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The LEARN Model for Effective Lesson Planning in PE

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Chad Triolet

The state of Virginia has recently adopted new state standards for the 2015-2016 school year.  Changes in existing curriculum must align with the new standards. Change is often very difficult for seasoned teachers who are very comfortable with standards that have been around since 2008. 

With new changes in standards, teachers will have a unique opportunity to rethink and realign their lessons to meet (in many cases) new learning objectives.  This is also a chance to re-evaluate the process for lesson planning so that the plans follow current best-practices for quality instruction. 

The first questions to ask is, what are the elements of a traditional lesson?

Below are some general components of most quality physical education lessons (in no particular order):

  • Warm-up
  • Stretching
  • Fitness Component
  • Main Lesson
  • Cool-down
  • Closure

It is important to realize that these components should not exist in isolation from each other.  If possible, every effort should be made to connect learning and concepts during a lesson and from one lesson to another. 

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To assist with this, there is a lesson plan model which helps teachers organize these basic concepts.  The LEARN lesson plan model uses the acronym L-E-A-R-N to assist with writing the individual components of the lesson plan. 

L = Link to Background Knowledge

E = Engage and Explain

A = Active Learning

R = Reflection

N = Next Steps

Free Download: LEARN Lesson Plan Template

After stating an objective for your lesson, the LEARN model provides guidance for developing lessons that meet all the basic criteria for a high-quality instruction and focus on key components of effective instruction.  The most important thing to notice is that the lesson plan format is designed to encourage users to connect lessons (using background knowledge) and be more reflective in the process to connect learning outside of physical education class.   Although the look and the order of the lesson plan may appear different, all the components of a basic lesson are included. 

Now I know what you’re thinking- why do I need to re-write all my lesson plans?  For me, it is not about re-writing my lesson plans but being more reflective about how my lessons connect together and what my expectations for student learning really target.  Educational best practices should be used in every content area, including health and PE. 

For our school division, there has been a huge shift in the requirements for classroom teachers and lesson planning.  Those expectations will likely make it to “resource” classes eventually so this is a timely subject for our health and physical education teachers.  With that being said, I think it is important to be pro-active rather than re-active.  I do, of course, realize that a great lesson plan that has all the right elements does not always equal great instruction but I would like to think that being thoughtful and prepared would help a teacher at any level be more successful when actually teaching the lesson.  I think the key word is “thoughtful”.  Teaching with intention and with a clear learning target in focus should result in student learning…we hope. :)

Feel free to share your favorite lesson plan template for comparison purposes.


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FITNESSGRAM® Testing: Data vs. Results

Posted 2 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Now that the President’s Physical Fitness Council has adopted FITNESSGRAM® as its fitness assessment tool, most school divisions across the country are now using it as their assessment tool for measuring student fitness levels.
But, are they using it correctly?

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According to the Cooper Institute, “FITNESSGRAM® is a comprehensive educational, reporting and promotional tool used to assess physical fitness and physical activity levels for children. It was first developed in 1982 by the Cooper Institute and is the most widely used children’s health-related physical fitness assessment in the world.”  

As a teacher, I find a great deal of value using a fitness assessment.  Being able to effectively measure upper-body strength (90-degree push-ups), abdominal strength and endurance (pacer curl-ups), aerobic capacity (PACER), and flexibility (Back Saver V-Sit & Reach and Trunklift) provided me with data that we used to design and cater our physical education program to our students.  It was also a valuable tool that we used for student goal setting and basic fitness planning.

In the state of Virginia, all schools with students in grades 4-12 are supposed to report FITNESSGRAM® data with the Department of Education.  The Department of Education (DOE) makes the yearly results available on the DOE website.  Using that information, teachers can compare their school’s scores to other school divisions and the state average and identify strengths and weaknesses in the different fitness areas for their students. 

