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Crossing the Curriculum in Physical Education

Posted 2 days ago - by Chad Triolet

It is amazing reflecting upon my college experience to recall the number of best practice concepts that were folded into our learning experiences.  One of the big projects we completed in our elementary methods course was a cross curricular unit.  Each student selected a topic and then created physical education lessons that met all of the state physical education standards and reinforced concepts related to the subject chosen.  At the time, I chose Native Americans and created a unit that reinforced a wide variety of concepts related specifically to Native Americans but also reinforced language arts and math concepts.  It was a lot of work and required a good amount of research but it really made me realize the impact a physical education program can have on academic achievement.  As I began my teaching career, I took that experience with me and began to search out ways to integrate core content in my physical education program.

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There are many opportunities to reinforce core content in physical education classes.  This effort to support language arts, math, history, and science should not come at the expense of teaching physical education standards and content.  The key is find creative ways to reinforce the core material while keeping true to the goal of teaching the skills and concepts related to developing lifelong movers.  Below you will find some suggestions on ways to reinforce core content in PE.

MATH - Skill drills in physical education provide many opportunities for students to practice counting in multiples.  Student can also be given points for completing different tasks.  As the points add up, students will need to use basic math skills to compute their score.  Another skill that is easy to incorporate is pattern building.  This can be done as station work or as part of creative relay races.  Money can be used as a reinforcement for completing tasks thereby giving students additional exposure to the look of various types of currency (coins vs. bills) and how to count it.   There are also many opportunities to discuss math vocabulary that relate to physical education (i.e. – angle, measurement, perimeter, distance, etc.).

LANGUAGE ARTS – When students enter the gym, a great way to reinforce language arts is to have the students read instructions for their warm-up.  If doing this, keep the language simple and post three or fewer basic instructions.  Physical educators can use spelling words in a variety of creative ways to help students (i.e. – jump rope spelling, word sort challenge, GeoMat spelling, etc.).  PE teachers can also reinforce key vocabulary using a Word Wall.

SCIENCE – One of my favorite ways to support science was to perform experiments in physical education class.  The practical use of experimentation vocabulary when learning about heart rate or burning calories is a great way to reinforce these important science concepts in physical education class.  There are also many opportunities to highlight science related vocabulary that is used during PE classes (i.e. – speed, friction, angle of trajectory, fulcrum, lever, aerodynamics, etc.).  There are other awesome activities that use student knowledge of science concepts (i.e. – Habitat Survivor (dodging and fleeing), Evaporation (tossing flying discs at a target), Rocket Launcher (striking and catching pool noodles), etc.).

SOCIAL STUDIES – Social Studies is made up of a variety of sub-disciplines like civics, economics, history, and geography.  Each discipline has unique vocabulary that can be highlighted in physical education classes.  If organizing students into squads or teams, using history vocabulary as team names is a simple way to reinforce the terms (i.e. – Presidents, important Native America tribes, important historical battles, famous Black Americans, etc.).  There are also many opportunities using creative activities that are specific to social studies content (i.e. – anything that deals with the Olympics can be connected to Greece, Chinese jump rope has a natural connection to the history of China, etc.). 

The key to crossing the curriculum is using the resources available to you at your school (other teacher and/or your administrators).  For me, it has always been pretty simple because my wife is a 5th grade teacher.  In many ways, her knowledge and expertise with the core content has helped me be a more effective physical education teacher.  I realize that this may not be your situation but I also know that there are many teachers in your school that would be more than willing to provide ideas on ways that you can help their students be successful.

Physical Education: A Laboratory for Life Lessons

Posted 4 days ago - by Troy Urdahl

As educators and advocates for Physical Education and activities in our schools, we do not need much of a sales pitch on the value of participation in PE and other school programs that promote and encourage student fitness and an active lifestyle.  We are keenly aware of the many benefits of participation.  However, this message is not reaching everyone. 


Last fall an article in The Atlantic titled “The Case Against High-School Sports” sparked debate across the country and within the media regarding the place and role of games and competition in and amongst our schools (Ripley, 2013).  The author of The Atlantic’s article asserted the United States would be well-served to devote precious school resources toward increasing student achievement, rather than subsidizing game-playing in our schools.  Using the European model as an example, the author asserts sports should be a community function, not a school enterprise.  The same debate occurs at the state and local levels with new standards or curriculum requirements that are too frequently forcing Physical Education courses to become electives.  So, if someone stops you in the grocery store aisle and asks how Physical Education will improve the future life of their child, how would you respond?

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The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has compiled extensive research on the benefits of high school activities and similar evidence exists for Physical Education (e.g. PHIT America).  Life lessons that complement other academic lessons are taught every day in our classrooms and in our gyms, courts, rinks, pools, and fields.  Hard work, dedication, dealing with adversity, communicating with others, academic success, health benefits, and the like are quickly cited as benefits of participation.  This past year’s media coverage underscores our need to trumpet physical education and school activities as laboratories for life lessons.  During physical education students can hone those skills that can lead to a healthier and more successful life by improving their fitness, learning to deal with and mitigate stress, experiencing goal setting, developing emotional and social skills, teaching self-discipline, and molding moral development and leadership abilities.  The value of our traditional classrooms is undoubtedly great, but these classrooms are not able to replicate the learning environment provided by the skilled Physical Education instructor.  We need an emphasis on science, math, English, and social studies in our schools.  So, too, do we need (now more than ever) an outlet to teach our youth how to work with, communicate, and succeed in an oftentimes competitive environment.         

