Archive for the ‘Physical Education’ Category


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” on March 22nd, 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!”

Strategies to Help Increase Inclusiveness in Your PE Class

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Multi-ethnic group of children with coach in school gym.

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

When teaching PE, are all of your students successful in reaching the objectives of a lesson? If your answer is “affirmative,” way to go! If, however, they are not all reaching the objectives or being appropriately challenged, this blog is for you. It is important to know how to adapt your activities in a variety of ways in order to help all students, including those with special needs, achieve your objectives.

Students have many things in common, but they also differ in so many ways. They have diverse ways of learning, their fitness and skill levels vary from one extreme to the other, they may enjoy varying levels of competition, their reasons for being active are not the same, and so forth. Even in a “typical” general education (gen ed) PE class, there is a wide range of abilities, fitness, and competitive levels. By providing choices and challenges, teachers can help to address the variety within the group. It is your job to adapt and tweak the variables in PE class in order to allow all of your students to be successful.

This blog will cover a few of these strategies:

Focus on the Positive – Rather than look at just a student’s disability, it may help you to look at their abilities. What skills does the student possess that can assist them with reaching the objectives? What are they able to do well? How can you build on that?

How does the Disability Manifest Itself? – Just because someone is labeled with a disability does not necessarily mean they will have difficulty in reaching objectives in PE. Many students, disabled or not, have difficulties. By noticing the things they have difficulty doing, you may be able to adapt the activity or environment to downplay those challenges or to help them overcome them. Things such as difficulty focusing on a task, lack of technique, limited mobility or strength, etc. may be challenging, but certainly do not make things impossible. There may also be issues you see in your gen ed students, so by adapting for your students with disabilities you may be helping others, as well.

Utilize Peer Tutors – Peer tutoring, where students work in pairs or in small groups to master skills, can be very beneficial for both disabled and gen ed students. Since students with disabilities may thrive where there is a smaller ratio of student to teacher, having a peer tutor helps address that need. It is also nice to have a student with strong skills be a good role model for students working to build those skills. There are several models of peer tutoring:

  • Unidirectional – Where the student with the disability is always the “student” in the pair
  • Reciprocal – Both take turns being tutor and student
  • Class-wide – The entire class is divided into pairs and reciprocate tutoring roles
  • Cross-aged – Older students come into the class to help the younger students

Peer tutors are most effective when they’ve been given clear instructions regarding the best ways for their buddies to learn and receive feedback. It is important for peer buddies to be taught not to over-assist or be condescending toward their peer with a disability, but to treat them simply as a member of their class.

Utilize Paraprofessionals/Aides – Many students with disabilities have aides who move with them from class to class in order to help them be successful. Some aides may be one-on-one, while others are shared with several students or the whole class. The key to success with paraprofessionals/aides is to be clear in communicating your expectations. What would you like them to do during your PE class to help their student(s) be successful and safe? Go over these expectations and foster a collaborative relationship. Let them know they are appreciated and a vital part of the team. Explain that they are responsible for attending and assisting the student in the least restrictive or invasive manner possible. They need to allow their students to do as much as they can independently, but to be there when they need assistance. They should be prepared for activity in clothing, footwear, and attitude. They should do their best to keep their student from interfering with others’ learning as well as enhancing their own.

Adapt the Activity – Many games and activities can easily be adapted to increase success for students with disabilities. Teach all your students that adapting the rules to a game or sport is a skill you want all of them to have. Allow them to come up with new ideas for ways to make the game more fun, active, and safe for everyone. A few examples would be to play with smaller teams, on a different surface, with simplified rules, or different ways to score. When it comes to dance, allow students to change moves or the tempo of the music.

Adapt the Equipment – Find out what your students can do and use special equipment or modify existing equipment to allow them to do that. This typically involves bigger, lighter, slower moving tossables and striking implements. For example, beach balls or balloons in place of volleyballs, or a light racquet to strike a ball instead of a bat. Blind or visually impaired students, for example, can have increased success in object control skills when using an object that makes noise, such as a bell ball.

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Success – Overall, the goal is to have students with disabilities participating and achieving success, but never at the expense of their or the other students’ safety. Do your research to know what is and isn’t safe for your participants. For example, is anyone allergic to latex? Are there contraindicated exercises for students with a specific disability? Once you are sure of what you can and can’t do, proceed.

Use a Variety of Instructional Strategies – There are a variety of strategies for instructions and practice. Each may work for differing populations:

  • When large groups are overwhelming, break into smaller groups or pairs.
  • Break skills into mini chunks.
  • Teach only a portion of the activity rather than the entire game.
  • Provide breaks for students who get overwhelmed.
  • Challenge students with mini-goals throughout the lesson.
  • Use engaging targets.
  • Use video recording to give feedback on skills.
  • Keep activities age-appropriate.
  • Allow students to explore their abilities and problem-solve on their own where and when appropriate.

