About mrmetcalfpe

I am a passionate Physical Education teacher, department chair, national presenter and consultant. The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Creating a Sustainable System for Sport Education Units

The Sport Education instructional model (Sport Ed, SEPEP) is a fantastic way to enhance motivation, engagement, and overall experience of students in physical education. The dynamics of the teacher facilitating the learning experiences, if done correctly, can also be a phenomenal way to address the 4C’s (21st Century Learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity) and Common Core Standards and provide enriching experiences for students of all skill levels.sport ed - flag football

I’ve been using the main ideas from this instructional model in a modified capacity for six years for my middle school classes.  I have found that once students have experienced this type of unit (ie: peer-lead activities and the use of teams that stay together through a preseason, regular season, and post season) they overwhelmingly prefer a “Sport Ed” unit over a traditional unit.

While an “event driven” unit can be exciting and memorable, an overcomplicated unit can result in an enormous amount of planning and management; this may lead to teacher burnout and a decrease in student engagement. I have found that adapting some simple ideas from the Sport Ed model can help provide a framework for engaging and repeatable units without an extravagant “dog and pony show.” I have tried several different ways of doing this type of unit, and have found the most success with the basic format below:

Unit Planning:
I usually do 8-12, 30-minute sessions per unit (My school has daily P.E. Each unit spans approximately 3 weeks. We usually do 8 sport units per school year… this can be modified according to your school’s schedule).

  • 2-4 sessions of preseason practices
  • 3-4 sessions of regular season games (games count toward tournament seeding)
  • 3-4 of post season tournament 

Middle School Resources:

  • Team contract (including fair play agreement)
  • Sport specific skill/strategy cards for captains/coaches (Teaching Games for Understanding concepts)Sport Ed Student Roles
  • Posted schedule of jobs/roles for the unit (details below)
  • Cognitive assessment (be mindful of the “need to know”
    Badminton Rubricand the “nice to know” concepts)
  • Assessment rubrics for self, peer, and strategy assessment


Routines & Duties:

Students volunteer to be Captain/Coach before the start of the unit. The vast majority
sport ed - flag football coachof volunteers at my school prefer to participate as captains (mainly because they want to participate in the games). Whether or not the student plays games as a captain or coaches from the sidelines, it still allows for an extremely enriching leadership experience.

Team Draft: I use the Team Shake app to “oppose” the captains/coaches and shake up teams (equal ability team configuration). If unfamiliar with Team Shake, I would recommend the teacher creating balanced-ability teams. I usually do 4-5 teams per sport unit. If 2 games are being played, the odd team out will practice off to the side.

Captains/Coaches select an assistant coach who will act as a normal player, but also fill in for the captain/coach if absent. Assistant coach is also the in-game referee (while playing). Assistant coaches must be objective and honest when making any questionable calls in gameplay (rock, paper, scissors is a quick way to solve any disagreements).

Schedule Role Rotation: Rather than having students remain in “non-participant” roles, I have found it more engaging to rotate the roles/jobs throughout the unit to allow maximum participation.

Create and post a spreadsheet with the number of sessions you plan on doing for the unit. Leave the top column of the schedule blank and fill in the date with a pencil on the day of each class.

IMG_3075 Students must check the posted schedule of jobs/roles for each day of the unit to see if they have a job to do that day. This step is extremely important to hold students accountable. If students do not check his/her responsibility for that day, the unit will not run as smoothly.

Last 2 minutes of class, the publicists (one from each team) write 2-3 sentences about what happened today with his/her team (skills/strategies learned, special performances, etc.). Publicists may also snap a few photos if technology is easily available.

F=Fitness Trainer
Lead team through a fitness-based warm-up at the start of class (fitness warm-up task cards optional)

E=Equipment Manager
Sets up and puts away any equipment needed or used that day

Meets with teacher at the start of class (while fitness trainer is warming up team). Teacher communicates and provides resources for the focus/objectives of the day IMG_3067(provide guidance to students for how to teach and/or communicate). I use TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding) concepts and strategies for better transfer of knowledge and a deeper understanding of gameplay. Encourage the use of small-sided modified games in order to teach and practice skills and strategic concepts. Coaches/Captains will almost always have a difficult time on the first day. It is extremely important to let them work through set-backs and failures to figure out their own leadership style. I always debrief with the Coaches/Captains at the end of each class to get their feedback and provide support to help them improve.

Putting together this type of unit can be a daunting task many reasons: worries about giving up control, creating new resources, lack of confidence in student engagement, etc. IMG_3068The most important bit of advice, in my opinion, is to keep it as simple as possible, especially if you are new to the Sport Ed model. Too often, I see teachers trying to create Sport Ed units with too many jobs/roles and trying to incorporate technology where it may not be needed. Once the teacher and students are comfortable with this type of unit, it becomes much easier to add new enhancements.

Please let me know if you have any questions or additional feedback regarding modified variations of Sport Ed that may enhance student learning experiences in physical education.

Here is a link to my #PhysEdSummit3.0 webinar session for more details:

Here are some examples of resources that I’ve created for various Sport Ed units:


Feedback from my students about this Sport Ed unit model:
“It enhances cooperative skills. We know each other better and can individualize and assist more directly.”

