Archive for August, 2012

$400M Available through Race to the Top – District Competition

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Update: August 2012

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the 2012 Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition, which will provide nearly $400 million to support school districts in implementing local reforms that will personalize learning, close achievement gaps and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and their careers.

The Race to the Top-District competition invites applicants to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students and is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between teachers and students. The competition will encourage transformative change within schools, providing school leaders and teachers with key tools and support in order to best meet their students’ needs. These 4-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. The Department is expecting to make 15-25 awards. The Department is requesting interested districts to submit their intent to apply by August 30th. Applications are due October 30th.

If your district is planning to apply, please consider including physical education in your application!

Information for RTT-D Applicants:

  1. SPARK alignment with national & state standards Click Here
  2. SPARK Assessment Tools Click Here
  3. SPARK PreK-12th Grade Scope & Sequence Click Here
  4. SPARK Teacher Training Click Here (3-6 PE Sample)
  5. Academics & Physical Activity Click Here

Eligible Applicants: LEAs and Consortia of LEAs

Award Amount: $5 million – $40 million

Letter of Intent: August 30, 2012 (strongly encouraged but not required)

Application Deadline: October 30, 3012

Application Link:

Giving Instructions in a Physical Education Class

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Here are 4 strategies to be more efficient giving instructions and providing students with feedback to create a positive environment for your class:

When Before What:

When giving instructions, tell students when you want them to do something before you tell them what you want them to do

The object is… You do that by:

When describing an activity, try: “The object of the activity is ________; you do that by _________. Ready? Go!” This strategy helps keep your instructions focused and concise.

The 80/20 Rule:

After instruction, assume 80% of students understand and the other 20% don’t.

Instead of answering students’ questions, get started. Most students will “get it” while participating in the activity. While students move, play the role of “plumber” and “fix the leaks” by providing individuals with information when needed.


Students covet individual attention. Provide individual feedback when students are working alone or in small groups rather than shouting for all to hear.

Reaching out to Rebellious PE Students

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Wouldn’t it be nice if every PE class went perfectly every time? Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. There are always things that threaten to derail your best-laid lesson plans: adverse weather, lack of equipment, or rebellious students.

Since you can’t control the storm clouds, and you probably can’t do much about your PE budget, you can at least figure out creative ways to reach out to a student who just can’t get his or her head into your class, no matter how fun or engaging your activities are.

Here are a few suggestions to reach out to even the most uninterested student, which can not only preserve the efficiency of your class, but help that student become a more attentive learner.

What’s Eating Your Student?

Often, the problems your student is experiencing may not have anything to do with you or your class. Problems at home, problems in other classrooms, and even problems with other students can all have an affect on a child, especially if they already suffer from confidence or performance issues.

Try talking to other teachers, counselors and administrators to find out what kind of dynamic relationships your student has with other students. Perhaps your student is afraid of bullying, as students under this kind of stress can act abnormally from intimidation or fear.

If the student has shown a rebellious streak throughout other classes, perhaps there is a deeper problem at work than social fear. Your administrators might have some guidance about the student’s home life. Or, you might be the one to clue your counselors into problems that the student could benefit from discussing with a professional.

Whatever you do, always consult your administrators on matters that you are unsure how to handle.

What’s Your Student Eating?

Don’t rule out legitimate medical reasons for the student’s rebellion, either. Some students with diagnosed (or undiagnosed) illnesses who aren’t getting enough nutrition in their diet could suffer from grumpy and cranky behavior.

However, this problem can be improved with a comprehensive coordinated school health program. Such a program seeks to change the environment that students are brought up in, including their nutritional choices, level of activity, and inclusion of physical fitness into everyday academic studies. Best of all, it’s backed by science. And it’s proven to work.

By removing sugary snacks from vending machines, offering whole grains and locally-grown vegetables (even better from the school’s own vegetable garden), and encouraging physical activity in a regular classroom setting, you create a well-rounded approach to PE that can improve all facets of your students’ lives.

With a program like this, you won’t only raise the performance scores of your stragglers or rebellious kids, your entire student body will show signs of performing better in PE class and in other academic areas as well.


