Competition: Preparing Students for the Real World
Typically, when I am writing my Gopher PE Blogs, I prefer to pose a topic that encourages professional debate and ultimately causes educators to reflect on their own professional practices and foundational principles (check out my previous blogs). Normally, I don’t give a solid opinion, I just share perspectives and facts…until now. Today I’d like to discuss why PE/Wellness Classes SHOULD be incorporating competition into their programming.
For quite some time many of our national youth athletic associations across the U.S. and even our own K-12 educational systems have been minimizing and decreasing the element of competition. Think about all of the local youth athletic leagues that we all know. These leagues typically don’t keep score of the games, they usually give out trophies for participation, and they normally do not recognize championship teams at the end of the season. We all can probably name at least 2-3 local examples, if not more, where children are taught that competition is not necessary. And for some reason, our PE/Wellness classes (along with many other academic disciplines) have adopted this “no compete” model. This is acceptable in the primary levels and the early elementary grades; however, competition is healthy and a necessary life skill, especially as children grow into adulthood. Competition is a core concept in the real world, even if many choose not to embrace that idea.
The truth is we ALL compete on a daily basis. Think about it for a moment; examples of competition are all around us. Each and every day we are all trying to find the best parking spots, the shortest lines at stores, the cheapest prices for virtually any product from candy to cars; small but concrete examples.
Now jump further into the real world. We all compete for companions, husbands, wives, etc…and most importantly, 99% of us compete for that coveted job that will pay our mortgages, car payments, utility bills, etc... In the real world when you compete for a promotion or job there is one person who “wins” and a bunch that do not get the gold medal. Competition is a fact of life that everyone should probably embrace, albeit they should ideally learn this competition at a progressive and age-appropriate pace throughout their K-12 careers and beyond…
How does this competitive concept tie into PE classes? Simple.
- Contemporary 21st Century PE/Wellness classes are a great segue way into safe, friendly, sportsmanlike challenges and they can be critical launching points for competition. I fully understand that most districts and schools do not allot adequate time for PE/Wellness classes for students. Therefore sitting out of blocks of time for not winning is not acceptable and nor should it be. “Losing” is not a reason for kids to sit out of class; EVERYONE should be active 99.9% of the class. Creative PE teachers can incorporate all sorts of ways to include all of their students during the active sessions of current PE/Wellness programming.
- For the traditional sports classes, it is very appropriate to run a round-robin or two-sided tourneys that have brackets which direct students, duos and/or teams to progress through the tournament depending on who they’ve played, defeated, and lost to in the intra-class tournament. This is “real life” application.
- In the more cutting edge fitness classes, it is perfectly acceptable to have the students track how many exercises they have conducted. Whether it be via numbers (ex: push-ups, crunches, Jumping Jacks, etc…); repetitions (either in resistance, weight, or time, lifting weights, nautilus, or cardio activity); or in measurable fitness activities (ex: cardio machines, physical pursuits, walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, etc…) all of these actions/movements have some sort of evaluative component where competition can be monitored.
I wholeheartedly recognize that competition is not the “end all be all” in PE/Wellness programming, nor should it be. In fact, some professionals feel it has no place at all in these types of classes. However, competition is a necessary life skill that we ALL need to learn to succeed in the real world. It can even increase participation and make many classes more fun and exciting.
What are your thoughts as a professional? Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about competition in PE/Wellness programming…
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To Play or Not to Play? That is the Question...
It’s probably becoming apparent that I welcome PE/Fitness topics that are debatable and encourage some thought and “spirited” discussion and this blog is no different; I am encouraging and hoping it causes some thought and professional conversation.
So whether you are a veteran or brand new PE teacher, I am certain that if you attended a reputable teacher education college then you can certainly recall a few critical “do’s” and “don’ts” that your college professors instilled in you related to instructing Physical Education classes. The one that I struggled with the most, and flip-flopped on many times during my 25+ year career, is considered one of the “ten commandments” of Physical Education instruction: To NEVER play/practice with your students during Physical Education class.
