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To Play or Not to Play? That is the Question...

Posted 6 days ago - by Peter Boucher

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.  

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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…


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

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

The Under Construction Mindset: Home is Where the Heart Is

Posted 1 week ago - by Jessica Shawley

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


3. Be In Tune With Technology

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


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


4. Be Family Friendly

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


5. Be A Risk Taker – Try New Things

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


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


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


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

Check out more Blogs by Jessica!

Why Should You Use Plickers in PE?

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Michael Beringer

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if all of our students had their own electronic device? 

If these devices aren’t available in your school then Plickers is definitely for you!

What are Plickers?

Plickers stands for “paper clickers.” They are 40 pre-made cards that let teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices.

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Students are given or assigned a card to hold up to answer questions given by the teacher to check for understanding.

All the teacher has to do is scan the room with any IOS or Android device. Results are given instantly as to which students understand and which do not.  

The results can be shown for each individual student or you can have it show the overall percentage for the class.  

Get the pre-made Plickers cards for free! Or you can purchase a laminated set on Amazon for $20!

The Benefits of Plickers:

  • Easy to use
  • IOS- and Android-friendly (phone or tablet)
  • Totally free 
  • Infuses technology into your program
  • Quick and paper-less
  • Grades instantly – No grading at home
  • Allows you to plan questions ahead of time or on the fly
  • Great tool for pre-assessments, checks for understanding, polls, class surveys, and exit tickets
  • Free! (Print your free set)



Check out the following tutorials for setting up and using Plickers!

  1. YouTube Plickers Tutorial by TeachPhysEd (Benjamin Pirillo)
  2. Plickers Blog Post by TeachPhysEd (Benjamin Pirillo)
  3. Plickers Blog Post by Phys. Ed. Review (Kevin Tiller)
  4. Plicker Questions Blog Post by Phys. Ed. Review (Kevin Tiller)

Check out my website, PE-4-Kids --- Movement Matters

See you on Twitter at @PEberingmx!


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

Check out more Blogs by Michael!

Teaching Yoga in Middle School

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Jonette (Jo) Dixon

The thought of teaching yoga to my “middles” (middle school students) was a bit frightening.  However, I knew the benefits would far outweigh the challenge, so I went for it. 

I had previously only taught yoga on a “Viking Day” (workout day), and the thought of teaching it as an entire unit was almost overwhelming.  But, putting some authenticity and genuine thought into how my middles would buy-in made this a favorite unit for them and myself. 

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Our students, at any age, need to be taught how to coordinate their body and mind, and maybe most of all, be taught how to relax.  We have technology at our fingertips every day that allows us to always be “on”.  It’s time we teach the benefits of being connected with your body.

I built the unit around the “Yoga Studio App”. 

This app really helped me to pull it off.  It was always so hard to teach yoga, manage students, and correct form.  With this app, I could pick their level of ability, hit “play” on my iPad and really engage and help students with form and technique, and manage my students when needed. 

There are so many great teaching points and learning targets that can come with this unit.

Within the app, there are beginning, intermediate and advanced workouts for strength and flexibility.  You choose what fits your students. 


Below are the "nuts and bolts" of the unit, be sure to check out the full-version!

First, some history and interesting facts!



Then, the major benefits and our specific learning targets...

Check out my teaching and grading criterion!

Lesson Plans:

Day 1:

  1. Sun Salutation Warm-Up with the "Yoga Studio" App (12 min.)
  2. Tabata Yoga (20 min.)
  3. Beginner Combination (30 min.)
  4. Relaxation (5 min.)
  5. The importance of water

Day 2: 

  1. Sun Salutation Warm-Up with the "Yoga Studio" App (12 min.)
  2. "Goal" Pose
  3. Tabata Yoga (20 min.) Skills Assessment/Partner Practice
  4. Water Challenge (water bottle and 64 oz.)
  5. Intermediate Workout (30 min.)
  6. Relaxation (5 min.)
  7. The importance of doing something good for yourself

Day 3:

  1. Sun Salutation Warm-Up with the "Yoga Studio" App (12 min.)
  2. The importance of nutrition (re-visit do smoething good for you/water challenge)
  3. "Goal" Pose
  4. Advanced Strength (15 min.) (6th grade = advanced strength only)
  5. Advanced Flexibility (30 min.) 
  6. Relaxation (5 min.)

