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.


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 for $32.95. 

Longest Day of Play

One of the many things I love about my work at Ophea is that we not only promote healthy, active living in schools and communities, we encourage our own staff to get out and play.

Today was our monthly full team staff meeting, a day where all 30+ staff meet to learn and share about upcoming projects and hot trends/topics. Today we did something different – as a staff – a group of adults – we played!

Bocce, Badminton, Croquet, Frisbee, and Horseshoes were all on the activity plan and everyone got moving to their choice of sport and had fun. We connected as a team, we got to know each other better, we got active together and we played.

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This Saturday marks ParticipACTION’s Longest Day of Play event. June 21st is the Summer Solstice and the day with the longest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere – so why not celebrate it with play!

Use the extra daylight to go for a hike, play some Frisbee, get out for a walk or run, do something that is fun and playful for you, and enjoy the longest day and Longest Day of Play!

For more information on PartisipACTION’s Longest Day of play click here!

How did you play on Saturday June 21st? Share it in the comments!

Bring Sochi Into The Classroom

sochiWith the winter Olympics just around the corner, it’s a great time to get students (and teachers and parents) active and inspired by the worlds best athletes.

Here are a few quick ways you can integrate the winter Olympics into your physical education program.

Living Skills

Interpersonal Skills

– Apply relationship and social skills as they participate in physical activities. Work cooperatively with others in winter Olympic sport situations.

Critical and Creative Thinking Skills:

-Use a range of critical and creative thinking skills and processes to assist them in making connections, planning and setting goals, making decisions in connection with sport situations (e.g., use creative thinking skills to come up with a new defensive strategy; make and explain healthy eating choices).

 Active Living

Active Participation:

-Actively participate in a wide variety of winter Olympic themed physical activities (e.g., cross country skiing, curling, floor or ice hockey, ice skating).

-Demonstrate an understanding of factors that contribute to their personal enjoyment of bring active-Identify ways to be physically active at school and home.

Physical Fitness:

-Demonstrate an understanding of how being active helps them to be healthy.

-Describe different types of winter Olympic activities that training for would improve the strength of their heart and lungs.

-Participate in setting and achieving realistic personal and group goals related to physical activity. Connect goal setting to that of winter Olympic athlete.


-Demonstrate behaviours and apply procedures that maximize their safety and that of others while participating in winter Olympic themed activities.

-Identify environmental factors that pose a safety risk during participation in winter Olympic themed physical activity. Analyze  winter Olympic sports and the equipment wore by athletes to protect them from environmental factors.

-Describe how to respond and act on injuries incurred while participating in physical activity (e.g., remain calm, stop all activity and hold the equipment, ask an injured person if he or she needs help, tell an adult what happened, avoid crowding the injured person).

Movement Competence

Movement Skills and Concepts:

-Perform a variety of locomotor movements, traveling in different directions, speeds, levels, and pathways while using different body parts (e.g., cross country skiing, figure skating). Be sure to reference the safety guidelines.

 -Send and receive objects of different sizes and shapes with and without equipment (e.g., curling, ball/floor/ice hockey).

Movement Strategies

-Demonstrate an understanding that different winter Olympic physical activities have different components (e.g., movement skills, rules and boundaries, conventions of fair play and etiquette).

-Apply a variety of simple tactics to increase chances of success while participating and exploring physical activities.

 Don’t forget to check out the new Sochi 2014 Class Resources from the Canadian Olympic committee here.