Crossing the Curriculum in Physical Education
It is amazing reflecting upon my college experience to recall the number of best practice concepts that were folded into our learning experiences. One of the big projects we completed in our elementary methods course was a cross curricular unit. Each student selected a topic and then created physical education lessons that met all of the state physical education standards and reinforced concepts related to the subject chosen. At the time, I chose Native Americans and created a unit that reinforced a wide variety of concepts related specifically to Native Americans but also reinforced language arts and math concepts. It was a lot of work and required a good amount of research but it really made me realize the impact a physical education program can have on academic achievement. As I began my teaching career, I took that experience with me and began to search out ways to integrate core content in my physical education program.
There are many opportunities to reinforce core content in physical education classes. This effort to support language arts, math, history, and science should not come at the expense of teaching physical education standards and content. The key is find creative ways to reinforce the core material while keeping true to the goal of teaching the skills and concepts related to developing lifelong movers. Below you will find some suggestions on ways to reinforce core content in PE.
MATH - Skill drills in physical education provide many opportunities for students to practice counting in multiples. Student can also be given points for completing different tasks. As the points add up, students will need to use basic math skills to compute their score. Another skill that is easy to incorporate is pattern building. This can be done as station work or as part of creative relay races. Money can be used as a reinforcement for completing tasks thereby giving students additional exposure to the look of various types of currency (coins vs. bills) and how to count it. There are also many opportunities to discuss math vocabulary that relate to physical education (i.e. – angle, measurement, perimeter, distance, etc.).
LANGUAGE ARTS – When students enter the gym, a great way to reinforce language arts is to have the students read instructions for their warm-up. If doing this, keep the language simple and post three or fewer basic instructions. Physical educators can use spelling words in a variety of creative ways to help students (i.e. – jump rope spelling, word sort challenge, GeoMat spelling, etc.). PE teachers can also reinforce key vocabulary using a Word Wall.
SCIENCE – One of my favorite ways to support science was to perform experiments in physical education class. The practical use of experimentation vocabulary when learning about heart rate or burning calories is a great way to reinforce these important science concepts in physical education class. There are also many opportunities to highlight science related vocabulary that is used during PE classes (i.e. – speed, friction, angle of trajectory, fulcrum, lever, aerodynamics, etc.). There are other awesome activities that use student knowledge of science concepts (i.e. – Habitat Survivor (dodging and fleeing), Evaporation (tossing flying discs at a target), Rocket Launcher (striking and catching pool noodles), etc.).
SOCIAL STUDIES – Social Studies is made up of a variety of sub-disciplines like civics, economics, history, and geography. Each discipline has unique vocabulary that can be highlighted in physical education classes. If organizing students into squads or teams, using history vocabulary as team names is a simple way to reinforce the terms (i.e. – Presidents, important Native America tribes, important historical battles, famous Black Americans, etc.). There are also many opportunities using creative activities that are specific to social studies content (i.e. – anything that deals with the Olympics can be connected to Greece, Chinese jump rope has a natural connection to the history of China, etc.).
The key to crossing the curriculum is using the resources available to you at your school (other teacher and/or your administrators). For me, it has always been pretty simple because my wife is a 5th grade teacher. In many ways, her knowledge and expertise with the core content has helped me be a more effective physical education teacher. I realize that this may not be your situation but I also know that there are many teachers in your school that would be more than willing to provide ideas on ways that you can help their students be successful.
Break the Ice! Team Building 101
When I was in college, I was part of an amazing Swimming and Diving team. My first year on the team, we won the university’s first conference title which was an impressive feat. After the team won the title, our head coach announced his retirement and my diving coach decided to move on as well. There were many questions about the future.
After meeting the new coaching staff, our concerns were quickly put to rest. They had a fresh approach to coaching and “building a team”. More time was focused on goal setting and working as a unit. We had meetings that focused on getting to know each other, team challenges, and goal setting (team and personal). We learned to trust and rely on our teammates and to value everyone’s contributions no matter how big or small. Most importantly, the change in approach fostered leadership and accountability for every team member. At the time, I didn’t realize the process or the end goal, but l can certainly remember the impact. We won our second conference title that year and broke the conference scoring record. Looking back on that experience, made me realize the true power and impact of effective team building.
Team building is one of the most under-utilized instructional strategies in our schools. Effective team building fosters a sense of trust and community and will have a positive impact on student academic performance and faculty/staff effectiveness. They say that there is no “I” in TEAM but there is “ME”. Too often, students and faculty members fall into the “ME” trap which negatively IMPACTS performance. The focus of quality team building is to turn that “ME” into “WE” and build a community where individuals value honesty, support, collaboration, communication, and trust. Through proper team building opportunities, participants learn to listen, praise & encourage others/self, communicate, make decisions, resolve conflicts, take appropriate risks, and challenge themselves.