Day 4:

  1. Sun Salutaiton Warm-Up with the "Yoga Studio" App (12 min.)
  2. Advanced Combination (40 min.) (6th grade = 15 min.)
  3. Teaching Practice wtih Partner and Sequences (7th and 8th grade only)
  4. Relaxation (10 min.)

Day 5: 

  1. Sun Salutation Warm-Up with the "Yoga Studio" App (4 min.)
  2. Teaching
  3. Advanced Strength Workout (15 or 30 min.)
  4. Do we have any "goal poses" to share?
  5. Group yoga pose for a picture
  6. Relaxation (5 min.)
  7. My gift to you... handouts and packets
  8. "Namaste"


Goal Pose:

Group Pose:

As Yoga for Classrooms mentions, Yoga helps to:

  • Develop a strong and flexible body
  • Increase balance, body awareness, and coordination
  • Improve posture
  • Help reduce injuries
  • Relieve anxiety and stress
  • Teach students how to relax
  • Improve concentration
  • Help students get creative
  • Help develop discipline and self-control

Teaching lifelong health and fitness is our job.  Exposing students to something new can be a great way to get out of your own safety box.  


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

Check out more Blogs by Jo!



Make Every Minute Count... Including the First One!

Posted 1 month ago - by Aaron Beighle

Do you make every minute with your students count?

Even the first one?

Continue reading for three simple and quick ways to get your students instantly active! 

It’s a cool fall day (we can all dream, can’t we?) and Ms. Pitsburg’s 3rd grade class enters the gymnasium and reports to their individual jet logo painted on the floor.

They immediately sit on their spot, criss-cross. As Ms. Pitsburg has a brief conversation with the classroom teacher, the students peer around the room trying to determine the activities for the day by the equipment around the room. As the students begin to get fidgety, Ms. Pitsburg turns her focus to the class with “Wow! You all are sitting so quietly. Well done!”

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Okay, okay, anyone cringing at this scenario yet? In full disclosure, for the first 2-3 months of my teaching career, this is how I taught. Students entered the gym and immediately sat in the squad lines (and I won’t even start on how long it took to get them to remember their spots).

Around Christmas of my first year of teaching, I discovered the wonders of Introductory Activities (some refer to them as Instant Activities or Warm ups), and oh, how they changed my life.

As a field we are beginning to see ourselves as physical activity promoters, and engaging students in physical activity at least 50% of each lesson is accepted as a goal in physical education.

In my experience as a teacher and teacher educator, I have found that the first few minutes of any lesson set the tone for the rest of the class. In fact, I would argue that first minute is the most important. For this reason, I think introductory activities are pivotal for every lesson. An Introductory Activity (Intro) is the very first physical activity students engage in immediately upon entering the gymnasium.

Often, teachers do other administrative tasks while students wait for instruction on lines or in squad spots, and then they get to the activity. For example, I have worked with teachers who meet the class at the door, allow the class to enter to sit on spots, explain the day’s lesson, ask for questions, in some cases, take attendance, and then they move to the Intro. This is not truly an Intro.

The process I described can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes. In a 30 minute lesson, 5 minutes is 17% of the lesson. Thus, teachers striving to get students moving for at least 50% have an uphill battle for the next 25 minutes of a lesson. If you do have to take attendance, there are lots of strategies for doing this while students are active. While beyond the scope of this blog, if you need some attendance strategies please contact me.

Intros take place within 30 seconds of the teacher receiving the class from their classroom teacher.

Greeting a class might look something like this, “Good morning 3rd grade. I love those smiles. I have lots of fun Frisbee activities for us today and some great tunes. Let’s hit the floor jogging today. Go!” Students then jog in general space within the teaching area. After all the students have entered the space, the class is frozen on command such as “FREEZE” or a whistle, and the active lesson continues.

Beyond providing immediate physical activity, introductory activities allow the teachers to set the tone for classroom management. For instance, moving and freezing students three times assists in establishing effective management that will enhance lesson efficiency. The Intro also gets the students ready for an active lesson.