Reach Out

Have you tried talking to your student? It’s easy to write off an unruly student and send them to the back of your mind so you can focus on the more engaged kids who show that they want to learn.

But that could be a big mistake.

Instead of punishing a student for having problems, you should attempt to engage that student as often as possible. There are endless resources available that can help you find an activity your student enjoys, and from there you can begin the process of building their confidence.

If you use a lesson plan that incorporates a variety of skills and activities, the chances will be better that each of your students will find success with at least a fraction of the activity. Use those little moments of success to instill the “I can do it!” feelings that all children need to stay engaged and active.

Lesson plans should take advantage of the opportunity to teach teamwork to younger students, which could also help bring your shy student back into the fold. When he’s encouraged in a positive manner by his peers, he’s more likely to enjoy the task at hand and even excel.

Never leave a single student behind. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra effort to find out why your student is struggling to help him or her get back on track.

Inspiration: Using the Olympic Games to Help Teach PE

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Using the Olympic Games to teach Lesson PlansEvery four years something magical happens—billions of people around the world find inspiration in the Olympic Games. From powerhouse countries like the United States and China to small countries like Vanuatu and Angola, children are tuning in and watching their homeland athletes go up against the best in the world.

What better time to get your students into fitness and health? They’re already watching at home with their families and friends, talking about the performances they’ve seen and emulating their favorite athletes.

Whether you’re in charge of a summer camp this season or you’re planning your physical education curriculum for the coming fall, there are no shortage of games, activities, and pure Olympic inspiration to get your students active.

Here are some ways to incorporate the Games into your lesson plans, split up by age group:

Grades K through 5

Your youngsters might not understand the honor that accompanies U.S. athletes to the Olympics every four years, but they’ll understand something close: red, white, and blue; and bronze, silver and gold.

Create mock Olympic races and competitions with the young ones. This is a great time to encourage teamwork and friendly competition. Put the emphasis on trying your best, and if they don’t win or do as well as they’d hoped, at least they made it to the Third Grade Olympics!

You could stage mock Olympic Trials, and that way everyone gets to play for the U.S.

Use real Games disciplines to create your mock trials: relay races, dance competitions, and even accuracy competitions (like throwing a ball at a target). SPARK lesson plans come with a huge variety of ideas that are easily adaptable to your own personal Olympic Trials.

Grades 6 through 8

With this age group, you’ll be able to conduct more complex games. This age group will also have an easier time understanding the idea of representing their country and what it means to compete on the world’s stage.

Show videos of popular athletes the students already know to help engage them in your mock Games. If you have pool access, why not channel Michael Phelps and Dana Vollmer? If you’re taking them outside to the track (or suitable, safe running area), use the accomplishments of Lolo Jones and Tyson Gay to help show how a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and a lot of determination can help your students succeed.

As always, instill the ideals of teamwork, but also that it’s OK to lose. Show how Olympic athletes always shake hands after a meet, and congratulate each other for their successes.

Grades 9 through 12

With this age group, your possibilities are almost endless. Freestyle swimming, basketball, gymnastics, archery, track and field, badminton, and even table tennis are all real Olympic sports. As long as you have the equipment, you’ll be able to manage these sports on a class-wide scale.

It may be more difficult to play pretend with high schoolers, so think about other ways to get your older students engaged. For example, you can offer bonus points or extra credit using an improvement metric: as long as the student has improved in a certain event from the beginning to the end of your Olympic Trials, that student earns something extra.

If your school allows it, and you’re feeling particularly ambitious, why not include the entire school in your Olympic Trials? Bringing many students together for a common cause is a fantastic way to emulate how the Games operate, and it could lead to some students teaming up with other students they would otherwise not interact with.

Plus, you can create a series of activities that gets your students talking about fitness and it’s many aspects, including making nutritious food choices, staying healthy by exercising, and staying positive.

At the end of your mock Olympic Games closing ceremony, you may not be able to hand out gold, silver, and bronze medals to every one of your students, but you’ll give them something better: a golden outlook on their own fitness.

And a gold medal in healthy living is something they can cherish for a lifetime.