In a Huffington Post counter-commentary to “The Case Against High-School Sports,” writer Kai Sato (2013) offers testimonials from business leaders discussing what they look for in their employees:

We try to recruit people that can work in a team environment, are competitive and driven, and it is not a pre-requisite, but many times athletes have those traits, says Ken Marschner, Executive Director of UBS (Sato, 2013).  

In my 30 years in the business world, I have found that what an athlete brings to the workplace is discipline, teamwork, a drive for success, the desire to be held accountable and a willingness to have their performance measured, says Steve Reinemund, former Chairman & CEO, of PepsiCo (Sato, 2013).

The skills developed through Physical Education are difficult to reproduce in a traditional classroom setting.  Physical Education remains as, and should be promoted as, a valuable laboratory for life lessons; a laboratory which plays an integral role in the promotion of citizenship skills and education of our youth.  Please, do not be afraid to champion this truth at your next opportunity.



National Federation of State High School Associations. (2013). The case for high school activities. 

Ripley, A. (2013, October).  The case against high-school sports. The Atlantic Monthly, 312(3), 72-78.

Sato, Kai. (2013, September 27).  The case for high school sports.  The Huffington Post.

PHIT America: A movement for a fit and healthy America.  (n.d).  Benefits of P.E. in school. 


Getting Beyond the Gym Walls

Posted 4 days ago - by Scott McDowell

How can you maximize your time with students?  How can you reach more stakeholders?  How can you show staff, students, administration, and the community that what you are teaching is rich in meaning and more than just a 30 minute lesson? 


I encourage you to think “outside of the box” or beyond the gym walls.  Collaborate to create opportunities that impact learning through meaningful moments and also causes a ripple effect within the school and beyond.  Here are just a few ideas:

Physical Change

While teaching at East Elementary in Lake Bluff, Illinois, I implemented a program called “Physical Change.”  Atop the stage in the gym sat an empty 5 gallon water jug.   Each month students were given a physical task.  Upon completion of the task at home students were encouraged to bring in “sweaty pennies” to add to the jug.  For example, during one month the assignment was jumping jacks and the suggested ratio was 1 penny for every 10 jumping jacks.  Some students chose to bring them in each day while others collected them at home all month and then made a single deposit.  At the end of the month we chose a charity to donate the sweaty pennies to and then started over.  The students were motivated to practice the skill, solicited the help of family members in the process, and saw the effect they could have on others through their contributions. 

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Strengthen Important Bonds

As a teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary School I collaborated with my staff to implement two activities that improved our school culture and strengthened the bond between staff and the community.  In the fall we held a “crazy” kickball game at a local park.  Twenty to thirty staff members participated in the game and many others sold popcorn, dressed as the mascot, or took on other tasks.  We encouraged families to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the local food bank.  Each inning various rules were implemented to make things more exciting.  Students and parents had the opportunity to see their teachers laugh, play, and work together.  This annual activity has been an October staple for the last 5 years in Lake Bluff.  Later that year we created another fun activity and this time collaborated with our district’s middle school staff and the central office.  Working together we hosted a staff basketball game that had a suggested cost and all donations went to the Wounded Warrior Fund.  Some staff played basketball while others took the initiative of creating cheerleading squads, selling food, or working the crowds.  It was standing room only on our first attempt and once again students had the chance to see their teachers participating in healthy physical activities that had a ripple effect beyond the walls of the gym. 


Physical Challenges

Take time to develop challenges that ask your students to apply their knowledge and skills, encourages goal setting, promotes teamwork and respect, and pushes them to finish what they start.  Lundahl Middle School Physical Education Teacher Fred Kaiser, a 2008 Teacher of the Year, has implemented several programs over the last 15 years that have made ripples far beyond his own community.  His students have the opportunity to participate in a 24 hour run, a fitness marathon, self defense units, and much more.  As a state and national presenter, Fred has been able to share his successes and inspire other educators to develop similar activities that motivate students and go far beyond the walls of Lundahl.  Inspired by Fred’s work, I developed a Hurly Burly in Lake Bluff for my second grade students.  Rather than running one mile at a time my students ran a quarter mile.  Students were put in teams and their only challenge was to never quit during the two-hour team run.  It became a right of passage for our students leaving second grade each year.  After five years of the program, I had nearly as many parents running the challenge as I did students and it became necessary to stop students at times because they were completing 5 to 6 miles!  Students were self motivated and determined to finish.  Students received a shirt and a post-race pizza party.  Since student teaching for Fred Kaiser in 1998 I have not stopped thinking “out of the box” and seeking ways to reach beyond my daily instruction.  To learn more about Fred and his programs, you can check out his website.


