Physical Education and Language Arts: An Interdisciplinary Teaching Approach

Article excerpt

Physical education is a prime content area for interdisciplinary learning. The movement components of physical education can be used as a medium through which children are provided with opportunities to practice and strengthen language skills (Griffin & Morgan, 1998). Cone, Werner, Cone, and Woods (1998, p. 4) agree: "Interdisciplinary learning is an educational process in which two or more subject areas are integrated with the goal of fostering enhanced learning in each subject area." The interdisciplinary curriculum benefits students by enriching student learning across academic disciplines, while appreciating the knowledge and expertise brought on by other teachers. The integration of physical education and literacy might improve students' performance in both the classroom and during physical activity (see Figure 1).

One specific interdisciplinary learning curriculum is the connected teaching model that can be used in three ways: (1) when introducing a new skill, topic, or concept, the teacher can use the content from another subject area to further explain or illustrate; (2) teachers can stimulate thinking and interest in a lesson and demonstrate how the content they are teaching is relevant to the student; and (3) the content of a physical education lesson can be used to supplement or reinforce skills, topics, and concepts used in other subject areas (Cone et al. 1998).

The basis for integrating physical education and language arts into one program derives from the fact that movement and learning are linked and that quality physical education can contribute to a child's alertness, energy, clearer thinking in class (Sallis, McKenzie, Kolody, Lewis, Marshall, & Rosengard, 1999), and academic achievement (Sibley and Etnier, 2003). Moreover, Murata (2003) reported that physical educators can actually augment language concepts into their physical education classes by using predictable activities, activity scripting, collaboration, and verbal utterances using expansion and extension.


Integrated Lessons for Physical Education and Language Arts In designing an integrated lesson for physical education and language arts whereby physical activities are augmented with language arts, the following components should be included: (a) language concepts (provided by the classroom teacher) are taken, embedded, and reviewed throughout the entire lesson; (b) five-minute introductory period during which the physical educator introduces the activity for the day, skills to be taught, and equipment to be used; (c) five-minute warm-up to prepare the body for the lesson; (d) 15-20 minutes for the physical educator to model the activity and students to perform it (assistance, guidance, verbal prompts, and questioning are offered throughout this phase); (e) five-minute cool-down that includes stretching; and (f) ten minutes for reflection during which reinforcement of both physical activities and language arts concepts are made (e.g., teacher questions the children on various prepositions used throughout the lesson) and specific questions related to the lesson. A Physical Education and Language Arts sample lesson is provided in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Sample Physical Education and Language Arts Lesson

Pre-Activity: (Introduction 10-minutes total)

Introduction includes telling students what they will be doing during
that class. Instruction should be focused on key words, phrases, or
themes associated with each lesson (e.g., run, running, ran, jump,
jumping, jumped, hop, hopping, hopped, leap, leaping, leaped).

The teacher is working on increasing vocabulary skills, phrasing and
asking questions about specific words related to the activity that
will help build the students' vocabulary. (5-minutes)

Warm-up activities--(1) Jumping jacks, (2) mountain climbers, (3) jog
in place, (4) curl-ups, (5) push-ups, and (6) forward lunge.
20-second stations with 15-second rest period. …