For me, Intros typically involve limited instruction. Complex rules or instructions yield decreased activity. Also, most of the Intros I use are designed for 2-4 minutes. Beyond that, students will lose interest. Besides, I have other activities for the lesson. I am just using the Intro to engage in activity, get them ready for physical activity, and establish management. To do this, below are some simple, but effective Intro samples.

Move and Freeze:

Students move using a teacher-instructed locomotor movement. On signal, students freeze in the pre-determined “freeze” position. I usually use hands on knees with elementary and hands on waist for middle or high. While simple, this activity works great at the beginning of the school year when establishing management protocol is the focus.

Walking Trail:

Students are instructed to enter the gym and walk on the perimeter. I use this sparingly because it reminds me of the ole “take a lap”. However, it can be fun for students and is an active way to start the lesson. Some teachers use the walking trail while students enter and then quickly move to another introductory activity after the first “freeze”.

High Fives:

This is my all-time favorite because it allows for integration and students love it. Students move in general space. When the teacher says, “High Fives” students give as many high fives as possible until the instructor calls out another locomotor movement. This process continues for 2-3 rounds. Modifications include counting by fives, “High Two”, behind the back fives, and my favorite, low fives and they only count if your feet are off the ground and your hand is below your knee. This one is great fun to watch!    

These are just a few. I encourage you to dig around and look for more. Intros or Instant Activities or Warm Ups can be found in lots of resources. The key is to truly use them instantly in a lesson. This will help maximize activity, prepare students for the lesson, and establish management procedures. Plus, students will “get their wiggles out” and be more willing to listen to your brief instructions following the Intro.

Give it a shot and make every minute count, including the first one.


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

Check out more Blogs by Aaron!

5 PE Teacher Must-Haves: The High School Edition

Posted 1 month ago - by Jason Gemberling

I am sure everyone can check off the usual list of PE equipment that is resting in our storage closets at this very moment.  You know, whistles, cones of all shapes and sizes, every type of ball known to man, and the list goes on and on. 

The following is a list of equipment that all PE teachers should try to get into those closets, even if it means begging your school’s business manager!  Or if you are fortunate enough, you will secure a grant, to really load your arsenal! 

5 Must-Haves for High School PE Teachers: 

1. Tracking Devices 

There are two different types that I would recommend, and both have their advantages and disadvantages and price is one of the biggest.  

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The first is Pedometers. My closet contains a very large quantity of pedometers and my students are wearing one for a majority of the school year. 

  • I recommend a pedometer that not only counts steps, but also tracks moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).  I also recommend pedometers that are downloadable, I can say this because mine are not, but I have downloadable ones on the way! 

Check out the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers that track steps, activity time, MVPA, and upload in less than 2 seconds per student!

Next, are Heart Rate Monitors. These are another great tool and can provide a tremendous amount of data and feedback for students and teachers.  I do not have heart rate monitors at this time for a couple of reasons, but know several teachers who do amazing things with them.


2. FITNESSGRAM® Testing Materials 

I will also recommend the FitnessGram Fitness Testing materials, and by materials, all you really need is the Testing Manual and CD. 

  • This battery of tests is a great way to collect data on your students and then use it to determine what direction you need to take your physical education program. 

  • We have been using the FITNESSGRAM® Fitness tests for five years and the data we have collected has allowed us to modify our program to meet the needs of our students.  We do a pre-test at the beginning of every school year, a mid-year check, and then a final test at the end of the school year. 

This is a great tool to have and can really help you and your staff determine if you are meeting the objectives of your program.


3. Tchoukball 

This is a game that I saw at a conference and was very skeptical about, but decided to try anyway.  

If I could, I would put Tchoukball in every PE teacher’s closet because it is a great cardio game that is non-contact and non-stop. 

My students were a little unsure of Tchoukball in the first 5 minutes and now beg to play all of the time.  This game incorporates a tremendous amount of teamwork and a lot of running and movement.  There are other cardio games out there that you could get in your closet too, but in my opinion this is a must have and won’t disappoint! 


4. Fitness or Resistance Bands 


Fitness bands are another piece of equipment that I think everyone should have in their closet. 

