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PE Resources – The Books You Can't Live Without

Posted 1 day ago - by Michael Beringer


When I first started teaching Physical Education over 17 years ago, the only way to find new ideas, games, and activities for lesson planning was through collaboration with colleagues or purchasing books through P.E. equipment catalogs. I remember spending hours combing through various P.E. books looking for things I could use to teach K4 through 8th grade Physical Education.

In the process, I wasted a lot of time and money on books that weren’t worth it. The internet was just beginning, so the ability to search for quality resources was very limited. However, in today’s world the internet has changed everything. The way we search, research, and collaborate to find useful material has made books seem of little use. We can find information at anytime and from any place in the world. We can use desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones to gather information whenever we want instantly. However, books, of course, can still be very useful.

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Throughout my career, I have purchased numerous Physical Education books that have changed the way I teach today. Of course, I had to live and learn and waste money and time figuring out what was and wasn’t quality material. That is why I decided to create and share with all of you what I feel are the top quality Physical Education book resources that you should spend your hard earned money on!  These books are completely worth your time and money. I guarantee that you won’t regret adding these useful resources to your PE repertoire.  

1. Make It! Take It! by The Great Activity Publishing Company

A great resource for instant integration ASAPs. Just copy and use! 

2. Great Activity Magazine by The Great Activity Publishing Company

For just a few dollars a year receive this great PE Activity magazine subscription delivered to your door with activities for PE professionals from all over the country.

3. Physical Education Outside the Boxby Bud & Sue Turner

Here is another great resource for instant activities, as well as, skill related activities. What makes this a must in your PE tool box is every activity uses very little equipment, simple instructions, and minimal set-up time.

4. No Standing Around in my Gym by J.D. Hughes

This is a must have ready-to-use resource for teaching large classes! It is packed with 6 units, 70, games, 15 hints, and 39 special game variations.

  

5. No We Are Not Playing Dodgeball by Mike Bohannon

This book is a resource for fun, easy-to-use activities for promoting integration and fitness for all students. The book provides awesome warm-up, integration, and station ideas that get kids moving.

6. PE2theMax by J.D. Hughes

Another must have book for large classes! 

7. Spark byJohn J. Ratey, MD

A must have book for Physical Education Advocacy. Make sure to have your administrator read the first chapter!

8. NASPE Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education by SHAPE America

A must have resource that includes the National PE standards and outcomes that guide your instruction! This it non-negotiable!

9. No Gym? No Problem!- Physical Activities for Tight Spaces by Charmain Sutherland

This doesn’t need explaining. It is a lifesaver for every P.E. Specialist!

10. Journey Toward the Caring Classroom by Laurie S. Frank

This is a great resource for covering NASPE Standard 4 while building community in your classroom. I highly recommend!

 

11. Instant Activities Volume 1: Dice Games by Kevin Tiller

The title says it all! Easy to use with printable ready-to-use activities with math integration. Need I say more? 

12. The Great Games Handbook by Kevin Tiller

Recommended for skill based activities. This resource uses creativity to keep kids active and engaged. 

13. The First Six Minutes! by Hal Cramer

Here is another fantastic must have for getting your students active from the start. If you want to increase your students MVPA then get it now!

 

14. Phys. Ed. Fun & Fitness by Kevin Tiller

This book includes “Warm-up activities”, “Skill Builders”, and “QR Codes in P.E.”. The awesome part is that it includes reproducibles making it easy to implement. Love that!!

Check out other great PE reads here and don't forget to share your favorites below!

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What Students Should Learn in PE

Posted 4 days ago - by Jonette (Jo) Dixon

SHAPE America's National Standards define what a student should know and be able to do. States and local school districts use these standards as a platform to shape their own standards or adopt the National Standards to fit their needs. 