Since all schools need to submit the test results, teachers are trained using the FITNESSGRAM® assessment.  An essential component of the training should be a connection between performing the assessment and using the data to drive decisions to focus programming that bolsters areas of weakness that were determined by data analysis.  Students can use their own data to begin analyzing personal fitness data and planning, which is clearly a higher-order thinking task that requires students to know and apply what they have learned about health-related fitness through effective instruction.  Ultimately, FITNESSGRAM® should be used as a tool to guide students to make healthy decisions regarding physical activity and personal fitness.

Sadly, there are schools were physical educators have not taken advantage of these best-practices and learning opportunities.  Some teachers see the fitness assessment as a requirement that they must complete but fail to use the data to adapt their program to meet the needs of the students that they teach.  Another troubling practice is grading students based on FITNESSGRAM® results.  Based on research, a considerable portion of student performance is based student age and heredity.  These facts may cause fitness results that do not reflect the efforts of a child who is working hard to improve scores.  Many teachers defend the use of grading for fitness scores because they measure the amount of improvement.  Although that is a better option, there are still challenges determining the level of effort that student give when participating in the pre-assessment.  It also has the potential to penalize skilled athletes who may perform well in the pre-assessment because they are “in season” only to perform at a lower level on the post-assessment.

To wrap it all up, FITNESSGRAM® is a tool designed to measure student fitness levels.  This tool should be used to empower student to take ownership of their personal fitness and learn a variety of ways to increase fitness levels, improve areas of weakness, and increase physical activity levels.  Most importantly, teachers need to discontinue the inappropriate practice of grading fitness assessments and focus on student learning and application of important fitness concepts.

Take the stress out of fitness testing with AssessPro®, the most convenient and efficient fitness testing equipment available! (Compatible with FITNESSGRAM®)

 AssessPro® Testing


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Infusing Yard Games with Quality PE

Posted 6 months ago - by Chad Triolet

What do you think of when you hear the words “yard or lawn games”? Do you infuse these games and activities into your PE program?  How can you connect the physical activity aspect of yard games to your physical education program? 

For me, they are part of a quality physical education program.  Physical education without a clear understanding of the benefits of lifelong physical activity misses a large opportunity to promote a healthy and activity lifestyle.  Often, yard games are a vehicle for physical activity post-schooling.  What happens in a society where no one knows the rules or has the skills to partake in yard games?  Have we done our job if we just teach football, soccer, and volleyball?

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In my program, there was a balance between many sport, individual, and recreational (yard/lawn games) activities.  In my opinion, all are important and students need to be exposed to each to build the confidence they will need to be successful lifelong movers. However, there is also a social aspect of yard games that I find fascinating.  There is nothing like talking a little smack when playing horseshoes or ladder ball.  Could you imagine going to tailgate at a sports event without a Frisbee or Cornhole?  I certainly cannot. 

I find it very refreshing to see other PE teachers share creative ways to integrate yard games in their PE classes.  Former Middle School National PE Teacher of the Year (2012), Jessica Shawley, is well-known for her Yard Games session at conferences.  In the past, I have also offered a “RecFest” session to highlight creative ways to use these activities in physical education settings. 

The important concept to remember is that it’s not the traditional form of the yard game that is important.  Finding creative ways to teach the rules and skills in fun ways that also include health-related fitness, skill-related fitness, and nutrition is what really broadens the reach of these games.  There is a traditional way to play each of the games; however, adding some creativity and getting students and parents to realize there are fun ways to add movement to the games is essential.  As part of many of my sessions, I share what I call “Cardio Cornhole”.  The object is to work with your teammate to reach 21 the fastest (no 12oz. curls here).  It’s all about speed and agility and most of all teamwork (for a description of Cardio Cornhole, scroll down).

As physical education teacher, I have seen the true value in adding yard games to my program.  From horseshoes to table tennis, find ways to make these activities part of your program.  Think outside the box and maximize student participation and fun while teaching the basic skills and rules for each game.  





