Creating Games for Physical Education Learning Center

Article excerpt

The physical education profession recently identified important skills and knowledge that children should acquire as a result of participation in a high-quality physical education program (National Association for Physical Education and Sport, 1995). A student leaving a comprehensive physical education program should exhibit the qualities of a physically educated person. Such a person is knowledgeable of the content, participates regularly, values physical activity, is physically fit, and is competent in many movement skills. Each of these objectives takes time to develop, and the lack of adequate time to meet educational objectives in physical education is well documented (Kelly, 1989). Therefore, physical education teachers, now more than ever, are asking, "How do I meet all the curriculum objectives in the limited amount of time allotted for physical education?"

One area in physical education that traditionally seems to receive limited attention by physical education teachers is the cognitive, or knowledge, domain (Lawson, 1987). Many programs offer minimal opportunity for students to acquire the knowledge associated with high-quality physical education (Webster, 1991). Physical education teachers typically do an effective job of ensuring that children become competent physical movers, but sometimes assume that students will become knowledgeable movers as well. However, the adage, "Use it or lose it," aptly describes knowledge acquisition and retention. In order to increase knowledge related to physical education concepts, children need to be actively engaged with cognitive content and not just perform physical movements.

One strategy for enhancing cognitive outcomes in physical education is the placement of a physical education learning center in elementary classrooms. A learning center is an area of the classroom where a specific focus or learning experience is provided (Cosgrove, 1992). Learning can be enhanced when students reinforce skills by using them in interesting, meaningful, relevant, and social contexts (Cosgrove). Thus, learning centers are designed to serve educational purposes, not to be a play area or worksheet station. It is common to have multiple learning centers situated throughout a classroom, each focusing on different subjects such as math, science, or reading.

A physical education learning center has games (e.g., board games, card games, puzzles, etc.) that have been created or modified to focus on physical education concepts. Cognitive aspects of the physical education content are reinforced in an interesting, stimulating, and dynamic manner. Categories of knowledge that may be reinforced include: cues; fitness; dance; games; gymnastics; space, effort, and relationship concepts; and locomotor, manipulative, and nonmanipulative skills. For example, one game in the learning center might focus on cues used to help children remember how best to perform various skills. Such a game might require children to identify the cues for the skill of throwing (side to target, foot opposition, arm way back, and follow-through) or the step sequence for the swing dance (side, side, rock-step). One limitation of a physical education learning center is the constraint of movement inherent in the classroom; therefore, games that reinforce the cognitive content would be better taught in the gymnasium.

The physical educator can also use learning center activities when faced with space limitations. Many elementary schools lack a gymnasium. On rainy days, physical education teachers at such schools are forced to hold their classes in hallways, classrooms, and lunchrooms. Consequently, rainy days are a good time for these physical education teachers to use learning centers. In such circumstances, use of learning center activities helps maintain an instructional emphasis until it is possible to return to the outdoors. Figures 1 and 2 show two examples of games created for use in a physical education learning center. …