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Holiday-Themed Stations for Fitness and Fun!

Posted 1 year ago - by Chad Triolet

Staying active and fit during the winter months can be a challenge.  As a physical education teacher, I always enjoyed opportunities to tap into themed activities that made fitness fun.  Below are some creative station ideas that challenge student fitness levels and teamwork.


1. Build a Snow Fort

Equipment: Cones, empty boxes or pool noodles (the boxes can make larger forts)

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Skills: Balance, Teamwork, Creativity

How it Works: Students will collect one box or pool noodle at a time and carry it across the bridge (balance beam) over the frozen river (a mat) to the construction site.  The students will then use the building material to create a snow fort made of the boxes and cones.  When the task is completed, the teacher can take photos of the students with their fort (optional) and then students will clean up the equipment for the next group.


2. Sleigh Pull

Equipment: Old blankets

Skills: Teamwork, Muscular strength (legs and arms)

How it Works: Students will work in groups of 3-5.  One person will get to ride on the sleigh (blanket), while the other students pull the sleigh across the floor to the other side of the gym.  When the students make it across the gym, they will switch the rider and continue the activity back to the other side of the gym.  The student who is riding must lay on belly with arms keeping his/her head off the floor.  When every student has had a ride, then each student can get a second turn.


3. Over the River

Equipment: Tug of war ropes/heavy duty rope, carpet squares, cones

Skill: Muscular strength (core and arms)

How it Works: To get over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, students will need to pull their way across the raging river (gym floor).  Using one or more rope stretched across the floor students will sit on a carpet square (their boat) and pull from one side to the other using a hand over hand pull.  The rope can be anchored to one wall or two students can pull toward each other to move across the floor.  More than one student can pull at a time provided that there is some space between each child.  If students need assistance, they can use their feet to help move across the floor.  Remind students that the carpet squares should be carpet side down (they slide much easier).  For safety reasons, no student should stand on the carpet squares.

4. Ice Skating

Equipment: Paper plates or felt squares

Skills: Balance, Muscular strength (legs), Coordination

How it Works: Each student will get two paper plates or felt squares (skates) and lay them on the floor.  They will place their feet on the skates and attempt to slide their feet across the gym floor (frozen pond).  The teacher can provide challenges for each trip across the pond while skating (i.e. – spins, going backward, speed skating, etc.) to make the trip across the ice more fun. 



5. Snowball Target Practice

Equipment: Yarn balls, bowling pins and/or stuffed animals

Skills: Throwing at a stationary target, teamwork

How it Works: To set up, place the targets on one end of the playing area.  The target heights can be varied to add a challenge for the students by using mats, buckets, boxes, etc. Use a variety of targets to make the activity more interesting (stuffed animals, bowling pins, etc.).  On the other end of the space, place several different containers (i.e. – buckets) with 40+ yarn balls (snowballs) that the students will use to throw at the targets.  Each student may pick up only one yarn ball at a time to throw at the targets.  In the center of the space, the teacher will place a line of cones that no player may cross when throwing the snowballs (this line can be moved closer to or further away from the targets based on student skill levels).  When the activity begins, the objective of the activity is to score as many points in one round working together as a team to knock down the targets.  After each round, the students will count the number of targets that were hit. 

To add a math component, certain targets can be designated with different values (i.e. – stuffed animals are worth 3 points each).  When the targets are knocked down the students will count up the point values for the targets that were knocked down.


These station ideas are fun ways to work on movement skills, teamwork, and improve fitness.  You are more than welcome to modify them to meet the needs of your students.  If you have a great station idea, please feel free to share it in the comments!  Happy Holidays!!


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

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5 Thanksgiving Fitness Stations

Posted 1 year ago - by Chad Triolet

If a holiday is near, you can bet that my students will be doing fun holiday-themed fitness/skill stations. 

By Thanksgiving, we have already worked on a number of skills (throwing, catching, soccer dribbling, and basketball shooting) and had lots of practice with fitness basics.  Below you will find some creative ideas for some Thanksgiving-themed fun!