Generally, there are two steadfast camps involved in this ongoing debate and there is usually a solid line drawn in the sand. Some teachers and administrations feel that PE teachers playing during class inspires and encourages the students to participate while professionals on the other side of the line feel that it is a gargantuan liability and typically can only bring potential physical/emotional injury or worse…and both sides have validity from my perspective.
The professional disagreement seems to mirror the age old argument of “textbook vs. reality”. You know, the argument where we all learned the textbook application, which is typically in opposition to the real life application. Obeying the speed limit, textbook law vs. trial law, the legal alcohol drinking age of 21, Cliff’s or Spark notes vs. reading the book for a book report, “do as I say not as I do”, etc… There are too many to mention here but I am sure everyone can conjure up some sort of textbook vs. reality struggle…
I can share with you that I flip-flopped on the subject more times in my career than I care to count. Many of my perspective changes occurred during specifically identified stages of my career. In my first 2-3 neophyte years I followed all the college’s expectations and didn’t play during PE classes. Once I grew more comfortable and confident (4-5 years into my teaching career) as a teacher, and became embedded in the school culture, I did begin to play and help physically facilitate classes as a participant. The kids definitely loved it and certainly looked forward to those classes when I played.
About 15 years into my career I chose to take a job as a K-12 Wellness Director at another district and part of my responsibility was to set policy and teach a few classes too. You can bet as a part-time administrator I saw things a little differently (I was also a little older and wiser too). I definitely felt that a teacher playing during class was a liability for the district and for the individual teacher who chose to do so. But this doesn’t really settle the disagreement, does it?
So I am curious what our readers and professionals think on the subject; which side of the fence do YOU identify with?
Do PE Teachers who play during class encourage and inspire their students to participate at a higher and more enjoyable level or do these participating PE Teachers only increase the potential injury to themselves and possibly their students?
The disagreement remains:
Should PE teachers be encouraged or even allowed to play during PE classes? What do YOU think?
Furthermore, does your district have any policies in place that prevent teachers from participating? Please share your thoughts in a comment or response…
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To Dodge or Not To Dodge?
As I have written previously, I believe there should be a balance between traditional sport offerings and 21st century fitness in physical education and wellness curriculums. Both have a place in the wellness continuum from a cognitive, social/emotional, and certainly physical perspective.
However, I’ve always felt that physical education classes should be fun too, which leads to a very relevant question and hot topic in P.E. these days— Dodgeball.
Should Dodgeball be included or banned in today's Physical Education classes?
The conversations I have witnessed, read, and heard about are rather “spirited” to say the least, and that’s being polite! Dodgeball has been a fan favorite for many kids at all levels of P.E. since the 1970s. It is an activity that is either loved or hated by kids, parents, and teachers. There simply is no middle ground on this one. Ask anyone you know if they like or dislike Dodgeball and they will have an opinion.
Here’s a test! Ask the next three people you run into after reading this blog whether they think Dodgeball should be allowed or prohibited in schools and see what they say. They will definitely have an opinion.
But the point runs deeper. Does dodgeball have any educational merit or is it simply a form of “survival of the fittest” gladiatorial-type of physical torture? Proponents of Dodgeball will espouse that the fast-paced activity encourages hand-eye coordination, reflex enhancement, decision-making skills, teamwork, throwing and catching skills, and the positive list goes on. Detractors of the game will tell you that it is a punitive and punishing game where the stronger kids pound the weaker kids. And yet who is correct?
The argument gains traction with each discussion, blog, article, tweet, etc. and grows stronger each day. What about you? As a professional, parent, or spectator, what is your perspective? Should Dodgeball be banned or welcomed? Check in and let us know what you think. Thanks for sharing your ideas and opinions.
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Traditional vs Progressive Physical Education
We all know that daily Physical Education is important; actually it is CRITICAL, to students being active and successful in multiple components and layers of their everyday world. All trending data indicates that students who are active for 30-60 minutes each day are going to be healthier, feel better, and have a more positive academic attitude towards learning. Simply put, it is great to be physically active every day!
