Archive for the ‘PE Teachers’ Category

How to Encourage Students to Try Team and Solo Sports

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

A youth soccer team huddles together on the field

Team and solo sports can be a fantastic supplement to physical education (PE) classes, promoting healthy habits and valuable life skills such as teamwork, discipline, and good sportsmanship. Not only that, but these activities can become beloved hobbies that children continue into adulthood and greatly benefit their later lives.

As a physical educator, you may find that, despite the many advantages of team and solo sports, some students still lack any interest in them. With that in mind, let’s look at how you can boost sports participation in your PE lessons and nurture the skills that students start to develop from trying them.

Set the Right Tone

Motivating reluctant students to try a new activity can be one of your greatest challenges in PE lessons. The first question you need to answer is whether or not a child actually wants to participate in the sport – after all, it’s no fun doing something if you don’t enjoy it, even if you’re good at it. More often than not, students are discouraged from an activity because they don’t think they will excel in it, which is why it’s essential to communicate to your class that being the best is not key to practicing sports.

Create a PE environment where all of your students respect and support each other, regardless of individual skill. Some students may be reluctant to participate because they are afraid of being judged or bullied. You must not allow bullying under any circumstances. Instead, celebrate the effort it takes to try something new, as well as the opportunity to learn different skills from one another.

When a child tries a new activity, especially one that is outside their comfort zone, acknowledge their courage and emphasize that every student has something to contribute to the team. This attitude puts a positive spin on the whole experience of trying new team or solo sports.

Break Down Barriers

Boredom is another major factor in a student’s lack of interest in sports. Keeping your lesson plans fresh helps maintain variety and lets your class sample more activities, increasing the chance that they find their preferred sport.

If noncompetitive solo activities appeal more strongly to some students, give them a chance to try activities where you “win” by achieving a personal goal, such as maintaining your target heart rate for a given amount of time. Tracking personal progress can be very rewarding for many children, and even if they don’t like traditional sports, they can still get a great workout from a more unusual PE activity like dancing.

Remember that your students may experience any number of other barriers, including socio-economic and cultural factors, which discourage them from wanting to participate in sports. Some of these factors are beyond your control, but being aware of them may let you find ways to make team and solo sports more accessible to your entire PE class.

Nurture Students’ Skills

When a student demonstrates some level of skill at an activity, they should be encouraged to develop it without being pressured. If a child is pushed too hard, an activity they once enjoyed may stop being fun and start feeling like a chore. Learning self-discipline is important, but those lessons are lost if a sport begins to feel like a punishment.

The skills your students may discover are not just the athletic kind. Some students may show a knack for creating strategies, motivating others, facilitating communication between team members, leadership, or organization. When you notice that one of your students shows promise in a particular area, let them know. This gives them a sense of achievement that is as important as any athletic endeavor, and still lets them associate success with sports participation.

Sports as a Learning Opportunity

Children can benefit from learning that effort and practice are needed to develop valuable personal skills, regardless of any “natural talent.” Solo and team sports are an excellent way to train these skills, while keeping kids active and healthy, which is why it’s so important to keep your PE students engaged.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your PE classes, download SPARK’s free lesson plans with simple instructions for a range of solo and team sports today.

How to Encourage Parent Involvement in PE

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

father and son smile as they play a game of basketball

After a long week of school, you’d think kids would look forward to a weekend of energetic activity and adventures, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, research suggests that children’s physical activity levels are lower on the weekends than on weekdays.

The good news is, there seems to be a way to get kids moving on the weekends: get their parents in on it.

That same research showed that kids whose parents cared about and encouraged physical activity were more likely to be active outside of school hours. As an educator, it’s obvious that you can make a difference in the physical education kids receive at school (and how active they are) — but there are ways you can get parents more involved in kids’ health and fitness at home, too.

Assign Homework for Kids and Parents To Do Together

One of the best ways to get parents involved in PE is to get them actively participating in the teaching themselves. This leading by example approach is especially effective for younger learners who look up to and frequently copy their parents.

To accomplish this, try assigning “home fun.” While it may not be common to have homework for PE classes, there’s no reason your class should be different than other subjects. If you design the assigned activities for a household setting, parents can be engaged and involved in their children’s fitness and health.

