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How to Develop an Effective Communication Plan

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

When physical education was relocated to regular classrooms due to gym construction, a parent commented on how they felt nothing was happening in P.E. due to the construction. This was far from true, and several non-P.E. teachers were quick to inform the parent about the wonderful learning happening regardless of the temporary relocation of P.E. class. When word got back to me about this exchange it made me realize I needed to communicate better with parents, especially during this time of construction.

What should we do to ensure our partners (parents, students, administration, colleagues, school board, local media, etc.) understand and support not only what is going on in our classrooms but also our profession as a whole?
Develop and implement a simple, consistent communication system.

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In my previous blog post, I unveiled 3 basic steps to a communication plan: Capture, Convert & Communicate Content. Here, I will expand upon step 3 on how and why to communicate with your various partners.


Parents & Students:

Let’s face it, these are our #1 partners. If they are happy, we are happy. At the start of each year, I compile an iMovie of the previous year as a “promo” highlights video. I use this as a kick-off to our annual parent informational night. Usually there is barely enough time to say hello and go over a few expectations. This traditional context at parent night seemed useless. I wanted to add more sustenance. I decided to mix it up and show parents what their child was going to experience. I wanted to inspire these parents to be a part of our superhero support team. The first time I showed the highlights video parents were thrilled. It made our presentation much more fun and focused on the positives of P.E. class while covering basic expectations for student success.

I show this same video to students at the start of the year. At the end of units I show students the video clips and pictures I took during the unit to create a lasting memory of their success. They really enjoy seeing themselves in action. I can then recycle these for the next year to kick off that same unit and as part of a ‘shuffle’ playlist of highlight movies at our annual family fitness night.

You may not realize it, but the power of email (or a phone call) cannot be underestimated. I have made it a goal to send at least one positive email per week to the parents of at least one student per class. Throughout the week, I write a quick note on my attendance sheet of a highlight I can share with a parent. The response from appreciative parents is priceless. I save these in an email folder so I can demonstrate parent communication to my principal. Remember to celebrate student success. Don’t just leave it up to the student to tell their parents – sometimes they forget.


Colleagues & Administration:

Share student success within your building by sending out regular emails with a note and picture of a moment with students. For example, when playing disc golf, a student got the first “hole in one” of the unit. It was a great shot! I took his picture standing next to the disc golf target and emailed it out to my colleagues later that day. I used it as a teachable moment with students as well, explaining how you get your picture in the paper when you get a hole in one on the golf course. The staff really appreciated the email. In fact, our school now regularly emails “shout out” moments. This helps spur conversations and congratulations among staff and students creating a positive community.

Another tip is to invite staff and administrators to in-class events or celebrations. You never know when a staff member is willing to come down and see students in a different setting during their prep time. Our administration participates in end-of-the-unit tournaments. Having the opportunity to play against your principal in Pickleball is a treasured moment.


School Board, Local Media & Community:

At the start of each school year, collect contact information for the current school board members and local media liaison. The school district administrative office usually has this information.

Anytime you put on an event, send an invitation to the school board and media liaison. If you put together a new and innovative unit and have some corresponding pictures, send a good news email to the school board and media about it. They really appreciate the invitations and enjoy supporting the students.

Our mayor recently attended our breakfast taste test event and expressed his interest to be more involved. Our annual fun run has made the front page of the local paper. I like to present annually to our school board on the success of physical education in our district. I share our highlight video and talk about any new grants we’ve been awarded or national initiative participation (Let’s Move, Fuel Up to Play 60, etc.). Community leaders and the local media rarely miss a chance for a constituent photo opportunity. 

Parent Support Team/PTO:

Never underestimate the power of your building-level parent support team. These superheroes will help build program advocacy and support events, and they love to be involved. Take advantage of their desire to help with school activities and initiatives. Keep them in the loop. Attend parent support team (sometimes called PTO) meetings regularly; I suggest quarterly or at least twice a year. All of the previous suggestions and methods of communication apply to the parent support team as well. 


Communication Method

Specific Applications:

What, Why & Sources

Highlight Video

Photo Slide Shows

Parents: Show at parent night.

Students: Start of year and end of unit highlights.

School Board: annual school board meeting presentation.



Parents: Good news on child, event invitations.

Colleagues & Administration: Learning highlights, event invitations.


Parents & School Board: Good news on learning and info on future events. Note: Most schools send e-newsletters. Be sure to have P.E. contribute a highlight to school e-newsletter, or create own to email/mail home.