Greg Bert and Lisa Summers wrote the book Meeting Physical Education Standards Through Meaningful Assessment where they summarize the National Standards. These 6 heavy hitters that they call the “Power Standards” are really what I want students to learn, know, and takeaway from my classes. In “kid friendly” terms they are as follows: 

  1. How to move correctly.
  2. How to train themselves and others.
  3. How to be confident to participate in school and beyond school.
  4. How to be fit, get fit, and stay fit.
  5. How to play fairly.
  6. How to value movement.

When we teach our units, we need to teach more than just the skills of that unit, sport or activity, but teaching to the national, state or district standards as well, and making it relevant for students. 

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1. How to move correctly

Teaching this concept is important because in order to enjoy a sport or a fitness workout, they need to know the skill or activity and experience some success at it. Also, learning strategies of the game or sport such as the biomechanical principles, moving to open space, hitting to an open area, and concepts of offense and defense help us to be a more skillful mover. Knowing how to use equipment properly is another key component of this standard.
 

2. How to train themselves and others

I want students to know the 5 components of fitness, the FITT principle, and the many great benefits of exercise. This can be taught and applied in any unit.  Incorporating this information is paramount. Students need to know the knowledge behind “why” we move.
 

3. Being confident to participate in school and outside of school

Participating beyond their 12th grade year is really a major component of this standard. Loving to move, loving some type of activity to maintain health and fitness beyond school and into adulthood is my goal for students.
 

4. How to be fit, get fit, and stay fit

We utilize fitness test to set goals and see where we are at with our own fitness. We should not use fitness testing for a grade, as that isn’t fair. Testing our fitness isn’t always fun or easy, but it’s the only way we know where we are at. The Cooper Institute recommends the Fitnessgram® test, and has benchmarks set for advanced, proficient, partially proficient, and needs improvement per age level.  I always recommend a pre- and post-test, and to set goals. Setting goals for our fitness is a life skill.
 

5. How to play fairly

Spirit of the Game (SOTG) is a way we promote healthy competition. We can be competitive, but within the rules of the game. We can also self officiate. Managing games and our emotions are a life skill. Enjoyment of the sport or activity is what keeps people coming back.
 

6. How to value movement

This is the “fun”. We need to show students that movement is fun and why they should value activity for a lifetime. Keeping lessons novel is a great “hook” for students.
 

Teaching all of these standards in your classes, no matter what age level, really gives meaning to your teaching, Physical Education, and life. They are all life skills, and they are all important. Happy teaching!

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Motivating Students? I'm not a Sport Psychologist

Posted 1 week ago - by Aaron Beighle

Motivation, and the fundamentals of motivating youth, is something we know is important, but I think it’s something we don’t fully grasp and fully optimize. In my experience, some of this disconnect has been that the nuggets of valuable, applicable information for teachers is buried under theory. While theory certainly has its place, weeding through theory can be confusing, frustrating, and at times futile (at least for me). Further, while most teacher preparation programs have a Psychology and Sociology of Sport class, covering the content of what could be at least two courses during one course doesn’t provide much time to dig deep into how to motivate students.

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In my schooling, specifically my graduate work, I have had the opportunity to take three or four Sport/Exercise Psychology courses. I approached all of these courses knowing I wanted to work with youth. While I probably should have been listening more intently during classes, I was doodling ways to make the theories come to life for teachers. To this end, the following acronym was created. It combines parts of Achievement Goal Theory and Self-Determination Theory and attempts to make them applicable. To quality, I understand that some disagree with combining theories and borrowing pieces and parts, but in my experience this has worked for teachers and therefore I am sharing it here.

P.R.A.I.S.E.

Perceived Competence – 

In a nutshell, this is a student’s beliefs about her abilities. The key is that it is the student’s beliefs. So how do you make a student perceive herself as being competent? Provide her with successful experiences. Start with the easiest activity first and then invite students to try more difficult skills or activities. Ensure the number of repetitions they receive is maximized. How do you do that? See my previous management blogs, but in short, be efficient with management and instruction. Provide individual, meaningful feedback to allow students to refine their skills. Repetition and refinement are essential. Focus on the process…the product will follow (sometimes).