Blending Curriculums

Want to sell yourself to your staff?  Go ask them what they are doing and how you can be a part of their efforts in the classroom!  Look for ways to bring their curriculum into your space and tie it into movement.  Research is showing that learning is improved when students are engaged in hands-on activities and/or physical movement.  While teaching in Lake Bluff I sought out my kindergarten teachers and asked if we could work together to create a Literacy-Movement Lab for students.  Our 25 minute Friday lab included literacy skills combined with activities such as tossing, balancing, tumbling, jumping, and cup stacking.  The kindergarten team determined my groupings each week and students viewed the extra time as exciting and meaningful.  Did it require extra planning, collaboration, and giving up some prep time?  Yes.  Did it make a difference in the lives of my students?  Yes, and I am sure you can figure out what parents, teachers, and my administration thought of the efforts. You can view a video of the program on PE Universe!

Maintaining an Outdoor Classroom

Posted 1 week ago - by Suzanne Hunter Serafin

Check out this video blog for ways to organize your Outdoor Classroom!

     I quickly survey the class sitting in front of me as I transition from one activity to the next.  Keeping instruction short and sweet is very important to me, so I try my hardest to be brief but to the point.  I see that most of them are quietly sitting in “pretzel” position, their hands to themselves, and intently watching and listening to me this time all except for “Danny”, sitting near the back of the class.  “Danny”, who a second ago began to lie down on the gym floor making snow angels , now abruptly sits up, pokes the back of the child in front of him, and begins to violently spin in a 360 degree circle, all while instruction is taking place.

     Does this sound familiar?  Do you have classes where the dynamics sometimes make things really, r-e-a-l-l-y challenging?  We all have different types of students in our school.  Some of them are excellent listeners, follow directions, and always seem to do the right thing.  Some of them, unfortunately, are not.  They may have issues (personal, physical or behavioral) going on.  They may not value or care about school.  Whatever the lack of motivation may be, it is our job to try to get kids “turned on” to physical activity, and get excited to participate in physical education.

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     Luckily most elementary school children love coming to and participating in PE.  I realize that it may not be for everyone.  It is imperative to try to connect with all children, and by utilizing different teaching strategies, it is possible to promote positive behavior with them.  The following are a few examples of some positive strategies that I have used in my school:


  • Student of the Month Award.  This award is given to a student in every class each month.  A student that has had great effort, good sportsmanship, is an excellent listener and helper, and does an all-around great job in my class gets this award.  I have given this award to children who have really tried to improve behavior if they are struggling in my class.  I do not base it on athletic skill.  This student is given a certificate, has their picture taken which my colleagues and I post out in the hallway each month.  Students really look forward to this at the end of each month, and some former students have told me that they still have their picture and certificate from many years back.  For some, this can be a motivating factor in itself.  Does every child get one?  No, however by the time they leave my school (my school is K-5), they have a very good chance of getting it.
  • NBA Sneaker Contest.  I got this idea many years ago from another PE teacher.  I contacted an NBA Basketball Equipment Manager and asked him if he could donate the largest size sneaker that he had for this school initiative.  The gentleman sent me what he claimed is Dikembe Mutombo’s size 22 Nike sneakers.  Each class of every grade level in the school gets a class score when they leave at the end of physical education.  The highest score a class can get is a “3”, the lowest, “0”.  Classes that demonstrate good behavior, effort, cooperation will score the most points.  If a class receives a lower score one day, it is a really easy way to assess them (and to notify their classroom teacher).  Most classes are very unhappy about this, and are motivated to do better.  The class from grades 1-2, and 3-5 with the highest amount of points get to keep one of the extremely large sneakers in their classroom.  Every two months we announce a new winner.  In case of a tie, a special mark is made in our grade book if a class was as perfect as possible (“3+”).
  • Sneaker Cutouts.  For 30 minutes of physical activity outside the school day, children have the chance to decorate, and cutout a paper sneaker to be placed on the gymnasium wall.  Children can fill out as many as they wish.  The only stipulation is that it must be signed by a parent/guardian in order to have it on the wall.  It is great to see students take sneaker sheets at the end of each class, and to see our gymnasium walls filled with them is such a sight to see!
  • Individual Behavior Plans.  I have run many different varieties of a behavior sheet for children.  For those who need a push I base a plan on the need for improvement.  It may be for a sticker, certificate or even a small token (i.e.: mini ball, yo-yo, pencil).  I make sure that I communicate with the parent/guardian to make them aware that I need their help to come from home when trying to improve behavior.
  • “Sticker Time”.  Kindergarteners can be tough... they are babies!   For some this is their first experience with school.    Most come to my gymnasium VERY excited, and in turn can be draining.  In order to get them under my routines and in control of their behavior, I initiated “sticker time”.  If a student at the end of the class did not need a time-out, and was a good listener, they receive a small sticker.  This incentive changes several months in where students only earn the sticker on the last class of the week that I see them. 
  • P.B.I.S.   Stands for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support.  This is a school wide program where we (the physical education staff) are included in a building behavior system.  Students can earn tokens for being observed doing something good.  These tokens are cutout paws (we are the Lakeview Bulldogs) that children can accumulate for other incentives based in their classroom.  Staff members all have paws to hand out on different colored paper so it can be tracked where the student got the paw from (bus, monitor, special area, nurse, etc).  I have been known to give both individual and/or class paws to help reinforce good behavior.  This system only works if all staff members buy into it. 


