead of sitting and waiting for instructions, as soon as kids enter the gym, they choose to skip, gallop, etc. around the gym, or do a fitness activity in the middle)”, remarked Katie.
- Moving Timeouts and Reset Activities - When students misbehaved or were unable to adhere to class rules or expectations in Katie’s PE class, instead of the typical “timeout” sitting on the bench – students participate in a “moving time out” by completing a number of repetitions of their favorite activity in any safe space in the gym (e.g., jumping jacks, squats, dance moves). “If the behavior continues, they then do a reset activity where I give them a choice of independent fitness activities they can do until they're ready to re-join the group. So far it's working well!” shared Katie.
- Relaxing Wrap-Ups – Katie helps kids learn strategies that reduce stress and anxiety that helps them to relax while being still, with a variety of deep breathing exercises at the end of most classes. “...this week I've been telling all the primary kids there's happiness all around them; they have to squat down, scoop up as much happiness as they can, then inhale deeply as they stand up to breathe in all the happiness. We do it several times and then after the deep breath, they exhale hard as they throw their arms out to share all the happiness with the rest of the world…They love it”, comments Katie.
Finally, think about taking your PE classes outside more and allow students to interact with one another in various environments. A breath of fresh air can do wonders for our mind, body and soul!
My girlfriends and I are looking forward to the warmer months ahead when we can start to take up tennis as our next part of our physical literacy journey and continue to move more in 2016!
Feel free to share teaching strategies you use to get students more physically active and to promote student well-being!
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Changing the Way You Keep Score
“Why do you even keep score?” This is the most common question my mom asked every time my brothers and I would get in an argument over a game. In fact, other than, “straighten up and fly right,” it’s probably her most famous quote to us. Typically our arguments centered on scoring and were grounded in my middle brother changing the rules. I am the youngest of three boys, Dana, Trent, and me. To say my middle brother, Trent, was competitive would be a major understatement. He was so competitive that, “cheating,” was his thing. He would change the rules in the middle of the game and always to take advantage of the poor innocent baby of the family. If you ever played a game with Trent and he wasn’t cheating…well you were naïve, he was cheating. This drive and competitive spirit followed him to adulthood and some could argue it served him well. He worked full-time, went to school full-time, and raised a family. From there he built an engineering firm from the ground to a juggernaut in the industry with offices across the country. Words like tenacious, focused, and driven were perfect descriptors.
In August of 2004 during a meeting at work Trent had a seizure. After extensive testing it was determined that he had a brain tumor and a decision was made to remove it via surgery. After the surgery the surgeon revealed that he couldn’t get all the tumor, and radiation was prescribed. During this time, because of the seizure, Trent couldn’t drive and he couldn’t work. Up to this point in life two things defined Trent: work and family. And in his words, his priorities were “a little out of whack”. No work meant more time with his family, specifically his wife, Valerie, who served as chauffer. After months of radiation, great news, the tumor was not growing. Everyone was ecstatic, but for Valerie reality set in quickly. As they were driving home she told Trent she was worried things would get back to normal. Trent took the hint and “got it”. He was faced with the notion that all his life he kept score because he was competitive and now he needed to change how he kept score. No longer could Ws, bottom lines, profit margins, and getting the deal be his focus. He started to understand mom’s question, and now asked, “How do I keep score?”
And oh how he changed how he kept score. He started keeping score by the lives he touched. He didn’t lose his tenaciousness; he just turned it to mission work in Swaziland, construction work in New Orleans, playgrounds in Jamaica, and anywhere he found people at risk. I will never forget where I was on I-75 in Vandalia, OH, (we were coming back from getting BBQ for dinner) and he said, “I just changed how I keep score.” And he continued with something to the effect of that small change can change how you impact the world. Impact the world? I am not a big impact-type of thinker, but that was obviously in Trent’s wheelhouse.
As Trent was changing the world, in August of 2014, he had another setback, a stroke. As usual with a stroke he lost use of one side of his body and as you might expect, he started rehab immediately. And to no one’s surprise, he made huge progress in a short amount of time. He was driven. Until September 26th, 2014. Valerie called and said they were taking him to the hospital. A few hours later I get a text from my dad, “He’s gone.” Until that moment I’ve never understood when people say their knees buckled or they felt like they had been punched in the gut. Now I do.