Educate Parents About Opportunities for Their Kids

While older students may not emulate their parents to the same degree as young children, parents can still influence the physical activity levels of their middle school and high school children. That is, as long as parents are aware of accessible opportunities to get their kids more physically active. Between long work days, caring for the family, and myriad other commitments, parents may not be able to learn about all the options out there for their kids — perhaps they had their daughter try basketball, but she didn’t enjoy it, so they turned away from sports in general.

As a PE professional, you have access to a plethora of local resources and activities. Connecting parents to opportunities for physical activity will, in turn, open them up to your students. Maybe that student who dislikes softball just hasn’t found the right activity yet —  whether it’s karate, swimming, or ballet!

Get Parents Involved in Healthy Eating

While it’s important to get parents involved in the active aspect of PE, it’s equally important to get them involved in the nutrition aspect of PE. Did you know that only one third of parents feel they’re doing a good job promoting healthy eating for their kids?

Nutritional awareness is lacking in many households. As schools continue to introduce healthier options and get rid of junk food in cafeterias, encouraging parents to do the same at home can have a big impact on children’s health.

Beyond teaching your students about healthy food choices in class, send some information home to parents. Consider assigning light homework activities related to food and nutrition, to get your students working with their parents to eat healthier and have discussions about good food.

Ask Parents to Help Track Their Kids’ Fitness Goals

Have your students track aspects of their health and fitness at home, and encourage parents to get involved in helping them monitor and meet goals.

While you may be able to use wearable activity trackers in class, these may not be accessible to every student at home, unless your PE budget can accommodate sending every child home with one. Instead of tech-based monitors, consider cost-efficient tracking solutions like journals or diaries. Students and their parents can use these to jot down the activities they do outside of school, how long they do them, and even how hard they were. This can help your students and their parents visualize how they measure up to the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Educators and Parents Must Work Together to Raise Healthy Kids

It’s simple: when kids are more active, they’re healthier — both in body and mind. Not only is low physical activity one of the greatest risk factors for being overweight or obese, but there’s also evidence that healthier kids perform better in school.

While educators can make a difference at school, children spend more time out of school than in — and at least some of that time should be spent engaging in physical activity and cultivating healthy habits.

Since parents are typically the ones making the schedules and planning the activities for time spent outside of school (especially for younger children), making sure parents are educated, supportive, and involved can have an immense impact on children’s success. By combining your efforts with parent influence, educators have a good chance of making students’ weekends — and their holiday breaks — just a little bit more active, healthy, and fit.

Of course, there’s always the added benefit that by encouraging parent involvement in PE, there’s a good chance they’ll practice their own healthy habits, too!

Maximize Your Equipment Budget with These 6 Tips

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Gym class sports equipment

Having the right equipment in your PE classroom is essential. When your budget for equipment is limited, it’s difficult to successfully offer the full extent of activities and learning opportunities you want to give your students. While you can advocate for a budget increase, those conversations take time, and your school won’t always be able to fully grant your request.

One of the challenges of being a physical educator is learning how to make the most of the budget you do have at your disposal. Even if your budget has left you wanting, you can still optimize the use of your existing assets and find innovative ways to raise more funds.

Here are six tips for maximizing your equipment budget, so you can set your students up for success and physical fitness:

1. Apply for Grants

Writing grants used to require career expertise, but the process has become more user-friendly over the years. While it doesn’t hurt to have someone on your side with experience in organizing and submitting grant applications, you shouldn’t be intimidated to attempt it yourself as a PE teacher or administrator. SPARK offers resources to help physical educators find relevant grants and submit proposals. With a specified grant, you may be able to add new equipment to your program sooner than you thought.

2. Share Your Facilities

If you have on-site facilities — such as a swimming pool or football field — that could be used by other organizations, consider renting them out on the weekends, or on the nights that your school’s team plays away games. Additional funds from facilities rentals can supplement your budget and help you achieve that higher quality equipment on your PE department’s wish list.