Social media:


Parents, Colleagues & Community: Regular blurbs on student success or action shots are fun to share. Include information on future events, and post reminders. Social Media options: School or PE Facebook/Twitter (as school policy allows)

Class website or Blog:


Parents & students: To communicate events, class information, learning experiences, etc. Easy to create with free sources: weebly, wix, blogspot.


For ALL partners: regular entry to local media on events and participation in national initiatives demonstrates powerful P.E. program.



Class Dojo: Behavior tracking and communication

Remind: Allows one-way reminders to go home.



Communication Plan Example:

Weekly: Good news parent emails sent home.

Monthly: Update class website or blog.

Quarterly: Highlight email sent to colleagues and administration. E-newsletter home.

Semester: Same as quarterly but add in update to parents and school board.

Event Specific: Communicate with all groups.


This two-part series on communicating with partners may initially seem overwhelming for some but the importance of communication should not be underestimated. Take time to analyze your current communication plan and set goals for the rest of this school year and the next.

  • Who are your most important partners you wish to communicate better with?
  • What methods will you use to communicate?
  • How often or when will you communicate? 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Jess!

3 Critical Steps for Sharing Your Success!

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

The more I speak with parents, school board, administrators, local media, or other community members, the more I understand they DO want to share in our success and support us. They just don’t always know how, especially at the secondary level when students desire more independence. However, research shows that adolescents need as much adult support as elementary age youth. What should we do to ensure our partners understand and support not only what is going on in our classrooms (at every level) but also our profession as a whole? Answer: Develop and implement a simple, consistent communication system.


It’s time we stop hoping students will remember to tell parents about the great things they are learning or that our administrator will remember to share the wonderful things we do at school board meetings. It’s time teachers stop being afraid to regularly share student success. When you spread the word about the great things going on in your classroom, it is not (and should never be) considered self-centered bragging. It’s not about us! It’s about the students.

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Here are three critical steps for establishing and implementing your communication system. In Part 2 of this series, we will discuss specific tips, tools, and information for communicating with each partner group to kick-start your communication system.


Step 1: Capture the Content

My iPhone/iPad go with me everywhere. Students love to be photographed, filmed, and will even help you capture class content. I take some sort of highlight clips or pictures of each unit we do, especially culminating events or new activities. Before smart technology, our department purchased a nice camera we would carry around at select times. Before this, I would write down great class moments to have them on hand to share later. Carry around that notepad in your clipboard or bring along your smart device, as both the techie and non-techie alike can and should capture class moments.


    *Step 1 TIP: To get started, set a goal for how often you will start “capturing content,” whether it is writing down great moments or taking photos and videos. Will it be monthly, by unit, quarterly, etc.? You can even set a recurring reminder in your phone to help you remember it's time to capture content.


Step 2: Convert the Content

Depending upon your audience and selected method of your communication (presenting at a meeting, sending an email, creating a website or newsletter, etc.) you will want to use a photo and video program to guide and simplify your ability to convert content.

For example, Apple users can utilize iMovie on MacBook (advanced user) OR on iPad (beginning user) to easily put together great highlight videos that can be exported to YouTube, iTunes or saved as a file to use elsewhere. I use iPhoto to organize photos and video by year and by topic. This allows me to easily import content into iMovie or other applications and also allows me to show slideshows of pictures to students. *Note: I recommend purchasing a 1TB (or larger) external storage drive as content fills devices quickly (thankfully, these are more affordable than ever nowadays).


Regardless of your ability level or available tools, anyone can conquer this step. Before I had my own devices, I used school-provided technology. I met with my technology teacher to learn how to best store my files on the school server, how much space I was allowed, and what programs were available to meet my needs. I took an in-district workshop on Microsoft Movie Maker and I went in after school to use the program on school computers and to receive assistance from my coworker. Utilize your local resources.

    *Step 2 TIP: Make it a professional goal to learn a new technology tool(s). For those who want to learn more about how to use Apple-based products, check out David A. Cox’s FREE PC Classes Online for informational tutorials on a variety of techy topics, including iMovie and iPhoto.


Step 3: Communicate the Content

There are many more avenues for communication these days, in some instances too many. Whether or not your school already has a media spokesperson or communication plan (regular newsletters to parents, etc.), this step is crucial. You can collect and convert content all you want, but if you don’t communicate the content to your partners then your content and effort is meaningless.

The challenge is establishing a communication plan that works for you. The goal of communicating student success is to generate support for student achievement and overall program advocacy. Keep it simple. Be consistent. Identify your partners or audience. Choose the type(s) of communication you will use with each group. Pinpoint when and how often you will communicate. See the table below for an example.