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1. Frozen Turkey Shoot

Teacher will talk about going to the grocery store and getting a frozen turkey (Coated-Foam Ball) and putting it in the grocery basket.  We don’t have any grocery baskets, so we’ll try to put our turkey in the laundry baskets.  To shoot, student must balance on their bottom while sitting on a poly spot.  Once in place and balanced, the student will shoot the ball toward the basket.  If the student can make 5 shots, he/she may move further from the basket.


2. Food Group Fitness Relay

Students work with a partner for this activity.  Each partner will begin on one side of a playing area and food cards (NutriPlay™ Nutrition Cards) will be placed face down on the other side of the space.  When the activity begins, the pairs will attempt to collect at least two foods from each food group before time is up.  Partner A will go and collect one card and return it to the starting spot.  Partner B will then take his/her turn. 

While the partner is gone, the partner who is waiting will perform a fitness activity based on the food group that he/she brought back the round before (e.g. dairy= jumping jacks, vegetables= push-up planks, fruits= crab kicks, protein= rocket jumps, and grains= knee curl-ups).  The students will continue taking turns while attempting to complete the task.  If a third food from a food group is selected, it must be returned when the other partner goes back to get a new card.  If any pair completes the task, they will replace the food cards and try it again.   

Variation: To add another sport skill, have the partner who is collecting dribble a soccer ball to the other side and trap the ball on the nutrition card.


3. Hot Biscuits and Gravy

Students will use scoops and a ball  (Rainbow® UltraCatch™ Scoops Sets)for this activity.  The students will imagine that the balls are hot biscuits right out of the oven.  They must cool them off by tossing them back and forth between gravy bowls (scoop).  After 5 tosses, the partners will switch jobs.  Remind students that they can move the gravy boat to help their partner be successful.  For younger students, only allow underhanded scoop tosses or use Rainbow® UltraCatch™ Jumbo Scoop Sets.


4. Stuff the Turkey

Students will work with a partner for this activity.  They will stand behind a hula hoop and hold a serving spoon, we use a 2 foot noddle piece (FUNoodles™), in their hands.  When the activity begins, they will move to the matching hula hoop in front of them and collect one piece of stuffing (small noodle piece) out of that hoop using the serving spoon like a hockey stick.  When the stuffing has been moved to the starting hoop then the partners will continue the process until all of the stuffing is in the starting hoop. 

Next, the partners will stuff all of the stuffing into a turkey (plastic grocery bag).  When the turkey is stuffed, one partner will tie a loose knot in the bag using the handles and then the partners will begin tenderizing the turkey by hitting it back and forth like they are playing volleyball.  The students will see how many consecutive hits they can make before the turkey hits the floor. 

To save time, the teacher can stuff turkeys ahead of time and when all of the stuffing is gathered, the students can just use the pre-stuffed turkeys for tenderizing.


5. Hunt and Gather

The teacher will tell a story about how the Native Americans and Pilgrims had to hunt and gather food for their Thanksgiving Day meal.  They did not have grocery stores so they had to work hard to get what they needed.  For this activity, the students will set up different targets on one end of the playing area (a variety of items can be used as targets including bowling pins, stuffed animals, cones, etc.). 

Once the items are set up, the students will go to a boundary line on the other side of the space and get one yarn ball or coated-foam ball. The objective is to knock down as many targets as possible as a team.   When all of the balls have been thrown, the students will collect the balls and reset the targets for another round.  This will continue until time has expired. 

Variations: For more fun, use boxes or mats to change the levels of the targets.  To integrate math, assign point values to various targets and have the students add up the total for each round.  Remind all students to throw (however designated) with proper technique.

What are you favorite holiday or Thanksgiving-themed activities?


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

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3 Non-Traditional Games for PE

Posted 1 year ago - by Chad Triolet

One of my favorite subjects for presentations has been how to use non-traditional gaming concepts in physical education. 

There are many awesome games that have been created using unique scoring concepts, defensive strategies, and/or tactical rules of play.  In this particular blog, you will find some of my favorite non-traditional games and some background on the history of each game. 