3. Increase Your Athletic Marketing Efforts

Some of your equipment budget likely comes from ticket sales to school games and events. Take advantage of this source of budget by getting more people in the seats at your school’s football, softball, and basketball games. Use social media to promote upcoming games. Reach out to a local radio station to advertise the upcoming events. Make use of flyers, the school website, and in-school announcements to encourage ticket sales. If your school sends out a regular newsletter to parents, ask to have upcoming games and events featured prominently in each newsletter.

4. Focus on Equipment Maintenance

Some pieces of equipment are more essential than others, and that means when something crucial breaks or wears down, replacing it may shoot to the top of the priority list — squeezing out other goals that were next in line. The fewer items you absolutely need to buy, the more you can spend on new items and activities you want to add to your PE classes. Putting a focus on maintenance of your current equipment can help it live longer, putting off the need to spend budget funds replacing it. Encourage students and staff to properly store all equipment at night to keep it protected from the elements and theft. Even minor efforts for proper maintenance will make a difference.

5. Find a Trusted Vendor — and Build a Relationship

You already know that when it comes to price and quality, not all equipment vendors are the same. Having a good relationship with a high quality vendor can help you get the most bang for your buck and make an impact on your annual spending. Shopping around until you find the right place to buy PE equipment can take time. Start your search for new vendors well in advance, so you can compare product prices and shipping costs. Consider working with a partner who specializes in school equipment — you may be able to get your hands on equipment at a discount.

6. Buy in Bulk

Vendors who specialize in PE equipment make it easy for you to buy in bulk. As with paper products and other school supplies, buying more at once is often cheaper than buying each piece of equipment one at a time. Buying in bulk can also save you on shipping costs. You can get everything from playground balls to hockey sticks in multiples to save some cash.

Through creative fundraising and savvy buying, you can explore every avenue to make the most of your funds, and create the best experience for your students with the budget given to you.

7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Small PE Class

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

small PE class

Managing a big PE class can be tough, but dealing with a smaller one presents its own unique set of obstacles. How do you scale down your lesson plan and adapt your approach if you find yourself teaching a divided class or move to a less-crowded school?

Fortunately, the challenges of lesson planning for a small PE class are greatly outweighed by the advantages for your students. Read on to discover why you should cherish a smaller class size, and how you can turn it to your advantage with exciting activities.

Small Classes, Big Benefits

A lower student-to-teacher ratio reduces the amount of class time lost to tasks like taking attendance and transitioning between activities, which can cost students as much as 21% of their in-class time.

With fewer classmates, each student gets more opportunities to practice activities and refine their skills, while spending less time standing around waiting for their next turn. The luxury of extra time with each student allows teachers to devote their energies to individualized instruction, enabling students to master skills faster and with reduced risk of injury.

If you’re used to teaching PE to larger classes, these 7 tips will help you ensure big fun with a small group:

1. Keep Up the Activities


Maximize time by getting your students involved in the traditionally non-active parts of the class. Try turning attendance into a challenge by asking students to jump on the spot until their names are called. You can also make setting up the next activity into a game of its own, so none of your PE lesson goes to waste.

2. Provide Personalized Instruction


A smaller class affords you more time to spend with each student. Consider assessing each child in advance to determine what they can do. This way, you can ensure personalized instruction, more suitable goals, and a better student-teacher relationship, which will boost engagement in PE classes.

3. Teach the Finer Points


Personal instruction is one of the best ways to teach mastery of a skill, while also encouraging kids to take responsibility for their own learning. Teach physical literacy and coach each student to fluency in a way that speaks to them as individuals. Not everyone needs to learn the same activity at the same time or pace – nor do they have to in a smaller and more flexible class.

4. Create Appropriate Teams


If your focus is on skill development, partner students of comparable abilities together so they can both learn from your feedback and coach each other. Shy students can be teamed up with consistent workout buddies to help them stay engaged and overcome any reluctance they might feel in a larger class. With a smaller class, you can get to know your students better and find out what works best for them.

5. Promote Cooperative Learning


Let your students work together to increase their self-confidence among other more specific skills. Simple games in which participants collaborate to accomplish tasks, like folding a tarp into various shapes, teach teamwork, cooperation, and problem-solving. What’s more, they’re ideal for smaller classes and limited space.

