Archive for the ‘PE’ Category

18 Ideas to Keep Kids Engaged in a Large PE Class

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Keeping kids engaged in a large class of any subject can be difficult. When the subject involves the high energy and movement of a physical education class, the challenge can be even greater. An additional risk is the students feeling disconnected or uninterested in the activities. Finally, budgeting and equipment concerns plague instructors everywhere. Planning, engaging, and creating routines are all ways to address the needs of students, even in a large class.

large class

Before Class Starts

  • Use a standard warmup routine can cut time spent trying to teach a room full of students more information than the original lesson plan.

  • If you can, use aides or volunteers. Even if these people aren’t other PE teachers, they can provide another set of eyes on the students.

  • Consider having signs and posters of physical activities and rules throughout your space to serve as a reminder of what is expected of your students.

  • Designate an area of “time out” for disruptive students.

  • Consider having alternative activities in case you finish early or if an activity is not working.

Separating Students

  • Have a system in place for setting up partners and student pairs. Some teachers use the “count off” method, but there can be creative ways to divide the students into groups, such as by number of siblings or letters in their name.

  • Some teachers may benefit from having groups or partner pairs set up at the beginning of the term to minimize transition time.

  • Allowing students to have groups of two or three helps avoid issues when people are left out or absent from school that day.

Why Separate Students?

  • Using groups allows students to help each other and spend more time actually doing the activity.

  • For team games, separating students allows for minigames that can be played in separate areas. This allows for more activity and practice.

  • This can allow you to see the students more often and around the perimeter.

  • Peers can evaluate each other to give you another perspective on where students are.

  • Some instructors use the “Jigsaw” method. This is where groups of students learn a skill and then demonstrate it to the class. This not only teaches physical activity, but gives the students a responsibility and encourages social skills.

Activities to Consider

  • Creating separate stations of activities can provide a variety of tasks to keep the activities more interesting.

  • Stations can also have different levels of activities, such as a simplified and more strenuous version of an activity. This allows students to learn at their own pace and their own ability to allow them to feel successful.

  • Due to size and equipment restrictions, some schools are moving away from the traditional team sports. Instead, these teachers are focusing on skills their students will be more apt to use later, such as yoga or biking.

  • You can also create a wider approach to wellness when looking at the your national, state, or district standards by including units about topics such as nutrition and ideas such as heart rate monitors.

  • You can also find other activities online (sites such as Pinterest and YouTube are good places to start) for ideas. For example, one teacher integrated moves such as jumping jacks into a dance to a popular song.

Above all, it is a good idea to remember that the aim of teaching a physical education class is to help students become physically literate individuals who have a love and understanding of movement so they can be active life-long. Even in large classes, it is important to remember that children need to learn about wellness and healthy choices that they can take beyond a classroom.  Creativity in how you use resources and appeal to students’ interests is a key method in keeping students engaged in your classroom. Expanding the definition of what can go on in a PE class can help you create a fun and enlightening environment for all students.

Lightning Safety

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Every year, lightning strikes cause severe damage and even kill people, livestock, and wildlife. Lightning is also a threat to buildings, power lines, and vehicles, to name a few. It can cause wildfires and even reroute major airlines. As lightning occurs over land much more often than over the ocean, it’s of concern to those in areas where environmental factors brew a high number of yearly storms. In the United States, lightning is the second most common storm-related killer. Astonishingly, more than two dozen people die from lightning strikes each year.


Some states are more prone to lightning, such as Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South and North Carolina, and Texas. From 1959 to 2011, the United States suffered a sobering 3974 deaths by lightning. Lightning is a concern for educational institutions in every state, and there is a liability that is attached to lightning safety, of which everyone from administration to coaches should take note. Lightning safety affects all outdoor activities overseen by educational organizations, including: football, track, soccer, marching band practice, field days, and recess. Lightning safety should also be a consideration for any school interested in keeping their students safe.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has specific rules and recommendations on lightning safety during sports events, which include:

  • Have a lightning safety plan on hand and educating all staff members on how to follow the plan and access it for reference.

  • Designate a single individual to be in charge on monitoring weather patterns and deciding when to pull students from outside areas in the event of a lightning threat.