What are some ways that you motivate your students? 


Posted 1 week ago - by Terri Pitts

The ever increasing pressure to cram more instructional time into the school day in an attempt to boost test scores has put the squeeze on recess in districts around the country. The trend can be traced back to the late eighties and was accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Districts under pressure to show academic progress began to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction in Nevada explains, “If you have a 15-minute recess scheduled, you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom. You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It’s become a luxury we can’t afford.” Nationwide, principals state that 89 percent of discipline-related problems occur at recess or lunch.

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But all work and no play for kids has not set well with many parents-and teachers. Now there is some momentum to keep recess, fueled by several forces. There's the nation's obesity epidemic and First Lady, Michelle Obama's, spotlight on childhood health. New brain research is drawing clear links between physical activity and learning. 

Georgia State's Professor, Olga Jarrett, states, "There is this assumption that if you keep kids working longer, they will learn more," says Jarrett. "It's misguided." Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. "With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games, figure out what's fair, and learn a lot of social behavior that they don't learn in P.E. and in the classroom," she says.

Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:

- Are less fidgety and more on task
- Have improved memory and more focused attention
- Develop more brain connections
- Learn negotiation skills
- Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts
- Are more physically active before and after school


Continuing the Conversation:

— Do you think kids need recess? Why?

— Is recess just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of recess or unstructured time? Do you still have recess?

— How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during recess? Was it beneficial for you?

Move Them or Lose Them

Posted 1 week ago - by Tamesha (Graves) Connaughton


P.E. is exactly what it stands for Physical Education, but from a student’s perspective it’s P.E.N (physical education now) and rightfully so. Students sit attentively all day in class, when they come to PE, their objective is to have fun and blow off a little steam. Unfortunately for them, a typical Texas school day consists of 8 hours, yet students attend a formal PE class only three sessions a week, and as little as 45 minutes per class. Students frequently struggle to achieve the standard 60 minutes of daily activity, so utilization of every moment of formal PE class is of the utmost importance.

Common mistakes I tend to see PE teachers make are requiring students to sit in squad lines to take roll, give long lectures about what the students will do for the day, and simply distract from the task at hand, to be physical active and engaged. This antiquated procedure results restlessness amongst students and only adds frustration to the teacher as they struggle to hold the students attention and potential engagement.

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Criticisms I’ve often heard Physical Educators iterate is that it requires far too much added work, extra equipment and will be more of a hassle then it is worth. However, my observation is the advantage of instant activities is to get the entire class moving. There is very little teacher involvement and it often can be achieved with little or no formal equipment. Keep in mind that it’s Instant Activity, so the students are engaged physically for a matter of minutes. My typical instant activities are vigorous and last upwards of a continuous three minute block. During that short time, the activities promote heart rate acceleration which increases the amount of blood being pumped to the brain. This creates a more attentive student who’s ready to engage in the daily lesson. They can't help but to stay focused, quiet and attentive to instruction because they've become physically activated and physiologically engaged. I then use their recovery period to begin my brief but comprehensive instructional session. Once I’ve completed my instructions to the class they've recovered, regained their second wind and are again ready to become active.

The name of the game is to use every available moment to physically engage my students, help create a sense of accountability pertaining exercise and a love of P.E. I often find myself borrowing instant activities ideas from fellow PE teachers but my favorite place to find creative and engaging instant activities is PE Universe. If you need ideas on what type of activities you can instantly do in your gym here is a link form PE Universe http://www.peuniverse.com/search/?query=instant+activities. Remember you can take other ideas you learn from others and make it your own.


What are some instant activities that you use with your students?

Back-to-School Icebreakers and Team Building Activities

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Maria Corte

The first day of school is right around the corner! Maria Corte shares her Top 5 icebreakers and team building activities for the first week of school! Check them out below!

Ice breaker activities are a great way for students’ to connect with their classmates and teachers upon returning to school.  The first few days of school many students are unsure about the class and their relationships with other classmates.  Creating a warm and friendly climate for your class is essential for your student’s success as well as the success of your program.  Making your class inviting and comfortable will not only give your students the confidence to perform well, it will also make you more familiar with your students to decrease any potential management issues.  The following are my top favorite activities that help me, as a teacher learn all the amazing personalities I’ll have the pleasure of working with all semester.

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Rock Paper Scissors Tournament

Students pair up and throw R, P, S shoot.  The winner finds another winner, while the defeated student now cheers on the person that defeated them. This goes on until there are only two students left in the tournament.  Now you have half the class cheering for their “guy” and the other half of the class cheering for their “guy”.  It’s loud, it’s fun and it never fails!

Hint: When you get to the last two remaining students, the winner is now the best 2 out of 3.  