I know this is a lengthy lead in but I share that because Trent’s message for the last years of his life was, “Do something, before IT happens”. His IT was a, “Tuma,” (his word not mine). It resulted in a complete change in perspective. His small changes in perspective changed the world for countless people. So what does this mean to physical educators? If you believe in the butterfly effect or the domino effect, what small tweaks can you make that will make a difference in the lives of youth?
To get your mind rolling, here are some adjustments I have considered, tried, and pondered in the last two years:
- How do I view students (or athletes)? As pawns in a little game of testing or a little game of (insert your sport here)? Or do you look at students (of all ages) as our future? Are behavior problems a disruption, or a chance to impact students? In most cases the root of misbehavior will break your heart. It’s the behavior you don’t like, not the child. As educators, students are our future. We get to impact students and the future. We must remember that the foundation of everything we do is relationships. Carl Buechner once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel…” Think about your favorite teachers. Chances are, they weren’t your favorite teacher because they taught you to conjugate a verb or divide a fraction or throw a ball. They were your favorite teacher because they made you feel good…or accomplished…or worthy…or that you mattered. Every student needs a teacher that makes them feel this way. Be that teacher. We have to believe the students we impact are far more important than the content we teach. Reaching students is our way to positively “impact the world.”
- How do I see education? Is it a job or a passion? Are you leading students to water? Making them thirsty? I recently read that the best part about education is that it matters and the worst part about education is it matters. That’s pressure. But a great pressure. Do your students know you love education? Physical education? Do you need to tell your face that you love physical education? SMILE more. Be respectful of the entire education experience students receive. Attend math nights, literacy events, plays, and concerts. For me this part requires a balance between family and career and I have to consciously balance it all. But it’s worth it. Education is our vehicle to positively “impact the world”.
- How do I look at physical education? “It’s a job for me,” or, “it’s the best career in the world”? If you are like me, you go back and forth on this one. My challenge is to get myself to keep looking back to “it’s the best career in the world”. The only thing constant in physical education is change. We have a history of changing foci (in theory) every 10 years. From gymnastics, to fitness, to perceptual motor programs, to movement education, back to fitness, academic integration…and now, “physical literacy”. And if I am honest, it’s a bit frustrating. As a field we must keep doing things better and we need to do better things. We need to really look at who we are, where we have been, and how that impacts the foothold we have in education. Do we really want to argue over dodgeball, whether students call us coach, and whether other teachers allow students to call it, “gym”? Or do we want to step back and say, “Why”, why do we do what we do? Because we care about the health of youth. Right? As you can see it’s hard for me to tease apart students, education, and physical education. Especially when I think of my “why”. Physical education is the path most of us have chosen to positively “impact the world.”
- How do I approach life? Am I just existing or am I thriving? Do I live with vigor? For me it depends on the day. While in the hospital Trent’s favorite song to listen to was “Thrive,” by Casting Crowns. The song speaks to the notion that we have to do more than survive in this life. At times we will need help thriving and at times we will provide the help to others. I remember when I was teaching there were days I just didn’t have it. But as soon as the 2nd graders came bounding down the steps into the gym with their endless energy (and it was endless), they helped me. I was fortunate to have two incredible educators and even better people as co-teachers who would also give me a kick in the pants at times as well. My point is that as a field and as educators we have to have each other’s backs to help everyone thrive. I am running out of space so I will expand more on thriving in my next blog.
In sum, we often make slight tweaks or modifications in how we keep score during our physical education lessons. What if we made small changes in how we keep score on our impact? Just what if….We can impact the world! Thanks Trent. THRIVE!
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As Physical Educators Sow, so Shall They Reap
People don't value what they don't understand. And people don't understand physical education!
Doug Hallberg, Matt Bristol, and Brian Godfrey are all talented and passionate physical education teachers. A few of you might know them, but I somehow doubt it. In fact, the three of them live fairly close to one another, and I'm not even sure they all know each other! Which is a shame, because they all have similar success stories to tell.