Encourage students to perform your cues. Most students can perform the cues to hitting a tennis forehand. They might not be able to hit a cross-court game winner, but focusing on the process provides the chance for success and learning. I am not an “everybody gets a trophy” advocate, but I am an “everybody gets a chance to be successful in physical education” advocate. 


Relatedness – 

In brief, this means make a connection. This connection can be with you and the students, student to student, or student to activity. Build relationships with students. Focus on “getting to know” your students…more than you know your content. Sometimes we focus so much on outcomes, objectives, and our perfect lessons/activities and lose sight of building relationships with students.

Try to find something with which you can connect with each student. I used to get up and watch cartoons on Saturday morning because I knew my students watched “Recess”. I knew as much about T.J. Detweiler and the Ashley’s as they did. I also listened to music that made my ears bleed, but it was what middle schoolers listened to. And I wanted to make sure it was appropriate.

Provide time and activities that allow students to connect with each other. Cooperative activities early on and throughout the year lend themselves to this, but any small group or partner activity does as well. Let students invent games…and use some of them later. Using the game invented by a student you struggle to connect with just might be the key to getting him/her to connect with you and others.

 

Autonomy –

This simply means to let students have some say in their learning experiences. For instance, provide an easy (catch the beanbag with one hand), and medium (catch the beanbag with two hands) or a difficult (catch the bean bag with the back of your hands) activity. Or simply teach by invitation and say, “If you like that activity, keep doing it. If you want something that might be a bit more difficult try this.”

During fitness activities use music to time an activity and let students choose the workload. “While the music is on, pick your favorite upper-body challenge and see how many times you can do it.” This lets students select the intensity.

Allow students to opt out of participating two times per semester or grading period. No excuse needed, they just don’t have to be active and it doesn’t impact their grade. Sometimes you don’t feel like being active; afford that opportunity to students. I use this with university students and it works well.

And please consider your dress out policy. This is a topic for a different blog or discussion, but I find it hard to believe that failing students because they don’t want to change clothes in a locker room full of their peers does much to motivate them. (Stepping off my soap box). Create tracks/sub-courses (e.g. Team Sports, Innovative, Individual, and Fitness) at the high school level and allow students to choose the track they want to take that grading period.

 

Individuality –

In full confession this isn’t a part of either of the theories I mentioned above. However, my acronym was PEARS before that….and that just didn’t work. This too involves getting to know your students. Treat them fairly. Meet them where they are, not where you are.

Emphasize that activity choices are individual. Physical education is exposing them to as many as possible, and they get to pick what they enjoy and what has meaning to them. Ask students what they like and don’t like. Treat students as individuals once you get to know them. I hope I am making it clear that I firmly believe the first step to motivating students is to get to know them as individuals.

 

Social Support – 

Keep in mind the role peers play in student decisions. Involve family when possible. At the middle or high school levels this gets tough. This might be a good reason to ask students, “What kind of social support do you need to be active? Peers? Family? Significant others?” Physical activity clubs can also help create a culture of social support. Walking, hiking, intramurals (intramural does not mean just team sports), and orienteering clubs are all great ways for students to be active and connect with students who have similar interests.

Be a role model. Regardless of the age you teach, students watch you and emulate you. Be aware of your actions. Eye rolls, scowls, ignoring students, rude comments in a moment of frustration. They all leave an impact. Frankly, our students look up to us. Give them something good to look up to.

 

Enjoyment –

Essentially this means busy, happy, good. I am teasing. Just making sure you are paying attention. “FUN” is not the only thing we are about in physical education. We have content to teach and we are about education/learning. However, “FUN” should be a major part of everything we do, just as physical activity should be a major part of what we do. The challenge is to provide learning experiences to teach our content that are active and are fun.

One way to make lessons fun is to make students successful, which goes back to Perceived Competence. In her book, No Sweat, Dr. Michelle Segar provides an anecdote of a client who reports she has never had a fun experience being active. Never. Wow! Think about that. Did she have physical education? If she did, what does that say about her experiences? Eek. Creating a safe (physically and emotionally) environment through effective management increases the chances students will have fun. Using a variety of activities in a balanced curriculum also helps ensure students will experience fun activities in physical education.  

