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Integrating Common Core Standards into Physical Education

written by Ryan Sheehy, Tassajara Hills Elementary, Danville, CA (home page)

The Common Core is a national movement to adopt common standards and assessments for English language arts and mathematics. These standards aim to create assessments that will not vary among states and will determine whether students are meeting those standards. Common learning goals provide a clear direction for what educators and parents should aim for. It creates a level playing field for all students independent of the state they reside in. Common Core Standards are designed to make the student college and career ready. The goal is to have the students succeed in a global economy and society. Students are provided with rigorous content that creates an environment in which they have a deeper level of understanding.

A common response when physical education teachers are told that they need to incorporate English Language Arts and Mathematics into our curriculum is frustration. We've become accustomed to doing things that work well for our students, and us and heard the call to keep our students moving as much as possible. Then about the time we get comfortable with what we're doing, it seems that learning standards change or a new curriculum is adopted and we're expected to do something different. The adoption of the common core standards has brought a huge paradigm shift in education. Teachers are being asked to get their students to think in different ways and to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding. With the common core's primary focus on English Language Arts and Mathematics, physical educators, not unexpectedly, are concerned about how this is going to affect their teaching.

As states and school districts deliberate ways in which they can effectively integrate common core standards into instruction, it's vital for physical educators to be part of the discussion. Something we should have learned from the introduction of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) more than a decade ago is that we put the future of our profession in a precarious state if we allow ourselves to be excluded from educational reform efforts.

Below, I've made a list of ten easy ways physical educators can incorporate common core teaching into their programs. The change in the classroom has begun. Use these tips and ensure that you aren't left out of the conversation.

10 easy ways to incorporate common core:

  1. Introduce vocabulary words to your class on a daily/ weekly basis. Use a bone or muscle each day instead of saying the word "go". This allows students to learn parts of their body, increase their vocabulary, and work on their spelling. Incorporating vocabulary into the class gives the teacher another avenue for assessment. Teachers then can administer quick writes, allowing students to demonstrate knowledge in those areas.
  2. When using any kind of counting in your class, have the class count using multiples. Students can also use a call and response method of counting by spelling out different words that you have chosen which relate to physical education.
  3. Create a word wall. This wall can be the ball wall or PE shed. This a great tool to utilize and introduce students to different words for their vocabulary. Allow the students to join the process of determining which words make it onto the ball wall. In the primary grades, classroom spelling words can make an appearance on the wall.
  4. Provide students with informational texts on different physical education disciplines. A perfect way to introduce this to the class is to give the students informational texts on a game that will be played during the class that day. Have students read the information and then, using their reading comprehension skills, play that game without further instruction from the teacher.
  5. Have students apply physical education vocabulary through writing exercises unique to each discipline. This could be as easy as writing a reflection on how moderate-vigorous physical activity can affect the body. It also can be utilized by having students do a longer project with research and data involved.
  6. Have students read information on certain skills or activities and then discuss as a class the meaning of the information. For example: Have students read the definitions of offense and defense and discuss the meaning and how it can be implemented in a game like situation.
  7. When students are playing games where scores are kept, have each point be worth a different value than one. For example in elementary school, in a game of soccer, each goal can be worth six points. This will make students count using multiples of 6, creating a deeper level of thinking.
  8. Have students create a personal workout program to achieve optimal level of health related physical fitness. Students are trying to create a written, organized, and well-developed program.
  9. Create a math station using a dry erase board. This station can be part of many different PE activities. For example set up an adventure race where students are running distances to each obstacle and they cannot move forward until figuring different problems. Using word problems related to physical education will create a deeper level of thinking in physical education.
  10. Give students Fitnessgram results and have students in groups create different ways to increase the scores at your school. Think/Pair/ Share your ideas with the class as a whole and brainstorm solutions and possibilities.

Ryan Sheehy currently teachs at Tassajara Hills in Danville CA. Before coming to Tassajara Hills he taught 4 years of elementary physical education and 1 year of PE at a middle school. Ryan graduated from CSU East Bay with a B.S. in Kinesiology and this past summer he earned his M.A. in Kinesiology from Saint Mary's. Ryan is married to the love of his life, Barbara, and they have three beautiful boys, and a beautiful daughter. When he is not teaching Ryan enjoys hiking, running, biking, and spending time with his family.

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