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Web-Based Toolbox for Professional Development

Posted 2 months ago - by Jessica Shawley


Quite often I am asked: “With all the information that’s out there on physical education, what’s the best way to stay up-to-date and get new ideas?” While there are many good resources out there, let me share with you my personal resource toolbox, which should help get you started.

My toolbox is primarily web-based which provides me instant and constant access to a much larger professional development community than just my annual local and regional workshops.  So, whether I am in my pajamas on a weekend morning before the household awakes, in the car during my commute, or out on a walk, I can utilize my toolbox to stay up-to-date and maximize my time.

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Before you dive into the toolbox, here is the ultimate disclaimer: a web-based toolbox will not and should not replace face-to-face interaction. Be sure to attend conferences and get involved in your professional association. Face-to-face interaction helps you maintain professional relationships, strengthen your professional network, and sustains you with positive energy that lasts. Using technology is just an aide that helps you be more consistent especially in a day and age when schools are reducing professional development funds.

Although not all-inclusive, here is a sampling of my favorite web-based professional development resources. I grouped them into a “Big Three” by various categories. And did I mention they are all FREE?!?

Gopher Education Center: 

Did you know Gopher offers three incredible sources of FREE Professional Development? Check them out in the Gopher Education Center!

  1. Gopher Solutions Webinar Series: By far the most thorough database of quality, physical education specific webinars for physical educators. These monthly webinars also provide a certificate of contact hour credit.

    • Tip: With all webinars, be sure to register no matter what. As a registered attendee, if you can’t make it you will receive the link to the recording to watch later. There is also a backlog of all of the Gopher webinars in the link above! Some of my favorites include those with Dr. Bob Pangrazi and Maria Corte.
  2. PE Blog: The most consistent and quality blog for physical education teachers available, written by today’s top names in the profession. You can search the blogs by topics/tags to get specific ideas or enjoy the weekly releases for your overall engagement and enjoyment. 
    • Tip: Schedule a reminder on your phone or calendar for your weekend or early morning reading time where you get to sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee and read over a good blog.
  3. PE Universe: “Where physical educators come together to share and ideas and build community.” It’s a free community network of videos, discussions, and activity ideas all in one. 



  • SHAPE America Podcast hosted by Collin Brooks and Matt Pomeroy. Bringing you interviews with physical education champions and leaders in our community to discuss important issue and give new ideas to try in our classes.
  • The PE Geek Podcast with Jarrod Robinson. “The number one destination for anyone interested in utilizing technologies within their physical education classroom.” I’ve learned so much from Jarrod on integrating technology which has inspired me to be a better teacher.  I was lucky enough to be a guest on episode #43 as part of the Listener Stories of Success series.
  • Voxcast Podcast with Jorge Rodriguez. A wide-array of conversations with connected educators and leading minds in our profession from around the world. I was honored to participate in a Voxcast, which you can check out here.
  • *New Release: The Fundamental Movement Podcast with Aaron Beighle, Andy Vasily, Dean Dudley, Joey Feith, and Nathan Horne.  “A no holds barred discussion on all things physical education...discussing the issues of the day from a range of academic and teacher perspectives.”



*You can view all past webinars – this provides a great list of professional development topics!

  • The PhysEd Summit Webinar Series by Physedagogy has a mission to provide “digital professional learning opportunities for physical education professional by sharing, discussing, and reflecting upon best practices.”  The “Summits” provide a plethora of ideas from educators across the globe. It is completely organized by teachers, put on by teachers.
  • Huddle Connect: Brought to you by some of the most prominent names in physical literacy, physical education and sport through Thompson Publishing, the premier choice for Healthy, Active Living Canada. The Huddle Resources includes activities, info-graphics, and videos to support teachers.
  • SHAPE America:  Both live and recorded webinars for all “physical educators, health educators sport coaches, PETE and HETE professionals and students” interested in physical education and health. All SHAPE America webinars are 1 hour long, and participants can earn a certificate of 1.0 contact hour.


