Writing in Elementary Physical Education
Taylor, Marie J., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
As the nation moves into the 21st century, it becomes essential for students to take part in a comprehensive educational system. This system must give students the skills and knowledge they need to lead healthy lifestyles, achieve personal goals, and be positive and successful contributors to society. Physical education plays an important part in this process. The national standards for physical education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1995) encourage the application of learning across academic disciplines, and many states have followed suit when creating their own learning standards (e.g., see Illinois State Board of Education, 1997). Physical education and health lend themselves to broader learning goals by allowing students to use knowledge obtained from other subjects.
One way to foster multidisciplinary learning is to have students write in physical education. Although physical educators should devote the majority of class time to the teaching and practice of movement concepts and skills, writing can still be incorporated into the curriculum. Writing projects not only tap into the communication skills that students learn in language arts, but also provide the physical educator with feedback that can be used for formal and informal assessments. Writing also allows students to express their opinions about physical education. Furthermore, since physical education classwork does not often result in tangible products that others can see, writing assignments allow students to display a portion of their learning to the school administration and the public.
Physical education writing projects may be done as in-class assignments or homework. The rest of this article describes four examples of such projects for elementary physical education: healthy-habit sentences, journals, fitness plans, and essays.
At the second-grade level, most students are able to write complete sentences. Thus, physical educators can ask students to choose a healthy habit and write three or more sentences about it. Students can also draw a picture of this habit. Since some physical educators see their students only two or three days per week, they should talk to them about the assignment one or two classes before it will be completed. Teachers should discuss healthy habits, give examples, and describe possible sen tence series such as the following:
* "Exercise is important for staying healthy. Exercise keeps my heart strong. Jumping rope is a good exercise for my heart."
* "Brushing my teeth every day is important. Brushing my teeth keeps them clean so they look nice. Proper tooth care keeps me from getting cavities."
The teacher should also tell the students exactly what will be expected of them the day of the assignment. Notifying the classroom teacher ahead of time will ensure that students have all the supplies they need that day. Classroom teachers may even allow the physical educator to use the classroom itself on the day of the assignment.
On the day of the assignment, the physical educator provides paper and goes over the directions. Students usually complete this assignment in 15 to 20 minutes. Copies of the sentences and illustrations should be made and posted in the gym. The graded papers should then be returned to the students along with the checklist or rubric used for evaluation (figure 1). This assignment helps the teacher see whether students can identify and explain healthy habits, which is one of the goals of a comprehensive physical education curriculum.
Students in third grade can be asked to keep a physical education journal. Such a journal allows students to express their opinions about physical education and also helps the teacher see whether they are grasping some of the concepts being taught. The teacher should provide pencils, paper, and folders with each student's name. Journal writing takes about 10 minutes of class time, usually once every two weeks (though this frequency can be changed). …