Let’s take a look at effective team building strategies that can be employed to promote a sense of trust and community for the classroom, physical education, and faculty & staff. It is important to share the benefits of team building with the participants. The participants need to understand why team building is being used and how the activities will help them. Setting the stage prior to participation is often called the “briefing”. During this time, the leader sets the hard limits for the group, classroom management and safety rules. In addition, the leader also will provide the group with goal setting information, clarifications, and background information. When the activity begins, the leader can provide challenges, additional instructions/interventions, and/or general guidance. At the end of the activity/session, the leader should take some time for closure. In team building circles, this is known as a “debriefing”. During the debriefing, the leader asks questions to generate thought process that focuses on what the group did, what they accomplished, what lessons were learned, and how learning can be transferred to daily life. Leaders will often ask, “what, so what, and now what?” As the facilitator, it is always important to keep in mind that without trust, success will be limited; if there is no fun, there is no motivation; if there is no challenge, there is no opportunity for growth.
The real question for most teachers is how can I use this to positively impact my classroom, gym, or school? There are many simple ice breaker activities that can be used to help your students get to know each other (5-part Handshake, Gudag, Look, Olympic Rock-Paper-Scissors, etc.). It is recommended that teachers use these types of activities in the beginning of the school year to help build a community (this also works great for school faculties). Once students get to know each other, the teacher can then introduce small group or large group challenges (Flying Fish, Group Juggle, Beat the Bell, Knots) to develop a sense of teamwork and foster positive cooperation, collaboration, and communication among classmates. The challenges are excellent movement breaks for students that have a distinct purpose. It is important to have clear cut rules for participation in all of these activities (as mentioned previously).
There are other fun ways to engage students, parents, and faculty members. GeoCaching, which is essentially a GPS scavenger hunt, is a great activity to foster team building and communication. With access to smartphones, this activity is more accessible than ever. With a little time and patience, it is simple to create geocaches for groups to find on school grounds. Another concept that is very popular is the Amazing Race. During this activity, participants are given a list of tasks to complete (take pictures of certain objects, answer questions, collect objects, etc.) in order to “win” the race. Often, the tasks are ordered differently for each team to add to the challenge. The team that completes the task list first wins the challenge. Another option is to create a team obstacle race. These types of races have become more popular as the popularity of CrossFit has increased. Commercial races like the Mud Run, the Warrior Dash, and the Spartan Race have capitalized on the popularity of these new obstacle/fitness style races. Schools can come up with creative ways to incorporate this concept to promote physical activity and team building. Have you done anything like this at your school?
There are lots of great materials and resources for team building activities and exercises. The list is actually too long to list without missing something impactful. I suggest searching the topic via the internet or visiting these three websites: www.pecentral.org, www.pa.org, and www.peuniverse.com.
SOURCE: Cowstails and Cobras II, A Guide to Games, Initatives, Ropes Courses, and Adventure Curriculum by Karl Rohnke
Finding and Using Grant Resources to Bolster Your PE Program
When I first started teaching almost two decades ago, I came into a school that had an established physical education budget. Each year, all of the Resource Staff (music, art, PE, media, and computer) turned in a “wish list” to our principal for approval. It was generally accepted that we each had $300-$500 to spend each year. If there was a need for a “big ticket item,” we could make a special request and it would be handled on a case by case basis. Over time, the money started to get a little tighter. Budgets grew smaller and we (the Resource Staff) were encouraged to find other ways to purchase equipment. In physical education, we supplemented some of our funding by hosting a Jump Rope for Heart event each year which helped.
About ten years ago, I decided to try my hand at grant funding and never had to look back. There are many grant opportunities that are available to health and physical educators. Sadly, many teachers do not take the time to apply for grant opportunities. Teachers give lots of reasons for not attempting to complete a grant application;
- I don’t know where to find the grants.
- I don’t have time to complete the grant.
- I have never done a grant before.
- Grant applications are too challenging to complete.
A wise teacher once told me, “you will not win every grant that you apply for, but you will certainly never win a grant if you never apply.” That philosophy has paid dividends over the years. I have definitely not won every grant but the equipment closet at my school has grown and my students have been the beneficiaries of the efforts.
Let’s focus on locations for finding grants. An internet search will help get you started. You can also visit some of the websites below to find health, physical education, and wellness grant opportunities. In many cases, grant applications have gotten more simplistic to encourage participation and competition for each grant. Many state AHPERDs are also trying to find ways to offer grant opportunities as a service to their membership.
