We all know the importance Physical Education plays in nurturing well-rounded individuals. A key element that is gaining increasing attention is the concept of Physical Literacy. To be clear, when talking about physical literacy, we are not talking about teaching kids the ABCs whilst getting them active.
What we are talking about goes beyond the traditional notions of physical fitness; it encompasses a broader range of skills and knowledge that empower individuals to participate confidently and competently in physical activities throughout their lives. If you can teach a student a game that gets them off a device – that’s physical literacy. If you teach a student a game that they then take home and play with their family – that’s physical literacy. It is also so much more than that and, in this post, we will explore the significance of physical literacy and how it contributes to the holistic development of young minds.
When we teach, we know it is our job to get students moving and enjoy being active because we know (or should know) that everyone has the potential to value, develop and maintain positive physical activity behaviours for life.
Physical literacy involves holistic lifelong learning through movement and physical activity. It delivers physical, psychological, social and cognitive health and wellbeing benefits. Today’s environment and increasingly sedentary lifestyles mean many children are missing out on learning fundamental movement skills, like how to run, throw, kick, catch or jump. Herein lies the significance and increasing challenge of our job as a physical educator.
Physical literacy is about developing knowledge and behaviours that give children the motivation and confidence to enjoy active healthy lifestyles. Establishing active habits in children sets them on a path to happier and healthier lives. The best we can do in this is provide quality Physical Education that embraces daily play and physical activity. Movement skills, much like numeracy, reading and writing, can be learned. Research shows that children who engage in regular physical activity and improve their physical literacy, reap the numerous health benefits and also learn better academically.
Physical literacy gives you:
· physical skills and fitness
· the attitudes and emotions that motivate you to be active
· the knowledge and understanding of how, why and when you move
· the social skills to be active with others.
How do we accomplish Physical Literacy at a school level?
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Guide – Do you/your school tick these boxes?
Quality Health and Physical Education Program
· Meet the state and/or national curriculum requirements
· Include evidence-based teaching and learning methods
· Inclusive of a diverse range of learning styles and student interests
· Incorporate a balance of non-competitive and competitive activities
· Use a variety of assessment methods providing relevant feedback to students
· Maximise participation with 50% of classes including moderate to vigorous physical activity
· Provide appropriate and sufficient equipment for all students to be active
Inclusive Co-Curricular Program
· Provide a variety of inclusive, competitive, non-competitive, team and individual sport options
· Provide a variety of sports and physical activities before, during and after school
· Support students to lead sport and physical activity initiatives at school
· Recognise and reward students for participation and achievement
· Promote a positive attitude towards the development of physical literacy
· Support students to identify movement opportunities at school and in their local community
· Incorporate the development of physical literacy into a range of curriculum areas at all year levels
· Planning the development of physical literacy into curriculum documents and practise
· Provide professional learning opportunities and resources to staff
· Encourage staff to be positive role models by leading healthy and active lives
· Encourage staff to provide additional physical activities where possible
There’s a lot in there, right? If you’re reading that and thinking you/your school doesn’t do half of what’s on this list, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The research suggests that the best way to encourage/promote physical literacy with our students is to tick a majority of those points above, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and Michael Jordan didn’t become the best NBA player overnight – and he is the GOAT. Stop it. 😊
New Years call for new resolutions. Maybe your 2024 educational goal is to pick two of the above to focus on this year. Maybe you deliver quality PE to national standards really well but could focus on developing a before or after school activity, like a running club. Maybe the staff at your school could use some support with trying to implement physical activities (brain breaks) into their programming and you ask your leadership for 10 – 15 mins at a staff meeting to explain what 2 or 3 of these may look like. I believe in doing a little bit and doing it well and then making that the foundation on which to build. You know your school better than anyone. Choose what suits you.
In the last year or two, the concept of physical literacy has been a game changer for me in the landscape of Physical Education. It goes beyond the traditional focus on fitness and athleticism, emphasising the development of fundamental movement skills, a positive attitude toward physical activity, and the integration of physical and cognitive development. By fostering physical literacy in students, we educators lay the groundwork for a lifetime of active and healthy living.
Physical literacy is not a luxury but a necessity in the holistic education of children. As educators, it is our collective responsibility to recognise and prioritise the importance of physical literacy in shaping the future generations. By doing so, we empower students to unlock their full potential, not just on the playing field but in every facet of their lives.