  • Monitor weather reports and the National Weather Service to remain aware of impending storms that could pose a risk of lightning strikes.

  • Educate all staff and students on the safest structures in the area and understand the time it takes to evacuate all students and staff to safer areas.

  • Remain aware of lightning risk indicators such as lightning flashes, darkening skies, and thunder claps.

Lightning experts recommend that outdoor playing fields be evacuated by the time there are 30 seconds or less observed between a lightning flash and a thunder clap, or by the time the leading edge of the storm is within six miles of the field or outdoor venue. Once the last sound of thunder and the last flash of lightning is at least six miles away, students may return to play.

For overall lightning safety in schools, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Determine the closest safe structures in advance of any activity. Safe structures include the nearest school building, a complete enclosure, or a fully enclosed metal vehicle with windows tightly closed.

  • When thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend outdoor activities and seek shelter immediately.

  • Select a distinctive, recognizable method to announce or signal the lightning warning and clear-the-area order, such as blasts of a whistle, public address announcement and a shouted command.

  • Estimate the amount of time required to safely evacuate, at a comfortable pace, to the designated shelter(s). Remember that lightning may strike as many as 10 miles from the rain that may accompany a thunderstorm. Given the different distances to shelter, the number of people present, and the variation in mobility of the people seeking shelter, suspend activities at the first sound of thunder or upon seeing a cloud-to-ground lightning strike.

  • Inform students and school personnel when a thunderstorm watch is in effect. Tell them that play will be suspended as lightning approaches, what the clear-the-area signal is, where to go for safe shelter, and what routes to take as they evacuate the area. Prior to outdoor competitions, this should include a formal announcement over the public address system.

  • Designate one person who is responsible for monitoring the weather forecasts, watching for lightning and listening for thunder. The use of a lightning detector is recommended. This person should have the authority to order that the clear-the-area signal be given or be in constant contact with the person who does have the authority.

  • Wait a minimum of 30 minutes from the last nearby lightning strike before resuming activities. Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the 30-minute count has started resets the clock and another 30- minute count begins.

Lightning detectors can help educators predict lightning strikes and effectively adhere to lightning safety protocols. These detectors can indicate how far away the lightning strike is in miles, as well as the storm intensity and direction tracking to help schools keep their students safe. These detectors often include vibrating or audible warning functions that can help preoccupied coaches and staff stay aware. To calculate the distance of lightning in the absence of a lightning detector, educators can use the “Flash to Bang” method.  Once lightning is observed, count the number of seconds until the associated thunder is heard. Divide that number of seconds by five, and the result is the number of miles away that lightning strike occurred.

Athletic activities are often outdoor events, and can draw quite a crowd of coaches, parents, students, fans, trainers, and administrators. Lightning safety is not always top-of-mind, but it is a concern that all schools and coaches should take seriously. Lightning safety rules are the responsibility of the organization providing the venue for activities that may put students at risk. With the inclusion of a lightning safety plan, an educated staff and student body, and a lightning detector, schools can adhere to the lightning safety mandates of their state and reduce their liability in the event that a lightning bolt touches down close to home.

Shop online for lightning detectors:

StrikeAlert HD Personal Lightning Detector

Strike Alert Adjustable Lightning Detector

How to Teach Social Skills in PE: Grades 3-6

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Physical activity environments are natural settings for peer interaction and the development of social skills. By the very nature of game play or active participation, students discover how to work in a group, how they compare with others, how “winning” and “losing” affects them, how to follow rules, and how to strategically problem-solve. In addition, teaching social skills is an important aspect to bullying prevention in physical education and around campus.

A primary objective of SPARK is to create positive movement experiences that last a lifetime. Nurturing a student’s self-perception and self-image is a critical variable when teaching students to value physical activity. Negative experiences in PE class may impact a person well into adulthood.

Teaching social skills is not unlike teaching sport or fitness skills. Students should understand the “learnable pieces,” practice them in authentic situations, receive feedback, and process their learning.

Take the following steps when teaching social skills to students:

1. Define the skill.

Discuss why it is important. For example, help students understand that “Encouragement” is a gift you give to others. It delivers empathy, support, motivation. If you encourage someone, you’ve committed a selfless, powerful act.