Back in Minneapolis as the SHAPE America President, I had the privilege of opening the 2016 National Convention Wednesday General Session. In a beautiful new auditorium before an estimated crowd of 2,000-plus physical education and health education professionals, I described the progress we've made on our commitment to succeeding with, "50 Million Strong by 2029."
I shared that SHAPE America was planning to create and publicize a series of case studies: Success stories showcasing physical and health education. As you and I know, far too many people – especially decision-makers – don’t see much reason to support physical and health education. They don't value what we do. Ever wondered why this is the case? Maybe it’s because too many adults had lousy PE experiences as kids? It’s too bad if that’s true, but even so, that’s not something we can go back and fix. But I think it's something else. Something relatively easy to fix. I’m convinced that today’s school officials and decision-makers are simply unaware of the positive impact the nation’s physical educators are having on kids’ lives.
The case studies I shared in Minneapolis highlighted four success stories of good things happening in physical education and health education today. There was a learn-how-to-ride-a-bike program in Washington DC. A high school “Outdoor Academy” in Maple Valley, Washington that integrated physical education with science and language arts. A study in Texas that showed academic performance and behavior improved with more recess. And a health education program in Milwaukee that was succeeding in reducing teen pregnancies. You can read about each of these on the SHAPE America website. All are impressive.
The thinking behind creating these case studies and inviting teachers to contribute more was the urgency for physical and health educators to do a much better job of marketing ourselves. It's time for all of us to realize that people don't value what they don't understand. And people don't understand physical education! The vast majority of PE teachers are multi-talented and passionate about what they do, but horrendous at informing others about the benefits of what they do. Not only are we marketing duds, but we’re abysmally ignorant of its critical importance. Of course why should we be good at marketing or self-promotion? In all likelihood, it was never part of our college professional preparation.
Contrast this with the charismatic Phil Lawler. Many of you will remember Phil who sadly passed away from cancer in 2010. Phil was not only an amazingly innovative physical educator but also a marketing genius. Single-handedly, Phil probably generated more public interest and national understanding about the value and importance of physical education than the rest of us combined. Together with his teaching colleague Paul Zientarski, Phil created his vision of a world-class physical education program in the Naperville, Illinois School District. And he wasn’t shy about sharing his success with the world!
Naperville Middle School quickly became a mecca for physical education pilgrims from around the world in search of a new 21st-century vision for PE teaching. For years Naperville was a media magnet. The national press routinely highlighted the district’s physical education program. It was featured on the popular Supersize Me DVD as a solution for the obesity crisis. Phil and Paul were quoted everywhere and the Naperville program cast a light on the potential for quality public school physical education. With Phil at the helm it would have been unimaginable, almost sacrilegious for anyone to propose program or position cuts in Naperville.
Not so with the rest of us. Most of us live in a world where bad things do happen to good people. Who among us hasn’t had the budget axe trim away teaching colleagues and decimate programs? Worthy and productive programs. Talented people who were doing good things for students. It should never have happened but it did. Want to know why? It’s pretty simple. For years we have been the architects of our own demise. Around the country thousands of great physical education success stories are being written daily that no one knows about. Which brings me back to Doug, Matt, and Brian.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend SHAPE America’s Eastern District Conference in Atlantic City. Several hundred teachers from 11 states were there. Doug, Matt, and Brian were among dozens of outstanding presenters. Doug demonstrated new ways to connect elementary and middle school students with the latest heart rate technology. Matt, together with his school principal, Herve Pelletier, described an amazing school-wide bike program that not only teaches riding skills, but also connects biking with student behavior. Brian explained how he successfully fund raised, got Burton® to donate equipment, and then created a program to give all of his elementary-aged students the chance to learn snowboarding skills both in class and out on the hills.
What all three of these teachers shared in common were that programs and teaching greatly deserving recognition within and beyond their local communities. But few of you know anything about Doug, Matt, Brian. And of course they in turn know little to nothing about what you’re doing. In honesty, we all know dozens of teaching colleagues who are doing great things that are largely unknown and unrecognized. It’s as if we’re members of an immense secret society whose accomplishments we’ve sworn not to reveal. Is there really any wonder why outsiders don’t respect us?
