Free resources for New Physical Education Teachers, Returning Physical Education Teachers, and School Leadership Strategies
"Learning doesn’t happen from the neck up; it happens from the feet up.
-Mike Kuczala, Author of The Kinesthetic Classroom
In recent years, we in the physical education space, have lost our way. A string of misguided priorities, a roll out the ball mentality, budget cuts, marginalization of our classes, and not to mention a glaring lack of desire youth have to be active has taken us off the track of what is best for our students. Physical education is not just getting kids to move but teaching them how to move. There is a gap between the worlds of Physical Education and Exercise Science that needs to be bridged. It is for this reason that WE can and should redefine physical education!
“Physical Literacy is the cornerstone of both participation and excellence in physical activity and sport. Individuals who are physically literate are more likely to be active for life.” – Canadian Sport for Life
Physical educators are in a very unique situation with regard the physical, emotional, mental, and social development of young people. If our district is K-12, a student has the possibility of being in our program for THIRTEEN YEARS. It is for this reason that a vertically aligned, developmentally appropriate curriculum is so paramount! All members of our PE staff should be using the same road map to offer what is best for each student at each stage of development.
Understanding the different types of movements that serve as prerequisites for physical literacy is extremely important for physical educators. Basic movements, as they relate to sport and life, can be broken down into three distinct but equally important categories.
1) Fundamental Movement Skills
2) Fundamental Sport Skills
3) Foundational Movement Skills
A properly designed and efficiently completed dynamic warmup not only prepares the body for physical activity but can be extremely effective for teaching, practicing, and developing movement skills. An adequate warmup in PE should last between 8-12 and should consist of 4 primary sections, each of which should be engaging and properly monitored. Those sections are:
3) General Mobility
4) Applied Movement
The buzz in physical education often circles back to the same few issues: obesity, sedentary behaviour, and overall lack of fitness. Although these are extremely important and key concerns for the future, we often feel the pressure to solely focus on fitness, and unfortunately the fitness we focus on is only HALF of what we should be focusing on for our students! Fitness is an umbrella term that, in reality, is split into two categories: Health-Related Fitness and Skill-Related Fitness each containing 5 and 6 specific components, respectively.
We must ask ourselves this question when approaching a new group of students and/or athletes. We know that growth and development is non-linear, and we need to embrace that fact to offer the best opportunities for success to the students/athletes we get to work with. What are other questions we should find the answer to prior to taking on students?
We can’t move forward without knowing where we are. Accurate, timely, and developmentally appropriate assessment not only drives instruction, but motivates students, validates our efforts, creates “buy in” with parents, and sells our product to administration and school leadership.
Nick is a Professor & Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta. He also leads the Child & Adolescent Sport & Activity (CASA) Lab, and conducts Athlete Research focusing on Positive Youth Development through sport.
Differentiation is a key component of education, regardless of subject matter. Growth and development and nonlinear. Being able to meet students where they are on their journey is an invaluable ability to have as an educator. There are 3 primary constraints to motor learning and skill acquisition: the athlete, environment, and the task. Each of these constraints can be analyzed and manipulated to offer students with the best opportunity for success.
Reaching out and engaging parents and families is an extremely useful tool for the promotion of our programs, student motivation, development of physical literacy, and overall culture of movement and activity. We can’t utilize parent contact only when behaviour is an issue, we need to flip the script and get parents involved from the start of the year and throughout the year.
More than just games. More than just running laps. The landscape of physical education has changed and so have the students in our classes. Our physical education classes should be built around:
1) Promotion of physical literacy
2) Vertically aligned, developmentally appropriate curriculum
3) Incorporation of all movement skills
4) Incorporations of both health and skill related fitness
5) Integration of movement methodology
6) Cultivating a growth mindset
7) Differentiation for diverse performers
8) Regular assessment and feedback to students and families
9) Recognition of social and emotional learning traits
Change can be very hard for some…Vying for vertical alignment within PE curriculum often means multiple teachers, schools, and grade levels might have to change some (or a lot) of their current practices. How can we work through this resistance?
1) Go after the “low hanging fruit” first
2) Illuminate the path
3) Don’t lose sight of the mission, goals, or purpose
4) Highlight and celebrate successes
5) Engage administration and school leadership
6) Engage families
The idea of Long-Term Athlete Development and the American Development Model are frameworks or roadmaps for age & stage appropriate steps towards quality movement in sport and life. When implemented correctly, they can contribute to the culture of the school and academic performance of the students.
The gap between traditional physical education and sports performance / exercise physiology is as large as it has ever been. In order to provide the best physical education possible, we need to bridge that gap. The purposeful integration of opportunities for the development of foundational movement skills is a must in physical education. Providing intentional practice with regard to sports performance, athleticism, and skill-related fitness is also crucial in a student’s physical literacy journey.
Deliberate and strategic use of regular PLC time can cultivate the following:
1) Program norms
2) Program values
3) A shift from individual to team mindset
4) Sense of belonging
5) Short and long-term goals
Social and emotional learning is baked into the day to day of physical education. It is imperative that we as educators recognize and call attention to the 5 core competencies of SEL:
3) Social awareness
4) Relationship skills
5) Responsible decision-making
What can data do for us?
1) Drive instruction
2) Provide motivation
3) Self-evaluation & reflection
4) Advocacy for your program
5) Differentiate & individualize content/lessons
6) Evaluate effectiveness of teaching
What can data do for others? (students, parents, staff, school leaders)
1) Improves student motivation
2) Gives relevance to daily activities
3) Self-evaluation & reflection
4) Peer evaluation
5) Demonstrates importance of your program
Make it fun! Each interaction fosters a love of the experience that inspires them to continue
1) Know your mission
2) Brand your program
3) Advocate for your program
4) Promote OUTSIDE of PE
5) Show your worth
6) Be involved in your school
Students who are regularly physically active are more likely to experience:
1) Increased academic achievement
2) Improved self-esteem & confidence
3) Reduced anti-social or disruptive behavior
4) Improved social skills
5) Improvements in overall physical health & well-being
6) Improved attendance rates
7) Increased attentiveness throughout the day
Physical education is the only class in the entire school that sees all of our students on a regular basis. By investing time, effort, and resources, we can use that to our advantage. By supporting and showing pride in our PE programs we can not only instill the importance of quality movement but also school norms, core values/beliefs, promote social and emotional learning, and much more. Physical education is more than just games and laps, it’s an invaluable vehicle to building a strong culture in our buildings!
Long-Term Athlete Development and the American Development Model are frameworks or roadmaps for age & stage appropriate steps towards quality movement in sport and life. When implemented correctly, they can contribute to the culture of the school and academic performance of the students.
When an athlete begins, at an early age, to limit participation to a single sport and solely dedicates their time to that sport year-round.
1) Ensure coaches MAKE IT FUN!
2) Be involved!
3) No cut, fair play policies
4) Engage with club & community coaches – work together not against
5) Use PE to help create the culture (vision, mission, goals, values, etc.)