Social Media: 

  • Twitter: Most of the physical education community uses hashtags such as #physed, #PEblog, and #PEgeek to post updates and share ideas of what is going on in their classrooms along with links to other things they find useful. New to Twitter? Accept the 14-day Twitter Challenge for PE Teachers from Jarrod Robinson, The PE Geek, who walks you through each step to get started and provides a beginning list of  “Who to Follow” (you can even follow me @JessicaShawley)
  • Voxer: It is much like using a walkie-talkie, but better. Leave voice and text messages, and attach pictures or documents—either for a specific individual or a group. It’s an ongoing conversation you can carry on at your own pace and time. It’s an “underground professional learning lab” of support groups on a variety of Physical Education topics. I’ve been able to dive into a FITstep™ Pro Pedometers, Technology, and Secondary PE chat groups to receive support and advice. This is where Twitter users go to continue their conversations.  New to Voxer? Check out the VoxerPE site to learn more, including “how-to use Voxer” videos and see the VoxerPE Chat Groups.
  • SHAPE America Exchange Community: Exchange is SHAPE America’s online community that provides a daily strand discussion board where colleagues can join conversations, share ideas and ask questions. There is a library and shared file database as well as blog posts.  



  • The Physical Educator – “Rethinking what can be done in physical education” by Joey Feith (@JoeyFeith).
  • The PE Geek – Physical Education and Technology. “Learning how to use game-changing technologies in your PE Classroom” by Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo).
  • iPhys-Ed - "...Highlighting best practice in inquiry-based learning and technology integration in Physical Education...” by Nathan Horne (@PENathan).


Other Noteworthy Tools: 

  • YouTube – Teachers share many video ideas. Find people you follow on Twitter and view their subscriptions to gather ideas. Some names to get started: Kevin Tiller, Benjamin Pirillo, Ryan Armstrong, Jarrod Robinson, Chad Triolet, Jo Bailey, Joey Feith.
  • Google Drive – Get connected on Voxer in the General PE group and ask to join the crowd-sourced physed file being shared by others from around the world. Be sure to share and contribute.  
  • Periscope – Physical educators share live video feed of events (usually conference session or speaker highlights), and Periscope makes them available for a short period of time. Follow #physed people.  


Continue the Conversation: What is in your toolbox for technology-based professional development?


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

Creative Ways to Integrate Fitness with Team Building into PE

Posted 3 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

Fitness can be fun - and it doesn't have to be just traditional fitness!

Integrating intentional fitness into every lesson is a goal of my physical education program. I have found it successful to balance individual challenge or traditional fitness activities with partner fitness challenges and cooperative/team-building activities to keep students interested and motivated.

I teach such a wide array of abilities, both physical and mental, that I found my students’ young bodies appreciated the “break” from the nature of a traditional fitness workout to include fun group activities (which still included fitness). The results? Their participation levels were great, working harder during the fitness-focused stations. Now I incorporate this throughout the year as part of my ‘go-to’ strategies.

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An easy way to start implementing this is with the Partner A – Partner B or Group A – Group B method. I also call it the “ON – OFF” method. With Group A starting on the intentional fitness station, circuits or exercises and Group B begins on the cooperatives. After a certain time period, they switch and go to what their partner or group was just doing. Switch back and continue where you left off and so on. 
[Photo: Group A on partner fitness challenges and Group B on resistance band trainers]


I also mix in team building and cooperatives into traditional circuits as part of stations students rotate to. For example, during my volleyball unit, we complete a fitness circuit that includes an emphasis on skill-related fitness that pertains to volleyball (jumping, agility, etc.) and I mix in partner volleyball challenges (bumping, setting, sequences or serve into a hula hoop station) or use the volleyball as a tool at a station (medicine ball twist – but with a volleyball). It’s a nice ‘hook’ in the lesson that carries out the volleyball theme and keeps things interesting.  

