Archive for March, 2017


How to Make Your Physical Education Class More Inclusive

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Group of special needs teenagers and young women with instructor, showing team spirit. They are sitting in a circle on a gym floor, hands in the center. Several of the girls have downs syndrome and two are in wheelchairs.

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

If you are a physical educator, you no doubt have had students with disabilities in your class. In many instances, you may be not be aware of which students have a disability because the disability doesn’t affect their participation in your class. Other times you are well aware of those students and are looking for better ways to keep them challenged, and they end up having a successful and fun experience in your class. “Inclusive PE” is the term used for a General Education (Gen Ed) physical education class in which ALL students are included. This includes any student with a disability who may or may not also be receiving Adapted Physical Education (APE) by a special APE teacher. (APE is provided to students with disabilities as part of the special education services they receive.) Inclusive PE is part of the Gen Ed services and involves placing students alongside their peers with support and proper accommodations to help make everyone successful.

Inclusive PE incorporates everyone who can safely be included in a general PE class. Most students with disabilities (92% at elementary and 88% at secondary level) are mainstreamed into general PE classes. The greatest percentage of students with disabilities falls under the group “specific learning disabilities” (~45%) followed by “speech and language disorders” (~19%). The rest of the students with disabilities fall into the categories of “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” which can include emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), intellectual disability, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments (including blindness) and multiple disabilities.

Inclusive PE has benefits for all students. Students with disabilities gain valuable social skills when working and playing in the Gen Ed environment. All students learn appropriate behavior from a variety of their peers whether they are disabled or not. Students with disabilities have more opportunities to participate in age-appropriate physical activities in an inclusive PE environment compared to APE. Students develop relationships with their Gen Ed peers. Oftentimes, higher expectations lead children with disabilities to achieve more, gain confidence, and develop a stronger sense of self. On the other hand, the Gen Ed students also gain many advantages from inclusion. First, as they are exposed to children with disabilities, they tend to become more understanding of and develop more positive attitudes toward others with differences. They are less likely to see disability as an impairment and more likely to see it simply as a difference and accept them more readily. It has also been shown that when students are given the chance to be an “expert” in an area and become peer tutors, it helps them and increases their abilities in that area. In addition, when teachers create opportunities for students to learn in a variety of ways, it helps not just those with disabilities, but all students. There is no evidence at all that Gen Ed students lose academic or social skills as a result of inclusion. All evidence points to a win-win situation for all students.

As a PE teacher your goal is to help your students reach their full potential. An inclusive environment will help them get there. Be emphasizing respect, acceptance and cooperation as core values in class, you will create an environment that recognizes the value of differences and helps everyone focus on what they can do. The following strategies will help you build a more inclusive environment:

  • Talk to your class about inclusion – Have a conversation about expectations and etiquette. Students will have questions and concerns, so give everyone an opportunity for discussion. Help them to understand that all people have needs and rights and that everyone is different.
  • Use “People First” language – by putting the individual first and the disability second you are helping to create mutual respect. (E.g. “My student with autism” as opposed to “An autistic student.”)
  • Get to know your students – Find out about their abilities, strengths and challenges, rather than making assumptions based on their disability. Find out about their learning needs and which specific strategies work for them.
  • Consult with specialists – Specialists such as PTs, OTs, APE teachers, speech and language therapists, and others with more experience or education regarding working with students with disabilities can be a very effective resource.
  • Engage your students when adapting activities – Help them see that there are many ways to adapt to help them be successful. Guide them so that eventually they will know best how to adapt for themselves.
  • Adapting rules and instructions – If students are having difficulty following rules, simplify so there are fewer rules to remember. Make instructions clear and add resources where needed (e.g. white board, demonstrations, minimize background noise, etc.)
  • Modify activities – Sometimes students will need modifications and sometimes they won’t. It will depend on the student and the activity/skill/game being taught. Don’t assume that if a student has a disability they will always need things to be modified. The following are some general ideas for adapting activities:
    • Let partners/peers assist
    • Eliminate time limits
    • Allow balls to be stationary
    • Modify the purpose of the activity
    • Use models to show the activity
    • Reduce number of players per team
    • Slow the pace of the activity
    • Provide rest periods as needed
    • Define boundaries clearly
    • Modify the activity area
    • Use a variety of sizes, weights, densities of toss/catchables
    • Make lower/larger goals
    • Use lighter equipment
    • Provide balance support

If you are looking for ways to adapt your teaching to better suit students with varying disabilities, SPARK has written its Inclusive PE Guidebook with this in mind. It was written by Adapted Physical Education and Gen Ed Physical Education teachers to help PE teachers teach a more inclusive PE class. SPARK also now has an Inclusive PE workshop (3- or 6-hour) that focuses on creating a more inclusive environment and provides a multitude of strategies to adapt activities to make all your students more successful in PE. Sportime also carries an Inclusive PE Starter Pack that can help your students with disabilities reach their potential in PE.

