For several years I provided numerous trainings for the Centers for Disease Control Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool. As I conducted these trainings, I became keenly aware of the confusion surrounding “just what is a physical education curriculum?” What I found was that most physical education teachers, at least those attending the trainings, did not have a PE curriculum. Some had a yearly plan (a week-by-week list of activities, games, and skills), some had it “right up here” (pointing to their head), and some had nothing. Very few, if any, had a true PE curriculum. For this reason, I think it is important as physical educators to examine our written PE curriculum to ensure students are receiving a quality program.
The Components of a High-Quality PE Curriculum
From my perspective, a PE curriculum has three components: background information (frequency of meetings, class size, PE philosophy, etc.), lesson plans, and assessments. Others in the field may disagree, but in general, these are the meat of a curriculum. The following is a brief list of those steps:
- Write a philosophy
- Write a series of statements to define the curriculums (e.g., The curriculum is appropriate for all children; Activities allow students to meet national standards)
- Document environmental factors (e.g. gym size, number of days per week students have physical education)
- Develop content standards and student objectives. (Fortunately SHAPE America has done this for us)
- Choose child-centered activities
- Organize the activities into a yearly plan, and lesson plans.
- Evaluate and modify the curriculum
This final phase is especially important. A quality physical education curriculum is a living document. I was told a long time ago that I should teach 20 years, not one year twenty times. Constantly evaluating curricula and lessons helps avoid this.
A Curriculum is ALWAYS Updating!
A quality physical education curriculum, among others, is standards based, physical activity based, inclusive, prepares students for a lifetime of activity, and process-based. In addition, the curriculum must be flexible. It must be malleable to the ever changing environment, either at the school, district, state, or national level. That is, if a standard changes, or the number of minutes you have your students per week (humor me…that could happen right?), you shouldn’t have to change your entire curriculum. Likewise, if you attend a professional development workshop and find a new activity that fits within your physical education philosophy, you should be able to integrate that into your curriculum.
Dynamic Physical Education
I am fortunate to co-author such a curriculum, Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (there is also Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students by Darst, Pangrazi, Brusseau, and Erwin). DynamicPEASAP.com is a FREE curriculum guide that is accompanied by a textbook describing more activities not included in the guide. I am currently working with a Professional Learning Community in Fayette County Schools in Lexington, KY. For the first year, the curriculum was used as written in the Curriculum Guide. That is, the teachers followed the week by week lessons described in the book. During this process they took notes and modifications were made to the curriculum. For example, our curriculum uses a four part lesson. The lesson begins with an introductory activity, next is a fitness activity, afterwards the lesson focus is implemented, and finally, a game or closing activity is taught to wrap up the lesson. Teachers decided they liked some of the introductory activities with some of the fitness activities so they switched them. Also, they decided they liked specific lesson foci at different times of the year so they switched that too. Also, individual teachers learned some new activities at a workshop and they implemented those where appropriate. Every two-to-three months these teachers meet to discuss previous lessons and upcoming lessons are presented in an active professional development. Modeled after work being done in Mesa, AZ, this creates a true Professional Learning Community built around a common language via a common curriculum.