Bands are an extremely versatile piece of equipment that you can do a wide variety of exercises with.  There are tons of advantages to bands, but my favorite two are that they work the muscle through the full range of motion on both the contraction and relaxation of the muscle, and that they are small and easy to store and transport. 


You can also create a full body workout or circuit using just one band, so if you have a large class, they can all being doing a strength workout at the same time! 

 I will also recommend that you get a strength band that has a covering, like the UltraFit™ ProTex™ Tubing. These resistance tubes are great because they are covered in a ballistic-strength nylon sheathing that protects the tubing from small nicks and cuts that will eventually cause the band to snap!

Check out other great Resistance Band and Tube options!


5. Projector 

The last piece of equipment you should get in your closet would be a projector.  While I know this is not a true piece of PE equipment, it is a great thing to have for a lot of reasons. 

We all lose our gyms for some reason during the year, whether it is the school prom or a school assembly, so having a projector allows you to use another space and get the entire classing moving by using fitness videos. 

If you had a chance to read Maria Corte’s blog post, Incorporating Fitness Trends into Physical Education, she talks about introducing your students to a variety of fitness products that are out there for use at home.  By having the projector and a couple of these videos you can get the entire class moving and also show your students different fitness videos that they can purchase and do at home. 


These are the five must-haves in my closet and I know that many of you have must-haves of your own!

Make sure to share some of your favorties below because I am always looking to add equipment to my closet and I am sure others are too!


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

Check out more Blogs by Jason!

FITNESSGRAM® Testing: Data vs. Results

Posted 1 month 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


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

Check out more Blogs by Chad!

10 Things to Know Before You Start Teaching!

Posted 1 month ago - by Donn Tobin

As professional teachers, we all go through the adversity of student teaching.  This true introduction to teaching, whether positive, negative, or both, gives the candidate hope to gain enough experience to enable to hold their own when first landing a job. 

Here are 10 tips all physical education teachers should know before they begin teaching!

10 Things to Know Before You Start Teaching!

  1. Be on time. Always arrive to work on time or ahead of schedule.
  2. Plan for everything.  Sometimes things don't work out the way you had hoped.  So, whether it is a lesson, equipment, or facilities, have contingency plans.
  3. Be flexible.
  4. You're the expert. Realize that if you mess up in a lesson (as long as it is nothing major), the kids will not know the difference. 
  5. Time management. It's one of the hardest things to conquer. Initially you might take too long with a portion of your lesson, or perhaps stop a lesson too early.  I am one of those people who need to be at the airport 5 hours early, but I have become an expert at managing time. 
  6. Discipline. Create a discipline plan and stick to it. 
  7. Be friendly. Be-friend the custodial and secretarial staff members, you will need them. Smile and be coridal to co-workers... even if you don't mean it.
  8. Continue Learning. Read subject material and go to conferences.
  9. Recover your emotions.  The class that you are about to teach has no idea what happened the period before (no matter how nightmarish it was).
  10. Relax…this really does get easier the more you do it!


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Thinking back to my student teaching experience, I remember how difficult it was for me.  Back then, student teaching was compressed in only one-quarter of the college year, rather than the typical semester it now is.  I commuted from campus in my parents’ run down Chevy Blazer, driving 98 highway miles round trip to my assignment each day.  I taught high school in the morning, drove to my assigned elementary school each afternoon, followed immediately by mandatory coaching with the Varsity Field Hockey team.  Needless to say I was very busy.

Coming into the beginning of that school year, I felt very confident I would learn a ton of basic start-to-the-year procedures that I could make my own.  One of my assigned cooperating teachers was due to retire at the end of that year.  After meeting with him before the school year began, he informed me that I was his 30th student teacher.  Here this experienced teacher would definitely pass on his expertise and wisdom to me.  My expectations were one of pride; to be his last disciple in a long line of illustrious predecessors.  I was excited and nervous at this wonderful prospect.

My introduction was a shell shocking one to say the least.  In only the third day of school he told me I would teach the entire first couple of classes, with him “watching” me from his office.  The feeling of nausea was overwhelming.   I nervously asked him, “You are going to leave?  What if I need help from you?”  He responded, “I wouldn’t do this if I felt you were not ready.  I trust you.  You will be fine.”  How could he say that?!  He hardly knew me at that point.  With that he handed me his roster and left the gym completely.  I did not see him again until his (my) third period prep.  And believe me, I checked.  I frequently looked in the direction of where the PE office was, and still…nothing.  I realized that my on-the-job training became quite apparent, and I needed to do it very quickly. 

