Lauren is a generalist, primary classroom teacher. In the following post, she briefly describes her experience implementing Meaningful PE into her physical education classes.
I believe that students succeed when they feel a strong sense of community. This approach allowed me to carry the sense of community and rapport I had built with my students in the classroom down to the gym. Here are 3 reasons why I feel I had a positive experience implementing the approach with my students:
I do frequent wellness check-ins and check-ins for understanding with my class during subjects like math, language science, etc. but I had never incorporated those check-ins into physical education. Meaningful PE allowed me to narrow in on a specific feature and check-in with my students around it (e.g., social interaction). I think it helped our phys ed classes because it made time for discussions which allowed students’ voices to steer our future classes. The students often had many suggestions on how to make activities more inclusive, more engaging, more fair, more fun, etc. and I allowed them to make these changes and try their suggestions to see if they really did make the activities better.
I think it is extremely important for students to learn about the world in which they live, so the feature of personally relevant learning in Meaningful PE was huge for my class. Linking experiences in the gym to everyday life was a part of this approach that my students really enjoyed. Even during activities where I struggled to come up with a connection, my students shocked me by coming up with so many! I think they really enjoyed the reflection time and being able to share how what we were doing in the gym related to their life outside of school and how it related to things they wanted to do/be in their future.
This approach allowed our class to come together, which isn’t always easy to do in a primary physical education class. I really felt the students enjoyed talking about their phys ed class and benefited from it. If we were talking about the feature of social interaction one day, for example, and a student brought up why they might not have been happy with the activity we were doing (e.g., maybe they felt left out), I saw students consciously trying to not let that happen the next time we did the same activity. I think no matter how small a timeframe you have, students just want to be heard and have their thoughts validated; this approach helped me do that in our physical education classes.
I am definitely not an expert yet and feel it will take a lot more time to get anywhere close. As a teacher, it is so hard to make time for everything in a school day. My goal for next year is to be conscious of time during phys ed classes so I can allow for these small, but important, conversations to take place.