 

In summary, in our efforts to promote physical activity for all youth, I think we are wise to borrow from the exercise/sport psychology literature to seek ways to motivate students. Above are just a few ideas. My intent is for teachers, as they teach, prepare lessons, or reflect to think “…did I include any elements of P.R.A.I.S.E? Could I include more?” I think the answer will be, “Yes” to both. And your students will be better for it. Give it a shot and see if it helps. Thanks for being teachers and THRIVE!

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Fundraising Idea: Action Auction Parties

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Shannon Jarvis

Are you tired of your school's same old fundraising event? Are you wanting to incorporate physical activity into these fundraisers? Well I have the perfect solution for you – Action Auction Parties! 

Every year our school hosts an annual auction for our families to attend and help raise funds for our school. It’s a typical school auction, where each classroom contributes a handcrafted project that will go home with the highest bidder. 

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We are also known for what we call, "Wildcat Parties." These are fun planned outings sponsored by a family or a generous donor, where individuals can purchase a ticket to attend and all funds go straight back into the school. For example, 'Principle on the Patio' is a night out with administration and includes dinner hosted in someone's home. Another is a 'Mani/Pedi Night' hosted at a local spa. Tickets to attend typically are $25-$40 and parties vary year after year. I thought to myself, how can I get involved and raise funds in an active and healthy way? Action Auction Parties! Below you'll find the party ideas up for auction at my school this year.

Action Auction Party Ideas:

3rd Grade – ACTION! Drag'N Tails™

Students meet in the gym after school for two hours of play and have snacks. Cost is $20 with no limit on how many can attend; we typically have about 40+ attending. We run a game with the whole group for about 20 minutes, then run two separate (and smaller) games of Drag’N Tails™ and switch off opponents every 10-15 minutes.  

4th Grade – Human Foosball

Students meet on the field for two hours of fun and get pizza after. Cost is $25 and limited to 30 attendees. Check out ACTION!™ SynchroBall™ for your Human Foosball supply needs.

5th and 6th Grade – Gopher D-Lite™ Slip-N-Slide Kickball

These events will be held separately, but include the same idea for each grade level. This is our first time to try such an event like this. We got the idea from a YouTube video that went viral. If you have every tried this, I’d love to hear about your experience. This day lands on a half day, so students will bring a picnic lunch and we will play after for an hour and a half. Cost is $30 and limited to 30 students.

7th Grade – Human Hungry Hungry Hippos

This is based on another YouTube viral video idea. We will use the UltimateScooter™ Boards and the yellow balls from the ACTION!™ FoodFat™ Attack Set. Cost is $2 and limited to 32 students. See how to play here.

8th Grade – The Glow Games

We'll play glow in the dark dodgeball using FireFly™ Glow in the Dark Dodgeballs and glow in the dark Nine Square in the Air using a homemade PVC "court". This event has no limit and will be hosted at night for our students. Cost is $25. 

 

Comment below and share how your school raises funds!

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Professional Development: Opportunities are Out There!

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Jason Gemberling

Teaching in a rural school district with a staff of 7 health and physical education teachers, it is not often, if ever, that we receive any content-specific professional development. While I understand the importance of reading and math training, I also understand the importance of health and physical education professional development. Realizing that my staff doesn’t have these opportunities, I started searching for professional development classes and opportunities that we can either attend or create for ourselves.

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Below are my recommended physical education and health professional development opportunities you should be checking out!

1. National SHAPE America Convention & Expo

I think the most obvious, yet most likely not feasible, opportunity for all health and physical education teachers would be to attend the National SHAPE America Convention every year. If you have never been to this convention, I strongly encourage you to get to one at some point during your career! This year’s convention was in Minneapolis, MN last week and next year’s convention will be in Boston, MA in March!