Students will find a partner.  Each pair will collect 1 polyspot and 2 beanbags.  Each pair will place the polyspot about 10-15 feet away from them (the teacher can designate the distance from the pair using cones).  When the activity begins, both partners will toss their bean bag toward the polyspot using an underhand toss and try to get the bean bag on the spot or touching it.  If a bean bag is all the way on top of the spot, it is worth 3-points, if it is touching the edge of the spot, it is worth 1-point.  When both partners have taken one toss, the partners will quickly gather the bean bag add any new points to the total and return to the starting position.  The first team to 11/15/21 points wins the round.
** Remind students that the faster they go the better their chances of scoring more points. 


  1. Change the size of the polyspots to make the activity more or less challenging.
  2. Have students use different locomotor patterns when traveling to collect the bean bags
  3. Change the distances between spots and teams based on ability level
  4. Add fitness by having student complete a simple fitness activity every time they collect a bean bag (i.e. – elbow to knee squats, cross crawls, jump jacks, push-up shoulder taps, etc.)
  5. Change the way that they students can toss the beanbag (i.e. – non-dominant hand, through the legs, behind the back, etc.)
  6. Add a TASKCARD with different challenges for the team when they reach the amount of points designated by the teacher.
  7. Have the partners join another team and have a competitive match of Cardio Cornhole.
  8. The teacher can do an authentic assessment while students playing the game to assess the underhand throwing pattern or stepping with oppositional movement.

Don't miss out on these other fun Yard Games from Gopher!


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Building Character in PE

Posted 7 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Health and physical education are excellent vehicles for teaching and reinforcing character education.   I did not realize how closely linked the two were until we got a new principal about a decade ago.  Prior to the arrival of the new principal, character education was a staple at our school.  We used a program called Character Counts and each month the teachers would focus lessons on a character trait and reinforce it throughout the month.  Our physical education program was no exception.  We helped by providing relatable situations during class and reinforced the important concepts.  When the new principal arrived, Character Counts disappeared.  By the end of the first year without the program, it was noticeable that our students were struggling without the monthly reinforcement.  As the physical education teacher (who sees all the classes throughout the year), I noticed a big shift in student communication and it was having a negative impact on sportsmanship and teamwork.

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During the summer, my teaching partner and I decided we needed to do something about the character issue at our school.  Fortunately, it happened to be an Olympic year and we decided to create our own character education program (based on Character Counts) and we called it Olympic Character.  We used an Olympic flag and gave each ring a character trait (trustworthiness, kindness, responsibility, respect, and fairness) and all those traits were on a flag of citizenship (see graphic below).

It was a simple concept and it was tied to something we were already discussing with our students.  Because we did this through physical education classes, we ended up re-establishing a school-wide character education program that was built on the Olympic movement, which fit our content area nicely.

Character education meets many of the goals and objectives of the affective domain (a critical domain that SHOULD be addressed in every physical education lesson.  Many of these skills are linked to sportsmanship and teamwork concepts that are easily folded into any physical education activity.  The important thing to remember is that some of these learning opportunities do not avail themselves so easily for classroom teachers.  We have the perfect delivery system to reinforce character education traits on a daily basis.  In addition, these traits lend themselves naturally to those important 21st century learning skills (communication, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, etc.) that all of our students need to be productive and competent citizens. 

If you have not thought about character education in a while or know that it is an area of weakness, I challenge you to work to the concepts to your instruction.  Guidance counselors are typically an excellent source for ideas and materials that you may find useful.  The key to successful integration of character education is making sure that you teach each trait to the students to start but then make a consistent effort to discuss examples of great character during the closure of each physical education lesson.  It’s not hard to add and can make a world of difference when it comes to student interaction in your classes.

Check out these great CharacterEd® products that provide postive Character reinforcement in Physical Education!


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

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How to Create a Learning Environment in PE!

Posted 8 months ago - by Chad Triolet

What's on the walls in your gym?! Are they bare or maybe covered with sport stars and athletes?
Find out how to take your boring gym walls and turn them into a colorful learning environment that reinforces core content for your students! 