And we could probably talk (or blog) at length about the lifelong benefits connected to physical education, as those benefits are multiple: the increased fitness, emotional, and social benefits are lengthy and well documented. My guess would be that any professional reading this blog would concur wholeheartedly to the positive attributes of being in a Physical Education class as often as possible in the K-12 educational world, and in college too for that matter. The question quickly surfaces these days though, WHICH type of Physical Education class are we referring to or Which type of Physical Education do we prefer, Traditional or Progressive?
Physical Education has evolved significantly over the last decade. It’s not necessarily “good” or “bad” but it is a hot topic these days. PE has journeyed a long way into the lifelong skills arena and progressive PE teachers are instructing a whole slew of “new” skills and activities in their physical education and/or wellness classes these days. Physical Education in the 21st Century is not the same PE from the 80’s, 90’s or even early 2000’s. Physical Education slowly transformed throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. The PE that many of us grew up with was a healthy dose of team sports and traditional single and dual activities….basketball, floor hockey, tennis, soccer, etc. Physical Education these days has steadily morphed into the fitness and lifelong skill zone…multiple fitness activities, skills, and etiquettes combined with boot camp classes, yoga, Pilates, tough mudder training, etc. Certainly both have an important place in PE moving forward.
So the question naturally jumps to “Which style of PE is better?” We all know that most schools do not provide enough daily PE or weekly PE which makes the limited active time on learning in Wellness or PE classes absolutely precious. I have heard (and read) all sorts of spirited discussions related to which type of PE/Wellness class is better for the kids. Traditional PE is highly touted for movement and social reasons with Progressive PE being encouraged for the fitness and lifelong skills.
I guess my question remains; Which PE Is better…Traditional PE or Progressive PE? What do YOU think? Is one better than the other? A hybrid format perhaps? Tell us what you think…
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Traditional Sports with a Fitness Component
Have you given thought or begun to investigate how you can infuse more fitness activities into your traditional physical education classes, wellness activities, or recreational sessions? There is a powerful undercurrent right now in the U.S. to incorporate fitness pursuits into physical education classes. With all of the focus appropriately on enhancing and improving fitness in the United States, most professional physical educators are striving to add fitness components to the more traditional sport activities typically taught in American PE classes. Are you asking, “How can I add more fitness to my PE classes without compromising my traditional activities?” Many Wellness and PE teachers have been trying to figure out how to do this, and thankfully many teachers have already figured out ways to do just that. With all of the nutritional hazards, sedentary trends, and climbing BMI’s in our nation, it is more important than ever that we help our children be more active and fit. Here are a few specific ways that creative professionals have incorporated fitness into their current PE and Wellness classes:
- “Perpetual practice” is a term we use to add activity to traditional sport classes. Simply put, take the practice session and skill sessions and add a perpetual movement component to them. Take every opportunity to morph the static and “standing around and waiting” practice lines into constantly moving practice lines. Students should no longer be standing around waiting to practice; they should be jogging and moving throughout the entire session. It takes a little more planning and a little more set up; however, it is worth the effort. Just about every practice session in every traditional sport can be adjusted to be constantly moving if you give it some thought and preparation. Keeping kids moving while they practice skills can be fun fitness if you plan for it.
- Incorporate “Hybrid” Traditional Sports. How you ask? Traditional sports such as soccer and basketball have a fitness component internally built in to them. However, you can add a perpetual movement component to traditional sports such as football, baseball, softball, and most others by adding modified versions. Football, and most sports, can be played in a similar fashion to Ultimate Frisbee or Speedball, where the football can be run, thrown, and defended but in a non-stop format. You are still utilizing the major rules and skills, but in a manner of perpetual movement. Try it, the kids love it!
- Utilize “Multi-Sports.” Having already mentioned Speedball and Ultimate Frisbee, these fitness-skill activities and others like them are perfect examples of incorporating activities that require multiple skill sets from traditional sports into fun fitness games for PE/Wellness classes. These Multi-sport activities have traditional skill practice embedded within them already, but more importantly host a fitness and constant movement foundation.