Instruct your students to find other students with the same common interests or likes. The first common interest I use is their favorite COLOR.  Next, MONTH they were born and finally FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR OR SENIOR.  Once they have their group, they sit down in a circle and go around stating their name and grade.  (When doing the birth month, have them state their name and the DAY they were born)

Hint:  This activity allows the teacher to immediately identify students who will be leaders, followers, loud, shy, etc…


Partner Tag

Have students find a partner and decide who chases who.  Once the music starts, the student who is chasing will spin around three times before finding and catching their partner.  Once they catch or tag their partner, they reverse roles and the chaser now gets chased. 
Next, have the partners’ pair up again, but this time link arms.  They will now pair up with another group of two linked partners, making it 2 on 2.  They repeat the above process, but must stay linked with their partner, even on the beginning spinning part.
Next, have the linked partners link arms with the linked partner(s) they were chasing making it 4 on 4.  They repeat the above process, but this time the chasers will only spin once.


Team Juggling Name Game

Now that you have groups of 8 from the above Partner Tag game, have them get in a circle (standing) and give each group 3 tennis balls.  They will number off from 1-8 consecutively.  Now have the #1 student take one tennis ball and toss it to #2 student while saying their name and their #.  For example, Joey who is # 1 will say “Joey 1” before throwing it to the #2 student.  This will continue until the ball gets back to #1 student.  Now have the students mix up in the circle and stand next to two different people. Start with student #1 again and have them toss the ball consecutively.  Add another ball and then a third ball to make it more challenging.  

What Do I Do Now?

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Natalia Brown

Are you looking to spice up your PE lessons?  Do you see some of your students standing around with the “what do I do now” look on their face? If you answered yes to these questions, then circuit training is right for you.

What exactly is circuit training?

  • “An intensive form of fitness training in which a group of exercises are completed one after the other.  Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time before you move on to the next exercise.” (Oxford Food and Fitness Dictionary)

What are the benefits of curcuit training?

  • Develop overall body strength and aerobic fitness
  • Enables you to have many different activities going on concurrently
  • Allows all students to work at their own levels
  • Allows all students to achieve success
  • Students get a lot done in a little amount of time with a lot of people
  • Eliminate any standing around and looking around

Here are some tips:

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  • Circuit training usually works best if they are set up along the perimeter of the available space which will help with the rotation
  • Choose activities or skills students have previously worked on or that is done regularly
  • Set up stations prior to class arrival
  • Divide students evenly between stations
  • Ensure that there is enough equipment for everyone in each station
  • Place signs with words and pictures of each activity for each station
  • Demonstrate the activities at each station prior to students starting
  • Play upbeat music to keep students engaged
  • Have fun

Students will start the activity at their station upon a signal from the teacher.  The teacher could either say the word go, blow a whistle, or start music.  After 30 – 60 seconds of performing the exercise at their station, teacher signals for students to rotate to next station.  Continue this format until students have completed all the stations within the circuit. 

To make the station a bit more challenging students can write down the number of completed reps of each exercise on an index card.  The next time they do the circuit they will try to beat their previous score. 

Anyone can develop a circuit.  It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of space, and a little bit of equipment.  Circuit training is something your students can do at home with family and friends.  They will learn skills that will help them lead a healthy lifestyle.  Most importantly, they will have fun!

Circuit training example #1 – without equipment

  1. Mountain climbers
  2. Curl ups
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Push ups
  5. Jog in place
  6. Superman
  7. Burpees
  8. Triceps dips
  9. Side to side ski jumps
  10. Crunches

Circuit training example #2 – with equipment

  1. Jump rope
  2. Bicycle crunches
  3. Hula hoops
  4. Hip raise
  5. Basketball shooting
  6. Touch the shoulder push ups
  7. Ring toss
  8. Lunges
  9. Aerobic steps
  10. Squats




Kid + Ball = Play

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

Developing Physical Literacy Through Small Sided Games

Our son and his community rep Under 12 soccer team were asked to be ball people at the University National Men’s Soccer Championship last fall, hosted at the University of Toronto. The boys assumed their roles with excitement and awe as they stood by the sidelines with a soccer ball in hand; ready to throw into the play when indicated by the referee.

Driving home I asked my son, “how did you like that experience?” He was quick to answer that they were all told not to fidget or play with the soccer ball on the sideline and to be ready at all times. He then added, mom, doesn't that person know that “Kid + Ball = Play!” As a former physical education teacher and now educator involved in Physical Education Teacher Education, I smiled and thought to myself… what a tag line to aspire to… providing all children and youth with the competence and confidence to move their bodies, have fun and keep active!

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In a time when our children and youth are living very sedentary lives, when play is almost becoming extinct and sport is becoming very specialized at an early age and less accessible to many, it begs the question; what is the role and purpose of Physical Education in schools and communities in the 21st century?

As a course instructor of pedagogy for Health and Physical Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University in Toronto, I challenge my beginning teachers with this very question as they engage in teaching and learning experiences that will contribute to their understandings as teachers. Two very influential bodies of research and practice are the notion of physical literacy and curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding.

Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada defines physical literacy as,

Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person

  • Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
  • They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
  • These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.” (Mandigo, J., Francis, N., Lodewyk, K. & Lopez, R. 2009).

Think about your physical literacy journey from birth to present. Think about the number of fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, skipping, throwing, swimming that you have acquired or you wish your students to acquire in your PE programs. Think about the experiences that contributed to your motivation to move or your confidence to move. Now think about what that will look like in your PE programming to develop physical literacy for all your students.