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When I started teaching 20 years ago, I was faced with the unique situation of having a brand new gym.  Although the school was over 40 years old, they were in the middle of a massive renovation when I was hired.  The back half of the school was under construction and part of the new edition of the school included a gym and a media center.  Needless to say, I was very excited about the many possibilities that a new gym brought my way.  For the first 4 months, I got to watch the construction and had to patiently wait my opportunity to get in the new “gymnatorium”.  The walls were bright white, the floors were unscuffed hardwood, and there was a nice sized office and equipment closet.   When I was finally able to get into the gym the students and I were so pumped to be in this wonderful space!  It didn’t take long for me to realize that something wasn’t right.  Once you got past the fact that the space was great, you realized that the walls were blank and boring.  I decided to come up with a plan and do something about it, immediately

I went to my principal at the end of that week and proposed some changes to the walls in the gym.  I asked her if I could paint the walls.  Her first questions was, “What exactly are you planning to paint, sports figures?”  I immediately told her that I wanted the gym to be a place to reinforce learning for the students and I wanted to paint a huge United States map and on the opposite wall a giant map of the state of Virginia.  I also wanted to paint a word wall near my office that I could use to reinforce vocabulary.  Based on her reaction to my plan, she was a little bit surprised that I wanted to include academic content; but, she was very supportive and we made arrangements to purchase some paint.  Later that month, during a teacher workday, I began my painting project.  (It is important to note that I have no artistic talent whatsoever.)  I found copies of the maps, printed them onto an overhead sheet and projected the maps on the wall and began tracing the lines.  I traced using permanent markers then went over the lines with paint.

The new artwork had an instant effect and finally added some color and pop to the gym.  I decided to continue coming up with content to add each year thereafter.  You can see the results of this labor of love throughout  Please note, after my second year, I had other PE teachers who helped with the painting (although I did spend most of the time on the 12 foot ladder when needed).

The purpose of this blog is to help PE teachers understand that all space in a school needs to maximize student learning potential.  The gym or utility room that most PE teachers use is a classroom.  Students come each day ready to move and learn.  If paint is not an option, then utilize posters.  Create bulletin boards that reinforce core academic content or health and physical education content.  Use whiteboards, chalkboards, or chart paper to share information that students need to know.  The more students see the material and use it as part of their activities, the better the chance of retention when it matters.  Nothing makes me sadder as a PE teacher than to walk into a “boring” gym.  I feel bad for the students who go into it and I feel bad for the teacher who has lost their pride in creating an exciting and engaging learning environment for those students.

Gym walls, gymnasium wall art



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

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How To: Maximizing Participation in Physical Education

Posted 9 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Maximizing participation in physical education sounds like a no-brainer to me!
But, what are some of the effective strategies that can make that objective a reality in your physical education? 

Based on best-practice research, students in physical education classes should be doing moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at least 50 percent of the time.  Simply put, if you have a 30-minute class, students should be in MVPA at least 15 minutes.  This sounds like an easy task but many unmodified physical education activities fall well-short of this goal.  Elimination games are at the top of that list.  Other common offenders are traditional relay activities and large group games (like sideline soccer).  The good news is that there are various ways to modify these activities to help increase MVPA for all students. 

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Elimination games, often tag games, are easily modified to ensure that all students are engaged.  First, provide students who are out with a way to get back into the activity.  Typically, we chose a physical fitness activity that students can complete to “earn” their way back into the game.  Smart teachers will target areas of weakness that have been previously identified in physical fitness testing (i.e. – if students have consistently scored poorly on abdominal strength and endurance fitness tests, I always chose a “curl-up” challenge for the students to earn their way back into the game).  Another forward thinking concept is to tier/differentiate the activities that the students perform to “earn” their way back into the activity (i.e. – we used to have three levels for our students (green-easy, yellow-medium, and red-hard) the activities that students could choose were similar in nature but either required more repetitions or slightly more difficult technique).