Recent team building and cooperative challenge activity ideas:

  1. Beanbag Partner Challenges:

    • Using the beanbag to do partner back and forth slides while maintaining a plank position. Counting repetitions (even counting in another language!). Then transition into beanbag slide air hockey while still in plank position. Partners face each other and remain in plank position while trying to slide the beanbag between their partner’s arms to score a point. The partner tries to stop the beanbag. They can keep score if they wish. You can even do various fitness activities with a beangbag and a partner – pretending it’s a medicine ball or a sand bell. I love Gopher’s beanbag bocce set so that I can also play bocce ball cardio style with my entire class as a warm-up.
  2. Balance Dome Challenges:

    • Each student in the small group has his/her own balance dome and goes through a progression of balance challenges by themselves at first (one and two legs, push-ups, agility jumps, etc.). Then I add in a foam ball for students to work with a partner on different balance or core work – completing sit-ups with a chest pass to a partner, balancing on the dome and tossing back and forth while counting repetitions to see which team can go for the longest.
  3. Character Education:

    • Take the individual stations or challenges from any character education set, selecting a few to focus on as designated stations. In small groups, students rotate at their own pace from challenge to challenge when not on their personal fitness portion of the lesson. Students are to take turns being the leader of challenges – reading and leading the challenge with their group. Different resources I use for this:

If you feel students just aren’t responding the same way they used to at the beginning of the year to fitness activities or if you haven’t tried this method yet, it’s time to mix in some partner games and cooperatives with your fitness activities. Student smiles, laughter, and enjoyment of the activities are sure to follow. I also like how this strategy brings in elements of student choice and gives students the opportunity to communicate, lead, and cooperate in a group setting, which is an important part of our national standards and student learning outcomes.


Continuing the conversation: What other partner or small group fitness challenges do you use to mix things up for your lessons? 


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

Check out more Blogs by Jess!

Using Technology as an Organizational Tool in PE

Posted 7 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

The bell rings and class begins. We press start on the department Apple iTouch using the Seconds Pro app. The timer announces, “dressing down” over our sound system and students know they have four minutes to get ready for class. Many finish dressing early and head out to the gym to get their pedometer secured and do a ‘walk and talk’ around the main court with their peers or help finalize lesson setup.

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After the four minutes of locker room time the timer says, “warm-up time” and upbeat fitness music begins playing. Students immediately go to the nearest warm-up station and begin the dynamic warm-up of movement progressions. The music starting also signals to students they should be out of the locker room and have on their assigned FITstep™ Pro pedometer. Teachers now take attendance by looking at the remaining pedometers in the numbered wall pouch. The current warm-up is a perimeter of station cone signs where students rotate from station to station in a designated manner. After four minutes of warm-up time the timer says, “Warm-up Complete” and the music stops. The students report to their teacher and the rest of the lesson continues.

I have learned to use technology as an organizational tool to help make my daily routine more efficient. 

This routine is built around the daily warm-up timer and a well-stocked teaching cart. I recommend using any wheeled utility cart or ClassPlus™ Pedometer Cart.  A wheeled cart is a priceless necessity for the gymnasium and helps keep all your teaching tools accessible, yet out of the way of your movement-based classroom. At any given time there’s a mix of paperwork, pencils, Plickers cards, pedometers, downloading station, laptop, sound system, LCD projector and more.

What technologies are organizational tools for you? What does your daily routine entail? These are great questions for teachers to consider regularly and I get asked these frequently when I share in professional development workshops. Here are the details on my current set-up routine.


Daily teaching station set-up routine:

Pedometer setup:

1) Set-up FITstep Pro Pedometer Software on laptop and check that FitStep data readers are in place.

2) Hang up FITstep Pro Pedometers in their QwikID™ storage case using Command hooks (large 5 lb. capacity).

Sound setup:

1) Samson bluetooth, rechargeable speaker and iTouch with the day’s music selection and timers ready.

2) Turn on wireless Satechi remote to run sound if I am not going carry the iTouch during the lesson.

3) Put on personal PA/Shure wireless headset mic pack. Extra batteries on cart.

Having a portable, wireless, Bluetooth sound system with a wireless mic adapter is a necessity nowadays in physical education. Music highly motivates students and saving on your voice with a headset mic will not only allow students to hear instructions correctly but also prolong your career and increase the amount of energy you have left at the end of the day.  

Additional support pieces in my routine:

1) Get Team Shake app going on my teacher iPad for placing students into equitable teams for the lesson.

2) Hang up my pocket chart for storing Plickers assessment cards, handouts or portfolio pieces.

3) I use my teacher iPad for attendance, fitness apps, taking photos and videos of students in action, and for use with my Apple TV and LCD projector.   


Continuing the conversation: What technologies are organizational tools for you? What does your daily routine entail? Share your ideas in the comment section. 


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!


