Don’t let your Physical Education routine become stale – take our quiz to shake things up for your students!
Don’t let your Physical Education routine become stale – take our quiz to shake things up for your students!
In partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we hosted the Sportime featuring SPARK Specialty Workshop Contest in the fall of 2016.
Educators were invited to enter the contest to win a Specialty Workshop and bring a past SHAPE America Teacher of the Year or SPARK Presenter to their school district for a unique hands-on professional development experience. Entries were open 10/6/16 – 12/10/16.
We received over 400 entries for the Specialty Workshop Contest! Thank you to all of the teachers who spent time completing the form for a chance to win.
Congratulations to the winning school!
Stetson Elementary School
Falcon School District 49
Colorado Springs, CO
Workshop: Magical MVPA Maximized!
“My students are cheerful, outgoing, competitive in a friendly way, have lots of energy, and have complete confidence in themselves. They are eager to learn new and creative ways to be active and stay healthy at school and for life-long living. The SPARK “Magical MVPA” workshop will provide me with the tools to teach those new and creative activities to the students. New equipment and resources are needed to enhance the Physical Education program at our school as well as replacing old equipment. Let’s Move, Get Active!”
— Matt Monfre, Stetson Elementary School
The Winning School Receives:
Total award value = $3,000
Search for other grant and funding opportunities on the SPARK Grant Finder.
We are proud to offer a wide selection of professional development workshops to fit the needs of your school or district! Presenters include past SHAPE America Teachers of the Year, SPARK trainers and program authors, and product experts. Click Here to view our full menu of training options.
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.
— any bodily movement that involves physical exertion
— curriculum-based program that teaches students the benefits of physical activity, builds techniques for leading an active lifestyle, and promotes lifelong healthy habits.
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:
Benefits of Physical Education:
The New Year is a great time to try new things. With people taking the time to reflect and set new personal and professional goals, why not also refresh your physical education lesson plans in order to keep kids engaged in the curriculum?
Luckily for physical education teachers, it’s often a bit easier to get students engaged in PE class than it is in a math or science classroom. Physical education already has a distinctive advantage: kids are moving, which makes them better learners. Research from leading institutions across America has found that when kids move, their cognitive skills increase and attitudes improve, which leads to better performance in PE class and in their academics overall.
Still, there’s always room for improvement — and here at SPARK, we’ve got you covered!
Any physical education teacher knows that a class requires more planning than simply tossing kids a ball and having them kick it around. Just as with other subject lesson plans, it’s important to take stock of what you’re trying to accomplish with an activity, and during the setup you need to do that.
Take a game of basketball. A classic PE activity, a teacher needs a number of class materials, such as a certain sized gymnasium with activity lines on the floor, and the right type of ball. A physical educator also needs to know the rules of play and a game time limit.
Perhaps the guidelines and materials listed above are all that’s currently written in your PE lesson plan. That’s a great start, but it’s not all you should include. This New Year, take the time to do a “content analysis” of your PE lesson plan where you consider the learning outcomes you want to accomplish from each activity.
Basketball has a number of learning outcomes for students: improved hand eye coordination; increased locomotor skills from movements such as running and jumping; and expanded teamwork and cooperation as they plan with their teammates and work together to win the game.
By determining the specific physical, social, and intellectual learning outcomes for each class, you’ll be better able to guide students towards meeting those goals. Not only that, but at a time when physical education classes are being cut across the country, it will be beneficial for you to provide very specific learning outcomes to administration so they’re sure to see the inherent value of PE class.
As well as determining learning outcomes for your existing activities, the New Year is also a good time to add completely new games to your lesson plan roster.
Introducing new games doesn’t mean tossing aside your existing lesson plans. Just as in a science class where students may learn about the parts of the body, then cell structure, then cell reproduction, physical education lesson plans should be all about building on existing learning. That means taking a classic game like basketball and mixing it up a bit!
Look at the activities that you currently incorporate into the curriculum and find some way to modify them. Or, do this in reverse: write a list of the learning outcomes you’d like to achieve from your PE curriculum and then develop activities to match those outcomes.
SPARK has various activity plans designed specifically for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Each plan comes with instructions, learning outcomes, assessment tools, and more, so you can focus on what’s most important: creating an engaging physical education class for your students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you like the idea of setting up stations for your classes, consider these tips:
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?
With physical education programs being reduced across the U.S., the crunch on activity in school is felt even more acutely by children with special needs. Research shows that students with disabilities receive 4.5 times less physical activity than their non disabled peers. And when they are in physical education class, children with special needs are often less likely to be selected for teams and directed to sit on the sidelines. This leads not only to a lack of social interaction, but also develops a negative association to the physical activity that can keep them healthy.
An inclusive physical education plan has the ability to shape the relationship a child with special needs has with sport and activity. Below are a few techniques to make sure no child gets left behind.
Large class sizes make it hard to give each student personal attention, not to mention a student with special needs.
Whether your physical education class is 20 students or 150, it’s important to break into smaller groups to ensure everyone participates and gets the attention they need. This can involve utilizing the skills of teacher helpers, special needs assistants, and student leaders, assigning them to supervise different groups of activities.
Team sports with a low number of players-per-team such as ball hockey can also better ensure all students are involved and active.
Physical education teachers don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be inclusive. Adapted physical activity involves updating traditional team and individual sports in order to make the game better suited to students with motor and intellectual disabilities.
Adapting existing activities is a valuable tool for physical educators since the games can be played by all students as part of inclusion and universal design for learning.
This is another element of adapting activities for students with special needs.