Relays can be adapted to reduce wait time to maximize student participation levels.  One strategy is to limit the number of students in each relay line.  The more students in a line the longer the wait time (i.e. – if there are 4 students in a line, the participation rate is only 25% which is well below the minimum standard).  By have only two students on a team, you get that number to a more reasonable 50%.  Another interesting concept is having more than one student from a relay team “go” at the same time.  For this concept, we used colored flags to designate the students that could move.  If working with larger groups (5 or more), we always used flags for half of the group or more (i.e. – for a group of 5, we would provide 3 similarly colored flags for each team).  This concept takes a little bit of practice if it has never been introduced but it really works well and can be adapted for collecting activities too.  The last strategy is very simple but really ramps up activity levels.  If students are waiting for a turn, they must be doing a designated physical activity (i.e. – jumping jacks, cross-crawls, crab kicks, etc.). 

Large group games with limited amounts of equipment are another participation buster.  One ball and twenty-five students is not a recipe for student engagement or success.  The students with the skills needed for the game (approximately 15%) will dominate the activity, while the rest of the students never get a meaningful touch of the ball.  It makes more sense to offer small-sided activities where the student-to-equipment ratio is much more conducive to “real” participation and skill building.  If offering a large group activity, set game play up in stations to reduce the number of players on the court.  Instead of two huge teams, break up the groups into 4-6 teams and have the teams rotate in and out of the game.  While teams are not playing, they can be working in skill building or fitness stations that will keep them engaged while waiting for their game time.

The important thing is to think in terms of MVPA.  You can always use an MVPA pedometer, such as the FITstep™ Pro Pedometers by Gopher, with your students to get a better picture of the level of activity that they are getting each day and then make adjustments to activities based on that feedback.  Another option is selecting one student in a class and timing the amount of time on a stopwatch that they are engaged in physical activity.  It is an eye opening assessment, I can assure you!!  As physical education teachers we have to make sure that we keep the physical in physical education and provide appropriate games and activities that are designed to maximize not minimize student participation.


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

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Success-Driven PE: The New-School Approach

Posted 9 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Success-Driven Physical Education is one of my favorite topics to speak on when I have the chance to be in front a group of health and physical education teachers. To be honest, because of the traditional approach to teaching physical education, I think it is a critical concept that needs to be discussed as part of any staff development or teacher preparation program.  I believe it is a great concept to frame one of the biggest challenges we face as health and physical education teachers; old school vs. new school teaching.  I find it interesting that according to statistics, less than 15% of the students at any school are considered to be highly-skilled movers.  Yet, the old school programs cater to that small percentage of students based on the teaching methodology being used and the types of games and activities being selected for students.  There is no argument that health & physical education teachers teach 100% of the students that arrive in their classrooms and gyms.  So, why do we still see archaic programs that punish and demean the weak and honor the highly skilled?

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Fortunately, the new physical education does not subscribe to the elimination happy, exclusionary, winners vs. losers mentality.  Success-driven physical education is all about designing and implementing a student-centered program where ALL students have a chance to develop skills and concepts that will help them be lifelong movers who make healthy choices.  The nice thing is that we now realize that physical development is just like academic development (students learn in different ways and at different paces) and teachers are designing lessons that encourage participation by providing successful outcomes and proving appropriate challenges for everyone.  In the education world, we call this “differentiation”.  Quality health and physical educators have been differentiating lessons for years, but we seldom talk about the many ways we perform the task and hardly ever say the actual word “differentiation”. 

Let’s take some practical examples and see how quality HPE teachers can promote a success-driven PE model.  My favorite topic during staff development presentations is push-ups.  Why do we have all of our students do an activity that many cannot complete correctly?  Sure, there are a portion of students who can do great push-ups, the athletes, but can everyone?  The students who cannot do a correct push-up are cheating in any way possible to complete the task without being ostracized by their peers.  What about a more developmental approach that focuses on building the strength and the skill needed to complete a proper push-up.  Kevin Neeld states that the three most notable limitations that he sees on a regular basis are; 1) lack of anti-extension core strength, 2) lack of scapulothoracic control, and/or 3) lack of pressing strength.  I find that information to be particularly interesting.