While I can understand teachers being reluctant to brag or be boastful – no one likes braggarts - it makes absolutely no sense for physical educators to conceal their successes. This self-deprecating behavior is the very reason we’re not respected and in honesty it’s not something to be proud about. In fact it’s downright selfish. Why would we not want to share and help others learn from us, or for us to be able to pick up innovative ideas from teaching colleagues? Isn’t that how all of us can improve? Even worse, neglecting to share and publicize good news stories is responsible for our poor public image. If we want school boards, superintendents, principals, legislators, parents, and all others to support us they have to know our successes! We must give them a reason to respect us if we ever hope to change public support for what we do.
So here’s my challenge to you. What is your success story? It can be something that you are doing, or, you can identify a colleague whose work deserves showcasing. Whichever you choose, it’s time for YOU to step up, take responsibility, and share the good news.
SHAPE America is waiting to hear from you and embrace your success. Simply go to the SHAPE America 50 Million Strong website, complete and submit the case study form. It’s not hard and will put the program and teachers you showcase on the national stage. That’s pretty nice publicity to share with your school administrators, school board, community, and parents. Not worthy? Let others be the judge.
And, in case you have any doubts, ask yourself this question, “If you won’t do it, who will?”
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We're Teaching What in PE?!
I think most professionals reading this blog would subscribe to the professional opinion that PE/Wellness classes are probably some of the most important, if not the most important, classes that students can take in their K-12 educational journey. However, many PE/Wellness Departments are typically all defending their budgets, curriculums, and even our very “existence” as a necessary educational teaching staff at some challenging portion during our careers.
All educational departments typically have some sort of challenging component in their curriculum, for example: science has the creation vs. evolution argument, English/ELA has the ongoing battle that certain books may or may not be deemed “acceptable” for study in some districts, history has the debates related to which perspective the book or curricula is written from… I’m sure we could list every educational discipline and a related debate for a component of its curriculum. But PE/Wellness is different in its battles as they tend to take more heat than the other disciplines.
PE/Wellness at times has to defend its very existence of necessity in general as a necessary department or entire curriculum (this is a potential volatile topic for an entirely other blog as PE/Wellness IS incredibly critical and necessary). However, there has been a trend in the last decade or so connected to one very specific PE/Wellness unit that I have found has generated particularly spirited discussion, unwanted attention, and interesting debate and consequently has been not as easy to defend.
As usual, there is the educated vs. uneducated perspective. This unit that has become very popular in the last decade or so is what many departments refer to as a “Recreational” unit. Some departments call it “Backyard Games”, others call it “Lifetime Pursuits”, and there are all other sorts of descriptive unit names for this nucleus of content. Typically, this is a unit that teaches students how to be productive and enjoy their time with friends or family in an active sort of way.
In the past, foundations of this unit usually would revolve around volleyball, tennis, ping pong, badminton, and maybe even some version of golf amongst other more traditional recreational activities. Most modern recreational units in the 21st century though have evolved into reflections of what used to be viewed as far more family gathering activities such as horseshoes, bocce, croquet and a variety of toss games such as ladderball, cornhole/bean bags, ring toss, lawn darts, etc. There are many, many versions of these backyard toss games, and I am constantly receiving reports from PE colleagues that there is a ton of resistance to this sort of curriculum from those within and without the educational world. However, many PE/Wellness teachers are sharing that the vast majority of the complaints are coming from WITHIN their own school staff rather than from parents or taxpayers? I find this fascinating and troubling… we all would probably agree that education in general has had to take on more and more roles over the past 20 years or so; teachers used to strictly teach years ago and that was the job.
Now, teachers typically find themselves teaching AND acting as pseudo other forms of society, such as: parents, mentors, coaches, therapists, “nurses”, etc. Education has been tasked with doing more and more each year, so I find it troubling that other teachers are challenging the PE/Wellness staff related to their content and curriculum. Families don’t gather as much as they used to do so; kids don’t play outside in groups the way they used to. Consequently, kids are not learning to organize group games and they are not learning to spend their time recreationally the way we did 20-30 years ago at family/neighborhood gatherings. I see this evolving recreational unit as necessary and important to the social and affective development of many of our students. We are teaching and encouraging students to be social, active, and have fun while playing… isn’t this one of the critical cornerstones to PE/Wellness curriculum?