2. State SHAPE Convention

My next suggestion would be attending your state SHAPE America convention. This is another great opportunity to gather information and ideas to help strengthen your own program. This convention is also a great opportunity to network with other health and physical education teachers in your state and potentially set up a site visit to see what those teachers are doing in their schools. Check your state association’s website for dates and location of your state convention.
 

The following suggestions are also excellent opportunities and in most cases are free! Who doesn’t love FREE?

3. Webinars

Webinars are everywhere and offer fantastic information in 1-3 hour sessions while covering a wide variety of topics. SHAPE America puts out great webinar opportunities, as do most state associations. Gopher has also been hosting some fantastic webinars with a variety of topics, and again they are free with the added bonus of having the opportunity to win free equipment! One of my favorite things about webinars is that I can be sitting in the comfort of my own home and still getting fantastic professional development.

4. Email, Newsletters, and Social Media

I also love getting emails from SHAPE America with articles about what other health and physical education teachers are doing around the country. While this might not appear to be professional development, it is an excellent way to get fresh ideas. I have taken several ideas from these emails and implemented them into my teaching and program with great success. Health and Physical Education Journals are another excellent source of information and ideas!

5. In-House Professional Development

In-house professional development is another option. It will take some planning on your part and support from your administration. I suggest examining your program from all grade levels and determining what areas are in need of ideas for improvement and then networking with other schools to determine if someone local is doing something in their program that fits your needs. I can’t imagine a teacher not willing to share ideas with other educators in an effort to help students at another school.

This might cost your district a small amount of money to cover travel expenses. But in my eyes if it helps build a stronger program and you can justify the need, it will be hard for your administration to turn this down. And if you can’t bring someone in to provide professional development, take the opportunity to be a leader in your own department and research and develop a topic that you can present to your fellow teachers.
 

Be creative and persistent in your wanting to have meaningful professional development at your school. I have been trying to organize and implement a professional development day for health and physical education at my school for a couple years. My goal has been to bring in several presenters that I have personally seen in action to my school and have them provide ideas and information to any health and physical education teachers who would like to attend. Thankfully, in getting to know many fantastic people at Gopher and working with them, this is finally going to happen. Gopher has been in three states already doing professional development days with great success and this August they are coming to Central Pennsylvania and I couldn’t be happier! This day is going to be filled with excellent professional development and I encourage anyone that wants to attend to reach out to me, and I will get the information to you.  

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Creative Ways to Integrate Fitness with Team Building into PE

Posted 4 weeks ago - by Jessica Shawley

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

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

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

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

 

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

Recent team building and cooperative challenge activity ideas:

  1. Beanbag Partner Challenges:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Exergaming: Pedagogy, Play, or Pointless? (Part 1)

Posted 1 month ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

Exergaming or Exertainment has been defined as technology-driven activities that require participants to use their bodies in order to play the game.

What was once a popular fad ten years ago when DanceDance Revolution hit the market is now a common activity in schools all over the world. Video game bikes, motion sensor games, touch walls, dance games, etc. are just a few of the many exergames that can now be found in schools, community centers, arcades, and homes.

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Children in this generation are drawn to the technology and video game aspect. The opportunity to receive immediate feedback and gratification while exercising is rewarding. Many say children do not realize they are exercising because the activities are fun and different from traditional activities.

 

How does a teacher choose exergaming activities for his or her physical education classroom?

This is actually a complicated question and one that is often overlooked.  Some teachers choose what the kids “like or want”.  This is certainly not how quality physical education programs need to select exergames for their program. In a nutshell, we should think of exergaming as a modern jump rope. An exergaming activity is simply another piece of equipment that is going to be used to accomplish objectives by assisting the development of technical and tactical skills. Teachers need to think about the scope and sequence of their program and then determine which exergaming activities, if any, would be appropriate.