We at SPARK would love to know what you and your students are doing in your inclusive PE classes. Send us an email with ideas and strategies that work for you and your classes! spark@sparkpe.org

Now Available: The New SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook!

The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook provides over 200 pages of resources designed for Physical Education (PE) teachers who teach a general PE class that includes students with disabilities. The guidebook provides information and strategies for creating an inclusive environment so that all students can be successful by participating in an authentic and enjoyable PE class.

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. This guidebook also contains valuable fact sheets for 12 disability categories that includes background material about each disability and information about how a student with the disability learns best.

The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook is available in print and digital format. Click here to learn more!

Physical Education vs. Physical Activity [INFOGRAPHIC]

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing! Although they work together like peanut butter and jelly, Physical Education and Physical Activity are two separate things — and it’s important for teachers and parents to understand the difference.

physical activity vs physical education

 

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Physical Activity

— any bodily movement that involves physical exertion

  • A physical activity program gets you up and moving, in some form. This can include recreational sports, fitness classes, after-school programs, and recess.
  • Physical activity is unstructured
    • Kids can make their own choices and create their own rules
    • Helpful for learning social skills and problem solving techniques
  • Just some of the things that count as physical activity…
    • Dancing
    • Walking the dog
    • Doing push-ups
    • Throwing a baseball
    • Playing tag at recess
    • And much more!
  • Physical activity is one part of a physical education program — but physical activity can be found in many areas outside of physical education.
  • Physical activity should be incorporated throughout the day: before and after school, and during recess

Physical Education

— curriculum-based program that teaches students the benefits of physical activity, builds techniques for leading an active lifestyle, and promotes lifelong healthy habits.

  • A physical education program not only gets children moving, but also teaches them why that activity is important, what types of activity benefit your body, and how you can stay active throughout your life.
  • Physical education is structured
    • Students are taught how to play and skills needed to play
    • Students learn the rules for how to play games and participate
    • There is a structured warm-up and cool down
  • Physical education teaches children the importance of being physically active and about the human body and body systems
  • Physical education programs include:
    • A written curriculum, with clear objectives
    • Some form of grading or assessment
    • Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes
    • Physical activity for most of the class time
    • Lessons in ways to lead a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, nutrition, fitness, and social responsibility
  • Physical education incorporates physical activity, along with many other things, to form a complete program.

Do You Need Both?

Yes, you do!

According to SHAPE America, physical activity should make up at least 50% of a physical education program.

Benefits of Physical Activity:

  • Releases endorphins
    • Children who get at least 15 minutes of recess a day behave better in class than students who get less than 15 minutes a day.
  • Strengthens muscles / bone density
    • Children ages 6-17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • Reduces risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease
  • Enhances cognition
    • Children respond to cognitive tasks faster and with greater accuracy after a session of physical activity.

Benefits of Physical Education:

  • Teaches safe and correct exercise techniques
  • Promotes good nutrition and understanding of the body
  • Encourages lifelong health habits, decreases chances of unhealthy adult lifestyle
    • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Enhances academic performance
    • Endurance exercise increases oxygen to the brain, strengthens neurotransmitters, and stimulates brain growth — improving your ability to think, learn, and retain information.
    • In physically fit children, the hippocampus (region of the brain affecting learning and memory) is roughly 12% larger than less fit children.
    • In a study of D.C. schools, students received higher standardized math scores when schools provided at least 90 minutes of physical education per week.
  • Builds skills in setting and achieving goals

The Benefits of Physical Education for Children with Special Needs

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

special needs

Exercise can provide significant benefits for children in all of the developmental stages of life. It only makes sense, then, that regular participation in physical education classes would also promote positive advancements in students with special needs.

Research has shown that physical education programs can do a great deal to improve the lifestyle of children with special needs; they can increase competency in gross motor skills, help to control obesity, improve self-esteem and social skills, encourage an active lifestyle, and maintain motivation in various areas of life.

Considerations for Physical Education Teachers

Often, there are challenges to including children with disabilities in a physical education program. Parents may be apprehensive about allowing their child with special needs to participate in physical education activities. Studies have shown that special education students are less likely to enroll in physical education, and consequently, further studies have found that special education students are more at risk of developing childhood obesity than their general education peers. Yet, many resources have begun to make it easier to include children with special needs in physical education endeavors.