6. Scale Down Games


Many games designed for big groups can be easily pared down for smaller classes. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, and other sports are easily scalable and can take advantage of smaller spaces and limited equipment. Instead of defending two separate hoops or nets, for example, have both teams attempt to score on the same one. This turns a standard game into one of quick transition and possession.

7. Develop Knowledge Circuits


Set up a series of activity stations that each feature a unique task where movement to the next station is contingent on the completion of the objective. These stations can cover a variety of topics, including fitness, research, or skill development. Students can share knowledge and develop leadership skills, while helping one another complete the tasks as a group before advancing to the next challenge.

At SPARK, we work hard to create the best research-based physical education programs for kids from pre-K through grade 12. Discover our PE lesson plans for all ages and class sizes now.

7 Approaches to Physical Education Grading

Monday, August 28th, 2017

teacher grading his students work

Gone are the days of rope climbing, forced laps, and now dodgeball. Today, physical education is being used as a tool for students to understand, enjoy, improve, and maintain their fitness and well-being.

But, with such subjective goals, grading can pose a major issue. A lot of educators just don’t like grading; however, some are finding ways to use grades to teach students, rather than label them. The results ensure more flexibility and personalization, which in turn encourages growth and a more comprehensive view of physical education.

Here are 7 approaches to physical education grading that might help you at the end of next semester:

1. Make a Mission Statement

Just like any other goal, to achieve it, you have to set it.

Your department’s mission statement will become the backbone of your program, lessons and grading. It should cover what you do and why you do it. By creating a mission statement that is clear and concise, you have something tangible to share with your students to help them frame the work they’re doing – and the grades they’re receiving.

2. Communicate Objectives

Explaining grades to parents can be a nightmare. How do you provide the evidence behind the grading if there is none?

Try and break down the objectives of your lessons for students and parents, so they can see what exactly is being graded. After all, it’s not just “volleyball,” it’s “teamwork, coordination, strength, speed, and improvement over time.” If this is made clear, they’ll understand that’s what they’re being graded on and not just winning the match.

3. “Unpack” Your Goals

Work with students to “unpack” the curriculum.

Unpacking means taking each outcome and breaking it into smaller, more measurable objectives. Like the example above, “volleyball” can be broken down into several sub-skills, but those can be broken down even further. Coordination, for example, could cover things like proper posture, correct form, accurate hits, etc. Write these out and communicate them to your students for better results.

4. Modify Expectations

Everybody and every body is different, and physical education classes can emphasize this in ways that could embarrass or disadvantage many students.

It’s helpful to modify classes to accommodate students who are overweight, living with a physical disability, or simply uncomfortable with certain exercises. Create an and inclusive environment by adapting lessons and activities, it can improve participation and morale and lead to better overall outcomes.

5. Give Second Chances

If a student tests poorly the first time, try giving them a second chance. This lets you stick to the curriculum and apply the same expectations, but allows the student to learn from their mistakes and ultimately improve their grade.

Using a “request to retest form” puts the students in control of their performance and asks them to consider how they’ll improve before moving forward.

5. Mark for Improvement

Chances are there will be a huge gap between your most athletic students and your least athletic students.

Recognizing not just skill, but improvement over the course of the term, can illustrate more clearly how that student is doing. Whether you use National Standards or your state has its own standards, you’ll already be marking for both progress towards and the achievement of those standards. Now just make sure you’re weighting those two fairly.

6. Reflect

At the end of the day, grades are a part of teaching. They should inform students and their parents about how they are doing and help them move forward.

Grades alone can’t do that, but reflection on that grade can. Engage students in self-assessments following graded exercises like tests or exams, asking questions like, “How did you prepare? Were some parts easier than others? How do you think you could have improved?” This can help them plan for future tests to improve their grades.

You can’t escape the grading system no matter how much you dislike it, but you can make it work to your advantage. By communicating clearly with students and their parents, breaking down objectives, and taking a comprehensive approach to their physical education, you can make grades less of a label and more of a motivation.

Contact SPARK now to speak to our knowledgeable staff about more innovative ideas and expert advice for your PE lessons.

Taking the Fear Out of Physical Education

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

A woman trainer at the gym helps her student lift weights.

An educator’s job goes beyond ensuring students learn particular facts and develop certain skills. Instead, educators play a critical role in instilling their students with a love of learning, discovery and exploration.