“The competitive atmosphere is more realistic.”

“Each unit has a purpose and it helps everyone put forth their best effort to improve and help the team.”

“If you don’t know much about the sport, coaching is a great way to learn!”

“At times it can become too competitive.  For those who are lower skilled, the pressure from certain teammates can become off-putting.”

“Team balance is really important.  Mostly the teams are good, but at times gender and ability imbalance can make it difficult”


What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 3 of 3)

This is the third of three blog posts in my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore. This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter. During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain. What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 8: Monday March 31, 2014
Teacher: Mike Gilmour (Twitter @Gilmour_Mike)
Overseas Family School (Singapore)

The streets of Singapore are lined with enormous shopping centers, multiplexes, and skyscrapers. New construction and renovations are ongoing in nearly every part of the city. Public transportation systems (trains, cabs, and buses and buses) are exceptionally affordable and easy to use. My first full day in Singapore begins with a 10-minute cab ride to Overseas Family School to visit Mike Gilmour. Having arrived a bit early, I take advantage of my free time to walk around the surrounding neighborhood as well as observe the morning traffic.

What I Saw:
The school buses arriving at OFS would be what Americans would call charter buses. Buses and cars entered the manned security gates while traffic was directed by a large number of yellow vested individuals to help coordinate the morning drop off.
Overseas Family School is a for-profit IMG_1980K-12 International Baccalaureate Curriculum (Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programs: enrollment is approximately 3600 students from 73 countries).

Mike Gilmour (Primary Physical Education) and his wife (2nd grade) have been teachers at OFS for 4.5 years. Mike is originally from South Africa and absolutely loves the international school circuit. The facilities and logistics of all of Physical Education were fascinating to see in action. With only outdoor facilities, I was able to witness 6+ P.E. classes (of various grades and areas of campus) going on at the same time. I was astounded at the level of focus and maturity of the students, who were able to follow instructions and remain engaged in a myriad of activities while numerous potential distractions were so close (noise from other classes, construction equipment, etc.).

Mike’s personality and teaching style makes for a very exciting learning environment. During his grade 4 adventure education lessons, his instructions were clear and concise:
IMG_2009students transitioned quickly through 4-5 team challenges with very little down time. With the consistently hot and humid weather (95 F, 35 C), the students took frequent water breaks throughout the course of the hour-long P.E. class.

In addition to seeing many adventure challenge activities, I was also able to see how the P.E. teachers implemented their first Sport Education (SEPEP) unit through the Swiss sport of tchoukball. Teams were lead by student-player/coaches through a round robin regular season. The teams that won their respective class seasons competed in the “Exhibition” games during lunch/recess (where hundreds of students could watch as they ate lunch in and near the canteen).

What I Learned:
I had never had much exposure to International Schools and had many questions about how the various schools were funded, teacher contracts, student contracts, etc. Mike and his teaching colleagues were extremely helpful in explaining how the various types of international school systems operate (for profit, nonprofit, etc.). As far as what I’ve gained as a teacher, I could not have been more impressed with Mike Gilmour (as well as his teaching colleagues). The best way to truly get an appreciation for how tal
IMG_2012ented and passionate certain people are is to see them in their element. I was absolutely blown away by the efficiency with which Mike was able to deliver immensely dynamic lessons in a variety of settings. I have a new appreciation for what students can handle when the teachers plan units and lessons to maximize content and activity within all available spaces.

Day 9: Tuesday April 1, 2014
Teachers: Josh Symes (Twitter @JSymes77) & Anne Wenstrom (Twitter @AWenstrom)
Singapore American School (Singapore)

A 30-minute cab ride out to Woodlands (suburban setting) to Singapore American School to spend the day with Josh Symes (Australia) and Anne Wentrome (Minnesota, U.S.A.). The
transition from city to suburb was definitely a shift in the amount of space available. TheSAS courts campus of Singapore American School is progressive, beautiful, and vast. A student- SAS cricketcentered design is extremely apparent with the amount of integrated outdoor social courtyards,
open-air walkways, and areas available for play. This nonprofit international school is built to support up to 3900 students with a college campus type feel with primary, intermediate, middle, and high schools.


What I Saw:
I spent the first part of the morning with middle school Physical Education teacher, Josh Symes (friend of Andy Hair who I had visited in Geelong, Australia the week IMG_2025prior). Josh’s inquiry-based teaching approach is the perfect fit for the P.E. department philosophy of exposure to sport. As part of the core curriculum, P.E. classes meet for either 70 or 90 minutes every other day! Throughout the course of the school year, 18 different sport units are covered within 3-day allotments. I witnessed a “day 2” volleyball lesson where students were recording and viewing video of setting and forearm passing through the use of iPads (Bam Video IMG_2030Delay and Coach’s Eye apps). Small groups worked productively to perform practice tasks and reflect upon improvements that they could make based on what they just observed. Josh was able to visit the groups and provide additional feedback to the students.