3 Ways Pedometers Enhance Cross-Curricular Connections

Posted 9 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

If you are looking for more ways to incorporate meaningful technology that makes student learning more efficient, as well as builds bridges with other colleagues using a cross-curricular approach to learning, look no further than Pedometers.

Pedometers are one of the most affordable and efficient ways to take student learning to the next level. Using pedometers helps make connections in math, technology, history, and more.

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As a dual-certified educator, in Math and Physical Education, my first full-time job was teaching 7th grade math. I loved using practical projects that connected students to real life applications. For example, an engaging data analysis project asked students to select a topic or theme to analyze and apply statistics in a variety of ways. At times, students struggled with picking a particular theme. They didn’t always have a favorite “something”, like a sports team, where they could access easy statistics for graphing and data analysis. For these students I wished I had meaningful data for them to analyze. As educators, we know meaningful content is an important hook to connect students with their learning.

Fast forward ten years and I now have the perfect tool to make this all possible – the downloadable FITstep™ Pro Pedometer by Gopher (or wireless FITstep™ Stream™).  For three years now, students have been downloading their daily information into the FREE FITstep™ Pro Software  and I can now download a variety of reports with just the click of the button:

  • I can analyze and print reports by student, grade level, or class.
  • I can analyze and print daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or custom date-range reports.
  • I can customize the report for the student to take home to increase family involvement and student reflection.
  • I can export the data into Microsoft Excel so I can further sort and analyze data.
  • I can email the information to my administration and other teachers with whom I collaborate.
  • Print outs can be given to students to take to other classes for cross-curricular projects.

Pedometers are an efficient tool for students to collect their personal data that can then be used for goal setting, cross-curricular applications and to enhance the Common Core approach for teaching and learning in physical education:

1) Math:

Send students to math class with their personal report. Email the math teacher an overall report or data file so they have the cumulative information by grade and class. Students can now analyze and reflect upon their daily, weekly, monthly, or unit averages. They can compare their favorite activities and analyze the amount of Activity Time and Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) in each.

The personal application of data is priceless and makes the learning more meaningful. Taking it one step further, teachers can share the overall data and ask students to compare data by grade levels, class period, time, or topic.

Students present the data in various ways (bar graph, line graph, line plot, etc.) that align with the curriculum and then analyze the information. Students can compare and contrast, and reflect upon the information. These findings can be brought back and shared in the physical education class.

2) Keyboarding & Technology Applications:

Taking a similar approach to the mathematical applications shared in #1, students use their pedometer data to apply their learning of computer technology skills. For example, keying in pedometer data into Microsoft Excel for graphing, charts, and data analysis. In a collaboration meeting, my technology teacher was talking about how she wished she had an easy to fix for when students forget to bring in a set of data points to practice their keying and graphing skills. I quickly chimed in that I had a solution – students’ personal pedometer reports. 

3) History:

My first cross-curricular project as a physical education teacher was with my Math and History Department. Using student pedometer step counts collected in physical education class, we tracked mileage over the historical Lewis & Clark Trail while the history class was simultaneously learning about this period of history and the math class was completing their graphing unit. It was the perfect trifecta and one that could have been made even more efficient had the downloadable pedometers been available at that time. With today’s technology, teachers can track mileage for a variety of step and activity time challenges that bring history, math, and physical education together.


Continue the Conversation: In what ways have you used pedometer technology to create cross-curricular connections in your classroom? 


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

Check out more Blogs by Jess!

The Under Construction Mindset: Home is Where the Heart Is

Posted 11 months ago - by Jessica Shawley

A recent five-month delay in gymnasium renovations tested my level of grit, flexibility, and creativity, as our department was relocated and divided between several empty science labs and general classrooms.

From start to finish it would be over a full year of interruptions. I found out that packing and unpacking a gym is like moving into a new home and can be quite the process.

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In the end, I came away with a new appreciation that quality learning can take place in a non-traditional environment.  It’s not about the facility. Your teaching “home” is where your heart is, and it is really about what you do with what you have.


Whether or not you have a traditional facility, I believe every physical education teacher can relate to the phrase: “No Gym? No problem!” as our classrooms are regularly borrowed throughout a school year for picture day, special assemblies, book fairs, or even evening activities. Our ability to remain flexible in these situations is a badge of honor in the physical education world, and creative ways in which we handle these situations could be a blog of its own. Coping with temporary setbacks or lack of facilities is an important question of mindset.