My first student teacher was “assigned” to me in my fourth year of teaching, and although at the time I most likely shouldn’t have had one, I did.   I knew that the methods used with me were not the most effective when teaching a future colleague.  I decided right then and there that I was going to be very involved in the process.  During successive years with other student teachers, I learned what works and what doesn’t, just like teaching your students.

I always am a bit guarded when I take a student teacher.  You are lending your classes to an inexperienced teacher who may or may not turn out the way you plan.   I only hope they turn out as good as, or better than me.  If the experience is not as good as you hope it may take a while for bad habits to get out of your classes when they leave. 

Enter “Robby”, my 7th student teacher.  I had heard he was a Major of the Year recipient from my alma mater, and couldn’t help but have high expectations from him.   Going in, I dreamt that he would dazzle me with the latest and greatest techniques the college had to offer.  This surely would not be a typical inexperienced teacher, and thought I might have a prodigy on my hands.  However, Robby struggled.  A lot.  I expected him to make mistakes, and to take advice and techniques from me to model from, however he wasn’t able to.  He knew his educational theory extremely well.  He was knowledgeable about a lot of subject-specific matter, but when it came to teaching actual kids, he had a hard time.  He came across as awkward to the children.  When he saw me do an activity or technique, he tried to copy it verbatim.  For whatever reason these techniques would morph into something different, and most of the time, become ineffective.  Things did not flow well naturally, which is to be expected.  However the learning curve was much steeper in his case.

One day near the end of his teaching experience, we both sat down in my office to discuss things over lunch.  Robby slumped down into the chair looking exasperated.  “Holy cow,” he blurted out.  “I am so exhausted after those four classes.  How do you do it?”

I looked him over.  He actually looked as if he was going to collapse.  “Things get easier with time,” I replied.  “You get used to it.”

He didn’t look reassured.  “I have been at this for a while now, WHY are things not getting easier?”  I noticed the tone in his voice had become higher as he spoke.  “The kids listen to you.  They try hard.  You speak with humor and they totally get it.  This seems so easy for you…”

I noticed how frustrated he seemed to be.  This comment is so common when working with young and/or inexperienced teachers.  They expect things to work well right away when in reality, they don’t always happen like that.

I can recall a very similar conversation that I had with one of my mentors which went down almost the same way.  In my first year of teaching I asked the same thing to my co-worker, a woman who was an institution in the school that I now teach in.  I was there part-time and was frustrated that things were not going as smoothly as I had hoped.  She had been teaching for 37 years, on the verge of retirement, and her enthusiasm for the job still glowed as brightly as I imagined it did in her youth. 

Her reply to me has been one I have not forgotten.  It was simple and insightful.  “Because I have been at this much longer than you.  I am much older than you.  The kids know me.  Like it or not, kids understand this.  This does not mean that you are not a good teacher.  It’s just that experience plays that much of a difference.”

She was absolutely correct in that experience makes a world of difference.  That is how we grow and improve.  By definition, experience means insight into observation of facts or events.  We learn from others as well as ourselves.  We make mistakes and hopefully learn to not repeat them.

Thinking about Robby helps me remember what I have gone through in my work.  


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Quality PE Matters: An Analysis of the UNESCO Quality PE Policy

Posted 2 months ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

At the beginning of the academic year, I express to my pre-service HPE teachers…

I don’t think that teachers of other subject disciplines such as math, science, music have to not only learn about “how to teachbut to also think about becoming an advocate for “what they teach. I believe this holds true for Health and Physical Education teachers everywhere.

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Over the past ten years, teaching pre-service HPE teachers at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), at the University of Toronto, I have shared the Active Healthy Kids Canada Physical Activity Report Card that examines how families, peers, schools, communities and built environments are contributing or not contributing to the overall physical activity in children and youth.

