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An Open Letter to #PhysEd & #PEGeeks on Twitter:

I’ll get straight to the point: Lately, I have noticed a bunch of posts on Twitter by #Physed Ts and #PEGeeks who I know have skill-based programs (i.e., they are actually teaching students to learn how to throw, kick, catch, etc.) but who are posting pictures and videos that make it appear that they are just doing high interest stuff for fun.

While each of you have the freedom to share what you’d like, I would like us to consider how these posts may contribute to a “Diet of Fun Games” with little or no real skill-building taking place. In other words, the skill levels that the students had when they entered the gym are the same ones they will have when they leave. Or to put it bluntly, students have not learned to be more skillful by your lesson.

Now, I am guilty of this too.  In fact, we have built a company around publishing “high-interest” and “fun” games and activities.  I know that.

I would just like to see more examples of skill-building ideas on Twitter as well.  For instance, when you post a “fun” activity, can you also post one that has a focus on teaching skills, fitness concepts, or a cool assessment idea?

That’s it…

Thanks!

Note: Please scroll down to see the posted comments…

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7 thoughts on “Where Have All the Skills Gone?

  1. Yet knowing how to throw and catch a ball is a huge factor when it comes to acceptance by peers. This is why SMARTfit puts so much focus on them. Skills are fundamental to life and kids are losing them.

  2. Hey Artie,

    Earlier this year, a few of us on Twitter had this very conversation. The thing is: games are fun. They get everyone engaged, they require lots of physical activity, and kids love them.

    However, as I’ve mentioned in the past, if we only focus on getting kids active, sweaty and happy… that’s short term thinking. As physical educators, we need to be thinking long term when it comes to our students. We can’t limit ourselves to thinking “what will this student be doing today in PE”. We need to be thinking “how will this student continue to be active in 20/30/40/50 years from now?”

    Physical literacy is the end goal that we, as physical education specialists, should all be striving to help our students discover and develop throughout their lifetime. When you take that big concept of physical literacy and unpack it, you’ll find that it is full of essential knowledge, understanding AND skills.

    As much as we never want PE to move backwards into a “Skill & Drill” mentality, we also need to make sure that our students are developing essential skills (a.k.a. Fundamental Movement Skills) in a meaningful and developmentally appropriate way. That means breaking skills down into their critical elements, allowing students to develop mature pattern in controlled environments and then providing students with opportunities to apply those skills in authentic, real-world settings (which, in some cases, are games).

    That being said, in my opinion, games are an essential part of an effective physical education experience. However, they need to be designed in a way that promotes, encourages and supports student learning. Rules can be tailored to increase the likelihood of specific situations occurring that require students to apply the skills and tactics they are focusing on. Game constraints can be modified to promote maximum individual participations in order to increase each child’s opportunity to engage in deliberate practice within the lesson. Finally, equipment can be modified in order to allow each child to experience success as they focus on mastering their fundamental movement skills.

    Regardless, all of our efforts in physical education need to be focused on student learning. PE is an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience and, with still so many states/provinces/countries struggling to increase time allocated to physical education, not a second is to be wasted. Yes, we want our students to have fun (learning is fun!) But we want them to have fun not only for the day, but for their entire lifetime and that can only be accomplished by ensuring that, along the way, they are acquiring all of the skills, understandings and knowledge they need in order to continue their development towards physical literacy.

    Ooof… I need a nap (and then get back to planning/assessment)!

  3. I agree with the physicaleducator. We have many roles to fill for our students. We have to create an environment where it is OK to fail, and to teach them that mistakes are just clues to better skill/performance.

    We also need to make exercise enjoyable. Using modified games here is a key! We must make sure that the game we use in a lesson reflects the skills we are teaching, so they see how to apply what they learn. Pointing out their skill to them during these games is vital. Comments from us like: “Hey Billy, that was a great job stepping with your front foot when you threw the football. Look how far you made it go!”, are so important to keep the kids focused on what they are there for and not just to play for the sake of playing. Celebrating both the near misses and the successes with them is so important to keeping them invested in our programs. I remember hearing Artie at St. Louis a few years ago saying to “smile with your eyes!”.That’s a great way to get them to realize that we are on their side.

    Finally, we need to empower them with the answer to the question of “why do I have to do this?” When they ask us why they have to do something, because they “are not a soccer player”, or when they say “I don’t like basketball, why do I have to do this,” we need to be beyond, “because I said so,” or “because it’s in the curriculum.” We should look at how we can connect our class to their lives outside of the gym. If it’s an elementary child, show them that they can be the person on the playground that never gets tired and can keep playing the whole time without stopping, because of our class. Or they are someone that would be fun to invite to your house to play on the weekend, because they follow the rules and take turns. For the older kids, show them how they can just plain feel better; they don’t have to sleep as long, and they wake up fresher just by being in better shape. Tell them that their heart doesn’t care if they miss every shot, or drop every pass; all it wants to know is if it beats fast enough to get stronger. And for every kid, make the connection that the more they exercise, the better their brain is ready to learn. That’s why they are in school in the first place, to learn; and we can help them do that!

    In other words, find what is important to them and connect our curriculum to it. We aren’t creating athletes, we are creating people that are able to choose something to do to be active because they enjoy it and understand how this enjoyable thing helps them do what else they want to do.

  4. Pingback: The PE Playbook – February 2016 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  5. Reblogged this on youth centered sports and fitness and commented:
    Great post. Also consider how are we developing motor fitness to support health fitness and skill acquisition? Are PE programs teaching students the fundamentals of developmentally-appropriate movement in all three planes and on a variety of surfaces, in a variety of settings and circumstances, and remembering that fun is the balance of success and challenge!

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