As mentioned previously, grant applications have gotten more user friendly to encourage application submissions. That being said, it is very important to put in a little planning time prior to completing an application. Here are some specific things to consider when getting ready to apply for a grant. First, always read the entire grant application. There are many requirements that may influence your decision to move forward with the application (e.g. – matching requirements, non-profit status, certifications or endorsements that are needed, etc.). If your school or school division does not meet those requirements, you will be wasting your time moving forward. Second, once you have reviewed the application, check with your administrative team before continuing. Administrative support is critical when applying for grants. Administrators have a better understanding of school policy and finance. Their knowledge and input can increase your chance of success and ensure that they are on-board. Third, come up with a plan and share it with others. Many of the grants available today have multiple components. The components may include nutrition, physical activity, wellness, etc. If others in your building will be impacted by the grant, make sure you have the support you need to make the grant a success. It is important to remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Fourth, take advantage of “experts” in your building or school district. There may be other teachers in your school or district with previous grant writing experience that can serve as a mentor or help you with a grant proposal. Some districts have grant writers who are a wonderful resource that can provide insight and support. Remember that grant writing is not “easy” and that there are no guarantees to receiving funding, but if you focus on planning and collaboration your chances of success will increase.
Field Day Fun!
When I first started teaching 18 years ago, one of the biggest challenges was planning for my first field day. Five years of college (changing your major your junior year will often extend your stay at a college) did nothing to prepare me for the planning and logistics of putting on a field day at my school. Fortunately, my predecessor had left me some information for Field Day so that I could continue the tradition that she had started. I inherited a competitive Field Day. There were 10 stations and each student competed in 3-4 stations and tried to score points for their class. Some activities were individual while others were team challenges/ relay races. About three weeks prior to the Field Day, students would practice the events and then select their top choices. After two years of dealing with poor sportsmanship (mostly by teachers and parents) and wasting instructional time to prepare for the events, I decided to scrap the Field Day plan that I had been using and re-think my approach to organizing and planning a Field Day.
I decided that a cooperative field day that focused on student participation and teamwork made more sense to me and better fit my philosophy as an educator. As I began organizing this new plan, my biggest concern was how it would be received. After completing a successful “new” Field Day, my concerns were put to rest because everyone loved the new approach especially my administration. As the school expanded over the years, we split our field day into a two day event to reduce the number of students on the field. Although the original plan has changed some from year to year, the all-inclusive, team concept has remained.
Below, you will find some tips that might give you some new ideas how to improve the logistics of your field day.
1. Volunteers are a critical consideration. Fortunately for my school, we are adjacent to our feeder high school. Originally, I reached out to a friend who was the ROTC instructor at the school but a better fit for getting student volunteers turned out to be the lead guidance counselor at the high school. She has been able to identify students with excellent academic standing who now serve as our primary volunteers. It is important to note that in my state, Virginia, all students must now meet a volunteer requirement to graduate which makes using the students a win-win. Another great source for volunteers over the years has been the military. If you live near a military instillation, many of the personnel are encouraged to serve in the community as volunteers. Working a field day is a great way to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to serve the community. If these two options are not available, you can always use your parents (PTA/O) or reach out to local businesses in your area. As a side note, it is always nice if you can provide your volunteers with cold water, a snack, or even lunch if your budget allows. It is a real simple way to say thank you for making you look good by running all of your stations.
2. Scheduling your date and time is very important. Most field days take place at the very end of the year (many during the last week of school). Getting your dates on the calendar as soon as possible is a good start. Planning your schedule for the actual date(s) is important too. Will all of the students be out at the same time or will you split up your groups? How long will each group participate (1 hour, 3 hours, all day)? We always scheduled at least 3 hours for our field day so that students would have plenty of time at each of our 10-12 stations. Will your students travel independently or will they be grouped (by class)? We always have our classes stay with their classroom teacher during field day. We are able to track down student much easier because all the groups follow a station schedule throughout the field day.
3. Activities that are selected can impact the success of your field day. Some schools have a Field Day theme each year which I think is a fun and engaging idea (Pirate Day, Survivor Challenges, Wipeout, the Field Day Olympics, Field Day Rodeo, etc.). If planning for a theme, make sure you connect each activity with your theme to create a cohesive field day. Below are some additional tips to use as a guide when thinking about your activities.
- Be Creative - There are lots of ways to use equipment to mimic an activity so that the station connects with the theme. If you need station ideas, use websites like www.pecentral.com or ask faculty members for their input.
- Keep It Simple - Due to time constraints, the station leaders may not have a lot of time to explain each station. Keeping the activities simple will allow for maximum participation and fun.