2. Teach the skill

Discuss strategies to address it. Use a t-chart to instruct each social skill and obtain student input. Ask students,

“If we heard encouragement during class, what might it sound like?”

Hear their responses, shape and supplement as needed, list on the t-chart.

Then ask, “If we saw encouragement during class, what might it look like?”

Shape and list. Post the completed t-chart where students can see it every day.

An example of a t-chart for the skill “Encouragement” might look like this:


What does it sound like?

What does it look like?

“You can do it!” Thumbs-up
“Don’t give up!” High-five
“Keep trying!” Pat on the back

3. Provide opportunities to practice the skill.

Remind students you will be looking for their ideas, along with the proper mechanics of the respective sports skill. (E.g., “Step toward your target before passing, and don’t forget to encourage your partner if she needs it.”)

4. Process use of the skill. Ask questions such as:

“Did someone encourage you today? How did it feel? Did you have more fun playing with a partner that encouraged you?”

Processing questions can be posed while students stretch during cool-down, gather equipment, transitioning from 1 activity to another, recording scores, etc.

The following teaching cues provide suggestions for facilitating social skills discussions:

3rd Grade Teaching Cues

Responsibility: “What might your personal and group responsibilities be in this class?” (E.g., Listen and follow directions, give your best effort, maintain a positive attitude even if the activity that day isn’t your favorite, etc.)

Helpfulness: “Will you offer to be a partner to someone who needs one? Invite others to join your group? Assist with putting away equipment?”

4th Grade Teaching Cues

Encouragement: “Encouraging others is a sign of personal strength and confidence. See if you can make at least 1 encouraging statement every class.”

Acceptance of Personal Differences: “Can you respect people that may be less skilled than you in an activity? Will you work to build them up instead of put them down?”

5th Grade Teaching Cues

Competition: “Whether your group is ahead or behind when our time ends is not important. How you handle it is. What are appropriate ways to behave when ahead? When behind?”

Positive Disagreement: “It’s easy to lose your cool. It takes courage and self-control to keep it. Can you settle your differences by listening and talking? Use rock, paper, scissors to decide.”

6th Grade Teaching Cues

Shares Ideas: “When we work in groups, do you pitch in and play a supportive role? Do you raise your hand and contribute to discussions? Offer creative ideas to your partner or group?”

Compromise: “If you have a disagreement during class, do you try and find a way to create a win-win solution that all parties can feel good about? Be the first to give a bit, and strive for an agreement that the other person is first to give next time.”

Provided by the SPARK PE 3-6 Program.  Click Here to learn more about SPARK 3-6 PE.

How to Teach Social Skills in PE: Grades 3 6

How to Teach Social Skills in PE: Grades K-2

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

A goal of all physical activity providers is to create a physically and emotionally safe and supportive environment; one in which children learn and have opportunities to practice positive social interactions. To achieve this goal, teaching social skills, not just during SPARK PE sessions, but school/program wide, is highly recommended.

There are two social skills per grade level in the SPARK PE K-2 program; a total of 12 from Kindergarten through 5th grade. It is recommended that teachers introduce a new social skill each semester (two per year). However, feel free to repeat and reinforce previously learned skills from any grade level. Teach these social skills in grades K-2 to help your students create a safe environment in PE and on the playground and prevent bullying.

Tips for Teachers

Provided by the SPARK PE K-2 Program.  Click Here to learn more about SPARK K-2 PE.

1. Introduce the social skill

  • Define/discuss the skill (e.g., kindness)
  • Establish the need for the skill in society
  • Introduce the T-Chart by asking group, “What might ‘Kindness’ sound like? What might it look like?” Be ready to offer several responses in each category.
  • List student answers (with yours) on the chart. Post it and monitor their use of “Kindness.”

2. Process (after students have the opportunity to demonstrate they are kind during class)

  • “Who was kind to someone today?”
  • “How do you feel when someone is kind to you?”



  • “We like smiles! Will you share a smile with a friend? When someone is kind to you, how does that make you feel?”


  • “Everyone needs to know they are loved and cared for. How can you show others in our class YOU care about them?”

Grade 1


  • “Will you remember to say please, excuse me, and thank you – share and take turns?”