These are just a few ways to incorporate fitness into more traditional curriculums and classes. There’s a multitude of ways to add fitness activities to your PE/Wellness classes.
What are you doing in your classes or school that is similar? What are you doing that is different and creative? I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
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Foundations of Adventure Programming
What is Adventure Programming anyway? Great question! Glad you asked…or are at least willing to investigate it a little bit further. Adventure Programming is a cutting-edge form of experiential learning that can be infused into any Wellness, Physical Education, or Health (yes, AP can definitely be utilized in the classroom) curriculum without a ton of time or money. Of course, you will need some time to familiarize yourself with this style of intentional challenging and sequential teaching; but as a PE or Wellness teacher, it will come to you very quickly and naturally. The wonderful end result will be that EVERYONE in your classes will have fun and benefit on multiple educational levels. Adventure Programming fosters evident growth in students’ self-esteem, cooperation, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, self confidence, trust, activity levels, creativity and enjoyment.
When we hear the term “adventure” in the education or camp world, we usually conjure up images of high ropes, harnesses, rock climbing, or a multitude of other non-traditional, often daunting, pursuits. Adventure Programming is in fact a series of cooperative, physical challenges and activities that are designed to build and improve cooperation, communication, respect, critical thinking, and teamwork amongst students. Fitness and activity may certainly be included, and are usually sprinkled throughout the planned challenges while moving students through the activities and progressions. It is about direct, active learning experiences that focus on finding and solving problems through movement challenges. High element adventure ropes courses are not necessary (but certainly are challenging and fun if they can be afforded) to begin or host an adventure unit or program within your own school curriculum. In fact, any successful and meaningful adventure program should begin with the “ground games” that are planned by the instructor to be collaborative, mostly non-competitive, active, challenging, and very, very fun.
In a nutshell, Adventure Programming consists of planned, non-traditional games; warm-ups; trust exercises; group problem-solving activities; and group and/or team challenges. All of these activities will evolve and progress as the instructor moves the class through these planned progressions. Students learn to work cooperatively and challenge themselves safely amongst the class/group in a supportive and encouraging environment. The foundation for experiential learning of this nature is that “adventure” (trusting the process and not always knowing the path to the intended outcome) coupled with cooperative techniques will spark the optimal learning environment, which truly is “fun learning by doing.” This is a terrific recipe for enjoyment and learning in a powerful Physical Education or Wellness class!
What are your thoughts on implementing Adventure Programming in your professional educational world, recreational realm, or athletic team? Have you tried it already? Are you thinking about implementing Adventure Programming? What has your experience been thus far? Please let us know your thoughts or questions. Let’s learn together!
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Assessment in Physical Education
In schools around the country, assessment and data are terms trending among teachers and administrators. It may be fairly obvious how educators can implement assessment and data when it comes to Mathematics or Language Arts; however looking through the lens of Physical Education may seem more difficult. There are a good deal of educators and school administrators who think assessing and tracking data on students during Physical Education class is unnecessary or even impossible. I, and many others in education, however, am in the other camp. I do see merit in using these tools with students when it comes to their personal fitness and Wellness.
I have been working in and around Physical Education, Fitness, and Wellness for my entire 20 year career (and counting) as an educator and administrator. One thing I can tell you is that education is always evolving, as it should. Children are learning at a much faster and furious pace. As such, along with that rapid pace comes rising expectations for demonstrated skills by these children. Since they are learning faster, they are also being expected to know more and “show what they know” in a more formal manner. This 21st century learning is heavily embedded in data and the students exhibiting growth in their skill set. By osmosis, these same expectations carry over into the realm of Wellness classes. I say it is great that they do carry over; because with all the new technology and best practices available now, it is much easier and efficient to show this type of growth in PE and Fitness classes around the country.
