Recently in my career as a Physical Education teacher, I was looking for a way to connect my students to something more than just standards and outcomes. I was looking for a way to connect them to the motivation, confidence, competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and engage in physical activity for life.
For years I was hitting it out of the park (or thought I was anyway) creating units that explored and developed the competencies, knowledge, and tactics of various physical activities, but it felt I was missing key areas that would ensure that students continue to be active outside of my classes and school setting. I was missing the deep understandings of the values behind physical activity and fostering the motivation to be active.
At this point, I thought I was doing an AWESOME job planning for my units. There was progression, assessment was in there, an element of challenge, high levels of engagement planned for students, but it always felt that there was something missing. Something more I could be doing to enhance the learning experience of my students in my classes.
Eventually, I found a resource that helped me take that leap. It was stepping into the world of IB/PYP and focusing on conceptual planning and not just linking the activity to an outcome but to an idea that was part of a much bigger picture. My focus shifted from skills/tactical understanding to developing an enduring understanding of WHY we should be engaged in physical activity.
Now, to be completely honest, this first step in my planning evolution was not voluntary. This took place when I was given the challenge to develop a PE program that would meet the needs of KG2 and Grade 1 students. Many of us have read about these “lil uns” and thought that it would just be a simpler version of how they were currently teaching with their high school and junior high students. If you have ever taught lower elementary, you know that thought is WAY OFF. I had to shift my focus away from skills and outcomes based to fostering the values, behaviors, attitudes and developing fundamental movement skills. Not a easy task at all.
These students were at such a critical part of their physical literacy development and simply developing fundamental movement skills just was not enough (but still very important). This is where an educator can develop the value of being physically active in their students and this understanding would follow them throughout their academic careers and into adulthood!!
The school I was at is running an IB:PYP (International Baccalaureate: Primary Years Program) program where the values of the lessons are focused on key ideas that guided further learning and exploration. This idea really promoted the focus on the WHY are we learning this and not just HOW to do/demonstrate something. I played with many different templates and ideas with my planning and eventually came across a template that Andy Vasily talked about on his webpage www.pypwithandy.com . There I found some great ideas in this post that I took back to my own practice and made this change in my planning.
However, I found that there was still something lacking, a unique and genuine connection of the WHY of movement to my central movement focus. That meaningful connection (connecting waves and light in PE to early elementary was not easy/done well). Student engagement and motivation were being developed in a purposeful way with this new planning method, I just felt that I was still missing that connection to WHY move and the development of physical literacy in my students.
In 2016 I took another step in the evolution of my planning and took the direction of focusing on developing the key values behind physical literacy and connecting them to the needs of my students and cross curriculum where it could make that meaningful connection. I came across some great resources from different programs (New South Whales, Alberta Education, IB, SHAPE America, Andy Vasily and iPhys-Ed.com just to name a few) and put them into this planning template that focuses on working from the inside out: WHY should students be learning this concept, HOW will we know if there is learning and WHAT will take place to promote learning. In 2017 I did a webinar for the 2017 #PhysedSummit and an in-person session at ConnectedPE in Dubai which breaks down the steps of this planning process and the resources that are connected to it. You can take a look there to see how the process unfolds itself.
I have been using this template on a sample group of students this year and I think that this one is a real winner. Throughout the year I have seen some major improvements in my students understanding of WHY we should be moving and away from the WHAT do we need to do to score points. Student engagement is up and I am starting to get satisfied with my planning and how it meets the needs of my students. It has also forced me to make meaningful connections to assessment and to cut down the number of meaningless tasks that were taking movement time away from my students.
But to be completely honest, this is not the endpoint. Evolution takes time and doesn’t have an end. There will always be that lightbulb moment where you take it and adjust how you do things so that your students can achieve. You just need to be on the lookout for those moments.
Enjoy and stay moving!