Here are five takeaways from my year “under construction” that aims to help teachers gear up for a great year no matter their environment.


1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize - Resilience & Relationships

Students are resilient and will rise to the occasion when challenged. I was proud of the way my students adjusted to the challenge of our temporary relocation.


In turn, students also need a teacher to model for them how to handle adversity and exhibit resilience when things don’t go as planned. I had a choice to make each day: complain and pout that the gym wasn’t ready yet or push through the adversity and find a way to design lessons so student learning outcomes could be achieved within my small classroom space.  


Relationships are also critical here. Success stems from our positive attitudes as teachers and our ability to build relationships with students. My relationships come first. The learning happens as a result of those relationships. The adversity the construction process threw at my program reminded me that I must never forget the importance of building strong relationships with students and colleagues. We spent a lot of time in close quarters doing active lessons, and this required a special setup and uniquely designed environment.


2. Keep It Simple – The K.I.S.S. Principle Is King

As a department, we pledged to continue to have high expectations for student learning yet remember to embrace the “keep it simple” philosophy as our temporary relocation was a new frontier for our department. I couldn’t get frustrated with myself if things weren’t as they used to be...I was in a new situation. I had to remember to be flexible and have some grace with my new reality.


3. Be In Tune With Technology

Technology and accountability are prime motivators for students. Thankfully, we use Gopher FitStep Pro downloadable pedometers. Our students continued to wear them daily, and we set realistic activity time goals all students could achieve. This helped students gauge their level of participation, and we were able to use their data for feedback of our teaching overall.


We used the computer lab for cognitive quizzes, Fuel Up to Play 60 activity and nutrition logs, and goal-setting lessons based upon Fitnessgram results. A small set of iPad Minis allowed students to use video analysis apps to learn the biomechanics of movements, record workouts, and try out fitness apps. We found online websites such as HOPSports that provided free workouts and activity breaks.


4. Be Family Friendly

Remember that you are a part of a larger community, and one goal of a quality physical education program is to help students connect what they are learning in class with the rest of the world. I called upon community partners to help me showcase to my students the opportunities available in our community and surrounding area. Students learned about local classes offered by our Parks & Recreation department and how to sign-up. The Parent Support Team helped with our physical education fun run, and I collaborated with my technology and math colleagues, which may have not happened had it not been for my relocation. I also depended upon the support of my incredible colleagues, my district department, and I began participating more in my extended social media family by joining Voxer support groups, searching Twitter, and reading SHAPE America journal articles for new ideas. Overall, this experience gave me an even stronger appreciation for my value in the larger school community and my professional learning family network both local and through social media. 


5. Be A Risk Taker – Try New Things

I knew it would be a crazy year, so I thought why not try out some new things? Little project challenges kept me going, and I embraced doing the things I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the time for previously. I took on one project at a time, my colleagues also joined in on the challenge, and before we knew it, we had implemented new lessons and even new units. We found new ways to use existing technology and enjoyed the challenges our new technology brought us (iPads through grant money). We added things we could do in a small space such as juggling, balance boards, activity breaks and fitness trampolines to our curriculum. We used iPads for video analysis and fitness app reviews. I was proud of the way we found new ways to reach our student learning objectives.


Despite this being one of the more unique and challenging years in my teaching career, it was also one of the most rewarding. It is one that truly helped me see the value of having a growth mindset, a positive attitude, and an incredible professional family. I want to encourage others to look to these five tips as a foundation for embracing these types of challenges in our profession and also wish them luck!


Continue the Conversation: What “under construction” situations have you faced, and how did you handle the adversity? What went well? What could you have done to make it better? What tips do you have that can help others in similar situations?


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

Fuel Up to Play 60: Promoting School-Wide Wellness

Posted 1 year ago - by Jessica Shawley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!


How to Develop an Effective Communication Plan

Posted 1 year 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, trends and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Jess!

3 Critical Steps for Sharing Your Success!

Posted 1 year 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, trends and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

The FUN Factor: Culminating Events in Physical Education

Posted 1 year 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!


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