Ideally, an enthusiastic and skilled educator can help a student not only remember the year the Constitution was written or the Civil War broke out, but also imbue them with a sense of wonder and make them want to learn more about history.

Yet physical education is a subject where many educators can inadvertently have the exact opposite effect, making their students flee from the subject. Negative experiences in gym class as a child can make a person less likely to engage in physical activity as an adult.

What can physical educators do to ensure their classes are the start of a lifelong enjoyment of physical activity? And how can adults who are still intimidated by negative experiences in gym class learn to love exercise for the first time?

What Educators Can Do for Students

A bad physical education teacher doesn’t only scare kids away from gym class — he or she can also make them throw in the towel for the rest of their lives.

A 2009 study in the academic journal Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise found negative experiences in gym class as children keeps people far away from team sports for years. As one study participant said, “[physical education] robbed me of the joy of physical activity for many years…It destroyed my physical confidence.”

Another study examined the practice of picking teams in physical education class, and found this caused “real and long-lasting harm to people’s psyches and their physical activity participation levels.”

Doing the wrong thing can cause a lot of harm. So, what are the right things that physical educators should do?

Keep the Goal in Mind

As a physical educator, sometimes it’s easy to forget what the end goal is. Teaching children sports is not the end goal — teaching them teamwork and physical coordination and improving their physical strength and health are the end goals. Sports are one means to this end.

Keeping this in mind will change the way you approach teaching physical education. It will minimize the importance of winning and losing, and will help you adopt more creative ways of teaching skills.

Consider the example of teaching a child to dribble a basketball. The important thing is not that they know how to dribble a basketball; rather, it’s that they improve their hand-eye coordination. Having them dribble through a course of pylons is one way of helping them improve their hand-eye coordination, but there are many other drills and activities that can use a basketball to achieve the same ends. The trick is finding the activities that your students will find enjoyable rather than excruciating.

Make It Fun

The thought of physical activity shouldn’t induce feelings of apprehension or fear. It should be fun! A 2014 study of youth athletes found the overwhelming reason they played sports was because it was fun. When it’s no longer fun, the main reason to play is gone.

An important way to keep sports and physical activity fun is to minimize attention on outcomes. Avoid keeping score. Offer positive reinforcement. Make having fun a more important goal than winning. Emphasize self-improvement rather than competitiveness. Encourage your students to do better at a physical activity than they did the time before, rather than comparing them to other students.

These are particularly important principles when teaching physical education at the younger ages, but the overarching goal of encouraging fun is important to keep in mind at all ages.

Remember That Your Attitude Matters

Physical educators are often people who care a lot about sports and take profound satisfaction in athletic achievement. Sometimes this makes them too quick to push children harder and farther than children are ready to go.

Remember, the role of a physical educator is different than that of a coach. Children don’t need a drill sergeant, they need an educator who cares about creating a safe and fun environment for them to learn.

With your words and actions, demonstrate that effort is more important than perfection, and fun is more important than winning. Your attitude will set the tone for the class, and ultimately make a huge difference in how your students feel about physical activity.

Think Beyond Sports

Sports are great, and team sports in particular impart many important skills. All the same, some students will not gravitate towards sports as much as to other physical activities. It is important for them to understand that physical activity is not limited to competitive sports.

Introduce your students to other physical activities like dance, wall climbing, archery, aerobics, yoga and outdoor activities like canoeing. You’ll broaden their understanding of physical activity and make it more likely they hit on an activity they’ll enjoy enough to make a lifelong hobby.

Eliminate Picking Teams

One last suggestion: don’t let your students pick teams. Students who are picked last describe the experience as embarrassing, alienating and frustrating. It can invoke strong feelings of sadness, shame and even anger.

None of these are emotions you want your students to associate with physical education. When playing sports, make the teams yourself. As the educator, you will probably be much better at creating teams and making for a more enjoyable experience for the entire class.

How Adults Can Overcome Negative Experiences

If you’ve had a bad childhood experience with physical education, it can shape the way you view physical activity for the rest of your life. You may feel intimidated by the very idea of going to the gym or joining a sports team.