As a teacher, Josh is extremely reflective and well read. His laid back demeanor (teacher/learner equality) could be misinterpreted by a “traditional” (direct instruction style) teacher as aloof. Through an afternoon and evening of conversation, it was apparent that his teaching approach is exceptionally calculated. Allowing students to experiment and discover the best way to approach sport skills and strategies provides a
IMG_2061richer, more meaningful transfer of knowledge. Josh explained how his entire middle school P.E. department (9 teachers) has or is transitioning to more student centered. The basic model is to have the student start each sport with a personal goal, then explore how to reach it. The traditional focus on skill (grip, positioning of feet, hands, etc.) is thrown out the window, students learn by doing.

I spent the late morning through the midafternoon with Apple Distinguished primary (K-2) P.E. teacher, Anne Wenstrome. The primary P.E. area(s) of the school was a technology dream come true. Cart-mounted flat screen TVs (equipped with AppleTVs and Microsoft Kinect consoles) and iPads were plentiful.
IMG_2038The gym for Anne’s classes was set up into floor hockey game and skill stations to maximize student activity.   Two stations incorporated gameplay tasks, one station allowed for partner passing, and one station was dedicated to visual feedback. A tripod-mounted iPad on Bam Video Delay allowed students to practice, then view their own grip and shot execution. After a few attempts each student would then reflect on his/her skill development by filling out and submitting a Google Form (which included images of correct hand position/follow through to reference).

What I Learned:
Witnessing Josh’s inquiry-based teaching style and Anne’s organization and creativity was a delight to see in person. Seeing how both teachers were able to
IMG_2053purposefully integrate technology for student-directed feedback produced a stream of ideas for ways in which I could replicate these routines into my own classes.




Day 10: Wednesday April 2, 2014
Teacher: Nathan Horne (Twitter @PENathan)
ISS International School (Singapore)

My final school visit began with a 10-minute cab ride to ISS International School to visit Nathan Horne (Tasmania, Australia). Meeting Nathan Horne was one of the primary IMG_2072 objectives of my trip to Singapore. Having followed his work on Twitter and the #PhysEd Podcast for over a year, I treasured the opportunity to see him teach and have professional conversations about best practices in Physical Education.

ISS is a for-profit International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) that has students from over 50 nationalities. The aims of PYP schools are to connect the curriculum content to a series of desired attributes and attitudes that characterize successful students (Inquirers, Thinkers, Communicators, Risk-takers, Knowledgeable, Principled, Caring, Open-minded, Well-balanced, Reflective).

What I Saw:
Nathan’s P.E. classes were beginning of a 6-week swimming unit where each class was bussed to the public pool. Normal P.E. classes are scheduled twice per week for 45 IMG_2075minutes, however, during the swimming unit, scheduling is adjusted to allow for one 90
minute session per week (due to the 10-minute bus ride at the beginning and end of class). P.E. teachers and swim coaches work with groups of 5-7 students at a time to progress through various levels of swimming challenges and tasks. Younger students focus on introductory swim concepts (breathing, kicks, arm strokes), while the more experienced students (up to grade 5) worked on advanced techniques in the 50M lap pool. Nathan’s inquiry-based teaching style helps the students discover how to improve their level of comfort in the water. Throughout the course of the swim unit, student motivation to IMG_2088improve upon personal goals of lap-time in the various swim strokes was to culminate in the all-school swim carnival.

The technology integration at ISS is remarkable (Apple Macbooks, iPads, and Google Apps for Education). Nathan shared several examples of student projects, digital portfolios, and even K-2 students video explanations of their work (much more efficient that having the students type). Nathan and I spent a good portion of the afternoon discussing sharing the various types of workflow data collection systems that we use. I was especially impressed with his use of Google forms to track behavior and skill development (“Ages & Stages” motor development by age). We talked at length about successes and challenges we’ve had in Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding instructional models.

We continued our conversation throughout the course of the evening as we went out for dinner and were joined by Mike Gilmour. The three of us spoke about how powerful
IMG_2095collaborating with like-minded educators on Twitter can be. It was incredibly refreshing to discuss and welcome different perspectives in order to further enrich our own teaching practice.

What I Learned:
There are certain moments in life that feel profoundly different, and the day I spent with Nathan certainly one of them. Meeting and establishing a friendship with Nathan is the start of what I believe will be something special for years to come. Having the conversations (both personal and professional) throughout the day and evening with Nathan have me feeling truly inspired to do more and share more of all of the good we are doing as educators.

I had an extremely rare opportunity (provided by The Avery Coonley School’s Lucia Burton Morse Grant) to build real professional relationships with some of the most reflective and progressive teachers on the other side of the world. I feel an enormous obligation to take what I’ve learned from this experience, and figure out how I can pay it forward. I am eager to share my newly shaped perspectives to improve my own teaching as well as inspire other teachers to step outside of their comfort zone, think big, and never stop learning.

What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 2 of 3)

This is the second of three blog posts in my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore.  This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter.  During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain.  What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 4: Thursday March 27, 2014
Teacher: Andy Hair (Twitter @MrHairPhysEd)
Leopold Primary School (Leopold, Victoria)

IMG_1796I checked out of my accommodations in Melbourne and walked with my luggage in a light rain to Southern Cross station (1000m).  Hopped aboard V-Line train to
Geelong (a little over an hour ride) where a smiling Andy Hair picked me up.  Andy was wearing my school’s T-shirt (which we swapped last school year through the #PEshirtswap) and his knees and ankles were wrapped in ace bandages as he was still recovering from the Ironman competition from the past weekend.  Having skyped with Andy on two occasions, it was fantastic to meet him in person.  We spoke as if we were old friends as he took me on a brief drive from the train station to his school.

