Keeping Learning Fun with Participant Choice

My new book, Physical Literacy on the Move, helps teachers develop the physical literacy of their students. In this blog post, which I originally shared with Human Kinetics Europe, details the importance participant choice has on children’s learning.

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Physical literacy learning that integrates participant choice provides children with the opportunity to take ownership over their learning. It also encourages engagement in learning that matters most to them.

There are times when children and youths can make choices around personal interests or pursue learning options based on their specific needs.  The limitations of choice vary based on the specific participant, the game or activity, the facility and equipment available. As well as, other factors specific to each participants learning style. Educators act as facilitators while the children make choices around their activity/game groupings, equipment, game setup and adaptations to optimize the challenge and maximize the participation and fun.

Through the learning process, flexibility is key to creating a learning environment where participants have the opportunity to experiment with personal choices in order to work at their optimal level of challenge. Many small games or drills should be occurring at once to maximize participation. Letting each group make their own choices provides participants of all skill levels the opportunity to have their personal needs met when learning together within the same activity space.

There are three ways educators can offer participant choice within their physical literacy programming.

Modify the equipment

Allow participants the chance to select the type, colour or size of equipment. This provides students with the opportunity to develop the same fundamental movement or sports skills. As well as, making accommodations for their own interests or needs.

Example: When working on developing an overhand throw, does the size or colour of the object (because maybe it’s not even a ball) matter?

Modify the playing area

Allow participants the chance to change up the distance of the playing area, distance from the target or even the size of net. It provides them with the opportunity to increase or decrease the challenge of the activity as well as increase or decrease the physical activity intensity level.

Example: Beginning level participants, who are newly learning a fundamental movement or sports skill, might find value in a small activity area, decreasing the space to travel and a number of movement or sports skills required to travel through space.

Modify the rules

Allow participants the chance to select the scoring scheme. This can involve how many passes need to occur before a point is scored, or the number of steps each participant is allowed to take.

Example: High level participants might choose a point scoring scheme that favours more challenging skills in a game requiring aim and accuracy versus simply participation or getting the object in the area of a target.

Regardless of the physical literacy learning experience, the educator should maintain a focus on participant choice, helping to create a meaningful learning environment where the needs and interests of all participants matter while being active and learning together.

Featuring over 120 games and activities, my book, Physical Literacy on the Move is available to buy from humankinetics.com for $32.95. 

4 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities For Kids & Their Adults

I’m very excited to be teaming up with the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC) as a guest blogger, supporting them in developing content on a variety of topics, but all around the idea of physical activity for all. Here is a post I wrote to to support families to get out and move this winter – even when the temperatures drops and all you want to do is watch Paw Patrol on Netflix. View the original post here.

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Cold weather doesn’t mean you need to keep the family fun indoors. With the appropriate clothing and a sense of fun and adventure you and your family can have a season of excitement. Here are four ways you and the family can move more this winter. Give one a try this weekend!

Hit The Ice.

Whether you’re a family of seasoned skaters or just getting started, many municipalities offer free skating events over the winter. Dress for the environment, particularly if it’s an outdoor rink, and bring along some healthy snacks, and some water for a mid-skate break.

Take A Hike.

Put on your winter woollies, pack a couple healthy snacks, and head out to explore a locally marked public trail or walk way. There is no need to search to far in Ontario with the Bruce Trail spanning 890km from Niagara to Tobermory. Be sure to stick on the path following the well-marked trail blazes, and take extra care where the trail is rocky, icy, or where it passes by caves, cliff edges, or crevices. For more information on the Bruce Trail, check out the Bruce Trail Conservancy website.

Enjoying a staycation? Explore a new hiking trail in your area or discover new routes around your neighbourhood. Keep an eye out for local wildlife and record what you find! Maybe it’s a neighbour’s dog, a squirrel that’s searching for hidden acorns, or a bird that hasn’t migrated. Look them up when you get home to identify the species and learn more about the local ecosystem.

Overcome This Obstacle.