There a few ways you can overcome these feelings. For example, if you want to begin weightlifting, but find the gym an intimidating place, you can set up a home gym. Another option is to could go the gym with someone you trust, who can help make you feel more at ease. Even doing a few sessions with a personal trainer can help many people feel more comfortable.

It’s also worthwhile to think about the activities you have negative associations with. If you found team sports stressful and unenjoyable, consider trying solo sports like cycling, golf or swimming.

Don’t let a bad gym teacher from your childhood ruin a lifetime of physical activity. There is an incredible range of physical activities suited to everyone’s skills and interests. Find the one that you’ll enjoy today to have a healthy hobby for life.

6 Strategies for PE Teachers to Stay Inspired Over Summer

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

PE teachers

Summer break isn’t just a great opportunity for your students to relax, enjoy some sunshine, and come back to the classroom feeling refreshed. Summer is also a great time for you, the teacher, to discover new and effective ways of expanding your skills, updating your lesson plans, and acquiring resources for the year ahead.

It’s hard to understate the importance of a good physical education program. In an era where children are becoming progressively less active, today’s physical educators need to be constantly searching for new ways to get youngsters involved in healthy habits. From attending conferences to earning a new certification, we’ll cover 6 inspiring ways that you can prepare for the new school year.

1. Pinpoint Areas to Improve

The first step in upgrading your PE program involves looking back over the previous school year and considering both your accomplishments and challenges. Chances are you’ll find at least a few lesson plans that need improvement. While these plans might only need a little tweaking to meet with the modern standards of active education, consider looking into new resources and tools that you can use to upgrade the experience for your students.

While you’re researching resources, try to go beyond the lesson and think about other ways you can promote a healthier lifestyle for the children you teach. For instance, could you get parents involved and ask them to follow up with PE concepts at home?

2. Head to Conferences

Conferences, workshops, and networking events are still some of the best places for educators to expand their knowledge and make some crucial connections. During a conference, you could learn all about the latest health and fitness regulations in your area, and discover new ideas to get students moving.

Beyond the seminars and classes that might be available to teachers, you’ll also be able to build your knowledge through the conversations you have with other educators, who may even be able to give you some advice on where you can improve your lesson plans.

3. Watch TED Talks

TED talks aren’t just for scientists. Technology, Entertainment, and Design videos are an incredible resource for PE teachers who want to expand their knowledge and learn about the latest developments in the educational space. These talks come from teachers, CEOs, and even athletes, all sharing their insights into physical education.

One particularly good TED talk titled, “Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise can Transform our Schools,” covers how exercise can raise test scores, reduce problems with behavior, and upgrade student wellbeing. This talk by Dr. John Ratey could give you the inspiration you need not only to enhance PE classes, but also to create a culture of physical health throughout your school.

4. Develop New Skills

Though PE teachers may be eager to learn new skills, it’s difficult to find the time for training in between classes and lesson plans. The summer represents the perfect opportunity for accessing new knowledge and skills, which will help upgrade your classroom environment.

You could read books about how to improve your teaching methods. Alternatively, you could learn about new activities you can then introduce into the classroom. You might also consider upgrading your knowledge of yoga, or learning about the different games played around the world.

5. Earn a New Certification

The best way to take your understanding of a new skill even further is to earn a new certification. PE teachers can use the free time they have during the summer to expand their own education and improve their resume. For instance, you might consider becoming a SPARK certified instructor.

Certified instructors with SPARK get the opportunity to engage in a short, yet effective period of intensive training, designed to improve early childhood lesson programs. After 12 hours of training, successful candidates are eligible for a graduate credit straight from San Diego State University.

6. Stay Informed

It’s safe to say that the world of education is constantly changing. As scientists and researchers discover new facts about the way children learn and the importance of physical activity in combination with cognition, it’s likely that the PE landscape will evolve too. The best way for educators to stay ahead of the curve is to make sure that they’re always reading the latest case studies, white papers, and articles in their industry.

The more you learn about the changing state of physical education, the more you can adapt your lesson plans accordingly. You can even collaborate with other teachers in your school to create an education plan that combines movement and academics more effectively.

Be Inspired this Summer

Summer is a great time for PE teachers to explore their skills, update their lesson plans, and expand their knowledge. In fact, every fall should be an opportunity to return to your school with more information than you had when you left for the summer break.

For more inspiration, check out our exciting lesson plans.

15 Reflection Questions for the Physical Educator [INFOGRAPHIC]

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

three gym teachers stand and smile for the camera

Just like our students, educators should never stop learning.

As the school year comes to a close, reflect on your year as a physical educator — areas where you shined and areas you can improve, to help both you and your students get the most out of the year ahead.

Here’s the physical educator’s checklist for self-reflection

An infographic displaying how teachers can reflect on their school year to prepare for the next one

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Spend Time on Past Successes

  1. What was your best teaching moment of the year?
  2. When did you implement/learn/experience something new?
  3. What did you improve upon this year that you are proud of?
  4. In what areas did you achieve last year’s goals?
  5. What was your most notable growth as a physical educator this year?


Consider the Challenges

  1. What was your worst teaching moment of the year?
  2. What challenged you most?
  3. What do you feel you need to improve upon next year?
    Choose one curriculum, one interpersonal (student or staff), and one professional element.
  4. Where did you fall short of last year’s goals?
  5. Where do you feel there is still room to grow as a physical educator?


Gain Clarity on the Goals Ahead

  1. What did you learn from your best/worst moments this year?
  2. What plans do you have for your professional development and continued education?
  3. What specifically do you plan to improve upon next year?
  4. What can you do to improve your students’ experience and engagement levels next year?
  5. What did your students struggle with most last year, and how can you improve their success in the year ahead?

Just a few moments of introspection on the year can help you highlight and celebrate your successes, and take note of how you can continue growing next year.

Brought to you by SPARK |

How PE Teachers Can Self-Assess Their School Year

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

a physical education teacher smiles at the camera with his students playing in the background

The end of the school year is the perfect time to reflect on how the past ten months played out. While the summer vacation may be beckoning, take on one final exercise and do a self-assessment of your PE class performance. Self-assessment is a crucial part of self-guided professional development, and offers the opportunity to identify your strengths as well as areas where you could improve.

Self-assessment at the end of the school year leaves you with a couple of months to work on improvements and think about the new tools and games you may want to test out in the fall. By the time September comes around, you’ll be reinvigorated and brimming with fresh ideas for your class.

Where Do I Begin?

We know what you’re thinking: assessing yourself is easier said than done. Successful self-reflection hinges on asking the right questions, so here are a few probing questions to get you started:

What Were My Successes This Past School Year?

Self-assessments are not an opportunity to be hard on yourself. Whether it’s being proud that you made your PE class more inclusive, or the fact that you had a 100% class participation rate during a dance lesson, it’s important to reflect on the things that went well. After all, you’ll want to keep up the good work in future years! Take some time to document your successes, as fellow PE colleagues may appreciate hearing what worked.

What Were Some of My Lowest Points This Year?

Self-assessments are also an opportunity to be honest about the challenges you faced. No matter our profession, we all have moments we’re not proud of. Determining your lowest points may be a sobering experience, but calling out these challenges by name is one way to ensure they don’t happen again.

In What Areas Did I Improve the Most and How?

Teaching is about professional growth. Did you set a list of goals at the start of the school year? Or go into the gymnasium really wanting to target a certain area of your teaching? Think about the areas where you grew this past year and then determine exactly how you did it. Answering the “how” of this question will provide guidance for continued future success.

In Which Activity Do I Have the Greatest Challenge Engaging Students?

A successful PE class relies on class participation. This is an important question that can lead you to adapt the way you present exercises and the manner in which you interact with your students. There could be a number of factors causing a lack of participation — perhaps your activities simply don’t resonate with your students. Often, though, you’ll find an answer which can be more easily remedied in the new school year, such as adding more or less team sports or including more adaptive equipment into your lessons.

Turning Reflection into Action

After reflection, the next step is to take what you have learned and apply those lessons to your PE class. Spend part of the summer brainstorming what goals you’d like to achieve the following school year. Some of them may take specialized training or resources, and reflecting in June will mean you have extra time to complete that work.

Another method to keep working towards your goals is to share your reflections with another PE colleague. Talking through what you’ve found out in your self-assessment is a good way to compare notes and exchange ideas. What’s more, you’ll likely be motivated to stay on track if you know you have someone who can hold you to account.