Another common misunderstanding is what the role of the teacher becomes when exergaming is implemented.  Pedagogy strategies may change to fit the activity but the concept of pedagogy should not.  Often, teachers become more of a cheerleader providing feedback on the score of the game instead of specific feedback related to the objectives of the lesson. For example, it is easy to see the excitement on a child’s face after winning a level in a game. Teachers naturally want to congratulate them with comments such as, “Good job!”, “That was great!”, or “Did you beat your score?” While this is not completely wrong, the idea of the activity should be for the teacher to continue to teach the objectives of the lesson providing positive, specific feedback related to the cues or main purpose of the lesson.  There may be an on/off button to the game, but teachers should take this opportunity to provide extensions, refinements and challenges when applicable.

Things to consider before purchasing exergaming activities for physical education:

Dedicated Space

Many exergames need a dedicated space in order to play. Some need to be mounted to a wall while others need outlets to plug and play. Teachers should first consider if there is appropriate space for the need of the activity.

Financial Strain

Exergames can be very expensive. Some exergames are affordable and cost as little as $50.00 while others can cost as much as $20,000.  Teachers need to investigate the cost of activity and make sure to include all accessories that will be needed.

 

Technological Difficulties

 

Technology of any kind (cell phones, televisions, computers, etc.) will typically face technological difficulties. Cracked screens, lost cords, and broken sensors are common and should be prepared for before purchasing an exergame.  In addition, teachers should make sure to ask about warranty and service options depending on the durability of the activity.

 

Incorporating exergaming into a physical education program can be fun and effective. Teachers need to make sure they continue to focus on teaching objectives, providing specific feedback, and assessing the students.  If pedagogy while teaching exergaming is replaced by children simply playing games, then exergaming in physical education has become pointless!

Check out these great Exergaming Options for your PE class!

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We know you’re doing great work getting your students moving more. You are changing the lives of students and stewarding a new learning culture at your school by infusing movement and physical activity into every crack and crevice possible. You are the champion kids need to ensure a lifetime of healthy habits and success.

So why not toot your horn a little, showcase your efforts on a national level, and strive for the top physical education and physical activity distinction for K-12 schools – the 2016 Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award!

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And, the National Award is just the beginning. Your school will also receive a congratulatory letter from First Lady Michelle Obama, a certificate of recognition, a large indoor banner to display in your gymnasium or student center, publicity and media attention, and a promotional kit to spread the excitement within your community.

Need another reason to strive for the Let's Move! Active Schools National Award? Here are three:

  1. The award will give you a platform to elevate the positive impact of school-based physical education and physical activity on student academic achievement, mental health, confidence, and overall personal development.
  2. Earning this prestigious award will position your school as a national leader in creating an Active School environment, further embedding physical education and physical activity into your school culture.
  3. Health and physical educators are game-changers and Active School-makers for their students and school community, and hands down, deserve to be recognized.

Last year, 525 schools across the country were honored. This year, we want your school to be part of this elite group. And, the best part is that by using Gopher’s resources and equipment, you are already well on your way to becoming an Active School.

To learn more and see if your school is eligible to apply, enroll your school at www.letsmoveschools.org and complete the short Let’s Move! Active Schools Assessment. Applications will be accepted through April 15, 2016.

Another useful tool is the Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award FAQ, or you can always contact us at 1-855-972-0876 or help@letsmoveschools.org.

Thank you for leading the way in ensuring 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the norm in your school! 

 

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Physical Education: A Foreign World

Posted 1 month ago - by Dr. Steve Jefferies

What, I wonder, would a space alien visiting Earth think about the current state of American physical education?

Reading through past Gopher blog entries, perusing professional publications, attending workshops, conferences, or conventions, what’s most important to us jumps out clearly: If only the quality of teaching improved, all would be well with physical education. Reluctantly, I feel obliged to disagree and have to confess that it’s worrying to see myself an outlier.

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As I argued in a previous Gopher blog post, I don’t see hoards of distressed parents complaining about the quality of their children’s physical education teaching. Where are they? Sure there are exceptions. Places where either poor teaching or non-teaching leaves parents questioning the value of having their kids in physical education classes. But mostly, I’d argue that the majority of parents think little about public school physical education.