    *Step 3 TIP: Choose one new method of communication to try and set a SMART goal for when and how to use it. Team up with a colleague or find a professional learning community online for support.


Developing a Communication Plan:

Identify Your Partners:

Select Method(s) of Communication:

Determine When/How Often:


Class website or blog, Social Media, Apps, Newsletters, Bulletin Boards


  • Weekly?
  • Monthly?
  • Quarterly?
  • Semester?
  • Yearly?
  • Event specific?
  • Unit Specific?


Email, Phone, Social Media, Parent Night, Family Fitness Night, Class website or blog, Apps, Newsletters, Event Invitation


Email, Class website or blog, Social Media, Newsletters, Event Invitation


Email, Staff Meeting, Social Media, Event Invitation

School Board

Email, Presentations, Social Media, Event Invitation, Newsletters


Class website or blog, Presentations, Social Media, Newspaper articles, Event Invitation

Local Media

Social Media, Event Invitation, Newspaper articles

It’s important for students to see and hear validation of their hard work. Do you remember saving newspaper clippings of events you were involved in as a youth? I do!

In Part 2, we’ll expand upon the table in Step 3 providing specific tools, tips, and resources that will help you communicate your content. 

Reader Challenge: 

Analyze your current communication plan. What do you do well? What is your weakness? What have you always wanted to learn? Think about these “3 Steps” and formulate or revitalize your existing communication plan.


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

The FUN Factor: Culminating Events in Physical Education

Posted 2 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Think back to your school years (K-12) and recall a favorite physical education or physical activity memory. Does field day, a special field trip, a jump rope for heart event, or dance performance come to mind? Perhaps it’s your first athletic competition or a final state tournament appearance? As physical educators and coaches, we are in the ‘memory making’ business. I heard this term at a recent workshop and it really stuck with me. I can recall many favorite memories from childhood regarding my physical education and athletic participation. It was an indispensable part of my personal development.

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When it comes down to it, students may not remember daily lessons but they will remember the “experiences” and the feeling of being successful at something in your class or the lack thereof. Students who leave with more negative experiences than positive create future barriers against our profession. We need to make sure our classrooms are emotionally and socially safe as well as be purposeful in creating positive memories. This will help students transfer their learning and become our advocates as the future parents and community leaders they are sure to become.


Learning should be challenging and fun. Culminating events are the ‘FUN Factor’ and a very effective way to create positive memories in physical education. Use this “FUN Factor Formula” to guide you and check out my “FUN Factor” blog resource page where you will find several go-to resources!  


The “FUN Factor” Formula:

  1. Identify the need. Reflect on your teaching and ask: What area can I improve? What curricular units need some ‘jazzing’ up? What have I wanted to do and haven’t yet? What new tradition do I want to instill in my program or school to showcase student success?
  2. Identify the type of event. Will it be in-class, school-wide, or cross-curricular in nature? Here are some examples I’ve experienced (more can be found on the web and Twitter):
    • In-Class Events: End of unit celebrations with goofy awards created by students (see badminton birdie picture above), Dance performances, “Design Your Own” game/routine, Obstacle courses, Sport-Education based tournaments, Jump Rope for Heart events, Speed Stacking or Jammin’ Minute activity break world record days, and Just Dance-a-thons.
    • Large Group or School-wide Events: Family Fitness Night, All-school fun-runs (can align with holiday celebrations), Field trips, Special schedule tournaments (I’ve seen an all-school bowling tournament blow me away!), and Fuel Up to Play 60 events.
    • Cross-Curricular Events: Working with math and social studies teachers to use student pedometer steps to track progress along the “Oregon Trail.” History facts and math skills are reviewed in PE and students take their step data to math to graph and analyze. Working with the technology teacher to integrate use of fitness apps (students develop reviews and then try out in PE class) and tech students develop a PE website.
  3. Keep it simple and start small. You can’t do it all, all of the time. As teachers, we usually have too many things we want to do. Remember to choose one new thing and build from there.
  4. Develop a support team. Involve parents (superhero volunteers!) and students (the more they are a part of the planning, the more successful the event will be as it increases buy-in). Depending upon the event you will also need one or more colleagues on board. Ask early and stay organized so their time is valued. Remember to return the favor when they need it.
  5. Follow through and just go for it (and more than once!). Every event has areas of improvement. It is crucial to reflect, improve and do the event more than once before throwing it out because “it didn’t work.” Sometimes you just have to go for it and enjoy the moment with students. If they see you having fun, they will have fun too. Before you know it you will have a wonderful tradition at your school such as my program’s annual fall fun run (see picture above).
  6. Document and share your success: Sometimes this critical step is overlooked. Have students send invitations to parents, administrators, school board, the media and local leaders (mayor, etc.). Have a plan as to who will help take pictures and video of the event so you can share it with students as a way to cement the positive memory.  


