Archive for the ‘Physical Education’ Category


When Kids are Physically Active at School, #WellnessWins

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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By Deirdre Moyer, Student Wellness Coordinator, Rockingham County Schools, Rockingham, NC

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” What if the same could be true for 60 minutes of physical activity a day?

Through quality physical education, kids learn how to move their bodies fluently and develop the necessary skills to lead an active life. In Rockingham County Schools, more than 12,000 students can count on opportunities to be active each and every day – thanks, in part, to our wellness policy.

A strong district wellness policy is an essential part of creating a healthy school district by establishing policies and practices that empower students and staff to make healthy choices at school. By including physical education and physical activity in our wellness policy, we’re showing parents, community members, teachers and administrators that we’re making it a priority to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge they need to be active throughout their lives.

Our updated wellness policy is on schedule to be approved by the USDA’s June 30 deadline, and features several guidelines for physical activity including:

  • School personnel should strive to provide opportunities for age- and developmentally-appropriate physical activity during the day for all students
  • Schools must provide at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for K-8 grade students, achieved through P.E. class, recess or classroom energizers
  • Principals shall work with teachers to ensure students meet minimum physical activity requirements
  • Students should have ongoing opportunities for physical activity, which cannot be taken away as a form of punishment

The result? We’re seeing first-hand the benefits of enabling students to move more throughout the day. When kids are physically active, they are more attentive in class, perform better on tests and behave better.

Our biggest challenge in implementing a stronger wellness policy has been time; these changes don’t happen overnight. We utilized many resources to reach our wellness goals, including the SPARK curriculum to assist teachers in meeting national and state standards for physical education and activity, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s school health experts, who reviewed our policy to ensure it complied with federal standards.

Now, I’m thrilled to share an exciting new resource: the #WellnessWins campaign.

Launched by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, #WellnessWins celebrates wellness policy successes like ours and helps other district leaders take action. WellnessWins.org features tips, resources and a ready-to-use model wellness policy that can help your district meet its health and wellness goals.

Are you ready to make moves with your wellness policy? Visit WellnessWins.org and get started today!

 

 

3 Innovative Physical Education Teaching Techniques

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

physical education

Physical fitness among young people has now found itself at the forefront of society’s scrutiny. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity among children between the ages of 2 and 19 has more than doubled in recent years, leaving students susceptible to the development of diabetes, complex joint issues and a host of other serious health problems.

Many physical fitness educators have taken it upon themselves to drastically reduce these statistics over the course of the next decade. Although the improvements in technology have somewhat contributed to the dangerously sedentary lifestyles of many young people, it can also be harnessed to reverse these health concerns. With instant access to almost anything at any given time, technology can be used to improve fitness and potentially save lives. It’s just a question of how it’s used.

So how can today’s educators create interactive work environments for their physical education classrooms?

Here are 3 modern solutions to fight the current health concerns facing our youth:

1. Modern Wellness-Tracking Technology

One way that educators can make physical wellness more interactive is by implementing fitness monitors, like the Fitbit or the Nuband, into their classes.

These lightweight, wearable activity trackers provide a wide range of real-time data. They can be used to help students become more aware of their body’s processes as a whole, or simply to learn their peak heart rate levels to achieve maximum physical fitness. Electronic activity trackers record step counts, quality of sleep cycles and a host of other personal metrics to ensure that students stay active throughout their developmental years. The attention to detail creates a feeling of ownership, fostering a sense of responsibility to maintain that state of wellness for the future. It is said that children should remain active for at least 60 minutes a day to meet proper health standards. Fitness trackers can help make sure kids reach this simple but vital goal in their P.E. classes, and also in their daily lives.

2. Music and Dance as Motivation

When it comes to movement in physical education, there is no better motivator than music. With this universal truth in mind, educators have developed new teaching methods based on viral dance crazes, like the Cupid Shuffle and the Konami Dance Dance Revolution music game. Not only does learning choreography together create a sense of camaraderie among classmates and teachers, but it also provides a great workout. Students can improve their coordination, strengthen their social interactions with one another and reduce stress levels during exam time.

What P.E. teacher wouldn’t want a class of smiling, dancing students?

3. Active Gaming Platforms

Technology-based hobbies have become so ingrained in the lifestyles of students that we often forget that they can serve as a valuable tool.

Exergames, or active gaming programs, like Hopsports and Kinect Xbox, invite users into a comfortable and familiar environment, while offering an opportunity for moderate-intensity physical activity. The best part about this exercise source is that it can be continued outside of school. Many students have their own gaming consoles and could take their P.E. class inspiration to a whole new level at home.

It is becoming increasingly important for teachers to use every outlet at their disposal to improve the health of their students. Some physical education teachers have found the key to success is utilizing what young people love the most – and, very often, that’s the new advancements in technology. By creating interactive and entertaining lessons with activity tracking, music, dance and gaming, teachers can improve student wellness practices not only in school, but in the decades to follow.

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!”

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

 

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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?