Physical education was a class most of them “took,” in many cases endured, and in a few instances likely hated. But for the vast majority, PE was hardly something they cared about much then or bother much to think about now. In essence, physical education probably neither then nor now warrants much of a blip on their school-issue radar.

If I’m right, then all the hard work, all the devotion to improvement, all the caring and sharing, all the planning, and all the urging for more effective teaching that I see so passionately pursued today isn’t going to be enough to guarantee a future for the profession tomorrow. It’s not that the what’s happening is wrong. On the contrary, it’s fantastic and commendable. The explosive growth in instructional information sharing online is wonderful. The problem is that it’s almost totally targeting things that are NOT important to parents, school administrators, legislators and the general public. Put another way, what physical educators seem to care about the most, mostly are of concern only to physical educators.

If you step back and think about it, what do parents really care about when it comes to schools? It’s not enhancing the professional lives of their children’s teachers but bettering the lives of their kids. Putting all of the outside-of-the-profession groups together, when it comes to thinking about kids and schools there’s one thing worrying them above all others and it’s unrelated to academics. The single most important thing every parent surely wants more than anything for their child is for them to enjoy good health. Yes, everyone would love to see all students excel academically or perform some extraordinary skill, but absent good health, what’s the point?

What an incredible opportunity this is for the physical education profession! Something that the public cares about more than anything for kids also happens to be our raison d’etre – our true purpose. Who among our teachers, bloggers, and session presenters didn’t first choose to teach physical education because they wanted to get young people to enjoy playing and moving and living healthy? Isn’t that where we all began our professional journey?

If you think about it, we all could have chosen many things to do with our lives, jobs offering more money and less stress, but instead selected PE teaching. We started out wanting to change kids lives, to help them enjoy our love of moving, and to build a lifestyle foundation they’d benefit from.  Most of us still want the same today regardless of whether we work directly with students in schools or in colleges helping to prepare the next generation of teachers.  We and the public want the same thing. But sadly there’s a disconnect. And it’s this disconnect in messaging that explains why outside of our professional choir, we too often don’t get much respect.

Think about this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Companies invested millions for seconds worth of product promotion. Notice what they almost all did NOT do? Rarely did TV audiences learn much about the actual products being touted. Instead, utilizing a mixture of humor, empathy, adventure or a combination of all, Super Bowl commercials were cleverly designed to grab our attention. They spoke less to us about details or company promotion and instead struck at our emotions. To things we cared about. Millions were spent carefully crafting messages designed to be sticky. And for us to go forward that’s exactly what we’ve got to do.

No one, and certainly not me, is disinterested in advancing professional practice. Heck, it’s what I’ve mostly tried to do for many decades. But lately I’ve come to realize that simply preaching to the choir isn’t going to increase our supporters. We have what people want but are not doing a good job speaking their language. We have to do what every one of the current presidential candidates is striving to do – some clearly better than others - connect personally with our audience. And it’s kids’ health that has to be our focus.

This is what SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong by 2029 commitment is all about. As the soon-to-be outgoing President, my plea to you is to understand that for you and the profession to move forward, you must start to look at everything you do through the lens of getting America’s students healthy. And you have to start doing a much better job of communicating this commitment to the people around you. Unless, and until, the public understands that our purpose as physical (and health) educators is to get kids moving and making healthy lifestyle choices, we will continue to struggle. Teaching better isn’t the BIG problem facing you.  Your priority must be to tell others that what you do is benefiting all kids and of course providing evidence that you are actually achieving it.

Obviously, we are a long way from this currently. A space alien watching our communications today would be surprised to hear me suggest that getting kids healthy is what physical education is all about. Fortunately, with close to a quarter of a million physical educators spread around the country change is quite doable. But there’s no time to wait. Leading the way isn’t going to be a national association. It’s got to be one of you. And specifically I ask, “Why not YOU?”

