Archive for October, 2016


Including Children with Special Needs Physical Education Plans

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

special needs

With physical education programs being reduced across the U.S., the crunch on activity in school is felt even more acutely by children with special needs. Research shows that students with disabilities receive 4.5 times less physical activity than their non disabled peers. And when they are in physical education class, children with special needs are often less likely to be selected for teams and directed to sit on the sidelines. This leads not only to a lack of social interaction, but also develops a negative association to the physical activity that can keep them healthy.

An inclusive physical education plan has the ability to shape the relationship a child with special needs has with sport and activity. Below are a few techniques to make sure no child gets left behind.

Create Smaller Groups

Large class sizes make it hard to give each student personal attention, not to mention a student with special needs.

Whether your physical education class is 20 students or 150, it’s important to break into smaller groups to ensure everyone participates and gets the attention they need. This can involve utilizing the skills of teacher helpers, special needs assistants, and student leaders, assigning them to supervise different groups of activities.

Team sports with a low number of players-per-team such as ball hockey can also better ensure all students are involved and active.

Adapt Existing Activities

Physical education teachers don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be inclusive. Adapted physical activity involves updating traditional team and individual sports in order to make the game better suited to students with motor and intellectual disabilities.

Adapting existing activities is a valuable tool for physical educators since the games can be played by all students as part of inclusion and universal design for learning.

Have the Right Equipment

This is another element of adapting activities for students with special needs.

A variety of specialized equipment can greatly impact a student’s ability to be involved in physical education activity. For example, children with coordination issues may have a difficult time with standard issue balls. Bean bags, nerf balls, and other options may be good alternatives that promote inclusion and success. Cones and spot markers may also be helpful in providing spatial boundary definition and play space area for students with sensory motor issues.

Consider padding play area surfaces for students with dyspraxia, and ensure an area is easy for students in wheelchairs to maneuver.

All-In Participation Activities

Another way of including children with special needs in physical education plans is to select team building activities that require participation from every student. Simple obstacle courses and relay races can be options, as can having small groups of students coach one another through basic yoga and aerobics moves. Having students help one another will create leadership skills and bonds between special needs students and their peers.
Before reworking any physical education plan, meet with your school’s special education team and the parents of students with disabilities. They will have a better sense of a child’s unique needs and how you can best accommodate them in your class.

5 Reasons to Take Your PE Class Outside

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

PE

Kids, on average, don’t play outside as much as their parents did. Children spend more than six hours every day on screens, from televisions to tablets. Even school settings offer more screen learning than even a decade ago. All of that technology has its place and purpose, but without opportunities to get outside children face issues like obesity, inability to focus, and even depression.

Taking a PE class outside accomplishes two things: student exposure to fresh air and sunshine, and a connection to nature through exercise. Both can combat that six-hour screen time statistic and impart skills that encourage healthier lifestyles in children.

Take a look at the major reasons you should take your PE classes outside whenever possible:

1. Improved Mood

Kids, by nature, don’t belong indoors all day long. Studies have found that exercise that happens outside incites greater feelings of rejuvenation and energy. Getting outdoors is refreshing, especially since only 10% of children say they spend time outside each day. Vitamin D3 absorption releases feel-good endorphin hormones, boosting mood and elevating brain health. In fact, 90% of kids who spend time outside say it relieves stress. Having the release that goes along with all of that running, jumping, and enjoying the outdoors improves behavior and outlook for the rest of the day, and beyond.

2. More Activity

There is evidence that exercise that happens outside is physically better. In other words, doing the same activities inside and out can have very different results. A study that looked at runners who used a treadmill inside versus those who ran the same distance outside found that the outdoor people used more energy to account for things like wind direction and uneven terrain. The elements outdoors makes working out there harder. Students in a PE class that meets outside will burn more calories and work harder than those in a class that lasts the same amount of time inside.

3. Greater Enjoyment

When kids can associate their exercise routine with something else they enjoy – like going outside – there is a better chance they will want to repeat the activity. A PE class that happens outdoors has the added perk of getting outside the school walls, which is a task that is normally reserved for recess. Teaching kids the connection between physical health and enjoying nature has the potential to increase their motivation for fitness activities for life.

4. Heighten Environmental Awareness

A PE class that happens outside offers opportunities for cross-discipline learning. The Nature Conservancy reports that children who spend time outside are more connected to and invested in the planet. Even if the only time students spend outdoors is less than an hour in your class every week, this time matters from an environmental standpoint.

5. Opportunities for Creativity

When adults walk into a gym, the equipment is already prescribed. The treadmills are in one spot, the free weights in another, and the exercise classes in a designated room. The same is true for a PE class that is held inside. The equipment may change based on class but there is less room for kids to create their own fitness routines. Going outside frees the creative process to work in bigger ways and removes the limits from what kids can accomplish during the learning process. Try to offer a mix of instructional activities and some exercise that allows kids to make decisions. This builds greater ownership of fitness for the students who find their own path to enjoying it.

Creating an outdoor PE lesson plan combines fresh air and fitness in a way that kids will embrace. The allure of a class outside is a luxury for many students and PE is the perfect area to accommodate it.

How Much Do You Know About Different Learning Styles? [QUIZ]

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

There are a variety of different learning styles; are you familiar with all of them and how they affect students’ ability to retain information? Test your knowledge of different learning styles with our quiz.

