MOTIVATING AND EDUCATING STUDENTS
THROUGH THEIR IMAGINATION
of Literature Enhanced Physical Education
written by Lynn
Hefele, Huntington Union Free School Distric, Huntington,
IN THE DAY
Think back to a time before organized
competitive sport entered your life. Now, think of all the
reasons you moved with enjoyment and purpose during that time.
As physical education teachers my guess is that many of you
were like me, pretending that you were a professional athlete
beating the buzzer to win a national championship.
Having grown up a tomboy in Massachusetts,
I emulated Bobby
Orr of the 1969 Boston Bruins. So in the streets, on the
ponds, or in the neighbor's driveway on any given Sunday I
could be seen acting out Bobby
Cashman and Gerry
Cheevers winning the Stanley Cup.
Of course in the summer, my friends
and I would become Freddy
Lynn and Jim
Rice or Carl
Yaztremski of the Boston Red Sox. I look back now and
realize how unfortunate we were not to have a hoop in the
neighborhood. The many opportunities to enjoy the fame of
the Boston Celtics were lost to us.
Additionally, while my neighborhood
friends were, generally speaking, a sport oriented crew, I
must confess to the occasional foray into the world of superheroes
and detective series. Batman and Robin were an option, but
never Batgirl because I thought she was lame. However, I will
admit that Charlie's Angels provided us with some valuable
storylines. I will even admit that I would have preferred
to be Farah Fawcett with the perfect hair than the intelligent
but cute Kate Jackson.
THE AH-HA MOMENT
Fast forward fifteen years: I became a young, tenure-less
teacher, just out of college and relegated to a newly formed
Kindergarten Center. Teaching eight, half hour classes of
25 five year olds every day was a daunting task in the beginning.
It wasn't until I rediscovered the magic of a child's imagination
that all the anxiety of trying to teach and control a "herd
of cats" day in and day out disappeared.
Did I mention that at this time, I would go home to my own
five and three year old children after a day of teaching 200
five year olds! While at times this threatened my sanity it
also strengthened my teaching. My home became my classroom
and my children became my professors, introducing me to the
names of the Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, as well as the
timeless, and endless, Disney characters.
I found that all children became motivated when one spoke
their language. When fitness exercises became Power Ranger
training, and dinosaurs played tag, non-movers and movers
alike began to sweat! For the next nine years as Kindergarten
Cop, educating, controlling, and motivating children to move
was enjoyable and entertaining.
The dismantling of the Kindergarten Center coincided with
the debut of Harry Potter. In my new primary school that featured
K-3 students, Quidditch
became all the rage. Sitting in a chair reading an except
Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the children were
given the scenario for what would become the throwing unit
complete with Harry Potter balloons and foam ball Golden
Snitches. Having graduated from Springfield College in
Massachusetts, where the philosophy of the school is Spirit,
Mind, and Body it seemed to be a perfect lesson. Motivating
children to move by using literature to engage their spirit
truly embodied the inverted triangle that depicts a balance
of the disciplines with no one area of study as the base.
Very few books, however, lend themselves so perfectly to
motivating students as does Harry Potter. Likewise, while
the story creates a fun and competitive scenario with motivational
objectives, it does little to actually educate in physical
That's when it dawned on me that if I were to create my own
stories, then not only would the children be able to pretend
but I could also imbed verbal cues into the storyline and
include visual cues in the illustrations, essentially creating
physical education specific literature to enhance my lessons.
Starting with the physical and cognitive outcomes being targeted,
developing lessons to achieve them, and creating fantasy around
the lessons is the premise behind Literature
Enhanced Physical Education (LEPE).
Up Your Backyard
Up Your Backyard, the first book released in 2009,
is based on the popular PE activity of the same name. The
book includes a whimsical story about two neighboring families
attempting to clean up their yard by tossing their garbage
over the neighbor’s fence. It includes verbal cues to
help children remember to step in opposition, and illustrations
depicting the phases of overhand throwing.
Additionally, this teacher resource includes lesson plans,
creative equipment ideas, and rubrics for teaching throwing
and throwing for accuracy. While I have been very happy with
this book in its present state, I am also amazed how quickly
children can take a story and make it their own. Since the
first reading of the book, the children have invented scenarios
that have improved, not only the storyline, but also provided
imaginative cues that increase safety and team development.
Once again, the children are becoming the teachers and I the
student. Given an educational objective, the children will
come up with an imaginative solution that fits their needs
and my goals.
To Read or Not to Read?
Huntington Union Free School District in Huntington New York
is one of the few districts on Long Island in which K-6 students
receive PE 3 times a week for 40 minutes. So, to take 5 minutes
a month to read in order to gain quality movement minutes
by all students, especially the typically non-moving students,
is worth it to me. I do, however, understand that in most
schools across the country, quality physical education is
difficult to administer given the minimal time allocations.
Therefore, I understand that for some, taking the time to
read is either unrealistic or undesirable. While I believe
that the physical education teacher is the best teacher to
convey the story, point out the visual cues, and ask the questions
for reflection. I also believe that most primary school teachers
would be more than happy to take the five minutes necessary
to read to the students before coming to the gym. Likewise,
promoting extra credit writing assignments and drawing contests
based on the stories is a great way to promote PE as interdisciplinary
without impacting upon teaching time.
Having already won over the audience that counted, it was
time to invite the principal and superintendant of curriculum
into the gym. The children had given their two thumbs up,
and the Director of Physical Education was on board, but what
would academia think? To my surprise they responded with "What
a rich vocabulary you have used!" and "The story
provides a text to self experience." To which I responded,
"Really?" and "What?" So I pulled out
the NYS ELA Standards and took a look. To my surprise and
Up Your Backyard meets ELA Standards One and Two.
More specifically, children are:
- Learning movement and other vocabulary
- Learning cues for movement
- Applying verbal cues to physical movements
- Interpreting the book version of the game and generalizing
it to a physical education activity
- Predicting outcomes
- Relating text to their own performance
- Using the story for self expression and artistic creation
Meeting Children Where They Are
I have been both applauded and chastised for bringing literature
into the gymnasium. My response to both is the same. Literature
Enhanced Physical Education is not about teaching literature
in the gym, but about using literature to motivate and educate
children to move.
Literature Enhanced Physical Education (LEPE) is trying to
meet all children where they are educationally, and allowing
them to use one of the greatest gifts they have - an
imagination. As educators, being able to guide
a child's imagination into meaningful learning in the gymnasium
could be the key to building a foundation for all children
to become successful, intrinsically motivated movers at an
Take the LEPE
If you would like to take the LEPE into Literature Enhanced
Physical Education, check out http://www.lepeinc.com/
or e-mail me at LEPEinc@gmail.com,
on Facebook and follow LynnHefele
Lynn Hefele is a physical education teacher and volleyball
coach in the Huntington Union Free School District in Huntington,
New York. She was the New York Lottery/Channel WLNY 55 Educator
of the Week in 2002, as well as the recipient of SEPTA's Distinguished
Service Award in 2002 for her work with children in Adapted
A graduate of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts,
Lynn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education
and a Master of Science degree in Movement Science with a
concentration in Biomechanics. She currently resides in Greenlawn,
New York with her husband Steve, sons, Harrison and TJ and
Lynn was recently appointed the Vice President Elect for
the Elementary/Middle School Section of the Suffolk
Zone AHPERD in New York.
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