With these factors in mind you have the perfect formula to get yourself started with integrating more or improving existing culminating events in physical education. Remember, we are in the memory making business, so be sure to create positive memories that will last a lifetime and help support the development of lifelong learners and movers. Contact me or visit my resource blog for more information, handouts, and ideas. Best of luck!


Continue the conversation: What culminating events have become traditions in your teaching and how have they helped your program? What event have you always wanted to do and haven’t yet?


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

Remember your first 5k, fun-run or other event? Remember the excitement and anticipation?
When the day arrived you placed the bib number on your shirt and away you went.
The result ended in smiles, sweat and a feeling of sweet-sweet accomplishment. 

Running Program, Run Program, PE Running


This is the inspiration that helped me change my one-dimensional running program into one that had more purpose. We are an ‘ING Run For Something Better’ School now and two-time recipient of the ING running grant. Though the grant has provided extra support for our program, you don’t need it to get started. There are several free resources available. Here are four key “P” components and resources that can help guide your running program planning this year.

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Personalized Progression: My students choose a personal “marathon” goal: half (13.1 miles), three-quarter (19 miles) or full (26.2 miles). They follow a personalized progression two days per week to build up the miles towards their goal. Students complete journals and a log throughout the program. All goals can be achieved in the allotted time and many exceed their original goal. Use the resources at the end of this article to help you design a progression and gather ideas. These will help you integrate fun, exciting ways to train (intervals, etc.) and plan innovative lessons that keep students engaged. A running program is also a fantastic medium for teaching the health-related fitness component cardiovascular endurance.


Pedometers: Students wear Gopher FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers daily and download into the FitStep Pro software program (which comes free with pedometers).
The pedometers are helpful in two main ways:

1) Increased personalization. We know each student is different. Since the “one size fits all model” does not work (or should not be forced to) the pedometers provide the student the opportunity to personally self-assess daily effort, achievement toward goals, and work to their ability level.

2) Improved accountability. My students spend 20-30 total ‘physical activity-time’ (PA Time) minutes on the track, twice a week. They complete their goal’s laps, accumulate the minimum level of PA Time and also work to achieve a personal MVPA goal (we start low and build it up depending on ability. Students can help set their goals). Since the data is all quickly downloaded it is easy for me to see and share the results with students. Overall, there is better ‘buy-in’ from my students when using the FITstep™ Pro Pedometers than in previous years because these pedometers helped students achieve a realistic pace while also providing a challenge. And running activities are not limited to a track because the pedometers record students’ efforts no matter their activity or location.


“Pageantry” (...ok, so I had a hard time with “P” for how to say Culminating Event):

At the end of the program, students participate in a school wide Fun-Run. Road-ID donated race bib numbers for the event. A special assembly schedule allowed students to complete the fun-run at the end of the day (we walked students through the course in PE prior to the day). The course was the last 1.2 miles of their goal and around school grounds. We recognized students, had giveaways and took pictures in true fun-run style. The parent support team helped plan the event. See the sample running event checklist for ideas.


Promotion: The program and culminating event has helped build stronger relationships with parents, the community, news media, and local running clubs. Everyone WANTS to be included and is happy to offer support when it comes to student events; I found out they just needed the invitation. The fun-run provided such an opportunity. This has increased physical activity advocacy and our ability to promote the positive value of physical education. We continue to promote local runs and events to students throughout the year.


It all comes down to this: when you have a student who can barely complete one lap without feeling horrible go on to be one who shows up at a local community fun-run (and with her dad in hand!) you know you’ve made a difference with your physical education program. This is what it is all about. So get started today and Run For Something Better!

Visit my PE Champs website for running program resources mentioned in this blog.  


Participate in the Conversation: What is your running program like? How do you incorporate run-walk-jog into your health-related fitness curriculum? Share your ideas here.


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

Check out more Blogs by Jess!


Our profession’s challenge to find balance between content rich activities and keeping students active has produced great strategies for blending content throughout student learning to provide more effective physical education.

The goal of this blog is to share how the USDA’s Choose MyPlate website can enhance classic game activities with valuable nutrition resources using the ‘10 tips’ Series.

My Plate, Nutrition in PE, Nutrition Lessons

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Classic games such as tag, pin knockdown and bowling became revitalized when I began integrating the MyPlate content. Once pin knockdown was enhanced using colored pins to represent food groups and tag games could represent the balance between “energy in” (food consumed) and “energy out” (exercise) students became more engaged and this provided valuable talking points at the end of lessons that extended the bond across the psychomotor, cognitive and affective domains. It was the priceless trifecta I was looking for and has challenged me to continue to enhance other areas of my instruction.


