Applying Laban's Movement Framework in Elementary Physical Education: Body, Space, Effort, and Relationships-The Four Aspects of Laban's Movement Framework-Offer a Useful Structure for Organizing Elementary Physical Education Lessons

Article excerpt

Pat and Alex are waiting for the elementary physical education program buses that will take them on a ride for 150 minutes each week from their first day of kindergarten through their last day of sixth grade.

Pat's bus runs on an antiquated roll-out-the-ball engine that has not had a tune-up in many years. The driver often fails to follow appropriate practices (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2000) and never asks for directions on the way to the land of busy, happy, and good (Placek, 1983). This "gym class" bus drives down Games Road almost every lesson, providing the riders with plenty of waiting time and little success, meaningful physical activity, practice time, and feedback. Sometimes the bus drives down bumpy, dead-end roads, trying to provide fun activities or to pick up the latest fads and toys. This bus also makes regular field trips to the physical education hall of shame (Williams, 1992). Watch out for those dodgeballs!

Alex's bus has a physical education positioning system that guides it toward helping its riders meet the national content standards (NASPE, 2004). The bus is powered by a supercharged, 2006 Rudolf Laban movement-framework engine with body, space, effort, and relationship pistons that pump harmoniously. This engine is adjusted regularly for top efficiency based on continual assessment. The driver, fully committed to children and their learning, understands the engine and is certified in developmentally and instructionally appropriate practices (NASPE, 2000). The driver continually helps the riders understand where they are now, where they are going, and what they need to do to get there.

Each year Alex's bus will travel an equal distance along three roads of learning: Games Road, Gymnastics Lane, and Dance Avenue. Each of these is also a lane on Physical Fitness Highway, providing learners with fitness concepts and health-enhancing physical activity. The riders remain in perpetual motion, only stopping to listen to instruction and feedback that will help them improve their performance. The students who ride this bus are effective and efficient game players, gymnasts, and dancers, and are well on their way to enjoying lifelong physical activity.

This article focuses on how the movement framework can permeate and unify an elementary physical education curriculum and instruction plan that guides students toward meeting the national standards. The aspects of curriculum and instruction that are discussed in this article include the program's purpose, learning experiences, organization of learning experiences, content areas, instruction, and assessment.


Program Beliefs, Purpose, Curriculum Goals, and Objectives

What guides students toward meeting the national standards is the cumulative effect of a well-delivered curriculum that has an alignment of beliefs, a guiding purpose, specific curricular goals, and corresponding unit and lesson objectives. John Dewey (1938), the great philosopher of American education, spoke about the importance of having a purpose in education. Dewey warned against overemphasizing activity and stressed the importance of relying on intelligent activity when designing educational goals. He stated that, before providing students with learning experiences, one must carefully consider the consequences of those experiences.

This overemphasis on activity could be applied to those busy, happy, and good programs mentioned in the introduction. The curriculum in such "activity" approaches is a hodgepodge of physical activities, such as poorly organized games, relays, fitness experiences, sport skills, rhythms, folk dance, stunts, and tumbling. These lists often expand when new fads or toys are added without considering the available learning time, how these activities reinforce one another, or how they align with the national standards. Activity-based programs often focus on games, sports, and fitness activities, but fail to teach critical movement skills that are inherent in Rudolf Laban's movement framework (to which we will return shortly). …