Social Emotional Learning Ideas in Phys Ed | PE Express Blogcast #57

Episode Transcript:

Social emotional learning is gaining quite a bit of traction in many schools. The beauty is in physical education. We already do it. I’m going to explain a couple of ways how.

Welcome to the PE express podcast. Two to three times a week a PE expert will share a tip, activity idea, or teaching strategy to help you become a better PE professional. Today’s host is Dr. Aaron Beighle. He is a coauthor on Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children and a contributor to He also publishes extensively and presents for physical education professionals.

Emotional learning is becoming quite prevalent in schools and essentially what it is, is a coordinating framework some have called it a concept that ties with concept-based learning, but essentially it promotes social, emotional and academic learning and meshes all of these ideas together and basically teaches kids life skills. It helps reduce tension, it helps create a positive environment and the beauty is that physical education already does this. A lot of classrooms are starting to try and figure out how we can integrate social emotional learning and physical education. We already do this, but it’s important to recognize that we already do this. Social emotional learning addresses self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. I’m just going to focus right here on self awareness, self awareness associates with tying thoughts and feelings to your behavior, so the first step obviously as students can accurately recognize these emotions, their thoughts, their values and how these emotions, thoughts and values will influence their behavior.

One of the things that we do in physical education is we have students move and an activity that we can do what we call it emotional movement and students are instructed to walk as if they’re angry. Skip as if they’re happy. Gallup as if they’re confused. This is a very rudimentary activity that can really start students thinking about their emotions and how their emotions impact how they move and ultimately how they behave. This is a concept that’s pretty difficult for many students too to tie tie that movement and their behavior to an emotion. Another place we can start teaching students about self awareness is when we give students challenges and being cognizant of how does the challenge make you feel, how do you behave when you feel that way? How do we react when you’re frustrated? These are important steps for self-awareness and important that students start learning those early on and we already do this in physical education with challenges all the time. We just need to remember to foster those discussions.

And the last activity are borrowed from a buddy named Cliff Roop. This activity is called builders and destroyers. Most people do an activity similar to this. Um, but Cliff’s idea with doing this with builders and destroyers was debrief with the class after all students have had a chance to be a builder and a destroyer. And if you’ve never played builders and destroyers, essentially you have cones or Topple Tubes or frisbees and the one group of students is responsible for putting them up or down and the other group is responsible for doing the others. So ones building them up and one is destroying them. And the debriefing involves prompting students with what was easier? What was more difficult? Typically it’s more difficult to build the cones by setting them up or the Topple Tubes by setting them up and then you asked kids which was easier to hurt someone or to build someone up, and in this class we choose to build someone up. This is a simple idea, but it becomes self-aware for students that, Oh, it is a lot easier to make fun of someone or to put them down as opposed to as opposed to building them up. Again, just very simple concepts. These are things that we already do in physical education and I think there are great way to start tying in social emotional learning, which is gaining lots of traction in schools.


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