What I Saw:
Leopold Primary School is an extremely charming Prep-Grade 6 public school about 15 minutes outside of the historic port city of Geelong, Victoria.  The gym is absolutely IMG_1748gorgeous!  I was especially fond of the wood floors and the garage-style doors, which were kept open throughout the school day to allow fresh air to flow through.  The gym is owned by the local parks and recreation service and is used in the evenings for clubs, sport leagues, taekwondo, dance, etc.  The outdoor facilities include playgrounds, basketball/downball courts (similar to “4 square” played with a tennis ball), a footy oval (field), and a large soccer field.

Andy is the head of a two-person Physical Education department (with Gemmah Gill).  The two teachers share and office just outside the gym and often team teach together.  Andy begins each school day wheeling his robust technology cart into the gym (complete with iPads, projector, AppleTV, and speakers).  Near the back wall of the stage hangs an enormous projector screen that Andy helped to build.

Grades 5 & 6 P.E. classes for the day consisted of a guest instructor from Lacrosse Victoria, a company that conducts clinics at schools and park districts throughout the IMG_1760area.  Students hadn’t seen Andy since the week before the Ironman, so they were extremely excited to see and hear about his experience.  It was evident that his students had a genuine affinity for Andy, whose upbeat demeanor and aura of respect is infectious.  Andy spoke colorfully about his experience in the Ironman to his students as jaws hung open with the details of how excruciating the eleven-hour event was on his body and mind.  Andy’s personification of a healthy lifestyle, along with his family balance, is inspiring for both students and his colleagues.

Both P.E. teachers are comfortable and efficient with technology.  I was extremely impressed by one of Andy’s Excel spreadsheets that is used when entering student sport data.  The spreadsheet was created with auto-calculating/VLookup functions to sort by age and student scores automatically by the simple entry of each student’s assigned IMG_1761number.  This type of data entry tool is great for students in that they can quickly find out how they scored within their age group (without having the teachers spending several hours entering names and scores).

Technology is also incorporated throughout the school with the integration of Google Apps for Education.  Student technology emersion is evident through the use iPads and laptops (1-to-1 from grades 4-6). The school just implemented a learning management system, called School Turf, which is run by two men who customize the LMS as needed for the teaching/administrative staff.  Formative feedback, grading, digital portfolios and digital documents are seamlessly shared between the teachers and students.   School Turf also includes a “learning network” (similar to a social network) where student can blog, leave comments, and “like” certain posts.

What I Learned:
As a teacher in the field of Physical Education, I could not have been more impressed with how Andy Hair personifies IMG_1770everything that is right about our profession.  He practices what he preaches with such humility that it is no surprise that his students and his colleagues respect him so genuinely.  Andy is the type of teacher (and the type of person) that students are inspired by and aspire to be like.

Day 5: Friday March 28, 2014
Teacher: Ashley Mills (Twitter @AshleaMills)
Firbank Grammar School (Brighton, Victoria)

After spending the night in a rental apartment in Geelong, I walked with my luggage about a half mile to the V-Line train station to take a 7am train from Geelong towards Southern Cross Station.  I transferred at the Footscray stop to Werribee line towards Flinders St. Station.  Then transferred at Flinders St. Station to the Sandringham Line to North Brighton.  I then walked about a half mile to Firbank Grammar School where I met Ashlea Mills.

What I Saw:
Firbank Grammar is an elite, all girls, private PYP school (Primary Years Programme).  Themes of inquiry provide a scope and sequence for which all subjects and content areas use to guide units and instruction.  Enrollment is around 310 with class sizes of approximately 23.  Ashlea Mills is the main PE teacher for Years 2-6 and is accompanied by 2 part time PMP teachers (Perceptual Motor Programme movement/skills in stations).

Physical Education classes begin in the sport room which has a mounted TV (with a protective enclosure) where Ashlea displays visual aids though AppleTV.  The sport room IMG_1819has a glass wall with sliding door that opens to the outdoor facilities, which include several tennis courts, netball/basketball courts, playgrounds, and a large oval (grass field).  Ashlea was teaching her final lesson of her cross-country unit to her grade 4 students.  Students bring their own Ipad to class (purchased by the family, required by school).


Ashlea’s lessons for the day were based on collecting each girl’s 12-minute run data through the use of an app called Run Lap Tap.  Students were partnered up where one girl would run around the 200 meter track (which had been painted by maintenance staff) while the other would start the timer
and double-tap each time a IMG_1837lap was completed. Upon completing the run, results were emailed to Ashlea as well as the runner.  Information included how many laps were completed and how long each lap took (which allowed for speed: meters/second).

