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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Bull

How to Teach Physical Literacy within Physical Education

Updated: Jan 28

In my last blog post I outlined what physical literacy is, its benefits and briefly outlined what it can look like at a school level. In this post I'm going to give some specific examples of what it can look like in your P.E. teaching in regard to the four domains of physical literacy.

Remember, when analyzing physical literacy, 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. 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 behaviors for life. Physical literacy involves holistic lifelong learning through movement and physical activity.  It delivers physical, psychological, social and cognitive health and wellbeing benefits. 

A 2023 case study was conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport. The case study, looking specifically at lessons on Athletics, shows how physical literacy can be successfully integrated into Physical Education programs. It highlighted the importance of:

  • a holistic approach – addressing all four physical literacy domains (physical, psychological, social, cognitive)

  • adopting a participant centric approach – being empathetic and considering the impact on participants

  • using a settings-based approach – modifying the activities and environment to suit all participants.

Its significant findings were:

  • Having fun was key.

  • Teacher’s language was important to create a safe, trusting space where children could engage, learn and improve. For example, when a student said, “I am not good at throwing” the teacher responded, “You either haven’t learnt how to do it yet, or you are still working on it, it’s just practice”.

  • Students enjoyed activities when they were in strategic groups as they provided a socially supportive environment.

  • Students were encouraged to better their own performance through learning and practice.

  • Through learning about the Athletics Australia program, Teachers benefited from learning through an accredited program that helped create an engaging and safe learning environment. They also increased their capacity to deliver physical literacy outcomes.

The case study found that students developed through all four domains of physical literacy:





Movement skills – running and jumping were focused on to help develop skills that could assist the ability for long term participation.

Object manipulation - games were designed to be non-competitive and included modified equipment to ensure all students could participate and build their ability and confidence in throwing skills.

  • Self-regulation (emotions) - coaches used a variety of techniques to manage student emotions such as verbal discussions focusing on a positive aspect e.g. “I can see that you are frustrated, it’s ok to make mistakes, but what you are doing really well is…’

  • Self-perception - teachers commented that the coach reinforcement of trying to improve themselves was positive, “the children now have more self-perception of their own abilities and what they need to do to maximise to ensure they are being successful”.

  • Enjoyment & engagement - students reported they enjoyed the coach’s individual feedback as it allowed them to stay engaged in the activity and improve their performance.

  • Identifying what was important through a pre-program survey completed by students that identified they wanted to build relationships and collaboration with others in a safe learning environment to learn.

  • Coaches designed games to create a supportive environment where the students could interact with each other.  Students reported that ‘games are the best when they are with friends’.

  • Coaches focused on developing relationships with students, earning their trust, and understanding their individual learning needs.

  • Content knowledge - correct terminology around technique was used by coaches to develop students’ content knowledge of Athletics and support their learning and improvement in performance.

  • Reasoning - through learning correct techniques, and why they are important for successful outcomes, students were able to reflect on performance and identify how they could improve.

So, what can all this look like for you, the P.E. teacher? What should you be focusing on when thinking about the 4 domains of physical literacy?


Movement skills

Movement skills that allow a person to move (land, water, snow, ice), from one place to another. Moving with equipment

Movement skills used to move on, in or with equipment from one place to another. Object manipulation

Movement skills that use a body part(s) to move or manipulate an object. Coordination

Ability to move different body parts in a controlled, smooth and efficient manner. Stability/balance

Skills involving balance and weight transfer. Flexibility

Capacity of a joint or muscle to move through its full range of motion. Agility

Ability to quickly change body position and/or direction of the body. Strength

Ability to carry out work against a resistance. Muscular endurance

Ability of a muscle(s) to repeatedly exert force over a sustained period of time. Cardiovascular endurance

Ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Reaction time

Length of time taken to respond to a given stimulus. Speed

Ability to move quickly across the ground, through the water or air or move limbs rapidly.


Engagement & enjoyment

Positive emotions and experiences derived from movement and physical activity. Confidence

A belief in self-worth and ability to perform in movement and physical activity. Motivation

Reasons for engaging in movement and physical activity in response to internal or external factors. Connection to place

Appreciation and connection to the environment, both built and natural in relation to movement and physical activity. Self-perception

Understands self in relation to movement and physical activity and recognizes personal strengths and areas for development. Self-regulation (emotions)

Ability to manage emotions and resulting behaviors in relation to movement and physical activity. Self-regulation (physical)

Recognising and managing physical signals such as pain, fatigue and exertion.



Building and maintaining respectful relationships that enable a person to interact effectively with others. Collaboration

Social skills for successful interaction with others, including: communication, cooperation, leadership and conflict resolution. Ethics

Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior relating to fairness and justice, inclusion, equity, integrity and respect. Society & culture

Appreciation of cultural values which exist within groups, organisations, and communities.

Content Knowledge

Content knowledge

Factual knowledge a person can understand and convey; often important in recognition, recall and planning. Safety & risk

Understanding of risks, risk-management and safety considerations for self and others in movement contexts. Rules

Explicit or understood regulations and principles governing conduct or procedure within movement and physical activities. Reasoning

Consciously making sense of things by verifying facts and applying logic to construct, change or justify practices and beliefs. Strategy & planning

Strategy and planning describes how set goals will be achieved using reflection and resources available. Tactics

Planned and ad hoc decisions and actions, employed in the moment for the pursuit of goal/s. Perceptual awareness

Tactic knowledge used to quickly recognize the environment and make accurate decisions: based on experiences, observations, emotions and intuition.

Again, there is a lot to take in, but as mentioned in a previous post, don't feel like you have to do it all in one day, or a week, month, even a year. Pick one or two criteria per domain that you want to improve upon and have a go making a difference in your teaching. Choose something that you gravitate towards. Maybe you want to order some new equipment that could help engage students in one of your units or maybe you want to focus on the social discipline and have your students collaborate better as a team.

Let these physical literacy guidelines help guide you professionally as an educator. For me, this is the new movement in Physical Education. It is about thinking holistically and prioritizing the need to promote lifelong physical learning. If we can do this, we will empower future generations of active learners, not just on the playing field, but in every element of their lives. For you the teacher, just remember to have fun with it too.

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