Before I move into specific examples, here are 3 tips to help you get started with blending content into activities if you haven’t already done so:

1) Balance: Finding the balance between how much talking and moving is the first barrier to overcome. Realize effective physical education requires students to talk and interact with one another to help process learning. Challenge yourself to plan for these teachable moments and begin to find a balance that works for you and your students.

2) Purposeful Progressions: Analyze your curriculum and identify activity or skill progressions that may lend themselves well to integrating content progressions such as nutrition.

3) Start Small & Keep It Simple: Once you decide when, how and what to just gotta GO FOR IT! Try it, and then try it again and again. It gets easier and better each time.


FREE Resource: One valuable (and FREE) resource that will enhance your current curriculum and/or offer a starting point if you have no formal curriculum is: Choose My Plate. Here I use the 10 Tips series and the .pdf handout of the MyPlate as a student game board.


The MyPlate 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series offers one-page, reader friendly handouts with ‘10 tips’ on nutrition based topics. From “Add More Vegetables to Your Day”, to “Snack Tips”, to “Build a Healthy Meal”, to “Be an Active Family” there are over 30 choices. An educator could easily have a theme for each week of the year and have great nutrition talking points that can be integrated throughout the week’s activities and sent home with students or put in newsletters to communicate with families and promote health literacy. The information can be adapted for use in most any activity in my class.


Here are three examples of how I have integrated the ‘10 tips’ handouts into activity. To prepare for these, take a 10-tips handout and cut each tip out to make “tickets” then place them in team envelopes or mix them together depending upon the activity (See ticket sample and detailed game ideas on my website). I have put the food group tips into a word document and will share them to help get your started.

Activity #1: “My Plate in Motion” Bowling. After students knock down certain colored pins, or combination of pins, or for a strike/spare (whichever situation) they collect a tip from their team envelope or the food bank bucket (where a mix of tickets is located).  You can use the food group themed tips to have students build plates or collect all 10 tips from the envelope provided. You can do this style of activity with any skill development activity such as shooting in basketball or hockey.

Activity #2: “My Plate in Motion” Fitness. Set up fitness stations. After students complete a station they can earn a tip ticket for their team and take it back to their “home” location (hulahoop) and then go back out to exercise and earn more tips. Use the same strategy to build a plate or collect all 10 of one theme.

Activity #3: “My Plate in Motion” Relays & Tag. Take any standard relay or tag game and integrate the ‘10 tips’ tickets where students work together to collect all 10 tickets on a certain topic or theme.


Ultimately, I want to encourage our profession to keep students moving, having fun, and learning purposeful content. Use the Choose MyPlate resource as a springboard to promote nutrition and health literacy in a simple and fun manner as you continue or begin the journey of integrating content into your effective physical education program. If you are looking for some great ready-to-go activities, don't forget to check out these fun and easy-to-use Nutrition-Themed Games from Gopher!


Continue the conversation: What resources or tips have you used to help blend purposeful content into your activity and instruction? 


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

Check our more Blogs by Jess!

5 Ways Small Sided Games Make a BIG Impact

Posted 5 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

The use of “Small Sided Games” (SSGs) has given my program the biggest bang for my buck in terms of maximizing participation, inclusion, skill development, and assessment opportunities while keeping the learning environment enjoyable.   



Small Sided Games re-create the physical or tactical demands found in game-play but in a smaller setting while still allowing for improvement to fitness levels. Using SSGs has challenged me to re-think the “traditional”. I remember as a first year teacher I’d take 35 students out to one field for the softball unit and try to go through drills and then more drills for skill development and only go into full game play at the end of the unit. Most everyone was unable to hit more than once in one period (especially with my larger classes) nor had they had enough opportunities to practice hitting because I had not maximized the learning environment through SSGs earlier in the unit. As a former collegiate softball player and the current high school coach my favorite sport was my least favorite unit. It was terrible...until I learned about SSGs.

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Times have changed in our profession and thankfully, so have I. You should no longer see a team of 10 students playing another for two straight weeks of softball (or anything for that matter), especially at the elementary or middle level. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for overall true game play (like they’d experience in adult recreational leagues) but this should often be saved for late middle school or high school after a successful progression of other lessons and skill development through SSGs.

Here are my “Top 5” ways Small Sided Games can make a BIG impact in your program.