New, Comprehensive Resources to Advance Inclusive PE

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

275320 PE_INCLUSIVE_web ad_horizWe launched the latest inclusive PE solutions for physical education teachers at the 2017 SHAPE America Convention. These resources include the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook, Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop and Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack, which support teachers in delivering the highest standards and most beneficial instruction to each and every student.

“We’re very excited about these new resources and expect they will have a tremendous impact on teacher development and student experience through evidence-based, carefully curated solutions that reinforce best practices in inclusive PE instruction,” stated Jeff Mushkin, SPARK Curriculum Development Director. “Specifically, the latest tools were developed for general PE teachers to address the need for support in adapting activities when there are a few students with disabilities in their classes. Teachers have asked for help in understanding disabilities and how to make modifications to their lessons in order to engage all students. We have responded to their call. The resources were developed by educators with experience working with students with special needs in both the adapted PE and the inclusive PE setting, and reflect their expertise for building a positive learning environment for all students.”

SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook

Written by leading experts in the physical education field, including SPARK specialists, SHAPE America National Adapted PE Teacher of the Year, Texas Woman’s University, and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook provides over 200 pages of resources designed for educators who teach a general PE class that includes students with disabilities. The guidebook serves as a resource for educators to plan skill assessments and determine the best methods for student evaluation. Lesson plans offer instructional content that help teachers address the SHAPE America National Standards for Physical Education.

The guidebook includes 24 sample SPARK lesson plans and 14 skill-building activities with integrations that demonstrate how to modify and adapt the activities for students with disabilities. It also contains valuable fact sheets for 12 disability categories that include background material about each disability and information about how a student with the disability learns best. The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook can be used on its own or in conjunction with a SPARK Physical Education or After School Curriculum. The guidebook is available in print and/or digital format.

Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack

Additionally, educators will benefit from the Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack, which provides expert-selected products, specifically designed to substitute for a variety of physical education equipment to keep all students physically active and successfully engaged during PE. The pack includes a variety of tactile balls and bell balls, as well as a pop-up target, foam noodles, juggling scarves, jingle bracelets, directional arrows, numbered spot markers, CatchPads, a lightweight exercise band, and a Califone hearing protector.

This Starter Pack also includes the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook Set 3 for grades K-12 instructional strategies, skill adaptation activities, lesson plans, and recommendations for assessments, class management and equipment.

Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop

The Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop is a half or full day, on-site workshop that provides strategies to create an inclusive environment, adapt activities and equipment, and accommodate students during skill-based instruction. Workshop participants learn how to modify lessons plans for specific disabilities and how to better meet the needs of their students. Workshop activities provide opportunities for hands-on learning in order to create an inclusive environment that benefits all students.

Commenting on the expanded resources, Tari Garner, SPARK Elite Trainer and 2013 SHAPE America Central District Teacher of the Year said, “General Physical Educators are looking for disability-specific knowledge and ways to actively engage all students in their physical education classes. The Inclusive PE guidebook and training gives teachers the know-how, general and specific adaptations and strategies, not previously available, to better support and inspire students of all abilities!”

Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop Contest

In partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we are also hosting an Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop Contest which presents the opportunity to win an Inclusive PE Workshop, Guidebook, and Equipment Pack! Teachers are encouraged to enter the contest for a chance to bring an interactive professional development experience to their school/district. The winning school will also receive a $500 voucher to purchase PE supplies for the workshop. Entries are open through April 30, 2017 and applicants will be required to complete a short contest entry form to share how an Inclusive PE Workshop and resources would help their school/district create a more active school environment and increase physical education and physical activity opportunities for all students. Eligible participants are K-12 schools in the U.S. that must be enrolled with Let’s Move! Active Schools and have completed the Let’s Move! Active Schools school assessment by April 30, 2017. The winner will be announced on May 19th. Click here to learn more and enter to win.

We also hosted a free public webinar entitled “Inclusive PE: Strategies for Including ALL Students in PE”, which can now be viewed at SPARKecademy.org (an account, free to create, is required). Click here to hear about how general physical educators can adapt skill-building activities and games to include students with disabilities in enjoyable and meaningful ways.

“As we see increasing demand from teachers for Inclusive, as well as Adapted, resources that help support students with special needs, School Specialty under its Sportime featuring SPARK brand for physical education, is committed to providing the most innovative, end-to-end solutions and services to meet those needs,” stated Doug Welles, Vice President, Specialty Businesses. “We remain focused on driving 21st century, inspired learning for the overall wellness and success of all end-users — expanding our product assortment; leveraging our subject-matter expertise; and building strategic partnerships with advocacy leaders such as SHAPE America and the Adapted PE consortium. I’m very enthusiastic about the tremendous benefits our new Inclusive PE guidebook, training and equipment solutions will bring to teachers and students nationwide!”

Keep Kids Heart-Healthy with These Fun Activities

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Heart

Physical inactivity is bad for your heart. Specifically, it’s a risk factor for developing coronary artery diseases, it increases the risk of stroke and can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and low HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind).

Encouraging your kids to be heart-healthy will help them fight these issues before they happen, and ideally should be part of their school curriculum. By working to establish healthy routines early on, kids are more likely to continue them through their lives.