A variety of specialized equipment can greatly impact a student’s ability to be involved in physical education activity. For example, children with coordination issues may have a difficult time with standard issue balls. Bean bags, nerf balls, and other options may be good alternatives that promote inclusion and success. Cones and spot markers may also be helpful in providing spatial boundary definition and play space area for students with sensory motor issues.
Consider padding play area surfaces for students with dyspraxia, and ensure an area is easy for students in wheelchairs to maneuver.
Another way of including children with special needs in physical education plans is to select team building activities that require participation from every student. Simple obstacle courses and relay races can be options, as can having small groups of students coach one another through basic yoga and aerobics moves. Having students help one another will create leadership skills and bonds between special needs students and their peers.
Before reworking any physical education plan, meet with your school’s special education team and the parents of students with disabilities. They will have a better sense of a child’s unique needs and how you can best accommodate them in your class.
Kids, on average, don’t play outside as much as their parents did. Children spend more than six hours every day on screens, from televisions to tablets. Even school settings offer more screen learning than even a decade ago. All of that technology has its place and purpose, but without opportunities to get outside children face issues like obesity, inability to focus, and even depression.
Taking a PE class outside accomplishes two things: student exposure to fresh air and sunshine, and a connection to nature through exercise. Both can combat that six-hour screen time statistic and impart skills that encourage healthier lifestyles in children.
Take a look at the major reasons you should take your PE classes outside whenever possible:
Kids, by nature, don’t belong indoors all day long. Studies have found that exercise that happens outside incites greater feelings of rejuvenation and energy. Getting outdoors is refreshing, especially since only 10% of children say they spend time outside each day. Vitamin D3 absorption releases feel-good endorphin hormones, boosting mood and elevating brain health. In fact, 90% of kids who spend time outside say it relieves stress. Having the release that goes along with all of that running, jumping, and enjoying the outdoors improves behavior and outlook for the rest of the day, and beyond.
There is evidence that exercise that happens outside is physically better. In other words, doing the same activities inside and out can have very different results. A study that looked at runners who used a treadmill inside versus those who ran the same distance outside found that the outdoor people used more energy to account for things like wind direction and uneven terrain. The elements outdoors makes working out there harder. Students in a PE class that meets outside will burn more calories and work harder than those in a class that lasts the same amount of time inside.
When kids can associate their exercise routine with something else they enjoy – like going outside – there is a better chance they will want to repeat the activity. A PE class that happens outdoors has the added perk of getting outside the school walls, which is a task that is normally reserved for recess. Teaching kids the connection between physical health and enjoying nature has the potential to increase their motivation for fitness activities for life.
A PE class that happens outside offers opportunities for cross-discipline learning. The Nature Conservancy reports that children who spend time outside are more connected to and invested in the planet. Even if the only time students spend outdoors is less than an hour in your class every week, this time matters from an environmental standpoint.
When adults walk into a gym, the equipment is already prescribed. The treadmills are in one spot, the free weights in another, and the exercise classes in a designated room. The same is true for a PE class that is held inside. The equipment may change based on class but there is less room for kids to create their own fitness routines. Going outside frees the creative process to work in bigger ways and removes the limits from what kids can accomplish during the learning process. Try to offer a mix of instructional activities and some exercise that allows kids to make decisions. This builds greater ownership of fitness for the students who find their own path to enjoying it.
Creating an outdoor PE lesson plan combines fresh air and fitness in a way that kids will embrace. The allure of a class outside is a luxury for many students and PE is the perfect area to accommodate it.
Putting Some PEP in Their Step
The East St. Louis School District didn’t have much of a PE program in its elementary schools; in fact, for over five years, it didn’t have any PE at all. Budget cuts and limited local funding for a school with a 100% free and reduced lunch rate led to the cutting of PE, which did not serve to improve an already high obesity rate among students. Things were about to change for the better in 2014 when the district applied for, and won, the Carol M. White PEP Grant.
East St. Louis School District 189 was in great need of evidence-based programming to transform their near non-existent PE program and student health statistics into an active, thriving, healthy program and student population. When they won the two-year grant, they sparked transformation right away in Year 1. Working with Cassie Wolvington, Sportime featuring SPARK Sales Representative, they ordered:
To implement the new curriculum, training, and equipment, the district used PEP funding to hire four competent, creative, and energetic PE teachers.
Keeping up the positive momentum in Year 2, the district ordered:
Impressed with the great customer service and personal attention provided to them by their Sportime featuring SPARK Representative, they ordered an additional $145K worth of equipment.
Boys Track & Field Head Coach and PEP Grant Director Barry Malloyd commented on the experience, “Our district’s experience with SPARK has been life-changing for our PE teachers, students and parents. There is now a SPARK in our physical education programs like never before. The SPARK curriculum and trainings have provided our district with a SPARK of hope. The supplies, equipment, curriculum, trainings, and webinars that you provided us have catapulted our district’s PE program into the 21st Century. Our district administrators, PE teachers, students, and parents have given our PEP program a standing ovation because of our students’ drastic improvements in all areas of the GPRA Measures. It’s because of this SPARK that our district has some ‘PEP IN OUR STEPS!’”
Mr. Malloyd continued, “The benefits that our district is most excited about are the Fall and Spring SPARK trainings given to all of our district PE teachers and after school partners. Also, the awesome supplies and equipment that you provide has made PE once again fun, exciting, and relevant in our school district. I could not and would not ever ask for another provider other than SPARK.”
From having no PE program to sparking a thriving, healthy, active PE program that is the envy of peer school districts – now that is a success story! Congratulations East St. Louis School District 189!
To learn more about the SPARK and PEP grant, click here.