  1. Concept Knowledge: A purposeful progression of SSGs allows students to better learn concepts and tactical strategies. Example: A 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4 game of mini-handball in a smaller space with adapted situations (single focuses on “finding an open space” or types of passes) enhances content knowledge more quickly.
  2. Inclusion: SSGs allow for more successful inclusion of students of all ability levels. The layout of smaller teams and settings along with modified equipment is more manageable and flexible so that the needs of students can be met and all feel included.
  3. Success Rate & Maximum Participation: The smaller the teams the more opportunity each player has for participation, which maximizes skill development and a student’s success rate (not to mention enjoyment). When students feel more competent and successful their overall participation also increases.
  4. Assessment Use: The SSG environment allows for more authentic assessment situations because teachers are able to view all students in action in a specific situation with a select focus. Teachers can quickly identify needs and strengths of individuals and/or the class and make adjustments in instruction.
  5. Teacher Feedback: Lastly, because participation is maximized with a specific focus in a smaller setting the teacher is able to give specific feedback more often. The teacher-student relationship is strengthened because students feel a sense of value when teachers are able to show and speak interest to their progress as well as provide feedback during their learning.


Continue the Conversation: What is one of your favorite ways to incorporate Small Sided Games into your program? What is a favorite SSG you use? You can leave a comment below. Thanks for sharing!


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

Read more blogs by Jessica!

Every Minute Counts: The Art of Using Instant Activities

Posted 5 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

From when students first enter the gym to when they leave, every minute counts. Employing instant activities as part of your daily routine prepares students for learning both physically and mentally and helps you capitalize every minute. 

Pedometer, Instant Activity, Instant Activities

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Starting with even the simplest routine makes a difference. My middle level students no longer enter the gym and sit (Boring! Not to mention counter-intuitive to an active learning environment). Now, they walk around the perimeter of the gym, enjoying music and talking with one another. Once the music stops they go to an assigned location for announcements before further activity. This is our basic warm-up. It has reduced behavioral issues and the use of music really ‘hooks’ the kids. While students are warming up I am finishing preparations, checking in with students, and taking attendance via my pedometer system.

As you get more comfortable with a basic routine, you can begin to differentiate or add layers that align with your current objectives and help review previously taught content. Instant activities can vary from locomotor movements to dynamic warm-up progressions to small-sided games to skill review or skill-related movements. Once you establish and practice the given expectations as to how the warm-up routine will work (safety, use of and set up/take down of equipment, amount of pedometer time they need to earn, where it is posted each day, how it works with attendance, etc.) the instant activity runs itself. Our entire department uses the same routine. We have three classes going at the same time and it works really well. The teachers work together on developing new progressions and at teaching it to students.

Once our students learn the basic walking warm-up the next routine has them perform dynamic movements that prepare their bodies for further movement. We pre-teach our students these movements and they perform them in a “Four Corner” layout. Another progression is to add the game of “Active Rock-Paper-Scissors” to this format for a different level of fun and social interaction. I’ll leave you with a description of this routine below and a video of my students in action. I hope this blog inspires you to re-examine your current routines and work to make them more active, purposeful and fun for students. Keep it simple at first and build from there.

Activity Description: Rock-Paper-Scissors Warm-up

The classic game of rock-paper-scissors (R-P-S) can be used in the physical education classroom in many ways. Here’s a video of a recent favorite we have used as a large group fitness activity and warm-up challenge.

Students continuously travel from one corner to the next performing previously learned dynamic warm-up movements. Before moving to the next corner, students must challenge someone to a game of ‘action-based’ R-P-S where they jump up and down four times and show their choice on the fourth landing (count out loud: 1-2-3-show). To play “Rock” students land with both feet together and hands down at sides, “Paper” is landing with hands straight out to side and both feet spread apart (make a flat wall), or “Scissor” is landing with both feet spread apart front to back (like open scissors).

If a student wins the R-P-S challenge, they read the Four Corner Fitness Activity sign (sample included) for movement to perform as they travel to the next corner to find someone new to challenge. If a student loses they find another person in the same corner to challenge. If they lose three times in a row they travel to the next corner regardless. The activity is inclusive for all abilities, can go on for any amount of time, can be used as a warm-up or a longer large group fitness activity (though I’d recommend you change up the different versions of Rock-Paper-Scissors or types of dynamic movements) and can be used to promote positive relationships amongst peers.  The combinations are endless!

Check out my students in action performing the R-P-S warm-up!


  • Use a different version of R-P-S: Bear-Fish-Mosquito.
    • Bear = arms up and arched in claws.
    • Fish = hands together making a fishy swimming motion.
    • Mosquito = hand(s) pinched close like a stinging bug.
      • (Bear eats Fish. Fish eats Mosquito. Mosquito zaps Bear.)