Let’s put this into different terms…would a teacher have every student bench press 100 pounds?  The answer is an easy no, right?  Then why do we torture students with this technical strength movement without building the strength and skill to complete it correctly?  The purpose of the push-up is to build upper body strength (and core strength too) or demonstrate it.  Could we do other exercises that all students can complete that still fulfill the same objective, like; planking exercises that focus on form, a plank shoulder tap that develops muscle stabilization, core strength, and balance, a crab kick (alternating leg kicks that go above waist level), or a negative push-up that focuses on good form?  What if you gave the students a choice, plank shoulder taps or quality push-ups? The athletes might like the challenge (can everybody say “differentiation”).  What about just getting the students down on their hands and feet and walk around like a bear for 30-seconds?  There are lots of options that will accomplish the same goal as a push-up and provide students a chance to be successful.  Now, I do realize that some teachers may be required to use a 90-degree push-up as a fitness assessment.  I am not saying that we should shy away from push-ups all the time.  My point is there are other more student-centered options to build upper body strength than the traditional push-up.

To keep the momentum going, let’s talk about sport skills.  As a physical education teacher, the goal is to teach students the skills and concepts that they need to be lifelong movers.  I want children to love to move and sweat and have fun.  My program was not about creating the next Peyton Manning, but creating a culture that encouraged and promoted being active.  The problem is perspective, and when you go into some gyms around the country, you will see teachers playing inappropriate sports activities with students who have no skill and knowledge about the game.  One ball and twenty-four students is certainly not a recipe for successful skill-building.  The less skilled players never touch the ball, which means they are not gaining any skill.  It would be like going into a math classroom and having only one piece of paper and a pencil for the whole class.  You only get to practice the math skill when you get a turn with the paper…yikes!  In my humble opinion, large group sports games are seldom appropriate for physical education.  Small-sided games and activities make much more sense from a developmental and success-driven point of view.  Students need chances to practice the basic skills in a variety of ways to develop the skills to play the game.  They also need time to develop the basic strategies and tactics necessary to be successful.  Too often, students are thrown into a large group games like sideline soccer and do not have the skills to participate effectively.  This is physical education malpractice, as far as I am concerned.  Not only is safety an issue but there is NO learning taking place. 

Times have changed and so must our physical education programs.  We must work in creative ways to encourage students to be active and enjoy moving.  Now more than ever, we need to build programs that are student-centered and success-driven to engage all of our students and promote being active and fit for a lifetime. 


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

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Let's Dance!

Posted 10 months ago - by Chad Triolet

Looking for some ideas to spruce up your Dance Unit?
Let's dance!

Dance Ideas, Dance Activities, Dance Lesson Plans, Dance Unit


When I was in college, I took many classes to prepare me to be a physical education teacher.  As part of the coursework, I took one dance class (ballroom/folk dance).  Even though I had a lot of fun in the class, I did not learn much about “how” to teach dance.   When I first started teaching, dance was certainly not one of my strengths.  It is important to note that I loved to dance (always have) but I had no idea how to help my students develop an enjoyment for moving to music.   I knew that dance needed to be part of the curriculum because, in Virginia, there is a rhythms/dance standard for every grade level.  So, what did I do?  I taught a one day dance unit that focused on copying rhythms and patterns using lummi sticks.  I did this for several years always knowing that I needed to focus on dance more.

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Things changed for me one summer when I was able to attend the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute.  I decided to focus on my glaring weakness as a physical education teacher and attend a few dance sessions.  During the sessions, the presenters were demonstrating real-world approaches and lessons that I could incorporate into my teaching.  After taking part in the conference and getting some fabulous new ideas, I decided that I was going to revamp my dance unit (which obviously needed lots of work!).  I continued using the lummi stick lesson and refining the vocabulary terms that I would teach the students.  Then I added several new components, changing levels and speeds based on different types of music, creating simple four-component dances, teaching basic square dance patterns, utilizing technology (Dance-Dance-Revolution).  Things were really starting to come together and my dance began to span over a 3-week period (6 lessons).  As I continued to gain confidence, I realized that I was really enjoying the unit and I wanted to continue to add to what I was sharing with my students.  We started adding basic line dances to the mix (Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, etc).  We received a grant for GeoMotion Equipment.  Things were really starting to “hop” at my school.  Then things got even better…