This leads to how to develop physical literacy through small-sided games. The curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) simply put, allows students to understand the why before the how – game tactics before skill.  

TGFU a strategic games-based approach, which emphasizes students’ understanding of and performance in the many tactical aspects of game play, was first proposed by Bunker and Thorpe in the early 1980’s as an alternative to traditional, technique–led approaches to games teaching and learning. Over the past decade, TGFU has acquired great momentum in Canada as an effective game pedagogy and is embedded in our PE curriculum documents.

TGFU is a comprehensive, student-centered approach to help students acquire the knowledge of game strategies, movement skills, decision-making skills and team building skills through small-sided games (4 vs. 4, 3 vs. 3). Students become more independent thinkers and less reliable on their PE teacher or coach to make decisions in game play situations. The use of novelty type equipment such as a rubber chicken allows for the learning to focus on tactics first and then skill development follows.

Through small-sided strategic games students develop their competence and confidence to play, have fun and are more active. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids who saw a ball wanted to play?!


For some more information about physical literacy or TGFU check out some of my 'go-to' resources that I share with beginning teachers:

SHAPE America and the Importance of Professionalism

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Dr. Steve Jefferies

As you probably know, this year’s biggest professional event was the national AAHPERD convention in St. Louis. Any kind of convention or professional meeting is something I eagerly anticipate and get on my schedule. It's not so much the presentations or formal meetings I look forward to - although for the most part these are fun – but the people I get to meet. Turns out the more I go, the bigger my group of professional friends develops. And chatting with people about what they're doing professionally (and sometimes personally) is really the best part. It gets you recharged and reenergized and more often than not gives you something new to try when you return home. In honesty, I don't get how so many physical and health education teachers never go to professional events; in fact intentionally choose to avoid them. How do they keep inspired? How do they keep up with what's new? And how do they truly serve the best interests of the students they teach?

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I understand being professionally involved can be expensive. But I also know that it can be done because every year I see the same teaching colleagues from around the country negotiate ways to get their school districts or universities to help fund them. Seems that where there is a will there really is a way. And not surprisingly these same people are the ones who are most active professionally, making presentations, advocating, and generally inspiring their colleagues and the public by what they do in their classrooms.


Now, I'm not suggesting that good things are not happening in the classrooms and gyms of the thousands of teaching colleagues who choose not to be professionally involved, but I do find it shortsighted. Every month on pelinks4u we report news from around the nation of PE and health program and position reductions and cuts. In too many places we just “don't get no respect.” Unfortunately, we have to ask ourselves, "Why should others respect what we do if we don’t bother to share the good news?" It's one thing for us to know that our students are learning a lot from our teaching, and an entirely different (and often false) thing to assume that others know about it. It's like a business creating a great product and not advertising. You can imagine the consequences. But this explains why it's so important for all health and physical educators to get professionally involved in addition to teaching well.


We may not need to teach the world to sing but we sure do need to promote ourselves and our profession. This involves public relations and marketing in our schools and supporting our state and national professional associations. If you've never been to your state legislature or Capitol Hill, here's what happens. Each and every day a procession of lobbyists and special interest advocates stops by the offices of your elected legislators. They try to persuade these key decision-makers to support their interests. And of course the more often legislators hear the same message the more they listen. What does this mean for you and me? Simply stated it means that if we don't have a seat at the table we find ourselves on the menu! No champions to defend us or support what we do. It becomes a self-fulfilling behavior and explains the perennial struggle we face for professional respect.


So, in conclusion, if you aren't already a member of SHAPE-America (the new name for AAHPERD/NASPE), or your state professional association I encourage you for your own self-interest to join both. These are the groups who do their best to represent us in our states and capital. They try to do what most of us don't have time or expertise to do. But they need your support. There's a reason that AARP, the NRA, and others wield such power: Membership. Size does make a difference when it comes to influence. Sadly, less than 10% of the people presently teaching health and physical education belong to AAHPERD or their state professional association. Maybe you are one of them? If you think about it, the cost is trivial in comparison to what it would mean to you, your family, and your colleagues to lose our jobs. For us to move forward successfully into the 21st century we all need to be TEAM supporters. Please join us. Together we can do great things.

Getting Parents Involved in Physical Education

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Aaron Beighle

A common obstacle teachers face when starting a new school year is how to get parents involved in Physical Education. Check out a few of Aaron Beighle's ideas for how to involve parents in PE below!


As a young teacher with no children of my own, I was scared to death of parents. Parent-teacher conferences, writing report card comments, visits to class, saying, “Hello” in the car pool line….all frightening duties. I didn’t know what to say or how to relate to them…people with kids were sooo old and unapproachable. Boy howdy was I wrong. The one thing I learned is that to truly impact the lives of students and teach them, parents were my best ally. I had to get them involved. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work alongside, observe, and collaborate with some incredibly creative, energetic physical educators. For this blog, I will share just a few of the ideas I have garnered (aka stolen) to get parents involved in physical education. It is important to note that these activities can all be advertised via a physical education newsletter.