Ashlea is an incredibly efficient teacher in both her planning and her instruction time.  She seamlessly multitasks and transitions from student meetings to classes throughout the day.  Efficiency is crucial for Ashlea, as she organizes team sport as well as adventure camps throughout the school year.  Although Ashlea has only been a teacher for 3 years, she is an extremely proficient and reflective teacher.  She stays informed about best teaching practices by attending (and presenting) at Teach Meet sessions, is active in the #PhysEd Twitter community, reads educational blogs, and writes her own blog (www.healthybodies-happyminds.com)

The school day concluded (as does every Friday) with an all school assembly lead by the Year 6 students (each week, a different year presents).  The school demonstrates the importance of community through the presentation of awards, poetry, musical performances, and other various recognitions.

What I Learned:
It was extremely beneficial for me to see how the themes of inquiry function in a primary school.  The mission and values of the school (learning, initiative, endeavor, achievement, responsibility, integrity, respect, creativity, spirituality, flexibility, diversity) are integrated
applied throughout all of the content areas.  It was eye opening for me to see how this type of curriculum worked, not only in a P.E. setting, IMG_1849but throughout the various classroom environments as well.  Ashlea’s relationships with her students, as well as her time management techniques, were incredible to witness (for teachers of any age or content area).  Her purposeful and efficient integration of iPad applications in P.E. was exciting to see, and has me inspired to find ways to bring some of her ideas to my school.

What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 1 of 3)

The following series of blog posts are my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore.  This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter.  During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain.  What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 1: Monday March 24, 2014
Teacher: Corey Aylen (Twitter @Mr_Aylen)
St. Francis Xavier Primary School (Box Hill, Victoria)

The day began prior to sunrise with a slight mist of drizzling rain and cool temperatures.  Corey picked me up from the Prahram train station and we had about a 30-minute car ride to his school.  Our personalities clicked right away as we discussed what an amazing opportunity this type of professional development is as well as what a powerful tool the Twitter network is for educators.

What I Saw:
Corey was among the first teachers to arrive at school where it was evident right away that he wears several “hats” as the lone P.E. teacher and self taught technology administrator.   I was extremely surprised and impressed by Corey’s involvement in the implementation of Google Apps for Education and integration of Chromebooks into the classroom (with admittedly very little computer training).  Teachers seemed very fond of the new learning management system, which gave them an efficient platform for grading, providing feedback, and tracking student performance.

IMG_1636The school campus made for a closely-knit community atmosphere.  School sport facilities included an oval (open grass field), blacktop basketball and netball courts, a field turf field (about the size of a middle school basketball court) with a small goal at each end, and a playground w/ jungle gym.  The campus also included a quaint little playground for prep students (kindergarten).

Year 1-6 students have P.E. one time per week with Corey for 40 minutes (P.E. classes are scheduled for M,T,W).  Classroom teachers supervise and instruct their respective classes in “sport” activities from 8:50-9am Tuesday-Thursday to start the day (Corey organizes and manages the rotation of activities throughout the term).  Assemblies are held each Friday and are hosted by a different grade each week.  Class sizes are approximately 24 students (2 classes per grade level).  Year 4 students (9-10 year olds) participated in small-sided games (groups of 4 or less) to build skill and incorporate strategies in striking and fielding games.  Year 1 students progressed from self, partnering, and small group development on ball manipulative skills (bouncing, tossing, and catching).IMG_1639

Another part of Corey’s job is to assist classroom teachers in their use and integration of technology.  I was fortunate to witness a Year 6 teacher (@MissKyritsis) piloting “genius hour”, where students work on a project of their choosing for an hour and prepare a way to present it to the class (examples: origami video, building an rocket to launch from the oval, etc.)

What I Learned:
Corey’s efficient use of space and time to maximize participation not only enhances the student experience, but also provides support to the entire teaching staff through sport IMG_1635and technology. As a P.E. teacher from the Chicago area, I really appreciated the foresight and flexibility required to plan a curriculum without the use of an indoor facility.  Corey utilizes inquiry and strategic questioning (What are some strategies that you used to advance the runner?  How did you position your team on defense?) to lead student discovery throughout the themes of each unit.

Day 2: Tuesday March 25, 2014
Teacher: Dale Sidebottom (Twitter @DaleSidebottom)
SEDA (Melbourne, Victoria)

A 20-minute walk on a gorgeous morning to SEDA, near Melbourne University campus.  A single classroom on the second story of a brick building is where Dale Sidebottom delivers his SEDA curriculum to Year 11 & 12 students.

What I Saw:IMG_1651
The experience of seeing, and having Dale explain, the SEDA school programs was the most unique of the schools visited.  Currently with 70+ locations, SEDA sport schools are designed as a nontraditional setting for students with the goal of achieving a career in sport and recreation.  Dale teaches all subjects to 23 students whose sporting interest is cricket.

The scheduling and general implementation of the program:

Monday:  Students spend the day at a structured workplace learning environment (of the individual’s choosing)

Tuesday – Thursday: Mornings are classroom based.  Dale sets how/when his curriculum (literacy, math, etc.) is delivered. Students use laptops to complete work, submit assignments.  Afternoons are usually dedicated to fitness and activity-based learning at a local park (about 10 minutes away).  Goal setting and fitness concepts are applied in a variety of settings.

Friday:  School & community clinical experience: coaching, teaching clinics/programs to K-6 grade students.  Focus on cricket only (representing Cricket Australia).