Showing Appreciation

  • “When someone shares their beanbag, or invites you to join their group, how could you show your appreciation for them?”

Grade 2

Self Control

  • “Will you stay calm in a stressful situation? Can you avoid using bad language?”

Respect for Others/Equipment

  • “Can you treat each person and our PE equipment with great care?”

Sample T-Chart




“Please and thank you” Inviting someone to join you

“Excuse me” Letting a person go first
“I’ll share my ball with you” Passing to everyone

Tips to Prevent Bullying in Physical Education

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

High school sports

Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and affect their ability to learn and concentrate in class. Opportunities for bullying are found all over the school campus but in this blog we’ll focus on steps we can take to prevent bullying during physical education class.

There have been numerous studies about bullying in PE and one of the common findings is that children who are bullied during physical education class are less likely to be active.  Not only less active in their current PE class, but as adults later in life as well.

Why does bullying occur and what does it look like in physical education?  Students get picked on for being overweight, having lower skills than others and for being picked last when it is time to choose groups or teams.  Types of bullying include verbal attacks, excessive aggressiveness, or exclusion or avoidance during activities. As a teacher, with so much activity going on and kids moving around the gym, it can be challenging to always see or hear it happening in your classes.  So instead of reacting to the problems, how can we prevent them?

Choose activities that keep all students active

  • When students are engaged in activity they are moving and having fun which reduces the amount of time they have to watch and critique others.  Bullying happens during down time so keep transitions short and lessons active!

Assign groups and partners before class

  • This reduces the chances of the same person always being left out, picked last, or stuck with the same partner or group every time

Teach and reinforce social skills

  • By increasing appropriate behavior, we can teach kids how to demonstrate the social skills we expect of them.  Teach these skills throughout the school year and look for examples of them during the lessons that you teach.

For additional bullying prevention resources, visit the new School Specialty Blog:

PhysEdSummit 2015

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I want to share a personal experience with you.  This weekend, I stepped out of my comfort zone to present online at the #PhysEdSummit 3.0.  It was scary yet exciting all at the same time. The core team is so knowledgeable and helpful, and they really did put me at ease to present. There is a wide audience of passionate health and physical education professionals in the world presenting and willing to give their time, resources, and friendship to help move physical education forward.  While the conference was live on Saturday, the good work will continue long after!

We know the brain carries out four functions:  gathering information (sensory cortex), making meaning of information (back integrative cortex), creating new ideas from these meanings (front integrative cortex), and acting on those ideas (motor cortex) (Zull, 2003.)

So, here is how you can continue to be involved and keep the learning from the conference alive all year.  Visit the website and gather information!  Process it!  Then create new ideas on how you can use the information in your class or school; and finally, act …  Practice using the ideas as well as share the information.  Share the resources with your colleagues, administrators, superintendents, professors, friends, coaches and parents.  Maybe highlight one presentation each month all year long!  Regardless of how you do it, get involved and share your new concepts and ideas.  Then, present next year in the conference.

SPARK also has free resources to utilize, like our free webinars, free professional development app (free and paid content provided), the SPARK scope and sequence and completed alignment to national and state standards.  Visit us soon for a look!

Yours for Healthy Active Children,

Dr. Kymm Ballard

SPARK Executive Director

About the #PhysEdSummit

The #PhysEdSummit is a FREE online conference put on by PE professionals for PE professionals.

Mission: To provide digital professional learning opportunities for physical education professionals by sharing, discussing, and reflecting on best practices.

#PhysEdSummit 3.0 | August 15, 2015

SPARK celebrates 25! Reflection from Dr. Jim Sallis

Monday, July 21st, 2014

SPARK celebrates 25!

By Jim Sallis

It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.

The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.

At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.

As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.

Jim Sallis

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,

Division of Behavioral Medicine.

University of California, San Diego

SPARK Staff at ATM Dinner

SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014

Q: How Can We Help Students Reach 60-a-day?

Monday, May 5th, 2014
A: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program!

For National Physical Education Week, we’re taking a deeper look into a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program and resources available to help reach the goal of 60 minutes of MVPA a day.