In 2010 while at the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute, I attended a session title, “Rock This Party – Everyone Dance”.  The session was led by two gentlemen, JD Hughes and Chip Candy, and it was awesome!  It was over an hour long and full of amazing creative dances to a wide range of music.  I was hooked!  When I got back to school at the end of the summer, I met with my teaching partner and discussed different ways we could add more dance to our program.  She was on-board and we began teaching one dance a month to our students.  To start, we used some of the dances that I learned from the conference.  Later, we began picking popular music and creating our own dances.  In addition to teaching the dances, we also videotaped ourselves teaching the dance and then performing them.  We shared the videos with our classroom teachers and they began using them as Brain Breaks for their students.  The most amazing part of expanding our dance instruction was the change of the culture at the school.  The change did not occur over night but one year after sharing our monthly dances, it was clear that out students were more comfortable with their movements and really started to exhibit more confidence.  Our students started asking; “What’s the next dance?” “Can we dance to that song by ____?” and “Can we do another dance for warm-up today?”  It was AWESOME! 

If dance is an area that is a challenge for you, don’t give up and let it continue to be a “hole” in your program.  There are many great resources out there (including dance sessions at almost every PE conference in the country).  You don’t have to know everything, just demonstrate a passion for something new and sell it to your students.  I guarantee your students and your program will benefit from the new addition.

All of the dances we taught are posted on YouTube.  

Check out these great Dance Resources from Gopher!


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

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Self-Evaluation in PE: The Key to Effective Instruction

Posted 1 year ago - by Chad Triolet

One of the most valuable tips that I received during my teacher preparation years in college concerned self-evaluation.  My professor shared that he had been using a system of self-evaluation which helped him grow professionally each year and focus on improving instruction.  Each year, he kept a “journal” based on instructional practices and at the end of each semester, he reflected on what and how he taught during the term.  Each time he did this, he noted one area of excellence which he would continue to maintain and one area of weakness which he would focus on improving. 

At the time, I did not process the ultimate value to this best-practice concept.  When I started teaching, I did little to no self-evaluation because I thought I was doing a “good job”.  After several years of teaching, I began reflecting on my instructional practice by keeping a journal.  I made a point to collect what I called the “needs improvement list” each semester.  I tried to keep the list short so that I felt I could make changes to improve in my areas of weakness.  The process was truly an eye opening experience that helped guide my future professional development choices.  About a decade ago, I began making a concerted effort to concentrate on my areas of weakness by searching out professional development activities to bolster those areas.  I truly believe that this had the largest impact on my ability to provide a quality program for my students that never got stagnant and continued to raise the bar.

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As an educator, we focus a lot of our time on student achievement and tracking progress.  Rarely do we, the teachers, take the time need to evaluate our instructional practices and their impact on student progress/achievement.  Currently, most states have increased teacher accountability by increasing the standards for teacher evaluation.  Unfortunately, the process is not improving instructional practice but rather creating stress and animosity.  According to Pat Puleo (1993) in the California ASCD Newsletter, “studies show that evaluation is ineffective after five years” (Robbins & Alvy, 2003, p.104). It is my contention that if teachers spent more time performing effective self-evaluation/reflection, we would notice an increase in teacher effectiveness.

The 100 million dollar question is; what strategies should teachers use to focus on self-improvement?  The process can be more or less formal based on your needs.  In my experience, just keeping a personal journal has been extremely beneficial.  Of course, there are more formal options that have checklists and focus on targeted goals (for a sample of more formal checklist and rubrics, click on the links below).  Clearly, there are lots of options that can fit each educator’s needs.  The key is to make self-evaluation part of your professional growth process.

Check out these links for excellent self-evaluation resources -

Robbins, Pamela M. & Alvy, Harvey B. (2003). The Principal’s Companion: Strategies and Hints to Make the Job Easier, California: Corwin.


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Crossing the Curriculum in Physical Education

Posted 1 year ago - by Chad Triolet

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.

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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.


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