IMG_1661The morning class session included a lesson planning assignment where students worked diligently in small groups constructing lesson plans that they could use later in their clinical experiences.  The afternoon session began with a series of quick activities and team building games that Dale lead his students through.  The day ended with the “Workout of the Day” (4 rounds of 400m run, 50 squats).  Dale and his students completed the workout with the goal of improving on their previous week’s time.

In addition to being a teacher at SEDA, Dale is a developer of educational apps (www.breakappz.com).  Dale’s apps are a compilation of games, activities, and resources intended to be used by teachers of any content area (ClassBreak, BrainBreak, LiteracyBreak, MathBreak, Teacher Shake).  When teaching in some challenging schools and environments, Dale found that the best way to motivate the students to learn was through games.  He would start off every class with 3-4 quick games.IMG_1654

What I Learned:
The dynamics of the class and the program are completely different that anything I’ve ever seen, but it works extremely well.  Dale’s relationship with his students is immensely refreshing.  His laid back approach coupled with high expectations and built-in autonomy is a great formula for success in the SEDA environment.  Dale’s niche and system of app development is something that I found extremely impressive.  It is obvious that Dale’s philosophy and work ethic in his personal and professional life has and will continue to lead to an extremely bright future.

Day 3: Wednesday March 26, 2014
Teacher: Ross Halliday (Twitter @FizzicalEd)
Caulfield Grammar School (Wheelers Hill, Victoria)

A 30-minute cab ride to Caulfield Grammar School (Wheelers Hill) to visit Ross Halliday.  The school is over 100 years old, rich in tradition, with a beautiful and progressive campus, featuring a gorgeous mix of old and new facilities with plans for ongoing renovations and updates over the next 20 years.

What I Saw:
Lush landscaping plants, trees, flowers are integrated throughout campus pathways.  Built on a hill, youngest students are at the top and as you go down the campus the students are older.  Junior school is classified as pre-prep through year 6 (senior school is 7-12).  Glass walls/windows are the norm in every classroom and cluster.  At the bottom of the hill are the ovals (fields), tennis courts, swimming arena.  Technology in the classroom includes interactive white boards, AppleTV, and iPads.

Pre-prep & prep P.E. classes are PMP (perceptual motor program) focused.  Motor skills, spatial awareness, body control, manipulatives are practiced in stations.  The junior schooIMG_1685l PE department consists of 2 members (Ross & Karen).  Karen focuses on the younger students, Ross on the older.   Karen and Ross seem to have a very supportive and balanced relationship.  Ross is very good with technology and advocacy for PE; Karen is very motivated to use technology, but admits she is not as up to speed as Ross (Karen does use Idoceo iPad app for lesson planning and tracking student development).

Ross uses themes of inquiry and a Teaching Games for Understanding (tactical/strategic questioning).  The ever-present focus on learning through context was visible on the white board, with signs that ask, “What are we doing?” on one side and “What are we learning” on the other.  Each lesson has a “problem” in which they will be addressing.  The lesson I witness was part of the year 2 students soccer unit.  Students were trying to come up with solutions for getting around defenders to set up the attack.  At the end of class, a short video was shown so that students could see how an elite soccer player would get passed an opponent.

IMG_1701Ross is the Head of School Sport for Year 5 & 6 Students.  Coaches are hired for each term (mix of coaches: university students, teachers, coaches from other leagues/schools).  16 schools are in the conference and compete against one another throughout the 9-week term.  Home & away scheduling is dependent upon facilities, etc.  I witnessed home games of softball, tennis, and cricket.  Prior to the start of competition, I was able to take some cricket batting practice while the boys bowled to me in the “nets” (similar to baseball batting cages).

What I Learned:
Ross’s clear and focused philosophy of teaching through inquiry is superb.  As head of junior school sport, Ross’s enthusiasm for learning and his efficiency of planning (as well as delegation of leadership amongst his coaches) was astonishing to see in action.  IMG_1687Throughout the daily whirlwind of P.E. lessons and school sport, Ross’s genuine passion and respect for all students is paramount.  His ability to transition from one task to the next, always having time for a brief conversation or moment of personal attention for students and colleagues was truly a privilege to witness.

Physical Education Global Enrichment: Enhancing Student Experiences through Dynamic Instructional Strategies and Technology


Through the power of the #physed professional learning community on Twitter, I’m about to embark on an extraordinary opportunity.  Here are some excerpts and details from my grant trip proposal. 

Lucia Burton Morse Teacher Grant Proposal
Submitted to: The Avery Coonley School


The main objective of this collaborative visit is to meet, observe, and gain a deeper appreciation of a global Physical Education community by building relationships with some of the most dynamic Physical Education teachers on the other side of the world.

My goal is spend 5-7 days in the Melbourne and 4-6 days in Singapore.  During my time in these communities, I would schedule visits to several schools and teachers (any and all levels: prep – University) to gain a better understanding about:

What instructional models/strategies are used?
What types/methods of assessment are incorporated?
How is technology incorporated and integrated into Physical Education?
What role does sport/Physical Education play in the community?
How can we learn from one another to improve as a global Physical Education community?