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PE Nights/Demonstration Nights--

PE nights and Demonstration nights are very similar. The goal is to get parents into the gymnasium to showcase what is happening in physical education. For PE night, parents and students participate in a physical education “lesson” together. For a demonstration night, parents observe and often participate in a fun culminating game or activity. Again, this is a time to showcase the fun activities students engage in during physical education and to educate parents about your physical education program. Common feedback from parents goes something like this, “PE wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”


Active Open House-- 

Most schools have an Open House at the beginning of the year. What better way to promote PE? One strategy is to loan pedometers to parents to wear while at the Open House. When parents return the pedometers, provide them with an informational flier explaining the importance of physical activity and physical education. We used to include dinner table questions for families to discuss. Also during Open House, steering parents to the gymnasium to engage in activity stations works well. Stations tend to work better than a game. Getting into a game midstream can be uncomfortable for some parents. Stations allow them to work in. Also, stations allow the PE teacher to circulate and meet parents.


Fitness Self-Testing-- 

I promote the use of Fitness Self-Testing for a variety of reasons. It allows teachers to communicate with parents, explain the terms “physical activity” and “physical fitness,” and assess relevant PE content knowledge. Morgan and Morgan (2005) provide an in-depth discussion of how to implement fitness self-testing. Once complete, teachers can send home information about the importance of regular physical activity, the role of physical fitness in youth and explain the role of fitness in physical education. This holds true for other assessments as well. I think any time we can reach out to parents with thoughtful fliers, newsletters, and feedback to promote our programs we should do it.

Parents are a great ally in our efforts to promote youth physical activity. Above I have provided just a few ideas to get them involved and to educate them about physical education. Other ideas include recruiting parents to volunteer at field day or charity events or to just have them visit a physical education lesson and participate with their children. These strategies allow us to promote physical education during school and outside of school with the adults who are most influential in the lives of youth.


Kids Are Not Little Adults

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Robert Pangrazi

K-2 students have short legs in relation to their upper body and head that causes them to have a high center of gravity and make them “top-heavy.” This helps explain why these students fall often and have little success when trying to perform activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. Growth gradually lowers the center of gravity and gives children increased stability and balance. However, it is important to understand how normal growth and development limits student success in many physical activities.

In the elementary school years, muscular strength increases linearly with chronological age. In other words, as children grow older they become stronger. Pre-adolescent children show few strength differences between the sexes. Boys and girls generally perform similarly in strength activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. In the past, teachers have accepted lower performances from girls even though they are capable of more. Expectations should be similar for elementary school boys and girls.

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Strength differences do occur among children of widely differing weight and height, regardless of sex. Differences in weight and height should be considered when pairing children for competitive activities such as running together, physical contact, or games that require strength. Problems occur when a student is paired with someone who is considerably taller, heavier or more mature and therefore stronger. When matching students for safety reasons, remember that weight and stature are much more important than the gender of the students.

Strength is an important factor for success in performing motor skills. A study that weighted factors that contribute to the motor performance of children showed that strength or power or both in relation to body size was the most important. High levels of strength in relation to body size (relative strength) helped predict which students were most capable of performing motor skills. The amount of body fat was the fourth-ranked factor in the study and was weighted negatively meaning overweight children were less proficient at learning and performing motor skills. Body fat acts negatively on motor performance by reducing a child’s strength in relation to their body size. Overweight children may be stronger than normal-weight children in absolute terms, but they are less strong when strength is adjusted for body weight. This lack of relative strength makes it more difficult to perform a strength-related task (e.g., push-up or curl-up) compared to normal-weight children. The key point is that overweight youth deserve special consideration to keep them “turned on” to physical activity. Have different expectations for children rather than giving an entire class the same physical challenge.

Teachers have long understood and discussed differences in maturity among students. Youngsters are often referred to as being immature or more mature than other students; but this is usually in reference to the emotional maturity of youngsters. Another type of maturity, skeletal or physical maturity has a strong impact on student performance in physical activities. The method used to identify physical maturity is to compare chronological age to skeletal age. Ossification (hardening) of the bones occurs in the center of the bone shaft and at the ends of the long bones (growth plates). This rate of ossification gives an accurate indication of a child’s maturation and is identified by X-raying the wrist bones and comparing the development of the subject’s bones with a set of standardized X rays. This offers a more accurate indication of a child’s physical maturity. Children whose chronological age is ahead of skeletal age are said to be late (or slow) maturers. On the other hand, if skeletal age is ahead of chronological age, such children are labeled early (fast) maturers.

Studies examining skeletal age consistently show that a five- to six-year variation in maturity exists among youngsters in a typical classroom. For example, third graders (8 year olds) will range in skeletal age from 5 to 11 years. It would be inappropriate to ask a 5-year-old child to perform tasks that 11-year-olds are expected to accomplish. The message here is that even though students in a classroom are about the same age, there are large individual differences in maturity. Monitor and adjust program activities to allow students to progress at a rate suitable to their level of maturity. 

Yard Games Fitness Fun in Physical Education

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Jessica Shawley

Considering implementing a Yard Game unit this year? Check out these five great tips from Jessica Shawley, 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year!

