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 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

Fostering Good Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Whether we’re looking up a recipe, getting directions, sharing a photo on social media or doing online banking — there’s no question: we’re living in a digital world.

And while there are many positive aspects to our connected world, there can be drawbacks and dangers, especially for young people who are still developing the critical thinking and interpersonal skills they need to stay safe and have positive interactions online.

Here are three tips shared by Ophea Canada in their blog post, Safe & Savvy Online, which I had the opportunity to contribute to and be interviewed for.

1. Connect to Curriculum:

The 2015 H&PE Curriculum includes expectations around online behaviour in the Personal Safety and Injury Prevention component of the Healthy Living strand, in the Human Development and Sexual Health strand and through the Living Skills—the personal, interpersonal and critical and creative thinking skills that are woven throughout the curriculum.

We want students to use Living Skills like critical thinking so they’re questioning what they’re seeing online and thinking about the integrity of what they’re doing, as well as the behaviours and actions of others.

2. Connect to the Community:

School administration, the OPP, Kids Help Phone or local police and public health for are great resources and sources of support. As teachers we can learn from professionals and subject experts about situations that have occurred, what resources are available, and what actions the school or community have taken in the past and can take in the future.

Collaborating with other teachers and various organizations (like the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) can also be a good way to stay up-to-date on trends in technology. It changes very quickly, and in most cases students know before we do as educators. Be willing to learn and comfortable knowing that your students will likely know more than you.

3. Connect to the Everyday:

Internet safety needs to be part of the everyday safety we’re teaching students. As teachers we can model positive behaviour and learning through “Think Alouds” as we Google search various topics connected to the curriculum.

Learning online is simply an extension of what we’re already doing. Teachers should be integrating online safety as they would any safety topics, including road safety, safe handling of food, and bullying.

By teaching students to think critically about what they read, see and share and then to act with kindness and integrity, just as we want them to do in real life, we’ll help to ensure our students success and safety—both in the virtual and the face-to-face world.

To read the original blog post through Ophea, click here.