Developing Language Objectives for English Language Learners in Physical Education Lessons: With Nearly 10 Percent of Students in the United States Predominantly Speaking a Language Other Than English, All Teachers Need to Be Concerned about Enhancing Communication. Physical Education, in Particular, Provides an Excellent Setting to Support Language Acquisition

By Clancy, Mary E.; Hruska, Barbara L. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Developing Language Objectives for English Language Learners in Physical Education Lessons: With Nearly 10 Percent of Students in the United States Predominantly Speaking a Language Other Than English, All Teachers Need to Be Concerned about Enhancing Communication. Physical Education, in Particular, Provides an Excellent Setting to Support Language Acquisition


Clancy, Mary E., Hruska, Barbara L., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Nearly five million students in United States schools predominantly speak a language other than English. This population has increased 95 percent over the past 10 years and represents 9.8 percent of the total K-12 school enrollment (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). While some schools have ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages), ESL (English as a Second Language), or ELL (English Language Learner) instructors and bilingual teachers, the responsibility of providing English language instruction falls upon all teachers; it is not the sole domain of specialists (Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2002; Echevarria, Vogt & Short, 2004). For ESOL students to develop the language necessary for success in school, language instruction and opportunities to use the language are essential. While recent discussions in the physical education literature have included the need to be sensitive to the cultural and linguistic needs of English language learners (Bell & Lorenzi, 2004; Glakas, 1993; McCollun, Civalier, & Holt, 2004; Saffici, 2001), the concept of the physical education teacher as a language instructor for ESOL students deserves further attention.

In Florida, as a result of the Florida Consent Decree (1990), all teachers must receive training in working with ESOL students. Elementary majors and secondary English majors in Florida teacher education programs must have 15 credit hours of ESOL training. Practicing elementary and secondary English teachers have the option of obtaining 15 credit hours or 300 professional development hours in ESOL. All other preservice teachers, including physical education teachers, must have a minimum of three credit hours of ESOL training. Practicing physical education teachers may opt for three credit hours or 18 professional development inservice hours. As linguistic diversity increases in the United States, other states may adopt similar requirements.

Physical education settings can be particularly supportive of second language learners because they offer conditions similar to those that underlie children's first acquisition of language:

* Direct connections between language and concrete activities

* Physical, active involvement with language

* The use of multiple modalities (e.g., speech, manipulation, modeling) to present information

* Opportunities to demonstrate language comprehension through physical expression

* A setting where success does not depend on language alone

* A low-stress environment for language performance

* An emotionally positive learning environment because children like to be active

* Opportunities to interact with others

Because the physical education environment already contains elements that support language acquisition, physical educators have an advantage in helping students to learn a language. By preparing and delivering lessons that focus both on physical education and language objectives, the physical educator can support and enhance the language development of students learning English. The language objectives focus on how students will use language during the lesson and on the vocabulary and sentence patterns they will need for successful participation.

This article provides a framework for gathering the necessary background information and planning language objectives within the context of physical education lessons.

Identifying ESOL Students

In order to plan ESOL-appropriate lessons, physical education teachers need to be aware of the number of ESOL students in their classes and of the students' English proficiency levels. Obtaining this information may involve contacting the ESOL teacher (if one is available), bilingual teacher, guidance counselor, social worker, or an administrator. In some schools, a master roster identifying ESOL students is provided to all teachers. While it is possible that only a handful of ESOL students will be present in some districts, in others a majority of students may be learning English.

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Developing Language Objectives for English Language Learners in Physical Education Lessons: With Nearly 10 Percent of Students in the United States Predominantly Speaking a Language Other Than English, All Teachers Need to Be Concerned about Enhancing Communication. Physical Education, in Particular, Provides an Excellent Setting to Support Language Acquisition
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