There is always going to be some sort of debate with educated and uneducated individuals related to comprehensive well-rounded education and usually the spark of resistance comes from outside the educational arena. 21st Century education is VERY different from its educational predecessors; it seems that we need to teach everything to every student today, recreational games and activities included.
What is your take as a professional PE/Wellness colleague? Is the recreational unit a necessary component or just “fluff” as some colleagues would seem to claim? Do we need the recreational component and can we make room for them in our already limited and “curriculum-cramped” timeframes? Where do you stand on this growing curriculum debate?
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Student-Led Instant Activities for Physical Education
I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for ways to increase my students MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) time. Since my students receive Physical Education only once a week for 45 minutes, time is very precious. I don’t want it to be wasted. When I decided to start looking for quality instant activities or ASAP’S (Activity As Soon As Possible), I wanted them to infuse the 5 Components of Fitness, as well as, be able to expose my students to subject matter that they’re learning academically in their classrooms. Throughout my career, I have gathered quite a collection of integrated academic ASAP’S.
I firmly believe in giving back to my profession of Physical Education. Many fellow Physical Education colleagues have helped me throughout the years, and I would like to help future Physical Education Specialists coming into this great profession. There needs to be more sharing of ideas whenever possible to ensure that best practices continue into the future. This will improve our profession and subject matter.
Below I have shared 10 academic instant activities for you. You can either make them yourself, buy the book they are located in, or look up the website that they are featured on. I will admit they’re not all my original ideas. I have found these ideas through professional Physical Education conventions, PE books, social media, Internet websites, and a few I have created myself. These 10 activities are student-led Fitness/Academic infused instant activities that will require very little time to reproduce. I hope they are useful. Thank you for reading!
1. Fitness Puzzles – Created by Me!
This activity is great for teaching Cooperation and Teamwork, as well as, any exercises you would like your students to learn. I use this activity at the beginning of the year to teach core exercises to my students that will be used throughout the year. This game also allows students to work together!! Put your students into predetermined groups around a packet of puzzle pieces. On the music, the groups put the puzzle pieces together. When they finish putting them together in a column, they perform the exercises. They can not start a new exercise until everyone in their group is finished with the previous one.
2. Loco-motor Match – Created by Me!
An excellent activity to teach locomotor skills, as well, as basic math skills like odd/even, higher than/lower than, like numbers, etc. I have my students pair up down the midline of the gym. I spread out one set of number cards on one side and the other set numbered cards on the other. On the music, Each pair of students use a predetermined locomotor skill and head out to find matching numbers. When successful, they bring them back and continue until the time is up or the cards are gone.
3. Dice Fun – Created by Me!
This activity can be done individually or in groups. It can also can be played with one die or two. Have the student or students roll the dice and have them either add, subtract, or multiply (if they multiply have them use the second digit of the answer).
4. Fitness Grid – Created by Dr. Hinson
This is a great Dr. Curt Hinson activity. It can be bought on his website or you can create it yourself. Have the Fitness Grid sheets lying on the gym floor with two different colored dice before your students arrive. In what ever predetermined groups you put your students in, have each student take turns rolling the two different dice. For my grids, the dice are black and red. Just roll the dice and match the color and number of the die. Slide them together and perform the exercise. You decide how long they participate.
5. Fitnopoly – Created by Dr. Hinson
This activity is play just like a typical board game. Separate your class into groups and have them see who can get further and/or finish the game first. Each shape has a choice of two exercises in them. Make sure to have a pair of dice and some game pieces. These items can be easily found at the dollar store.
6. Pass It Down – Great Activity Company
This activity is excellent if your students have assigned seats with rows. Just give the first person in each row a 5 Components of Fitness Pass It Down card and start the music. The leader reads the first activity on the list and performs that level of fitness for their row. The students in the row then copy the leader until the teacher says “Pass It Down”. That’s when the second person in the row performs the second exercise and everyone in the row copies. This activity is great for assessing and checking for understanding of the 5 Components of Fitness.
