With the impact of COVID-19 and virtual learning, the importance of movement and physical activity in elementary children is at an all-time high. Physical education is an integral part of the total education of every child. This is especially true at the elementary level where core-foundational skill-building is at the forefront of learning. The ultimate goal of a quality physical education curriculum is to increase the physical competence, health-related fitness, self-responsibility, and enjoyment of exercise for all students so that they can live a physically active lifestyle. Searching for creative ways to engage my students in a virtual learning environment proved to be the greatest challenge to overcome to achieve this goal.
Over my physical education career, I have really put the importance of building those positive relationships with my students at the forefront of my teaching philosophy. Implementing these multiple methods has really helped boost not only time on task with my students, but I have witnessed a decrease in negative-behavior and overall, more engagement with my K-5th students. When you stop and connect with your students out of the classroom, the benefits of transferring it to the PE curriculum are astonishing.
Music Engages Students!
But where did I start? MUSIC! Taking a few extra minutes in the morning during your morning duty to listen and see what the kids are dancing or singing along to on the way to school. Then take these songs and create a playlist and implement them in the gym as your Stop and Go Signal. When students hear music they enjoy, are accustomed to, and familiar with, participation skyrocketed.
Invest in your Students
Prior to the pandemic, another great idea that is easily doable is setting aside a day or two a week, where you invite a couple students to sit and have lunch with you. The conversations over sharing healthy food, and talking to your students is a really great way to let them know you care. Letting them see that you are taking time out of your own day because you want to share it with them does not go unnoticed.
Making students feel safe, loved, and cared for while they are with me is my number one goal as a teacher. Since the start of virtual learning, I have been brainstorming ways to make sure this continues. Weekly I now schedule Zoom meetings where my students can attend or not attend if they wish. Here they can ask questions, just say “hi” to me or fellow students, share something fun they have been doing at home, or simply hang out. Again, the time that you give up for them is noticed and with this approach, I hope that you will see an increase in participation and overall, a more enjoyable PE program for your students!
Marcus Dalton is an Elementary Physical Education teacher in Indianapolis, In. He graduated from Ball State University in 2012 w/ a Bachelor’s Degree in Health/Physical Education. Dalton also holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education from BSU. Mr. D implemented the first Adaptive P.E. program in the district and kickstarted Unified P.E. for students of varying ability levels and backgrounds. Outside of school Mr. Dalton displays the same outgoing and high-energy personality. He loves to spend time with his wife, listen to music, read, and playing with his fur babies, Petey, Novi, & Jack.