Statement of Need

My experiences on Twitter, as well as video conferencing (through Google Hangouts, Skype, and YouTube), have sparked several questions as to how to create a more dynamic Physical Education experience for the students at The Avery Coonley School.  I have come to realize that although Twitter and video conferencing are very beneficial and can be a great way to establish connections with educators all over the world, it could never deliver the experience of actually spending time in their learning communities and seeing these teachers in action.

When I was informed about the opportunities for Avery Coonley teachers through the Lucia Burton Morse Teacher Grant Program, I sent out a brief survey to the PE Geeks community to see who and where would be the best teachers and schools to visit.  It was evident that in order to maximize this grant opportunity for enrichment of our students’ experiences, the best places and teachers to visit are in Australia and Singapore.  There is a high concentration of teachers in these areas who are on the cutting edge of technology, curriculum, instructional models and strategies for Physical Education.

Justification for targeting schools in Australia and Singapore lies within the strengths of their educational systems.  The Australian culture and educational system place a high importance on sport and an active lifestyle.  Instructional strategies, such as Teaching Games for Understanding, Fitness Education, and Sport Education, are prominently used at various levels in Physical Education.  The educational system in Singapore consistently ranks among the top in the world in terms of math and science. The implementation of a variety of formative and summative assessment tools are prominent in Singapore Physical Education programs to complement the inquiry-based instructional models.  Furthermore, Australian and Singaporean schools place a high importance in the integration of technology, such as iPads, into the curricula to better address the various learning styles of their students. 

The ACS philosophy is supported through a variety of Physical Education experiences and challenges for all students to foster a life-long appreciation of dance, physical fitness, and human welfare.  The Avery Coonley P.E. Program provides activities that challenge and keep young minds and bodies active.  As students move through the elementary and middle school grades, goal setting, problem solving, and teamwork are emphasized.  As a Physical Education department, we strive to continuously nurture the students’ experiences with fresh and creative challenges that maximize the use of Avery Coonley’s unique campus.  Over the past five years, ACS students have gained new exposure to a variety of multicultural activities such as tchoukball, rugby, cricket, jai alai, netball, dance, and poi spinning.  These new experiences will continue to stretch their mental, physical, and cultural boundaries.

In addition to gaining a better understanding of the differences Physical Education is implemented within the learning communities in Australia and Singapore, perhaps the most valuable byproduct that a collaborative visit like this will bring comes from the perspective gained from being outside one’s own comfort zone.  I feel that it is important to note that in alignment with the Avery Coonley School’s mission and philosophy, students as well as teachers must strive to reach out for opportunities to become independent, life-long learners.  As an introvert, one of the major hurdles I must overcome in order to improve as a teacher is my lack of confidence as a public speaker.  By taking risks and gaining confidence through the expansion of my comfort zone, I hope to overcome some of my apprehensions as a public speaker to better serve the Avery Coonley community as a model and a leader in the field.

Program Description

The way teachers currently do our jobs did not exist six years ago.  It is increasingly difficult to keep up with how various instructional strategies and assessments are used to motivate the upcoming generation of students.  Technology has and will continue to be a monumental part of our educational system.  It is my goal to see how to incorporate the most innovative instructional strategies along with the implementation of instant and ongoing feedback through the use of technology in a Physical Education setting from teachers who are already doing it in their own schools.  By seeing the most inventive and prominent teachers in person and observing how they are able to implement technology and instruction in a way that maximizes student participation will allow for a deeper understanding of how I can apply what works in our community about the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle.

The achievement of the goals of this grant opportunity will be focused according to the strengths of the teacher and his/her learning community.  Logistics will be finalized in the months to come so that of budget, time, and knowledge gained will be maximized.   Below are some of the teachers who have already granted permission for the collaborative visit:

Ashlea Mills – Elementary Physical Education @AshleaMills
Physical Education and Sport Coordinator in an IB PYP School
Website: http://www.healthybodies-happyminds.com
Area(s) of Strength: Technology, Curriculum
Melbourne, Australia 

Dale Sidebottom – SEDA and Cricket Australia @DaleSidebottom
(Private Company – High School)P.E. Teacher, Fitness, coaching, work skills and literacy.  Class room 2.5 days a week, and the other days at primary schools conducting cricket clinics and also on work based training.  Creator of Teaching Educational Break Apps, Entrepreneur, Sports Development Facilitator for Cricket Australia
Website: www.mysportbuddy.com.au
Area(s) of Strength: Assessment, Sport/Athletics
Melbourne, Australia

Corey Aylen – Elementary Physical Education @Mr_Aylen
District Coordinator & Communications Leader (Website, iPads, Photos, IT maintenance)
Area(s) of Strength: Sport/Athletics
Melbourne, Australia

Ross Halliday – Elementary Physical Education @FizzicalEd
Teacher and Learner. In endless pursuit of the things that make our #PhysEd lessons ‘FIZZ’
Website: www.makingpefizz.com
Area(s) of Strength: Technology, Instructional Strategies
Melbourne, Australia

Andy Hair – Elementary Physical Education @MrHairPhysEd
P.E. Teacher, Carnival Coordinator, Coach, Triathlete.
Website: www. mrhairphysed.weebly.com
Area(s) of Strength: Instructional Models/Strategies, Sport/Athletics
Leopold Victoria Australia