Let’s start with a French-Canadian game that is now played as a World Cup sport in over 20 countries around the world…any guesses?  If you guessed KIN-BALL®, then you got it right!  KIN-BALL® is a unique game concept played using a non-traditional ball (a giant 40” inflatable ball) and an equally unique playing format that pits 3 teams against each other to determine a winner. 

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How to Play: 

Each team is made up of 4 players that work together to either serve the ball or catch the ball if their team has been designated.  With three teams on the court at one time, game play and strategies for success are vastly different than traditional sports, which adds to the intrigue of the game. 

Another significant element that impacts the game is the use of a 40” ball.  The size of the ball certainly impacts striking and catching the ball which adds another unique (and fun) element to the game.  All novelty aside, playing the game is fun and a tremendous workout! 

Click here to learn more, or Shop KIN-BALL®.


2. Tchoukball

Tchoukball is another exciting non-traditional sports game that uses a unique element for game play.  The game was invented by Dr. Hermann Brant and was designed to eliminate aggressive play and physical contact.  This throwing and catching game requires hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. 

How to Play:

Dropping the ball or missing the target (A.K.A – the “frame”) will result in a turn over.  A “frame” is essentially an angled trampoline that must be used to attack.  When attacking, the objective is to bounce the ball off the frame so that it lands inside the boundary lines and is NOT caught by the opposing team. 

What makes this game so exciting is the fact that players on the offense may throw the ball off of the frames at either end of the playing area in order to attack.  As soon as the ball bounces off the frame, the defense must spring into action to cover the court and retrieve the ball.  It is important to note that the defense in this game may not interfere in any way with offensive game play until a player from the offensive team makes an attack by throwing the ball off one of the frames.  After the attack, if the ball is caught by the defense, the defense turns into the offense and the game continues. 

There are rules that require a minimum and maximum number of passes before an attack.  These rules keep the pace of the game at a high level and ensure that players maximize their MVPA throughout the activity.  My favorite part of the game is the non-traditional defense concept.  During defense, players must work together to cover the court which requires teamwork and organization. 

Click here to learn more, or Shop Tchoukball.



3. Ultimate®

I will finish with Ultimate®, which was once called Ultimate® Frisbee® and is a non-contact team sport that is played with a flying disc.  This game has been played for over 50 years and is played around the world.  It is a popular recreational game and is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee although it is not considered an Olympic sport.  

How to Play: 

The objective of this game is to have a player catch the flying disc in the opposing team’s “end zone”.  When in possession of the disc, the player may not run with the disc but rather establish a pivot point.  The disc must be passed to teammates to advance it down the field.  If a disc is dropped, blocked to the ground, out of bounds, or intercepted, it is a turnover and the opposing team may start moving immediately. 

This is a non-contact game and traditional “in your face” defense is not allowed.  To begin the game, each team stands in their end zone and a player from one team will launch the disc to the opposing team.  This process happens each time a point is scored by catching the disc in the end zone. 

Because of the quick transitions in this game, there are limited rest periods which can lead to increased fitness levels.  I used the Ultimate concept for many of the activities that I shared with my students and demonstrate in presentations.  There are official Ultimate rules; however, based on ability and skill levels of the players, they may be modified.

Click here to learn more, or Shop Ultimate®.


Too often PE programs focus on traditional sports that are offered in athletic programs.  For those students who are not engaged in athletic programs, the traditional sports may not be appealing.  Maybe a non-traditional approach to sports is a way to motivate them to get more involved and more active. 

If you have never tried these 3 activities or similar activities with your students, I highly encourage you to change the pace and try something new!


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

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The LEARN Model for Effective Lesson Planning in PE

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L = Link to Background Knowledge

E = Engage and Explain

A = Active Learning

R = Reflection

N = Next Steps

Free Download: LEARN Lesson Plan Template

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

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

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

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


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

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FITNESSGRAM® Testing: Data vs. Results

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 AssessPro® Testing


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Infusing Yard Games with Quality PE

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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





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


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

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


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Building Character in PE

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How to Create a Learning Environment in PE!

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

Gym walls, gymnasium wall art



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How To: Maximizing Participation in Physical Education

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Success-Driven PE: The New-School Approach

Posted 2 years ago - by Chad Triolet

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

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

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

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

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

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


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