  • Have students jump up and down six times instead of three.

  • Promote positive relationships: Challenge students to play against a different person each time so they interact with others. They can shake hands after and say, “thank you”. Or have them introduce themselves before play, etc.

Continue the Conversation: What are your favorite instant activities or warm-up routines you use with your level of students? What are some of your favorite websites or resources with physical education warm-up ideas?

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

Check out more blogs by Jessica!


Rock-Paper-Scissors Warm-Up

Posted 6 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

The classic game of rock-paper-scissors (R-P-S) can be used in the physical education classroom in many ways.
Here’s a video of a recent favorite we have used as a large group fitness activity and warm-up challenge. 

Students continuously travel from one corner to the next performing previously learned dynamic warm-up movements. Before moving to the next corner, students must first challenge someone to a game of ‘action-based’ R-P-S where they jump up and down three times, showing their choice on the third landing. To play “Rock” students land with both feet together and hands down at sides, “Paper” is landing with hands straight out to side and both feet spread apart (make a flat wall), or “Scissor” is landing with both feet spread apart front to back (like open scissors).

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If a student wins the R-P-S challenge, they read the Warm-up Activity sign to see the next one to perform, and travel to the next corner to find someone new to challenge. If a student loses they find another person in the same corner to challenge. The activity is inclusive for all abilities, can go on for any amount of time, can be used as an active warm-up or a longer large group fitness activity (I’d recommend you change up the different versions of Rock-Paper-Scissor movements or types of dynamic movements) and can be used to promote positive relationships amongst peers.  The combinations are endless! 


  • Use a different version of R-P-S: Bear-Fish-Mosquito.
    • Bear = arms up and arched in claws.
    • Fish = hands together making a fishy swimming motion.
    • Mosquito = hand(s) pinched close like a stinging bug.
  • Have students jump up and down six times instead of three.
  • If a student loses three times in a row, they travel to the next corner and continue play.
  • Promote positive relationships: Challenge students to play against a different person each time so they interact with others. They can shake hands before they face-off or after. Have them introduce themselves before they play, etc.
  • End with a culminating class challenge: When a person wins, the person they beat will travel with them and will cheer them on as they find a new winner to challenge. As people continue to win their traveling cheer team will grow until two teams remain and do a final face-off in class.

Want more on Rock-Paper-Scissors? See my 2012 NASPE Talk Blog Post on Racquet-Skills Rock-Paper-Scissors and how I use it to teach tennis scoring and game play.

Continuing the Conversation: What other ideas do you have for using the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors?  


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

Check out more blogs by Jessica!

Yard Games Fitness Fun in Physical Education

Posted 7 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Considering implementing a Yard Game unit this year? Check out these five great tips from Jessica Shawley, 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year!

Horseshoe, Horseshoes, Horse Shoe, Yard Game Adaptations, Balance Disc Gamebeanbags, bean bag, cornhole, corn hole, yard games

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A game of horseshoes at my school isn’t your typical experience. I’ve added new twists to traditional yard games to foster creativity and add an element of fitness. Yard games offer a different level of socialization, cooperation and creativity than traditional sport and fitness units. Everyone can be successful regardless of athletic ability or fitness level. Yard games are also a great activity for connecting students with their family. Teach them in late spring so the learning is carried into the summer and fall months as an activity with their family and friends for weekends, family reunions, BBQs, sporting events, or a trip to the park.

To integrate yard games into your curriculum, be sure to follow these tips:

1. Use the “Jig-saw” method: Divide class into the same number of groups as there are games and assign one group to each to learn all rules, scoring, set-up, take-down, and modifications. One person from each group then combines to form a new group. Members take turns teaching their newly learned game to the rest of this new group (over one or more lessons).

2. Use the Sport Education model: Student-led teams come up with a name, choose roles (manager, scorekeeper, equipment manager, captain), practice the games, and plan for a culminating event. As you research the Sport Education Model framework, you can modify it to your level and available time frame.

3. Integrate health-related fitness: Play “half-court” games so students have to move back and forth instead of stand in one location. Have fitness stations and equipment to work on muscular strength/endurance or flexibility while students wait to throw. Pairing with a high intensity activity allows yard games to be a rest station or bonus when the workout is complete.

4. Integrate skill-related fitness: Require the use a balance disc or dome to balance on while throwing, challenge students to use their non-dominant hand to throw, or have skill-related fitness challenge stations to complete while students wait their turn. There are many fun ways to incorporate the skills of coordination, reaction time, agility, and balance.