The report card has been used as a tool for public awareness, advocacy strategies, research and practice and policy change to get kids more active. Despite its efforts over the years, the message still remains that we are failing to meet the target of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day for proper growth and development for children and youth in Canada. In fact, only 9% of children between the ages of 5-17 years old get the 60 minutes of “heart-pumping” physical activity they need daily as reported in the 2015 report card.

 The faces of the report cards over the past decade have shared powerful images that capture the very essence of key issues that have contributed to this state of inactivity or can mobilize systemic change that physical activity and quality physical education matter:



 Ensuring quality PE in the elementary years to providean active start (2010  AHKC Report Card)






Making the connection between physical activity and academic learning that exercise increases student attentiveness and readiness to learn (2009 AHKC Report Card)





Bringing back more opportunities for students to engage in unstructered, creative play (2012 AHKC Report Card) 






Unplugging our kids to have less screen time (2008 AHKC Report Card)







Creating more opportunities for active transportation to combat sedentary behavioiurs (2013 AHKC Report Card)



It is no secret that sedentary lifestyles are linked to health concerns of non-communicable diseases, that “sitting has become the new smoking”, and that…


This image is found on Thompson Educational Publishing’s website, another powerful image that captures the very essence of the possible effects on our kids growing up digital in replace of play.




So, now what?

First, we need to invest in more quality Physical Education for change to happen. Once, a wise professor of mine told me, “Three things need to be in place for systemic change”…

  1. Soung Pedagogy: We do have current ways of thinking about how to teach HPE with curriculum models such as TGFU (Teaching Games for Understanding), TPSR (Hellison’s model on Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility through HPE) that contribute to an inclusive, student-centred learning space for HPE to come alive. I have recent blogs on these pedagogies you can access.
  2. Effective Resources: In Ontario we have the long awaited 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum that reflects the needs of students in the 21st century. We have also have companies like Thompson Educational Publishing and Gopher that support the delivery of quality PE with evidence based resources.

  3. Supportive Beliefs and Values: This is the biggest barrier to ensuring quality PE is implemented with the same importance and percentage of curriculum time as other subject.

So, I continue to share my voice as an advocate for quality PE with my pre-service teachers, in the hope that, they will find their voice to be a champion for quality PE in their schools and communities.


Next, we need to use advocacy tools, such as the recent UNESCO Quality PE Guidelines, released on January 29, 2015, which emphasize why we need to invest in quality PE.

Also, Dr. Dean Dudley, from Macquire University- Australia, led a webinar on the Thompson Educational Publishing Huddle using the UNESCO policy as a springboard for policy makers and PE teachers to invest in quality PE for all. Dr. Dudley, defines quality PE to be “a planned, progressive, inclusive learning experience that forms part of the curriculum across all the levels, primary to secondary for students throughout their school careers … a one size fits all is failing our students”.

Heath benefits of investing in quality PE such as:

  • More physically active and literate children and youth
  • Reduces risks of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer
  • Less likely to smoke, become pregnant or engage in risky sexual behaviours and use drugs

Inclusivity….one of the major themes for quality PE resonates with me. Dudley suggests that PE can be a platform to overcome stereotypes and stigma towards mental health, disabled, minority groups, and gender as an example. Empower girls to be more active. Typical roles around gender should be challenged. Move away from splitting games into boys and girls as a default and ensure that male and female achievement in PE is treated as equal. Engage marginalized groups as PE can break down language and ethnic barriers and encourage intercultural dialogue and understanding. Include non-traditional North American games in your program such as Tchoukball, Cricket, Danish Longball and other games of the world. 

The UNESO Policy also emphasizes that investing in quality PE can increase physical literacy, civic engagement, and academic achievement. Recently, there has been a lot of attention on physical activity and academic achievement and Dr. Dudley’s expresses that we need to change the conversation to what else can quality PE do?

Quality PE as highlighted by Dr. Dudley:

  • Has a great capacity to improve social skills and reduce student anxiety at school in their social groups
  • Increases motivation to attend school and motivation to learn – kids are more likely to stay in school if they feel a sense of belonging and connectedness
  • Uses more of a play-based learning framework than any other subject which helps students be creative, problem solve and build behaviour and social dynamics that empower them to learn more effectively

So, how we can make Quality PE happen?

