Developing lifelong movers or avoiders?

I recently had a frank discussion with a number of students in one of my classes who were regular abstainers from practical lessons whether they had their PE uniforms or not. I asked the two students to write down why they didn’t like participating in practical lessons. They came up with a range of statements about not enjoying getting sweaty at school, not having time or appropriate facilities to shower after lessons and not enjoying team sports. However, they did mention that they understand the need to remain active  and that it’s important to their health. It’s just that they prefer walking and lower intensity activities. So, it got me thinking, is our role just to teach students the skills and strategies required to participate in team games or is it about developing lifelong learners? I’m pretty sure its a bit about both, but is it worth pushing one at the expense of the other?

The result of our discussion and the resultant reflection on the statements is that I’ve decided to run a separate ‘test’ unit for them – they’re my beta testers I guess. Currently, during our practical lessons, these two students have created a blog (aptly named – to record their ideas and reflect on their progress. They have been set the task of researching what’s required of them to stay healthy ie how often they need to exercise, what intensity – and setting, goals on what they plan to achieve. The plan is that they will adhere to their ‘exercise plan’ outside of school and will then spend time reflecting on how they are going, what’s stopped them (barriers to participation), what they enjoy about it, what they don’t, how they can make it more interesting over time (adding variety).

My hope that this will provide them with an opportunity to develop an understanding of how they can include physical activity into their daily routines to remain healthy and develop the skills to plan for and overcome obstacles to achieving their goals. They’ll still be involved in some of our practical units/lessons on movement composition, skill development but at other times they’ll be able to use this time to reflect on their progress or even use the time to continuing exercise how they choose to.

I’m hoping this works to produce individuals who not only see the importance of being active but who become lifelong participants in physical activity.

My question to you is, is this worthwhile? Is it better to have them physical active somewhere and engaged in learning about it during class time, or should I persit with them with the whole class in practical lessons? What else can I try?

I look forward to your thoughts.

6 thoughts on “Developing lifelong movers or avoiders?

  1. Great idea. I think that his is a wonderful way of getting children to think of themselves as learners as is far more powerful than making them get involved. We have a responsibility to help students see themselves as movers and then to become movers rather than avoiders. For people to engage in lifelong participation they need to feel competent and feel that they have autonomy in the decisions that they make. The task you have set them gives then the idea that they have a role to play in their own physical activity choices and a part to play in their own education through, in and around the physical. I don’t think we have any responsibility to teach anyone about games rather we have a tradition of doing it and therefore a social expectation that we make this happen. Good on you…and if I can help in anyway let me know.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Ashley. I’m hoping that as the project runs, they might like to try more ‘interesting’ activities – such as joining group fitness classes etc and can then reflect on whether they have enjoyed them or not, the social benefits etc etc. And, hopefully the blog won’t just be a short term thing, but something that they get used to doing long term.

  2. Fantastic idea. I hated the humiliation of PE – naturally tall and skinny (then) but completely incompetent at most sport. It’s always obvious in a race when you’re last or in a game when you’re the weak player, but in the academic field, if the teacher doesn’t make it obvious, lower results are generally kept quiet. I would have loved this project.

    1. its a good point you make that performance levels are much more obvious in athletic pursuits than other academic areas. It’s worthwhile for PE teachers to consider how we can structure our lessons that don’t cause humilation or that don’t allow the students to feel like they are succeeding and, therefore, want to keep trying.

  3. I will never forget when i saw a chart in my pre-methods that showed the most taught P.E. activities in America (Basketball, Softball, Soccer, Tennis, Track and Field) and the most popular adult activities (Fishing, Boating, Gardening, Walking, Rec Sports).

    When will we stop insisting that P.E. must be a traumatic experience to persevere through? We P.E. teachers are in the odd position of trying to make sure our kids like it–yet we jump ship as soon as someone complains.

    Getting sweaty is a valid complaint! If you run before work, you can’t show up to your office job sweaty! It’s a life skill to plan your workout, get cleaned up and ready for the day. Also, they need to be able to feel safe getting that sweaty and attempting other skills. If they acquire a movement lifestyle, I have to think they will be willing to try other things…

    Great unit it sounds like. My fingers are crossed that more students will have this option!

  4. A great idea, Jay!
    I particularly like how you meet the students where they are at and engage them in the topic at an appropriate entry point.

    I think this could also be applicable across other subjects. I know plenty of students who hate English and History. Something similar to this could be a really effective way of engaging students.

    However, I also think that there’s something to be said for pushing through something you don’t like doing. I wonder whether we spend so long compromising for students that they learn that they don’t have to do anything that they find onerous.

    Having said that, I think that there’s plenty of research that supports your approach: it is student centred; builds on their previous knowledge; engages them where their at etc. Furthermore, I think that it’s very easy for teachers to make excuses, writing off those students who do not do things in the same way as us, identifying their lack of achievement as their fault.

    I think I’m going to aspire to engage students more in this project-based approach–Well done that man!

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