Keep the fun local to a park nearby, or your own back yard, and create a fun winter obstacle course for both you and the kids! With 5 or 6 small stations, have fun racing through them all as quickly as possible, or for those with a taste for competition bring along a timer and race kids vs adults. In the end, be sure to keep it fun and safe for all. Station ideas might include:

  • Create 5 snow balls and accurately hit a target (tree, sign post, X marked in snow) nearby.
  • Run to a tree in the distance then run around it three times.
  • Slide down a hill and climb back up returning to the top as quickly as possible.
  • Make 4 snow angels in different areas of snow.
  • Pull a sibling or parent on a toboggan to cross the finish line!

Evening Flashlight Walk.

With the sun setting earlier and the dark nights lasting longer the winter months are a perfect time to see your neighbourhood under a new light, the moon. Head out for an after dinner family flashlight walk. Provide each family member with a working flashlight and venture through a local park, along your street, or even exploring your own back yard. Use your flashlights to explore by night and keep safe while doing it. Be sure to stick to a route you are familiar with and have traveled on during the day.

4 reasons to get students active this winter!

The following post is one I wrote for the Ophea Blog published January 13th. View the original post here.

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Photo via Ophea Canada

Winter is here! With the days shorter and the recess colder, even the best of us [or our students] can get a little blue.  Did you know that “more than one in five boys and one in three girls report feeling depressed or low at least once or more on a weekly basis?”[i] Luckily, moving more and sitting less can help to prevent the blues and help our students get back to their normal self. To help ward off those winter blues, this month’s #FactFriday brings you four reasons why it’s important to encourage your students to get physically active this winter and all year long:

  1. Physical activity has been found to improve mental health conditions, particularly anxiety, depression and general well-being.[ii]
  2. Physical activity was associated with a decreased likelihood of depression in a survey of 9,938 school-age children.[iii]
  3. The rise of mental health challenges faced by Canada’s children and youth is matched by a decrease in physical activity participation levels.[iv]
  4. Physical activity, sport and exercise is positively associated with mood, emotion and psychological wellbeing.[v]

Getting students physically active and to engage in regular daily physical activity not only decreases their risk of chronic illness but also supports their emotional well-being. The four reasons listed in this blog are mere examples of the positive impact regular physical activity has. It’s important to reflect on these benefits with students and help them to better understand the impact it has on their health.

Furthermore, by supporting student well-being through daily physical activity, the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum explains that, “behaviours promoting mental health are not always correlated with the prevention of mental illness. However, learning about mental health and emotional well-being helps students understand and manage the risk and protective factors that are in their control so that they will be better able to build and maintain positive mental health.”[vi] As such, supporting student well-being and promoting regular self-care where physical activity takes lead can help students beyond the walls of the gym or classroom –It prepares them for life.

Looking for resources to help encourage reflection and start conversations? Ophea’s All About H&PE resource is a free online resource developed to support educators implement the Health and Physical Education curriculum (1-12), and provides the tools educators need to strengthen understanding and knowledge of the five Fundamental Principles.

Check out All About H&PE today!


[i] The Health Of Canada’S Young People: A Mental Health Focus. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2017. Retrieved January 10 2017 from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/publications/hbsc-mental-mentale/assets/pdf/hbsc-mental-mentale-eng.pdf

[ii] Schmitz, N., Kruse, J., and Kugler, J. (2004). The Association between Physical Exercises and Health-Related Quality of Life in Subjects with Mental Disorders: Results from a Cross-Sectional Survey. Preventive Medicine, vol. 39, pp. 1200–1207.

[iii] Goodwin, R.D. (2006). Association between Coping with Anger and Feelings of Depression among Youths. American Journal of Public Health, vol. 96 (4), pp. 664–669.

[iv]  Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Ottawa: Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2017 from http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_Guidelines_Handbook.pdf

[v] Physical Activity and Mental Health. Toronto: Physical Activity Resource Centre, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2017 from http://slideplayer.com/slide/6630417/

[vi] Ontario Ministry of Education. (2015). The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 – 8 (revised): Physical Health and Education Curriculum. Retrieved January 10, 2017 from www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf