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. 

Three Teaching Strategies Without the “EDUspeak”

For the last two years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to return to the classroom from my consulting position as a sessional teacher with Brock University’s Faculty of Education. It has allowed me to continue to share my passion for quality health and physical education at the ground level, get creative with awesome teaching tools I’ve learned over the past few years that I’ve been out of the classroom, and it’s given me the opportunity to continue to learn – from my students.

Here are three classroom strategies that my students shared with me to use when teaching educational best practices, but without the teacher jargon:

1. Glow and Grow

A cute rhyme which supports the opportunity for students to provide self and peer feedback. This strategy helps frame the students feedback in a way that is informative and constructive,  as well as inclusive and caring. We’re not talking about what is good and bad, we are identifying strengths – areas that “glowed”, and areas that need further improvement, or “growth”.

flowerNow these next two acronyms go hand in hand. I was introduced to these “friends” by a student who shared them during the Minds On of his lesson, stating that as with every class he has brought his friends ‘WALT ‘ and ‘WILF’ to help explain today’s learning focus, so here they are.

2. WALT (We Are Learning Today)

WALT is a creative acronym to use when sharing the lesson learning goals with students.  Rather than using the typical “By the end of the lesson I will be able to…” line, WALT is creative and fun and ensures that the language is framed in a student  friendly manner. If you’re worried that your goals aren’t student friendly, consider having your class reword the learning goals before you put them on display for student reference throughout the class.

3. WILF (What I’m Looking For)

WILF, similar to WALT, is an student friendly acronym, but the goal of this “friend” is to highlight what the teacher is looking for in their assessment, otherwise known as the success criteria. We know educational best practice includes telling students what we area assessing in a way that leads to no surprises, and WILF helps us communicate that. So whether it is active participation, goal setting, or the preparation, execution, and follow through for an under hand throw, WILF helps us communicate lesson success criteria to our class and eliminates assessment surprises.

Do you have any cute strategies you use for communicating educational best practices with your students? Please share them in the comments!

Pinterest in the Classroom

What is Pinterest?

photo(1)One of the newest form’s of Web 2.0, Pinterest, allows user to “pin” their favourite photographs to boards, essentially creating photo albums or collages of ideas and pictures they love online.  Virtually anything and everything exists on Pinterest and can be added. Whether you’re looking for a recipe, a new hair style, some vintage jewellery, or a butt kicking interval workout, you’ll find it in graphic form here.

In the classroom,  teachers can create pinboards for whatever topics their students are learning. Pinboards on “Tutorials for Science Projects”, “Famous Works of Art”, “1920s Fashion”, or “Architecture” can all be created and shared. Students can see visual representations and collect these images for future reference inside and outside of the classroom.

Teachers can also create their own pinboards which can highlight classroom set up, instructional tools, motivational quotes, or best practices to share with followers from around the world or keep organized for future reference. As a health and physical education teacher, I have a pinboard for my HPE content area displayed here.

Pinners to Follow:

If you’re new to Pinterest or want some teaching inspiration, consider following these great pinners:



Cindy Merritt

The Physical Educator

Jon Empringham

Allison Cleland


Pinterest 101:



What it isPhoto sharing and organizing website. Free and can be linked to other social media.


In the CurriculumTeachers can set up class boards and pin photos related to the topic. Exemplars for assignments/projects can be pinned and shared. Students can create boards related to a given curricular topic. Ease of UseSeveral online instructional videos are available.