Nathan Horne – Elementary Physical Education, Consultant @PENathan
Founder of iPhys-Ed.com, #PhysEd Podcast Host
Innovation & Technology in #Physed Coordinator for Physical Education Professional Learning Community (PEPLC)
Websites: www.iPhys-Ed.com    http://about.me/nathan.horne
Area(s) of Strength: Assessment, Technology

Josh Symes & Anne Wenstrom – K-8 Physical Education @AWenstrom
RPCV-Benin. PE Teacher/Coord. Apple Distinguished Educator. A life-long learner interested in helping students to become healthy compassionate global citizens.
Area(s) of Strength: Instructional Models/Strategies, Assessment, Technology, Sport/Athletics

Mike Gilmour – Elementary Physical Education @Gilmour_Mike
Passionate Leader, Physical Educator & Progressive Thinker
PYP International School.
Area(s) of Strength: Instructional Models/Strategies

Description of Grant:
The Lucia Burton Morse Teacher Grants program is designed to enhance our current professional development structure by adding an additional level of financial support for opportunities that require a significant amount of time, travel, or expense.  Workshops, conferences, and other continuing education activities will continue to be funded as in the past.  But now ACS faculty will also be able to apply for a Morse Teacher Grant for activities that go above and beyond routine professional development. Specialized research, unique teacher training, significant collaboration with fellow educators here or around the globe – the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations!

Executive Functioning Strategies in Physical Education

Coming off a spring/summer having read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg & Drive by Daniel Pink, my brain was swimming with ideas about how I could best design my units and lessons with cues and routines where student motivation is maximized.  As most teachers know, it can be a bit overwhelming to try to orchestrate the new (and old) innovative teaching practices and initiatives that we come across through our various modes of professional development.

For all of the teachers at my school, in-service meetings prior to the start of this year included a full-day workshop about executive functioning by Dr. Georgia Bozeday from Rush Neuro-Behavior Center.  Executive functioning is the mental processes involved in planning, organizing, strategizing, and managing time and space.  Mastery in executive functioning skills are better predictors for success than IQ.  With student attention spans shrinking, in order to make the most out of class time together, it’s crucial that teachers build in routines and motivational elements that will allow students to work with purpose while allowing time for autonomy.

Using some of the strategies provided by the executive functioning workshop has allowed me to build in some simple visual cues that have made a huge difference in maximizing activity time as well as the retention of lesson concepts and strategies.

Here are some strategies that I’ve adopted in my physical education classes that have vastly improved productivity:

1.  Establish routines that are purposeful and motivating

As teachers, it’s important to model a consistent message in order to properly motivate our students.  Too often, teachers establish routines that contradict the intended philosophy or mission of the school (i.e. Having the students come into the gym and sit in squads or stand on a line to begin class).   Establish a routine to start class with movement, or better yet, an instant activity.   Involve the students in tasks such as taking attendance or setup to save time and promote autonomy. Warm up board agenda

2.  Make the agenda for the lesson visible.

This takes a bit more planning, but it is worth it.  Display how long each class activity or discussion will take and stick to it.  Short, manageable time blocks should be color coded to allow for consistency in routines and allow students to budget their attention spans.

3. Make the time visible

            The standard clock on the wall isn’t always the best solution.  Yes, we want our students to be able to tell time, but a supplemental timing device can do wonders for the students and the teacher.  The best use of my P.E. budget thus far has been purchasing a large digital clock from http://www.bigtimeclocks.biz/.  The gym I belong to had them installed a few months ago and it was amazing how much it kept me on track with my own workouts.  Having the ability to quickly toggle from the time-of-day to a countdown timer gives the students a quick visual about how class time continuously ticks away, motivating students to use class time wisely.

White board w/ clock

4.  Display lesson objectives using standard(s) and success criteria

Building in a routine of discussing and incorporating the learning standards in “kid-friendly language” provides a purpose to each lesson.  Providing a criterion to measure success gives them something to aim for.  How can we expect students to be motivated without providing meaning and a measureable level of success? It would be like doing archery without a target.

5.  Maximize your planning time

Using executive functioning strategies in your planning time will increase your productivity as a teacher.  Multi-tasking is a myth; dedicate your time (as you see fit) into blocks and stick to it.  For example, create dedicated time blocks for such things as lesson planning, grading/data collection, email/phone communication, etc.  Too often, being self-disciplined enough to finish a task before moving on to the next one turns our lives into one continuous rat race.  Choose your approach to email/phone communication with respect to your time.  Before typing up a long email to a parent, ask yourself if a quick phone call would be better to reduce the risk of tone/message being misinterpreted (thus, wasting more time to deliver your intended message).  Make lists and check off completed tasks.  It releases endorphins and gives you a boost to complete further tasks.

For these routines and strategies to become habits, it’s important to be dedicated and self-disciplined (it takes 6-8 weeks for routines to become habits).  It’s easy to continue with business as usual and place blame on any number of outside forces with regard to productivity, or lack thereof.  I strongly encourage physical educators to try (and stick with) some of these strategies to see improvement in student motivation and class productivity.

Please let me know how it goes, and/or share additional strategies that have worked for you.