How much activity and why?
It seems you can’t look through a magazine or watch a news program without hearing about the importance of physical activity (PA) and its role in overall health. There’s nothing better for controlling weight, reducing risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; not to mention PA’s role in increasing muscle strength and bone density, improving attention in class, and so much more. PA is the “wonder drug” of champions (literally!).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition all recommend 60 minutes of physical activity for children ages 6-17. With that dosage kids will be healthier, happier, leaner, and have a much better chance of living longer. Sixty minutes seems to be the “magic” number and it should consist mostly of aerobic activities in the moderate to vigorous intensity level range (MVPA), such as brisk walking, running, swimming, etc., as well as 3 days/week of muscular strengthening like gymnastics and calisthenics. So, how on earth are today’s busy kids supposed to accumulate 60 minutes of MVPA most days?

Physical Education (PE) is a great start!

Let’s say your school has a fabulous, quality physical education program with daily PE for all students. They have PE for 30+ minutes (for elementary) and 45+ minutes (for MS/HS) each day and they are engaged in MVPA for 50% of class time — always! It’s an ideal program all around. Sounds great, right?  It is – yet it’s also VERY rare.

Are YOUR students reaching the magic dosage of 60 minutes on most days with PE alone? If not, they’ll need to find other physical activity opportunities throughout the day if they’re going to achieve their 60 minute goal.

How might you supplement student Physical Activity (PA)?

Viable options include before and after school programs, recess, activity during other academic classes, on-site intramurals, as well as myriad activities off campus after school. Programs such as these are components of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). They include quality PE as the foundation, as well as PA opportunities before, during, and after school, staff involvement, and family and community engagement.* The whole package helps keep our children active and fit. Like SPARK Principal Thom McKenzie likes to say, “It takes a village to raise an active child.”

Teaming up for PA!

No one person or entity is responsible for our kids’ health. When everyone does their part and students are supported with PA choices in all sorts of environments, they are much more likely to participate and achieve their 60 minutes or more. And every type of activity “counts” towards the 60 (e.g., walking to school, climbing on the jungle gym, having activity breaks during class, dancing in PE, playing tag at recess, running in a running club, playing intramurals after school).You want your kids to have so many opportunities they can’t help but find activities they love to do and to do them often!

What resources are available?

Let’s Move! Active Schools provides free and low-cost resources to help schools incorporate physical activity before, during, and after school for at least 60 minutes a day.  SPARK is an official supporting organization of Let’s Move! Active Schools and encourages schools to sign up to be an Active School.  Learn more here.  

How can SPARK help you and your students reach the 60 minute goal?

Quality Physical Education – Sadly, many PE programs are not active enough – ironic right? Yet studies show students may spend a good chunk of class time waiting their turn for a chance just to touch the equipment (as in relays) or sitting on the sidelines because they got “out” (elimination games) or simply waiting for someone to pass the ball to them (large-group games). PE classes full of these practices often engage students in MVPA for only a short amount of time. SPARK PE (K-2, 3-6, MS, and HS) offers teachers quality PE programs that in turn provide students many opportunities to participate and practice skills. Research shows SPARK PE engages students in MVPA at least 50% of class time, addresses National Standards, aligns assessment with instruction, and regularly promotes out-of-class physical activity. Students become more active and more skilled when they have SPARK PE. When taught daily, students can receive nearly half of their recommended minutes of PA with SPARK PE alone!

During academic classes – Because students often sit for hours at a time during classes, activity breaks are a must! They help not only by adding minutes of PA, but they have been shown to enhance academic performance. The SPARKabc’s program provides numerous activities to be used as breaks during classroom time as well as activities which integrate academic topics to help “anchor” learning and make it more active and fun. SPARK provides sample SPARKabc’s lessons to give you a taste of what our ASAP movement breaks and academically focused activities look like. They’re easy to teach, easy to learn, fun and effective. SPARK PE (K-2 and 3-6) programs also include multiple limited space activities that classroom teachers can use as activity breaks throughout the day.