My prediction is that someone or maybe a few physical educators will very soon seize this focus on getting all of the students in their school physically active and healthy. When that happens, if it’s true that active and healthy kids do better academically, imagine the impact. We’ll hear parents rave about how healthy their kids are and how well they are doing with their studies. The media will swarm where schools and students are truly succeeding. School boards everywhere will wonder the secret and want their physical educators to join the revolution. It’s going to happen, so again, I ask, “Why wait? Why not YOU?”

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Competition: Preparing Students for the Real World

Posted 1 month ago - by Peter Boucher

Typically, when I am writing my Gopher PE Blogs, I prefer to pose a topic that encourages professional debate and ultimately causes educators to reflect on their own professional practices and foundational principles (check out my previous blogs).  Normally, I don’t give a solid opinion, I just share perspectives and facts…until now.  Today I’d like to discuss why PE/Wellness Classes SHOULD be incorporating competition into their programming.

 

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For quite some time many of our national youth athletic associations across the U.S. and even our own K-12 educational systems have been minimizing and decreasing the element of competition.  Think about all of the local youth athletic leagues that we all know.  These leagues typically don’t keep score of the games, they usually give out trophies for participation, and they normally do not recognize championship teams at the end of the season. We all can probably name at least 2-3 local examples, if not more, where children are taught that competition is not necessary.  And for some reason, our PE/Wellness classes (along with many other academic disciplines) have adopted this “no compete” model.  This is acceptable in the primary levels and the early elementary grades; however, competition is healthy and a necessary life skill, especially as children grow into adulthood.   Competition is a core concept in the real world, even if many choose not to embrace that idea. 

The truth is we ALL compete on a daily basis.  Think about it for a moment; examples of competition are all around us.  Each and every day we are all trying to find the best parking spots, the shortest lines at stores, the cheapest prices for virtually any product from candy to cars; small but concrete examples. 

Now jump further into the real world. We all compete for companions, husbands, wives, etc…and most importantly, 99% of us compete for that coveted job that will pay our mortgages, car payments, utility bills, etc...  In the real world when you compete for a promotion or job there is one person who “wins” and a bunch that do not get the gold medal.  Competition is a fact of life that everyone should probably embrace, albeit they should ideally learn this competition at a progressive and age-appropriate pace throughout their K-12 careers and beyond…

How does this competitive concept tie into PE classes? Simple. 

  • Contemporary 21st Century PE/Wellness classes are a great segue way into safe, friendly, sportsmanlike challenges and they can be critical launching points for competition.  I fully understand that most districts and schools do not allot adequate time for PE/Wellness classes for students.  Therefore sitting out of blocks of time for not winning is not acceptable and nor should it be.  “Losing” is not a reason for kids to sit out of class; EVERYONE should be active 99.9% of the class.  Creative PE teachers can incorporate all sorts of ways to include all of their students during the active sessions of current PE/Wellness programming.   
     
  • For the traditional sports classes, it is very appropriate to run a round-robin or two-sided tourneys that have brackets which direct students, duos and/or teams to progress through the tournament depending on who they’ve played, defeated, and lost to in the intra-class tournament.  This is “real life” application. 
     
  • In the more cutting edge fitness classes, it is perfectly acceptable to have the students track how many exercises they have conducted.  Whether it be via numbers (ex: push-ups, crunches, Jumping Jacks, etc…); repetitions (either in resistance, weight, or time,  lifting weights, nautilus, or cardio activity); or in measurable fitness activities (ex: cardio machines, physical pursuits, walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, etc…) all of these actions/movements have some sort of evaluative component where competition can be monitored. 

I wholeheartedly recognize that competition is not the “end all be all” in PE/Wellness programming, nor should it be.  In fact, some professionals feel it has no place at all in these types of classes.  However, competition is a necessary life skill that we ALL need to learn to succeed in the real world.  It can even increase participation and make many classes more fun and exciting.

What are your thoughts as a professional?  Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about competition in PE/Wellness programming…

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