Physical education teachers simply need to determine the abilities of students with special needs, and the measures that may need implementing to support their participation in sports and fitness. Some children with difficulties may need DAPE (developmental adapted physical education) to help promote physical fitness, fundamental motor skills, and more, whereas others will simply need the support and encouragement to participate in regular physical education activities.

Following, we’ll address just some of the amazing benefits students with special needs can experience with the right exposure to regular activity.

  1. Physical Improvements

A scientific study into disability groups has found that participation in physical activity and sport leads to improved levels of well-being and physical health. Children who have a diagnosed intellectual disability may have additional physical disabilities which can result in below age-level performance in typical motor skills. Regular involvement in physical education and sport can help them to develop the skills they need.

When encouraged to participate in frequent fitness measures, many students with special needs see improvements in everything from their hand-eye coordination and flexibility, to their muscle strength, endurance, and even cardiovascular efficiency. These are all simply the natural benefits of exercise — a development of better motor skills and enhanced physical health that helps individuals to fight back against problems such as obesity, and the health complications that follow.

  1. Mental Improvements in Confidence and Well-Being

Regular exposure to sports through physical education classes isn’t only good for a child’s body — it’s beneficial to their mind, too. Physical activity improves general mood and wellness in psychiatric patients suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders. What’s more, regular fitness links to improvements in self-esteem, social awareness, and self-confidence — all essential for empowering the lives of young people with special needs.

Providing a physical outlet may help students reduce or cope with anxiety, stress and depression — while interaction and involvement with other students will help to give children a sense of accomplishment and confidence. For students with special needs, developing a sense of self-esteem can be particularly important, as they may often feel isolated and removed from the group. These children (They)  need their physical education teachers to involve them in environments where they can feel as though they’re successfully contributing to a group (can feel successful or are successful), and their abilities in other areas will improve according to  (as a result of) their positive self-image and confidence.

  1. Behavioral Improvements in Attention, Relationships, and Academics

Finally, the hands-on nature of physical education leads to cognitive improvements in children with special needs, allowing them to access skills that they couldn’t challenge within a traditional classroom setting. The structure of sport – which comes with a set of rules and organization, can be a learning tool that helps children to practice self-regulation and enhance their decision making skills. On top of that, children with special needs can learn to focus on specific goals, and work on their verbal communication by interacting with peers through sport.

Physical education is about a lot more than simply learning how to engage in a particular sport — it teaches children a range of skills, from how to work as a team, to how to solve problems, increase attention span, and focus on task-based behavior. Eventually, those skills can transfer into other classroom settings too, so that students with special needs have a greater ability to learn and engage with their peers outside of physical education.

The Importance of Physical Education for Special Needs Children

Scientific research has demonstrated repeatedly that physical education can enhance academic performance and cognitive function. However, for children with special needs, it’s valuable for so many reasons, from providing an opportunity to build collaborative and social skills, to teaching individuals how to focus on specific goals and overcome obstacles. Parents and teachers are encouraged to find creative ways to implement reasonable accommodations to ensure that all students with special needs can be successful in physical education and the school environment.

The Benefits of Phys Ed for Students with ADHD

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

physical education

The positive effects of physical education are well-documented, but daily exercise is especially beneficial for those students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

11% of all American children between ages 4 and 17 have ADHD, with that number projected to rise steadily each coming year. Children are usually diagnosed at the age of 7, the exact point in their lives when physical education curriculums can stand to have the greatest impact.

The mental benefits of physical activity could have a positive effect on students with ADHD.

Physical Activity and Attentiveness

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics noted the effect of physical activity on the attentiveness and academic performance of 10-year-old boys and girls, half of whom had ADHD. That research found that after just 20 minutes of exercise and movement, the students were able to better regulate their behavior and focus, improving scores on math and reading comprehension tests.

The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute found that daily physical education can lead to a state of relaxation that can last for up to two hours, impacting a child’s ability to problem solve, concentrate, and be creative in class. In the long term, the institute says participation in one physical education class a day can increase confidence and self-esteem, which can be beneficial in environments where children with ADHD. aren’t always perceived the most positively. Daily exercise can also help relieve anxiousness, a symptom of ADHD.

So powerful are the effects of exercise on the brain that some experts say it could be as effective a tool as medication. Thomas Lenz, an associate pharmacy professor at Creighton University in Nebraska, told LiveScience that both exercise and medication release dopamine and norepinephrine, two chemicals that help students with ADHD. maintain better focus.

More Formal Physical Education

While unstructured movement and play can have a positive effect on students with ADHD, so too can more regimented physical education activities.