7. Pathway Cards – Great Activity Company
These cards are great for teaching pathways. Just hand each student a card as they enter and have them copy the pathway on the card. When they are finished just have them get a new one. I often combine this by reinforcing their locomotor skills and tempo skills.
8. Line Graph and Bar Graph Workouts – Great Activity Company
These are great activities for incorporating math into your class. I give each student a card as they come into my class and they start exercising. I usually have them do one graph one week and the other graph next week. When they finish, they put the card in a bucket and get a new one from me. Sometimes I have them do the exercises with a partner, but it has to be a boy and girl group.
9. It's In the Cards – I originally got from Dr. Curt Hinson
This is another great activity to get your students moving right as they enter the gymnasium. Just hand a playing card to each student as they enter the gym and they match their card to the It’s In The Cards key card. I usually just place several Key cards in cones throughout the gym. When they finish their exercise they just get a new card from me or from a predetermined location.
10. Clock Warm-Up
This activity can be done many different ways, individually, with partners, pick a student one at a time, play music and go. Go to pecentral.org and print as many as you need, laminate them and your done. The students spin the hand and where it stops they perform the exercise. Great for teaching how to tell time. Also an awesome in the classroom activity!!!
Adaptive Physical Education Mentoring Program
Want to start an Adaptive Mentoring Program in your Physical Education class? What are you waiting for? It's so worth it!
Adaptive Physical Education is just good Physical Education adapted for those with special needs. Maybe you already have one going? Here’s some of my thoughts and organization behind it. Adaptive Physical Education is just good Physical Education adapted for those with special needs. Maybe you already have one going? Here’s some of my thoughts and organization behind it.
1. Who do you select as a mentor?
The answer is simple. You select mentors that have an innate talent to teach students with special needs. Watch how they interact with them in your integrated classes. See who takes initiative and inherently enjoys them. Make your list and go. I have found a 3-1 ratio is great (3 mentors to 1 special needs student). It allows for small game play, increased skill development with multiple opportunities for success and lots of attention with that student. It’s a win-win. I am fortunate that I can hand select mentors to teach my special needs students. I select a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. It creates some cool connections with mixed grade levels.
2. When will this fit in your day?
It fits when you make it fit. We have Adaptive Physical Education 2-3 days a week. We alternate Blue and Gold days at my middle school. “PE 2” as we call it, is during a daily class called ELO (Extended Learning Opportunity) on Blue days at the end of the day for 40 minutes. On Gold days, I have an Elite Fitness class with those same mentors. Some of those days for Elite Fitness are learning about teaching students with special needs, and some of those days we are working out, playing a non-traditional game or exposing students to lifetime fitness. I have a new mentoring class each of the 4 quarters of the school year, so I can reach a lot of students with this program.
3. How do I let mentors know that this is a big responsibility?
I want my mentors to know that this is a big deal. I trust them to be a good teacher to my students with multiple special needs. And I want their parents to know. I e-mail the students and parents prior, and they must get permission and bring back their signed form. My hope is that the mentor and student discuss this huge responsibility at home. Essentially, they are in charge of their learning, meeting learning targets, their safety and their success. It’s a big deal.
4. How do my mentors teach to the diverse needs of my adaptive students?
They warm up with them, teach the learning targets, set up their own equipment, handle some of their emotions and some minor behavior, they come up creative ways to teach skills and get them into small games. Often times, each group looks very different from the other, and that is what makes it unique!
5. Assessment? Yep!
I am looking for some things to be met by my mentors. A good teacher/mentor is selfless (putting your “friend” first), being positive, finding a way for your friend to succeed, adaption of equipment, and some MVPA (moderate to vigorous physical activity). For my special needs students, I am looking for the 3 P’s (participate, positive and productive). Some of those expectations need to be flexible depending on the student.
Can you do it? Yes you can!
Teaching this class has truly changed who I am as a teacher. I am more patient, tolerant, and creative. Now, go dream your dream. Make this class happen because all students deserve great Physical Education!
Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!
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