- Collaborative vs. Competitive – If you volunteers are judging performances, you are putting them in an awkward position especially if they need to make judgment calls. Avoid this issue by involving all students and focusing on teamwork and collaboration rather than winning or losing.
- Safety Comes First – Safety should be the primary consideration when planning station activities. I have been to field days where students were riding tricycles but were not wearing helmets or were wearing them incorrectly. Protect yourself and your school from legal issues by thinking through your station activities. If you are not sure about an idea, double check with your administrators.
- Water or No Water – Our field day is a three plus hour adventure that starts in the early morning. Because of the time of year, it often starts out relatively cool but starts to warm-up considerably by 10 A.M. Thankfully large sections of our field day area has some cover from the sun but having a few water activity stations helps cool our students off and refresh them throughout the 3-hour session. We remind all students that they must wear tennis shoes the entire time (no flip-flops, no bare feet). We also encourage students to bring towels with their names on them. Before deciding to include water, make sure you consult your administrators and have some basic rules in place to make the activities fun and safe for all.
4. Breaks are an important consideration on Field Day especially if you are planning to have all students active at each station. In our master schedule, we include at least two water breaks for every class. These breaks can be used to stop by our water station (drinking only) and snack breaks. Some schools also sell snack and treat items during the break times as a way to fuel the students and make a little money to offset field day expenses. Again, this is another discussion that should be held with your administrators prior to planning snack sales.
5. Organization is the true key to success. Plan your date early and make sure it gets on the calendar. Plan your activities early to ensure that you will have the equipment you will need. Set your schedule and make sure that it works. There is nothing worse on field day than have three classes at the same station at the same time. If volunteers are running your stations, activity task sheets with instructions will be very helpful. If planning snack sales, coordinate with the individuals who will be selling early so that they will understand the plan. Make sure you plan the “menu” and advertise it to the students early. Prepare your field day letter for parents in advance and make sure it is reviewed by your administrative team. Send the parent letter and schedule out in plenty of time for parents to plan to attend and watch their children.
For more Field Day ideas, visit the following websites:
What are your favorite field day activities to get kids moving?
What are your biggest challenges with field day?
It's a New Year... How about a S.M.A.R.T start for your students?
.It’s a New Year…How About a S.M.A.R.T. start for your students?
by: Chad Triolet, Chesapeake Public Schools
This is my inaugural blog so I thought I would focus on a timely topic as we begin 2014…New Year’s Resolutions. We all know and understand the basic concept behind a New Year’s Resolution…come up with something that you can do, or stop doing to improve you in the New Year. On principle, I really like the idea but the realities of the success of this “magical self-improvement effort” are tenuous. This whole concept all boils down to goal setting. For years, like many people, my quest to complete a New Year’s Resolution ended in failure. In 2001, I decided to try something different, can you say S.M.A.R.T. goal? I wanted to exercise more and lose a few pounds so I decided to train for my first ever “road race”. In early January I signed up for a local 8K (5 mile) race. I did some research for this New Year’s Resolution and found an 8K training program that would get me ready in the 3 months I had to prepare. I printed out a calendar and kept track of my progress until race day. Over the 3-month span, I lost over ten pounds and felt the best I had in years. I was hooked! I continued to up the distances until I completed my first marathon in October. For the first time, my New Year’s Resolution was a success because of the way I set my goal and kept track of my own progress.
After my own personal success, I started using the concept of the New Year’s Resolution to teach goal setting using the S.M.A.R.T. goal concept each January. With primary age students, I keep the concepts simple. We talk about things that their parents have mentioned (they are going to exercise more, stop smoking, stop drinking sodas, etc.). We discuss how to turn those open-ended goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals (see the S.M.A.R.T goal sample). We also discussed practical ways to set measurable goals to increase the chance of success. Having students write down a personal goal (with help) and share it with parents is a great way to reinforce this important concept.
With the older students (4th and 5th graders), we focused on fitness. We pulled out the fall fitness test scores and talked to the students (once again) about the importance of fitness and living an active lifestyle. Based on the fitness data, we decided to focus on improvement using the Pacer test (FitnessGram). Using a 4x6 index card, we created a simple form so that students could track their progress and set goals as they perform the Pacer test each month until they took the final test in May. Each month, the students set a new goal and try to improve or maintain their previous score.
Goal setting is a critical concept to teach students. Not only is it a foundational skill for improving personal fitness, it also is a great lifetime skill that can be used in many different areas. Physical education teachers have many opportunities to teach concepts and skills (like goal setting) that will have a positive impact on student development.
So, the question is…What is your New Year’s Resolution and how can you help your students learn about this important goal setting opportunity?
Effective goal setting starts by being S.M.A.R.T.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable/Achievable
R – Realistic/Relevant
T – Timely