At University College Shaker Campus in Ohio, the physical education program incorporates a blend of exercise and discipline for students with ADHD. Students are asked to categorize their desired behavior in the class at one of five levels, ranging from irresponsibility to caring. Throughout the class, students are encouraged to remember the level they hope to achieve, in order to ensure they’re working towards the goal throughout the class. Over time, this combination of exercise and mindfulness is thought to extend beyond the walls of the phys ed class to transform the way an ADHD student treats their other teachers, family, and friends.

At the end of the day, there is no cure-all for students with ADHD, but there are definitely ways to better accommodate them in school. According to the research above, ensuring all students have access to regular physical ed class is one of them.

5 Steps for Parents to Advocate for Better Physical Education

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Portrait Of School Gym Team Sitting On Vaulting Horse

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

You’d have to be living under a rock to miss all the statistics about kids not getting enough physical activity these days. There are many reasons for this: not enough Physical Education (PE) in schools, too much time playing video games or on the computer, less time spent playing outside after school, etc. With such a push to improve academic test scores, many schools are failing to support physical education and physical activity (PA). Even though research has shown time and again that active kids do better in academic tests, they cut recess and PE programs to the bare minimum. The recommended dose is 60 minutes a day, yet most schools aren’t getting even half that. So, what can you, as a parent, do to urge schools to increase both the quantity and the quality of physical education? Be an advocate! Advocating is basically asking for something and then making it happen by changing policies and practices. If you would like to advocate for better PE and more PA at your school, here are five steps that can help:

  1. Educate yourself on the issue. Why is PE important? What are the benefits? What, if any, are the mandates your state has for number of minutes of physical education each week? Does the school have a Wellness Policy? Check out these PE Advocacy Resources on the SPARK website to learn about PE in schools.
  1. Learn more about the PE in your school. Do an assessment of the school’s PE environment and find which areas are in need of work. Learn about all the opportunities children have for physical activity at the school. This may include PE, recess, before and after school activity, and activity breaks during class time. Is PE being taught by a credentialed Physical Education Specialist? A Classroom Teacher? An aide? A volunteer? Is PE addressing state or national standards? Is the program evidence-based? Is it enjoyable? Are assessments used? Which types? Here are some tools you can use to help learn more about the PE program in your school:
  1. Recruit others to help you advocate. A lone voice is not as powerful as a choir. Spread the word using outreach techniques like PTA meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, school websites, word of mouth, emails, mailings, posters at the school, etc. Use handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and videos that are available online to help get your message across to your fellow parents.
  1. Plan a meeting to inform the principal and other teachers about what you’ve found (e.g. PTA or School Board meeting). Invite members of the school board as well. Take this opportunity to show support for PE and PA at the school. Be sure a lot of parents and students attend the meeting to show support. Let them know how important it is to you and the students at the school. Cover the benefits of PE as well as the importance of quality PE taught by a credentialed PE Specialist using an evidence-based program.
  1. Start an action plan to begin tackling issues that need work. How can you help improve the quality and quantity of PE and PA at the school? Research available programs and decide which meet the needs of your school. Be sure the budget includes funding for PE Specialists, curriculum, equipment, and professional development to help the program get going and stay strong.

Think big, but remember most change happens in baby steps. Good luck advocating!

For additional tools and resources, visit:
http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

The Benefits of Teaching with Stations

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

PE

There are many struggles that come with being a physical education teacher. Luckily, there are techniques and solutions to minimize some of the stress. One solution to managing your students and boosting their engagement is to teach with stations. This is a teaching method where you create three or more activities for the period.

Divide your class up evenly and start each group at a different station. Students get a certain amount of time with each activity and then rotate to the next station. It’s an alternative to whole-group instruction and can have many benefits. Consider these reasons you might want to teach with stations in your physical education class.

1. It Keeps Students Engaged

If you have students who dislike PE class, then use stations to create a more interesting and dynamic PE period. Students will be continuously moving, whether they’re performing exercises at their station or moving on to the next one. Because they only spend a short amount of time at each station, it’s less likely that they’ll become bored or distracted.

2. It Gives Students a Better Workout

Using different activities throughout the period helps students get a better workout because they’ll be using different muscle groups for the various activities. Plus, it gives you a chance to mix cardio and strength training into the day’s activities. When designing your activities, consider making each focus on a different part of the body. For example, one station could focus on sit-ups while another activity could be doing pushups.

3. It Divides the Class into Manageable Groups

It can be difficult to watch so many kids at once, especially in PE class where they’re expected to be highly active instead of sitting behind a desk. Splitting the class into groups so all stations are filled at once makes it easier to manage groups and focus on each individual student’s performance. With this method, you can have one teacher or aide help watch over each station or divide the stations up.