These assessments actually can provide many benefits to you as the teacher as well as your students. Assessments and PE truly make a great partnership. As with any symbiotic relationship, they really do need each other. These assessments and the data they reveal, can be utilized in a multitude of ways in order to help encourage and support your school’s PE/Wellness program. Still not sure how? Take a look at these brief examples…
What better way to demonstrate growth in PE than to develop a Fitness or Wellness class/program along with a series of benchmarks and movements along the way to help children improve? Education is about learning and improving your skill set (cognitive or physical). How perfectly this correlates to PE!
Think about it, students enter your PE class, and then are presented with a series of challenges or “tests” to develop a foundational baseline, a baseline that is easily trackable and presentable. Teachers then discuss with students individually where they are at relative to the program or personal goals and then send them off on individual plans and paths to improve their baseline scores and data. Every move they make in class from then on is designed to help them improve their “fitness, fundamentals and fun” factors. The journey begins!
Add to this programming the intrinsic factor of personal motivation and you are off and running even faster. I have been around long enough to notice that once you add a quantifiable component, such as a number of crunches, pounds lifted, distance run time, enhanced flexibility, etc…, the internal competitive fires begin to be stoked. People naturally want to improve, especially if someone is “keeping score.” In 20 years of teaching PE, I have seen very few K-12 students not want to better their scores for their benchmarks, no matter what the category. The kids love trying to improve and surpass their own scores. As long as you keep the scores individual in nature, then I believe this is a great way to motivate your students to improve their fitness levels. They will jump at the chance to improve and the end result is kids being more active in you class. It’s a win for everyone!
Assessments are a necessary component in today’s world of education. Teachers and students need to be able to demonstrate growth of student skills. Armed with that premise, assessments and Physical Education really should not exist without each other. In today’s data-driven world, what better way to demonstrate students’ skills as well as motivate and encourage lifelong movement goals; inspire activity; and ultimately demonstrate improvement than to track the measurable progress of school children?
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Adventure Fitness might be a new term to many in the Physical Education, Fitness, Recreation, and Wellness world. However, if you are a teacher or instructor of children (or anyone for that matter) and you would like to utilize movement activities with a dash of fun, critical thinking and cooperation in some of your lessons, then don’t wait to become more familiar with Adventure Fitness!
Adventure Fitness is a newer form of adventure programming (many of you may know it as Project Adventure.) Project Adventure really is the company name that brought adventure programming, team building and cooperative learning to life in the 1970’s and beyond. Adventure Fitness came about in response to our nation’s need for fitness and movement and can be viewed as a more perpetual and vibrant form of adventure programming. Many of the more traditional games of adventure programming focus on cooperative activities, problem-solving, and critical thinking. On the other hand, Adventure Fitness “speeds up” these types of cooperative and inclusive games in a fashion that encourages lots of movement and activity without time for participants to be removed from play or even excluded for any amount of time. It is the best of both worlds from the Wellness perspective. Participants are still collaborating, cooperating, and thinking critically in the middle of the activity; however, they are participating in the activity at a more rapid and continuous pace. The greatest benefit I have personally witnessed as a teacher, coach, camp counselor, facilitator, and father, (yes, I do use these activities with my children, mainly at birthday parties and large gatherings) is that kids have a blast playing adventure fitness activities without realizing they have been “working out” for 25-30 minutes at a time. I always wait until the end of the class or session to make that announcement! All the children know is that they are having fun running around, smiling and laughing with their friends while the teacher continues changing and adapting rules as the activity progresses. The children usually seem surprised and disappointed when it is time to end class; however, it’s important to wrap up the session by asking a few questions about what they learned; how they feel (tired?); and did we reach our lesson goals? Whether running an Adventure Fitness session for children or adults, the participants are always left wanting more time for the activity. They always ask to play it again.
There are many benefits to planning and playing adventure fitness activities for your physical education classes, Wellness sessions, staff trainings and retreats, recreation programs, and athletic practices. The applications are limitless! Let me hear from you. Have you used Adventure Fitness or Project Adventure types of programming before? How might they work for you in your professional environment? What has been your experience as a participant or facilitator?
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