If this is your first year doing a self-assessment, don’t worry. The more you do, the more natural self-reflection becomes. Keep the notes from all your self-assessments and you’ll be left with a detailed log of progress you can look back at over time.

Essential Equipment for a Physical Educator’s Home Gym

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

home workout

Many of us understand how important it is to maintain good health and fitness. Daily physical activity can help to reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease by boosting heart muscle strength, improving your good cholesterol levels, and lowering your blood pressure. On top of that, regular exercise promotes better blood flow, and helps to limit the threat of obesity. However, for physical educators, there’s one more essential aspect of regular fitness to consider: it gives you the strength to be better at your job.

Physical Education, or P.E., teachers need to consistently keep on top of their physical fitness if they want to continue offering exceptional guidance to young students. One of the best ways to make regular fitness a habit is to install all the equipment you might need into a space within your own home. A home gym can address all the needs that P.E. teachers encounter every day — from strength, to balance, speed, and determination.

Following, we’re going to examine just some of the essential pieces of equipment that every PE Teacher should have in their home gym — and consider why they’re so beneficial.

1. Medicine Balls

Whether you use medicine balls in your lessons or not, these fitness accessories can be the perfect way for Phys. Ed. teachers to build and improve their resilience. Medicine balls can help with improving careful throwing and catching techniquesan essential part of P.E. for students — as well as enhancing abdominal exercises. What’s more, medicine balls aren’t just about building strength — they help to promote strength and speed — both factors that will come in handy when teaching an active bunch of students.

2. Stability or “Exercise” Balls

Stability balls can be an excellent solution for abdominal workouts, stretches, and even adding an extra challenge to your weight lifting. For physical educators, these accessories help to encourage greater balance and posture. After all, when you lie across or sit on an exercise ball, you’re forced to engage every muscle in your core to support your weight. This will help you maintain good form when showing important exercises to children during lessons. What’s more, the balance and posture encouraged by exercise balls can help you cultivate a healthier spine — which means less back pain.

3. Yoga Mats

The chances are that you have soft mats at school where students can take part in floor-based exercises, like yoga. Yoga mats help to cushion your body from a hard floor, and provide more support than a standard carpet when you’re performing warm-up stretches or jumping exercises. Since physical education teachers regularly use these accessories during lessons, it makes sense to get used to them when you’re working out in your home gym, too. What’s more, for stressed P.E. teachers, yoga mats can roll up to offer lumbar support after a tough day.

4. Dumbbells

Perhaps some of the most versatile accessories in the fitness world, dumbbells are a fitness mainstay for any home gym. The exercises that you can do with a set of dumbbells are practically endless, and these crucial accessories are perfect for helping P.E. teachers build their strength and flexibility. The more you work on your strength as a physical educator, the more likely you are able to cope with the long, and sometimes grueling, lessons that you teach on a day-to-day basis. After all, strong muscles allow for greater energy and reduced aches and pains.

5. Pull-Up Bar

Ropes and pull-up bars aren’t always a solid favorite of physical education students — but these resources can be the ideal way to measure upper body and core strength. If you can accomplish incredible feats on a pull-up bar, then the chances are that you can also motivate your students to push themselves toward their fitness goals. One particularly useful aspect of pull-up bars is the fact that they’re so compact and easy to include in even the smallest home gym space. Installing one will help you to build the strength and resilience that you need in your upper body to demonstrate climbing techniques, and more.

6. Resistance Bands

Ideal for building muscle in advanced exercisers and beginners alike, resistance bands help you build muscle and improve balance and strength. If you’re wondering how a giant rubber band helps with building muscle — it’s simple. Unlike dumbbells or barbells, these accessories offer a way to establish constant tension through movement — enhancing the intensity of any exercise and the challenge that your muscles must overcome.

Building Your At-Home Gym

The accessories that you use in your at-home gym may differ per your specific fitness needs. However, the tools that we’ve outlined above are just some of the best solutions available for building the strength, balance, and resilience all physical education teachers need.

Do you have a favorite piece of home gym equipment that we haven’t mentioned here? Share your preferences with us in the comments section below!