5. Cultivate Creativity: After students learn the traditional games have a “create your own yard game” challenge. Teams must create a new or modify an existing game by adding, subtracting or modifying a minimum number of rules (scoring, how to play, etiquette, etc.). Teams practice and then present their new games to another team or the entire class and try them out. You will be amazed at what students create. One of my recent favorites was using the “triple jump” footwork skill from the track unit as the movement form to throw horseshoes. Very creative indeed!

Incorporating all or some of these five tips will ensure an enjoyable yard games unit. You will also appreciate the way yard games allow you to interact with students and strengthen relationships in a non-traditional activity setting.

Join the community and continue the conversation: What’s one of your favorite yard games or strategies to “amp-up” the fitness aspect of lower impact activities such as yard games? Leave a comment or question below.


Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Jessica!

Increasing Differentiation & Choice in Physical Education

Posted 9 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Students Acting Bored?

How I started a choice-based fitness curriculum to empower students, increase participation and improve my use of differentiation strategies.

Early in my career I inherited a traditional PE program and began working to transition into one that incorporated lifetime fitness concepts and activities. My students agreed they should be learning how to lead a healthy lifestyle yet their least favorite activities were those that provide the knowledge and skills to help them do so (functional fitness, etc.).  This inconsistency in perceptions coupled with my need for curriculum reform helped reinforce the reasoning behind my Master’s Degree research – a pivotal turning point in my career. I was able to incorporate various choice-based strategies and differentiation techniques within a new fitness curriculum. The results improved my program significantly.

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Overall, incorporating choice should be a student-centered learning process that is active, engaging, and goal-directed.  It should foster responsibility, promote decision-making and provide students with a sense of ownership. Incorporating choice also holds students accountable for their learning and ability to stay on task in an active setting.

Programming-based Choice Strategies:

1. Warm-ups: Providing instant activities with choice or a leveled progression helps students feel empowered and ‘hooks them’ for the rest of the lesson as they feel ownership of their learning. This also allows the teacher to work more one-on-one with specific students in need.

2. Sign-ups: After introducing several activities, provide choices within the same space (flag football, Ultimate Frisbee, disc golf, walking, or yard games), or have students choose an activity within the same learning category (ex: Ultimate or Flag Football for invasion games). My students are on a weekly rotation. At the end of a three-week cycle they sign up for their favorite choice allowing them to be able to work with students from other classes and specialize in a preferred choice from the recent learning cycle.

3. Level of Competition: When students choose their level of competition for game play they experience more success, which sustains their interest and enjoyment. A ‘Competition League’ is for those who prefer to keep score, play through brackets, and have a higher interest in the activity (notice how I did not say higher skill level). A ‘Recreation League’ runs through a round robin format and for those who do not wish to focus on a win/loss rather more skill development in a less-competitive yet still engaging atmosphere. Sportsmanship is a priority for each league. This is a nice strategy to incorporate especially in net games (Badminton, Pickleball, Tennis).

Product-based Choice Strategies (Differentiation):

1. Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe: I modify game handouts so students can make self-directed fitness choices and learn content simultaneously. Offering two choices within a box (average and advanced) allows students to choose an activity that fits their ability level. Use the handout multiple times to eventually complete both levels and then have students compare and contrast their experiences.

2. Workout Logs and Fitness Plans: Once students learn fundamental fitness concepts and exercises they log their workouts on a choice-based log that offers a variety of exercises by each muscle group. Students also create personal workouts they can try in class or at home. Or I’ve designed a “Webquest” walking students through creating a fitness plan.

3. Station Choices: Stations and circuits become boring if not spiced up with variety and choice. Give two options or “challenges” when practicing skill work in stations. Incorporate technology and use QR code readers so students scan a choice to see their choice and then complete. Have students design station choices to empower them and take ownership of the learning process.

As always, activities should be purposeful, realistic and fun. Hold students accountable for their learning by setting an Activity Time, MVPA, or Step Count goal with pedometers. My students use Gopher FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers daily which makes it easy to assess their performance.

There is no “one-way” in our classroom. Providing more choice and incorporating differentiated instructional strategies helps empower students and increase participation. If you find yourself wanting more be sure to check out my webinar on Increasing Student PE Participation and Enjoyment through Choice-Based Action (Aired: June 27th, 2014). It will have in-depth specifics on these ideas plus much more ideas for viewers.


Join in the community and continue the conversation. What is one of your favorite ways to incorporate choice or use differentiation? Leave your comment or question below. 

Check out the Gopher PE Blog more tips, ideas and trends!

View more blogs by Jessica!

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