  • Promote high levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity during PE time
  • Use student-centred, differentiated active learning strategies to improve students’ perceived physical competence – “help kids feel they have the capacity to have a “go” and be successful” states Dudley.
  • Develop a broad range of movement skills, knowledge of concepts and game strategies to increase competence and physical literacy
  • Promote and assess social and personal skills e.g., responsibility through inclusive PE

UNESCO recommends 120 minutes of PE curriculum per week with an increase up to 180 minutes of PE curriculum per week in secondary schools. PE time is independent of health education time.

Last thought from the UNESO Policy to ponder… A gap remains between policy and practice despite all the benefits. Research shows that 97% of countries globally have compulsory PE. Yet, in 54% of countries, PE has a perceived lower status than other subjects. Only 53% of elementary schools have qualified trained PE teachers.

What are you doing or what advocacy tools do you use in your school communities to change peoples' believes and values that quality PE matters?

Check out the recent 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity on Children and Youth (formerly the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) that is, for the first time, taking a stand on play in nature and outdoors with its risks for healthy child development.  


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

Check out more Blogs by Carolyn!

What Can Track and Field Do for Your Student-Athletes?

Posted 2 months ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton

Did you know that the world’s second most popular sport, from a participatory perspective, is Track and Field?
It trails only to the sport of soccer.

In fact, the Olympic mantra, ‘Higher, Farther, Faster’ pays homage Track and Field. Yet in America, track and field is categorized as a tertiary sport with the likes of badminton and lacrosse.

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American athletes, particularly young developing athletes, are often forced by coaches or teams to become hyper-specialized in their chosen sport and the pay-to- play arena is an increasingly necessary component of that commitment, requiring ten to eleven months annually in said sport.

This rigorous commitment often leads to young athletes developing motor-unit functionality specifically catered to the demands of their sport, but leaves enormous gaps in their overall athleticism.

Often, these hyper-specialized sports require hyper-specific body types (somatotype), which results in multitudes of willing and capable athletes on the outside, looking in, leaving many directionless or worse, hopeless.

That’s why Track and Field is the quintessential athletic endeavor; it’s not just track events like sprinting or distance racing, but also field events like jumping, both vertically and horizontally, and throwing. It caters to all body types, personalities athletic potential and all somatotypes.

The five components of athletic development are as follows: Strength, Speed, Flexibility, Coordination and Endurance. Those five components are all magnified and exemplified in Track and Field. In fact, I can’t name any other sport that even comes close. It creates an opportunity for an athlete to become truly multi-dimensional or obtuse in a very acute athletic world.

Now I’m not dismissing the notion that athletes ought not to focus their energies on a particular sport or modality within that sport, but I am arguing that stronger, faster, flexible, coordinated, and fit athletes are athletes that are adaptive and can endure.

Overuse injuries, particularly in hinging joints are observed more frequently now and particularly in younger and younger athletes. See “Tommy John’s surgery” or “Tennis elbow”. That is a scary notion that sport, a seemingly health-based endeavor, is actually leading to potentially unhealthy athletes.

At the 2015 NFL Draft, it was reported that nearly 85% of selected players came from a multi-sport background, many of which competed or participated in track and field. If the most popular sport in America sees the value and pragmatism in multi-sport athletes with regard to their athletic potential, why can’t we promote that to our own sport communities?

There is a poignant expression that states, “Dumb men make simple things complicated and brilliant men make complicated things simple”. That can’t be truer for world of sport. Most sports are so dynamic, intricate and often convoluted, it takes a savvy eye just to keep up with what’s going on mid-play. Again, here lies the beauty of track and field. You run (sprint, hurdle, distance), jump (vertical or horizontal), throw (javelin, hammer, shot and discus), and relays (4x1, 4x2, 4x4 etc). Its self-explanatory and it doesn’t necessarily demand expensive equipment or accoutrements to participate. It is truly sport, personified.

Track and Field is an individual pursuit, and due to that demand, it can help facilitate in an athlete finding his or her own athletic spirit, not specifically relying on the “team” to fulfill their athletic destiny.

As coaches, it’s our responsibility to develop the foundation for which an athlete’s house it built upon. In my opinion there is no better place to start laying that foundation than on the track or in the field.  

Check out great Track and Field equipment for your student-athletes!


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