 

Ice Breakers to Get Kids Moving

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

ice breaker

Cultivating a comfortable classroom environment for students is crucial to how well they perform. Physical education classes in particular tend to come with a little more anxiety for some kids and a feeling of confidence is the key to their success.

One of the easiest ways to get new students acquainted with your PE classroom is through ice breaking games. Take a look at few you should try to help your class get moving.

Name Memory Game

Help students gain confidence in class and learn each other’s names through this classic – with a physical education twist. Have the class stand in a large circle that includes the teacher. Start by saying your name and doing some sort of physical movement (clap, stomp, jump, or spin around). The person to your left repeats your name and movement, and adds his or her own. The next person repeats both and adds a third. This repeats all the way around the circle, with the teacher going one last time to repeat everyone’s name and movement.

Cacophony

Have students arrange in a circle and hold hands. This game starts with the leader (usually the teacher) making a sound. He or she then squeezes the hand of the person to the left and continues to make the sound. The new person also starts making a sound and squeezes the hand of the next student who does the same. Soon the entire circle is a chorus of chosen sounds. When the hand squeeze returns to the game leader, he or she stops making the sound and squeezes the hand of the next person on the left who also goes silent. This continues until every sound has ceased.

Grab It

This game is best for preschool or early elementary students. Use a bean bag or another small object and pair up students who sit, facing each other, with the object in between them. When the teacher yells “Grab it!” the first person to pick up the object gets a point. Teachers can increase the difficulty by yelling things other than the command, and deducting a point if anyone is fooled.

7 Buzz

This game is best for students in upper elementary or middle school. The group forms a circle and each person takes a turn counting, in sequence, until the number 7 or a multiple of it is called. The person who should speak that number yells “Buzz!” instead and the circle reverses. To make the game even more challenging, use a lower number like 5 or 3.

What Am I Doing?

Divide the number of students in your class by 2 and then have them number off from 1 until the halfway number, and then again. Have the students with matching numbers pair up and stand next to each other in the large circle. Start with the team to the left of the teacher and have them go to the center of the circle. One student will start doing an action, like pretending to mow the lawn, and will ask the other student “What am I doing?” Instead of answering with the real action, the second student will mention a new action. The first person must then do it, while the second then asks “What am I doing?” You can put a limit on the amount of times the pair performs, or just let them go until they lose sync or are laughing too hard to go on. This is an especially good exercise to get new people to meet and interact, instead of sticking with the people they already know.

 

First days are hard – for students and teachers. Ice breakers that incorporate movement can help students loosen up and will help you get to know them a little better too.

East St. Louis School District 189 – PEP Grant Case Study

Friday, October 7th, 2016

East St Louis Blog pic 1

Putting Some PEP in Their Step

The East St. Louis School District didn’t have much of a PE program in its elementary schools; in fact, for over five years, it didn’t have any PE at all. Budget cuts and limited local funding for a school with a 100% free and reduced lunch rate led to the cutting of PE, which did not serve to improve an already high obesity rate among students. Things were about to change for the better in 2014 when the district applied for, and won, the Carol M. White PEP Grant.

East St. Louis School District 189 was in great need of evidence-based programming to transform their near non-existent PE program and student health statistics into an active, thriving, healthy program and student population. When they won the two-year grant, they sparked transformation right away in Year 1. Working with Cassie Wolvington, Sportime featuring SPARK Sales Representative, they ordered:

  • SPARK Curriculum Materials for K-12 Physical Education and After School,
  • Healthy Kids Challenge Nutrition Curriculum Materials for K-8
  • 5 Premium SPARK trainings for K-2, 3-6, Middle School, High School, After School
  • Modified Sportime equipment sets for K-12 and After School
  • Accusplit pedometers to track steps for grant reporting

To implement the new curriculum, training, and equipment, the district used PEP funding to hire four competent, creative, and energetic PE teachers.

Keeping up the positive momentum in Year 2, the district ordered:

  • Additional Curriculum Materials and Physical Education Equipment
  • SPARK Booster Trainings for K-2, 3-6, Middle School, High School, After School

Impressed with the great customer service and personal attention provided to them by their Sportime featuring SPARK Representative, they ordered an additional $145K worth of equipment.

Boys Track & Field Head Coach and PEP Grant Director Barry Malloyd commented on the experience, “Our district’s experience with SPARK has been life-changing for our PE teachers, students and parents. There is now a SPARK in our physical education programs like never before. The SPARK curriculum and trainings have provided our district with a SPARK of hope. The supplies, equipment, curriculum, trainings, and webinars that you provided us have catapulted our district’s PE program into the 21st Century. Our district administrators, PE teachers, students, and parents have given our PEP program a standing ovation because of our students’ drastic improvements in all areas of the GPRA Measures. It’s because of this SPARK that our district has some ‘PEP IN OUR STEPS!’”

Mr. Malloyd continued, “The benefits that our district is most excited about are the Fall and Spring SPARK trainings given to all of our district PE teachers and after school partners.  Also, the awesome supplies and equipment that you provide has made PE once again fun, exciting, and relevant in our school district. I could not and would not ever ask for another provider other than SPARK.”

From having no PE program to sparking a thriving, healthy, active PE program that is the envy of peer school districts – now that is a success story! Congratulations East St. Louis School District 189!

To learn more about the SPARK and PEP grant, click here.

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