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A game of horseshoes at my school isn’t your typical experience. I’ve added new twists to traditional yard games to foster creativity and add an element of fitness. Yard games offer a different level of socialization, cooperation and creativity than traditional sport and fitness units. Everyone can be successful regardless of athletic ability or fitness level. Yard games are also a great activity for connecting students with their family. Teach them in late spring so the learning is carried into the summer and fall months as an activity with their family and friends for weekends, family reunions, BBQs, sporting events, or a trip to the park.

To integrate yard games into your curriculum, be sure to follow these tips:

1. Use the “Jig-saw” method: Divide class into the same number of groups as there are games and assign one group to each to learn all rules, scoring, set-up, take-down, and modifications. One person from each group then combines to form a new group. Members take turns teaching their newly learned game to the rest of this new group (over one or more lessons).

2. Use the Sport Education model: Student-led teams come up with a name, choose roles (manager, scorekeeper, equipment manager, captain), practice the games, and plan for a culminating event. As you research the Sport Education Model framework, you can modify it to your level and available time frame.

3. Integrate health-related fitness: Play “half-court” games so students have to move back and forth instead of stand in one location. Have fitness stations and equipment to work on muscular strength/endurance or flexibility while students wait to throw. Pairing with a high intensity activity allows yard games to be a rest station or bonus when the workout is complete.

4. Integrate skill-related fitness: Require the use a balance disc or dome to balance on while throwing, challenge students to use their non-dominant hand to throw, or have skill-related fitness challenge stations to complete while students wait their turn. There are many fun ways to incorporate the skills of coordination, reaction time, agility, and balance.

5. Cultivate Creativity: After students learn the traditional games have a “create your own yard game” challenge. Teams must create a new or modify an existing game by adding, subtracting or modifying a minimum number of rules (scoring, how to play, etiquette, etc.). Teams practice and then present their new games to another team or the entire class and try them out. You will be amazed at what students create. One of my recent favorites was using the “triple jump” footwork skill from the track unit as the movement form to throw horseshoes. Very creative indeed!

Incorporating all or some of these five tips will ensure an enjoyable yard games unit. You will also appreciate the way yard games allow you to interact with students and strengthen relationships in a non-traditional activity setting.

Join the community and continue the conversation: What’s one of your favorite yard games or strategies to “amp-up” the fitness aspect of lower impact activities such as yard games? Leave a comment or question below.



Turkish Get Up

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Frank Baumholtz

Need a new exercise for your strength and contitioning class? Personal Trainer and Physical Education teacher, Frank Baumholtz, provides you with the steps and demonstrates how to complete a Turkish Get-Up! 


One of the best lines I’ve taken over the last few years is one from Dan John.  “If it’s important to you, do it every day. If it’s not important to you, don’t do it.”  In all of my training programs, we always foam roll, warm up, go through dynamic-movement prep and perform Kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups.  Everyday! 

The Turkish Get Up is the ultimate core exercise.  It’s the yoga move of strength and conditioning.  You have to have mobility, strength and coordination.  You need to be able to breathe while under load and take the body through the full range of motion.  We don’t isolate muscles and movement patterns, we integrate them. 

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One key note to remember is that bony prominences of the body (Heel, heel of hand, elbow, knee, etc) are points of stability.  Use them to your advantage. 

Turkish Get Up:

  1. Starting Position-- Positioning the kettlebell (KB)

    1. Start in the fetal position
    2. Pull the KB close to the bdoy with both hands
    3. Extend your top leg and roll to your back
    4. Press the KB up with both hands
    5. KB side knee should be flexed and foot flat
    6. Abduct the straight leg roughly 45 degrees from your mid line
    7. Place off hand flat on the ground
    8. Keep wrist neutral (knuckles to the ceiling)
  2. Roll To Press
    1. Control breathing (breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth)
    2. Roll into the off-side shoulder, pressing the KB to the ceiling.
      * This is a very small controlled motion, don't rush
  3. Elbow
    1. Press throught he shoulder and up to the elbow
    2. Roll back to your back
  4. Post (Seated)
    1. From the elbow, press through the hand to the steated position
    2. Keep the off-side heel into the ground. It might want to pop up, but don't let it!
    3. Return to your back. Make sure to control through the elbow on the way back down
  5. High Pelvis
    1. From the Post, extend the hips to the sky/ceiling.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
  6. Bend
    1. From the High Pelvis Position, Bend sideways placing your knee directly under you.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
  7. 1/2 Kneeling
    1. From the Bend Position, bring your torso up into the ½ kneeling position.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through the bend, your seat and elbow on the way back down.
  8. Full
    1. From the ½ Kneeling Position, stand tall keeping the KB directly above you.
    2. Return to your back.  Make sure to control through the ½ kneeling, bend, seat and elbow on the way back down.

Progression Ideas:

  1. Part: Work only to the position where you can control the kettlebell and return to your back each time
  2. Whole: Perform a full Turkish Get Up, under control, without stopping

Turkish Get Up Progression with Pictures:

  1. Starting Position:

     2. Roll to Press                                         3. Elbow                                                     4. Post