During Recess – Recess has potential to be either very active or very sedentary. Depending upon students’ preferences, they might choose to play an active soccer or basketball game or to sit and chat with a friend while eating their snacks. Even if they join what appears to be an active game, they may spend most of their time waiting in line for their turn at wall ball, tetherball, kickback, 2-touch, etc. Frankly, they may get most of their activity jumping up and down cheering for the kids who are playing! Both SPARK K-2 and 3-6 PE programs include Recess Activities sections with ideas for inclusive, enjoyable, and ACTIVE games. SPARKabc’s also provides resources for recess staff looking to improve activity opportunities for all elementary age students. Here’s a sample recess activity that can be played as is, or modified to match your students and setting. Try it and tell us what you think!

Before and After School – Students who attend before and/or after school programs can receive a large percentage of their daily MVPA during structured and/or non-structured activities. Again, as in recess, activities need to be structured in such a way to increase activity levels and to have positive effects. There are many issues to consider with running a quality program that addresses a wide range of ages, group-sizes and skill levels, commonly have a lack of equipment and limited space, as well as high staff-to-student ratios. SPARK’s After School program (which actually targets all out-of-school PA programs, not just those done after school) has been found effective in increasing PA for children and adolescents ages 5-14. It has hundreds of suggestions for addressing many of the concerns typically encountered in these types of programs.

At the end of the day, students CAN reach the goal of 60 minutes or more of MVPA. It’s a matter of structuring your environment to encourage PA. By providing safe places to play, programs that promote movement throughout the day, equipment to complement those programs, and trained staff to lead them, your students will have met or exceeded the 60 min. goal for now, as well as learned the skills to continue to do so for a lifetime!

*(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013)

Learn More:

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools

Let’s Move! Active Schools

Free SPARK webinar!

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs

Resources for Integrating Physical Activity Throughout the School Day

May 7, 2014 @ 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) – Register Here

SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide (Part 1)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide (Part 1)

Meeting CCSS mandates without selling out as a physical educator

By Aaron Hart – SPARK Development Director

@nyaaronhart (on Twitter)

The Common Core wave has been crashing on the shores of physical education for a while now. Regardless of the pros and cons of this movement, many of us are faced with the reality and requirement of alignment. PE specialists have been cautiously studying the standards with a focus on maintaining what we believe is truly important – creating a high MVPA environment in which students develop the skills and knowledge needed to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity.

Over the next 4 months, leading up to my Common Core presentation at the 2014 Physical Education & Wellness Summit, I’ll be sharing bi-weekly tips for physical educators working to meet their district CCSS mandates.

Please keep in mind that every state and district approaches the Common Core in a unique (and often evolving) way. The content provided here offers what we believe to be universal for physical education. However, it’s important to consider the specific implementation requirements and guidelines that your district has adopted.

This week’s tip: Focus on Depth of Physical Education Knowledge.

You may have heard the term “Depth of Knowledge” (DOK) in relation to the Common Core. Like most thing we’re seeing in the Common Core – DOK is nothing new. It was developed in 1997 by an educational researcher named Norman Web and refers to the level of understanding needed to answer a related assessment question/problem. Here you go…

Level 1) Recall and Reproduction

Level 2) Skills and Concepts

Level 3) Short-term Strategic Thinking

Level 4) Extended Thinking

These levels apply across subject area and certainly apply to physical education skills and concepts. The goal is to move students through the levels, providing opportunities for them to demonstrate their understanding. Let’s try an example.

Focusing on CCSS in Literacy, we want our students to be able to:

  • Determine the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade-appropriate subject area (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.4).

What does this mean? It means that it’s important to teach our students the academic language and vocabulary of physical education.

Here’s a perfect vocabulary word to use as an example: Fitness

Let’s move “Fitness” across the DOK levels using National PE Outcomes.

  • DOK Level 1: Discusses benefits of being active and exercising/playing (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E1 – Grade 1)
  • DOK Level 2: Describes the concept of fitness and provides examples of physical activity to enhance fitness (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E3 – Grade 3)
  • DOK Level 3: Charts and analyzes physical activity outside physical education class for fitness benefits of activities (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E1 – Grade 5)
  • DOK Level 4: Identifies barriers related to maintaining a physically active lifestyle and seeks solutions for eliminating identified barriers (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.M1 – Grade 7)

This example helps clarify the developmental progression while aligning a fundamental vocabulary word with both the CCSS as well as National PE Standards. The Grade 7 PE outcome is listed in the Level 4 bullet above. For your reference, here’s the middle school CCSS:

  • Determine the meaning of key terms and other domain-specific words as they are used in a specific technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4)

As we look to develop students into “College and Career Ready” individuals, who are fit and focused for the future, it seems as if “overcoming and eliminating barriers to fitness” is a 21st Century Skill. (Insert the mountain of data showing the relationship between personal health and productivity in the work place.)

