On the surface, PE games just look like fun. But play is one of the best ways of learning. Here's a glimpse into the actual learning that happens when PE teachers assign engaging activities.
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So I recently posted this game Wrecking Ball
And another PE teacher challenged me on the merits of the activity. What are the learning targets here?
And over the course of the discussion, they came to a great point, that some of the activities that I post are directly assigned to students and by pushing into their homes, their parents might just see it as a silly game instead of a valuable learning experience. And that we need to have a very clear message of what PE is an explicitly share it.
Personally, I’m good at reaching my students and because of daily conversations with my co-workers and the admin at my school, they also understand what’s actually being taught. But I’m not always as great at teaching parents what their kids are learning in my class and that’s something I need to be better about.
And I want to start with my purpose in being a PE teacher.
First and foremost, I want kids to enjoy moving. Get outside and play. It’s not about being a great athlete or being awesome at every skill. It’s about having enough skill to feel comfortable going out and being active and trying new things.
I also want them to build REAL confidence. It’s not fake it til you make it. It’s doing challenging things. It’s experiencing failure and adapting for success. Those wins show you what you’re capable of. What you CAN do and that builds true confidence.
Lastly, I want them to have valuable relationships.
So with that in mind, let’s break down what our students are actually learning here.
They’re learning to enjoy movement. It’s ridiculous. They’re swinging a ball from their head. I started doing it in my house and immediately my 3 and 5 year old boys wanted to play. Then my wife wanted to get in on it. We had a blast laughing together.
And there’s the relationship piece. Kids doing this activity with their family. I doubt you’ll see siblings bickering during this activity. Parents and kids can laugh together and just have a moment of physically active silliness together. And if I know anything about relationships, laughing together is one of the best ways to bond.
On a side note, my students are sometimes submitting videos of themselves doing the activities I assign and I have a girl who does almost every activity with her dad and I look forward to every video. Just watching a father and daughter laugh and love a game together is absolutely incredible.
And with my paper ball trick shot challenge, in almost every video, a parent was recording and you could just feel the love when the parent would watch their child make the trick shot. It seems inconsequential, but when you witness it, it’s … incredible.
Another thing that’s happening here is goal setting and self-evaluation. They have the goal of knocking down 10 objects. Every time they swing their head, they get instant feedback of whether they knocked it down or not. Subconsciously, they’re learning how to re-evaluate for success and getting a lot of reps at it.
There’s also the relationship their mind has with their body. It’s a full body exercise. They need to move their entire body in a way that helps them knock something down and this helps them gain more control over their body.
There’s also this thing called muscle confusion. It’s a practice in strength training where you switch up your exercises. Your body is constantly trying to be efficient. If you do the same exercises every day, your body gets used to them and finds the most efficient ways to do it, resulting in fewer gains. But when you switch it up and throw your body off, it creates muscle confusion and makes you stronger.
So in this activity kids are finding a way to love moving, they’re getting a feel for what they CAN actually do, starting down that road of building true confidence. And hopefully, they can share the activity with somebody at home, building stronger relationships.
And beyond that, it’s fun. And possibly an escape. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Some kids haven’t seen any friends for weeks. Some are dealing with economic uncertainty and stress at home. Heck, I still have a job and I’m used to working with kids and I'm stressed out because I’m not used to working while having all my kids home with me. And I know my kids feel it. So while kids are already gaining so much from this exercise, they’re also getting an escape. If a family is stressed out and they have a few minutes of playing and laughing together, and just get a temporary reprieve from being miserable, then it’s worth it.
Be well. Play well. Be Well Played.
Treat yourself or your favorite PE teacher to the finest Phys Ed tee shirts this side of the Mississippi (both sides, really).
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