Downsides to Teaching with Stations

While there are many benefits of teaching with stations, there are a couple of downsides, too. For one, it takes more manpower because you need an adult at several stations to watch over and instruct their group. It can also take more setup and teardown time for each station. Because of this, try to plan the same stations for all your classes throughout the day so that setup and teardown is easy.

Tips for Teaching with Stations

If you like the idea of setting up stations for your classes, consider these tips:

  • Set up the stations on the outside perimeter of the gym or in a circle in an outdoor field. This makes it easier for students to move from one station to the next in a circular progression.
  • Use Sportime ShoulderFolders on the cones to hold station cards with instruction for each station. If you have the SPARK curriculum, station cards are included in the SPARKfolio or available to download and print with your SPARKfamily.org membership.
  • Plan a signal — such as the start and stop of music — that will tell kids to move onto the next station. This will keep things flowing smoothly and save the time and hassle of going from one station to the next.
  • Before you begin the rotations, briefly explain the purpose of each station to the whole class, and demonstrate the activity if needed. This saves time once each group arrives at the station so you don’t have to repeat the instructions as often.
  • Keep music playing during the period so students can keep up with the fast pace of the rotations. Music also keeps them energized to make the activities more enjoyable.
  • Need materials to set up stations in your PE class? The new Sportime Middle  School and High School Fitness Packs include hand-selected fitness equipment and SPARK digital curriculum with station cards.

With these benefits and tips in mind, you can create a fun, interactive physical education period for your students. What types of stations and activities are you thinking about setting up in your PE class?

10 Traits of Great PE Teachers

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

PE teacher

Any aspiring Physical Education teacher has to have certain traits to be successful. PE teachers have to be good in the classroom, but they also have to be able to work with parents and other educators. Good PE teachers need to have a range of skills beyond knowing sports, including interpersonal skills, creativity, and more.

Athletic Ability
It seems obvious, but having a healthy body is important for a PE teacher. Since PE teachers are telling students to make healthy choices, these adults have to model what they say to do. PE teachers don’t need to be star athletes, but having a positive attitude toward fitness and instruction is important to show students how living healthy can be enjoyable.

Teaching Ability
This is another trait that seems apparent, but a good Physical Educator needs to be able to educate. Being able to distill complex ideas into easily followed steps helps your students feel better about physical activity. Being able to teach also includes being able to recognize which students need more encouragement or a different way of explaining, and assessing learning.

Interpersonal Skills
Working with students, parents, and other teachers requires a range of interpersonal skills. Being a teacher means being a leader and role model to your students. A physical education teacher is a model of values such as leadership, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. Treating the people around you with respect makes them more likely to respect you and your program.

Communication
Being able to communicate effectively is another important skill. Clear communications to your students helps them learn your lessons and keeps them safe. Communicating with parents and other professionals respectfully shows how you treat your students in your program. Effective communication builds a sense of community where students feel confident in their abilities. With greater confidence and support, students are more likely to embrace physical activity as a source of fun.

Patience and Adaptability
Patience and adaptability are important to a successful teaching career. Since not all students learn in the same way or the same rate, it’s important to stay patient and have different approaches. It’s also important to adapt and modify lessons to include students of different levels and abilities. Some schools have no dedicated PE area, so being able to change your lesson plans to adapt to weather or available resources keeps your lesson plans on track.

Organization
As a PE teacher, you might be teaching students who have different ages, physical abilities, and learning styles. In addition, PE teachers often have to work in different areas or even multiple schools. Being organized keeps all of these needs together and easy to manage. Keeping the classes themselves organized keeps them flowing, limits downtime, and lessens chances for conflict and behavior issues. Any PE class involves students, physical area, and equipment, so keeping all of these things organized makes the entire class run smoothly and maximizes learning opportunities.

Creativity
Being able to adapt and find new activities keeps your classes entertaining and fun for everybody. You can find inspiration for your classes in television, music, and other classes. You can take ideas from all around you to make engaging and fun activities for students of all physical abilities. Having a variety of activities and outcomes keeps students engaged and interested in your classes.

Focus on the Students
As an educator, you need to make sure your students are learning. Being an educator means you need to have a passion for helping children learn skills they can use in their daily lives outside of the classroom. Working with children can be taxing, so keeping that passion going helps you make your classes instructional and fun. You also need to keep your students safe and secure during class, since they’re moving around and in large areas with different equipment.

Becoming a PE teacher is no easy task for any aspiring educator. Being a role model, having professional skills, and creating a fun environment are all crucial traits to have as a great PE teacher. Keeping your time organized and communicating clearly to students, parents, and other educators also makes your job easier and more enriching.

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.

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.

East St Louis Blog pic 4