What Defines a Heart-Healthy Activity for Kids?

 

Most activities that encourage children to move and exercise can be considered heart-healthy. The American Heart Association suggests that kids participate in at least 60 minutes of regular physical activity per day. Examples of activities that would quality include jogging, swimming, dancing, skiing, and kickboxing, as well as many other team sports.

So how does one get kids excited about heart-healthy activities?

Heart-Healthy Activities for Kids

 

Make It Fun

It’s not hard to encourage heart-healthy activities for kids if they happen to be activities that they already enjoy. A few examples:

  • Biking
  • Jumping rope
  • Hopscotch
  • Playing on the playground and running around with friends

Of course, the key here is to make sure that kids get at least 60 minutes total of moderate to vigorous activity. Since kids might lose interest after just a few minutes, it’s important to supplement these fun activities with a little bit of structure.

SPARK Lesson Plans

With structure in mind, and making sure that kids get in the minimum amount of activity each day for heart-healthiness, we’ve created a number of lesson plans to help make this happen. Here are some easy ways to plan heart-healthy activities for kids:

Aerobic Bowling

For this activity, you’ll need 2 spot markers, 2 bowling pins (or lightweight cones), and 1 utility ball for each group of four students.

The object of this game is to teach underhand rolling skills, and to encourage kids to get as many points as possible before hearing a predetermined signal. The bowler rolls the ball to try and knock the pins over. He/she then runs after the ball, and sets up the cones for the next bowler, while the ball retriever retrieves the ball and runs it to the new bowler. Everyone gets a chance to play each role.

Hearty Hoopla

For this activity, you’ll need 4 hoops and 1 beanbag. You create a large activity area with a hoop in each corner. Four groups will participate, with one in each corner.

The object of this game is to collect beanbags from other hoops to bring to your group’s hoop. Movement is determined by a signal, and the group with the most beanbags scores a point for that round.

Hospital Tag

Who doesn’t like a game of tag?

For this activity, you’ll need 4 cones that create the boundary for a large activity area.

The object of this game is to tag as many others as possible, while avoiding being tagged yourself. Upon hearing, “Hospital Tag!” you tag people using a 2-finger tag. If you get tagged, you have to put a bandage (your hand) on your “boo-boo.” The next time you’re tagged, you have to put your other hand on your new “boo-boo.” Finally, if you get tagged a third time, move outside the boundaries to the “hospital,” complete a wellness task, and hop back into the game.

Do your students regularly engage in any of these heart-healthy activities for kids? Or is there something we missed that you’d add to this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 

How to Include Dance in Your Lesson Plan

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Children dancing

Just as with most sports, dance has many benefits beyond the physical. It has been shown to improve a child’s social and emotional skills, with teachers reporting that dance made their students more accepting of one another and respectful of their body and that of others. Dance is also a good means of fitness for children who may shy away from team sports, where coaches and competition can be a bit much to handle for younger students.  

With these benefits in mind, dance could be the perfect activity to incorporate into your next lesson plan.

Selecting the Style

 

From conga lines to square dancing to Irish jigs, there are so many types of dance you can use to inspire your lesson plan. The dance that works best for you will consider a number of factors, including the size of activity space and the age of your students.

For kindergarten to grade two, the best style of dance is one composed of simple movements. The teacher makes a series of individual body movements, such as touching his nose, then swaying his hips, then jumping in the air. Children are asked to mimic those movements while maintaining their personal space, an excellent way to teach simple choreography, coordination, and balance. Most movement is on the spot, so modeling can be done in a regular classroom or gym.

For primary school children, dances such as tap and jazz will build the strength and flexibility of students’ legs and feet, as well as introduce them to different types of music. Once students get older and are able to better memorize routines, ballroom, Latin, and faster jigs are ways to challenge students. These dances will require a larger activity space, such as a gymnasium.

Whatever the age of your students, make sure all lessons include a proper warmup and cool down!

Consider the Learning Objectives

 

It could be that you want to incorporate dance into your lesson plan because of its myriad of health and wellness benefits. While this may be true, have you considered the other learning objectives dance can help achieve?

Increased Coordination and Rhythm

Partner dances that incorporate extra movement are effective in increasing coordination and rhythm. For early primary students, dances like the Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride involve movements performed by individual children and performed with one another. Once the music is played, children are asked to time their claps and knuckle taps to the music, which will teach them to listen to the natural rhythm of a song.

Encouraging Creativity

Dance is an artistic expression of creativity. This is the case with any form of dance, but free-form interpretive is the best style to get students to move as they feel. While there are definitely nuances to contemporary interpretive dance, younger students can participate in this type of dance by simply moving along to a piece of music. Try an interpretive “free dance” session at the end of your class — let kids do what they want, and be amazed by the results!

Cultural Education

Almost every style of dance has its underpinnings in some historical and cultural context. For middle school and high school students, dance is an excellent way to complement history lessons, giving teens a less conventional look at the social and cultural side of a certain period.

For more inspiration and helpful instructional videos that will guide you every (dance) step of the way, pick up your SPARK dance DVD today!