Teaching P.E. in 2020. What Matters?
Updated: Jul 26
There is so much creativity and wonderful teachers doing wonderful things in the Physical Education space. As someone who has been through socially distant P.E. class, online learning and then slowly coming back to normal I, like many of you, kept asking myself if how I’m approaching this was right. How do I navigate Zoom, Seasaw, TEAMS, google classroom, etc, etc, to best educate my students? What if I am doing it wrong? I think in my learnings, I can offer some advice to those about to enter what we went through a few months back.
Truthfully, I’m not sure there is a wrong in this situation. Know that. My view changed daily when we were at our peak. Leadership wanted me to still focus on curriculum. I wanted to focus on curriculum. Which at the time was Track & Field. I did that, but I didn’t like it. I did one lesson on the techniques of running and it felt weird. I don’t think what we can do is wrong, but if I were to do it again, I would do it differently. The question I would have asked myself at the beginning of it all is… what matters?
As most of you embark on your new normal, I thought I would offer some advice. A scary thought. 😊 This is my journey.
The teacher in me wanted direction. That is OK, but if you are ever going to get creative, now is the time to do it. If you are ever going to put curriculum aside (even just a little bit) … now is the time to do it.
My leadership team approached me two weeks before our 2-week mid-term break in a frenzy because they wanted to know what I was doing for on-line learning in P.E. At that point, we still had more than half our student body attending school and no clear direction on the future. I was still focusing on the students at school and truthfully wasn’t sure about this whole on-line bit as we hadn’t been given clear direction, so I didn’t put in a lot of thought. There was a lot to process at that time when we were at our peak of Covid in Australia in March.
Nevertheless, I did some brainstorming and for the two weeks before holiday I created a YouTube channel and did a couple of fun, minute to win it type activities. I posted these via Seesaw (our school’s online learning platform) and they were a hit with students at home. Many students would even reply back with their own video of them doing the challenge. Families even joined in. It was fun.
During this time, our government made the call that all schools would be going to online learning after the holiday for 5 weeks. After discussion with my leadership team, it was decided we would stick with curriculum and get creative in teaching our students the skills associated with Track & Field.
I did one week of this with not a lot of participation. As mentioned, I created a Youtube video where I was teaching the fundamental skills of how to run. In the video I did a warm-up, focused on the skill and then did a running challenge called how slow can you go? And then I did a cool down. Maybe 30% of my students participated in this lesson. Way down from the student engagement I had with my minute to win it videos.
After that week, I discussed with leadership changing tactics and we came up with the idea of doing a Project Based Learning Unit. In this unit students would get to choose a skill, or activity that they want to get better at. Me as the teacher would monitor their learning goal, action plan and daily reflections. I mapped out a 4-week plan to get us through our stint of on-line learning and monitored student’s goals, action plans and daily reflections during this time. There were some amazing moments and some of our students did amazing things. I would say student engagement went up to around 50%. This was better, but still not as a good as my minute to win it videos.
When students came back after our 5-week online learning time, we had to create a program where students were socially distant. I thought of every element that we tie into a sound K – 6 PE program and tried to build that into a unit. Our students had a lot of fun and we were still within school’s policy. Our school did allow equipment, which made it easier.
Looking back at these months, and if I were to do it all again, I would have stuck with my minute to win it videos because what matters is that students are active, engaged and having fun. I’m a true believer that curriculum is important, but in this moment, I wish I would have pushed that right to the side and put my energy into getting really creative. Students in this time need the fun factor… so try and give them that.
The world we live in has forever changed, and that is OK. If you have read this far, you are doing an amazing job. Know that. Caring is half the battle. Our students come from a range of backgrounds and socio-economic statuses. Some will do our work, some won’t. Some are scared of what’s going on, some aren’t. For some, simply checking in with them and asking if they are OK might brighten their day. If there is any advice I can offer in all of this is to try something new and ask yourself… what matters?