To wrap up this entry in SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide here’s a short PDF packet of resources focused on our topic. Here’s what’s included and why:

  • DOK Level 1: Individual Rope Jumping Activity Plan. Go to the Wrap it Up section of this lesson – the debrief session at the end of lessons is a perfect time to facilitate DOK discussions. (K-2 SPARK PE)
  • DOK Level 2: Partner Fitness Challenge Task Card. Notice the “N” challenge on this chart. It aligns perfectly to Level 2 DOK outcomes and can help your students meet CCSS in Speaking & Listening. (3-6 SPARK PE)
  • DOK Level 3: SPARKfit MVPA Journal. Provides a tool for charting weekly physical activity time. Now, schedule 5 minutes of class time for students to analyze data and plan for improvement. (SPARKfit for Grades 6-12)
  • DOK Level 4: SPARKfit Wellness Challenge. Students work in groups to research, summarize and present the ways in which families (or other social support groups) can help to eliminate barriers to regular physical activity. (SPARKfit for Grades 6-12)

Thanks for reading! Check back in two weeks for more tips and resources.

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Provided by ASCD Whole Child Programs · ·

Over the past few years, ASCD authors have penned a number of articles about the need for schools, educators and policymakers to focus on the health and well-being of their students. Not just for the sake of their health and well-being (if that shouldn’t be enough on its own) but also to support effective teaching and learning.

Here are just a few selections to read and share:

Physical Activity

Integrating Movement Roundup

Ensuring a high-quality physical education program is important. Equally important is ensuring that students are active across the school day and not just in PE class. Research shows that kids who are physically active are not only healthier, but also likely to perform better academically; and short activity breaks during the school day can improve concentration and behavior and enhance learning

Play and Recess

Playing a Game Is the Voluntary Attempt to Overcome Unnecessary Obstacles

Last month we ran the theme of integrating movement throughout the school day (and outside of physical education classes). Obviously one place where this should be a no-brainer is recess. But it’s been scary seeing how many schools and districts have been cutting back on recess time to either provide enrichment classes or add additional academic study time into the school day.

Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child

A healthy, positive school environment transcends what goes on in the classroom. In fact, what happens at recess holds a crucial key to developing the whole child. A school that provides time and space for students to run, talk, and play helps ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Experience and research tell us that active students learn better, and daily recess is proven to help students focus in the classroom.

Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?

In a new study released Tuesday, Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University rigorously evaluated the Playworks program and found that it improved outcomes in the areas of school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, physical activity, and learning and academic performance.


Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty

In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis” (PDF) when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn.

No Child Should Grow Up Hungry

We are proud to welcome Share Our Strength as a whole child partner. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign aims to end childhood hunger in the United States. It connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.

Mental Health

Best Questions: Mental Health

More than 20 years ago, I spent one school year as the full-time school counselor in an early childhood center in Washington, D.C. Our enrollment was 250 full-day preK and kindergarten students in an old, huge brick building with 20-foot high ceilings and massive center courtyard-like hallways. I spent the year in easily washable clothes and with my hair in a ponytail at all times because, as anyone who has ever worked in early childhood can tell you, fancy clothes and fancy hair don’t mix well with peanut butter and finger paint.

A Health Iceberg

I use these slides often when discussing health. It starts with the tenets, becomes a pyramid, and then ends with what I call a “health iceberg.” Let me show you what I mean.

The common thread through all of these articles is that health and well-being matter and they determine how well we learn, grow and achieve. Health and education are symbiotic. What affects one affects the other. The healthy child learns better just as the educated child leads a healthier life. Similarly, a healthier environment—physically as well as socially-emotionally—provides for more effective teaching and learning.

To learn more about ASCD and Whole Child Education, visit the links below.