Delightful Physical Education


This is a guest blog I wrote for @meaningfulpe – check out LAMPE for more good content on meaningful (and purposeful!) #physed.

Part 1 of this blog series on delight and physical education raised the question, how might 47158_150773548281336_8366218_n-1a physical education teacher lay ‘groundwork’ for delight (Kretchmar, 2005)? Before getting directly to some thoughts on that topic, let’s back up a bit and explore this notion of delightful or joyful movement just a little more.

I was fortunate to be boarding in the Rockies on a day where a foot of fresh powder had just fallen.  As one of the first people up the lift, it was awesome to hear – from all across the mountain – spontaneous cries of joy from those revelling in the snow.  We need this joyful  movement!  As Scott Kretchmar writes:

When movement is experienced as joy, it adorns our lives, makes our days go better, and gives us something to look forward to.  When movement is joyful and meaningful, it may even inspire us to do things we never thought possible (2008)

Imagine the two kids (mine) in the picture at the beginning of this blog having the following conversation:

“So, I was thinking of increasing my cardiovascular fitness by paddling these buoyant tools in the ocean.”  “Great!  I’ll join you, I need to work on my core strength anyways.”  “Yup – lookin’ to reduce my co-morbidity”  “You got that right – I don’t wanna get diabetes.”

Bwahahahahahaha! I know it sounds funny to say it out loud, but this is often how we treat movement and physical education.  The fact is, kids (and adults!) are motivated by joy and will work / play extremely hard to find it.  As a bonus, they’ll also get health, social, and academic benefits – among others.  If you want to see an example of this ethic in action, go visit a skate park.  There you’ll see people finding joy in learning, intrinsic motivation at it’s best and not a trophy or rubric in sight!

As teachers of physical education, one of our main goals or purposes should be joyful or delightful movement. So how can we ‘look for’ this in our practice? Going back to Kretchmar (2008), he posits:

“Children are built to move; they want to move. Almost anything can be turned into a grand adventure—catching, throwing, running, touching, enjoying rhythmic activities, and discovering ‘fundamental movement concepts.’ A teacher who has a gift for make- believe can, without much difficulty, become something of a Pied Piper of movement. Delight, excitement, intrigue, and usually considerable noise permeate the physical education setting” (p. 166).

So, how do we ‘bring the skatepark to the gym’, so to speak? First of all, movement must be honoured, not just used (Kretchmar, 2000). We want to move past a utilitarian or functional approach to movement (which does have its place) and help students appreciate and experience learning as potential sources of joy/ delight. Examples include (Kretchmar, 2005):

From mechanically correct to expressive movement

From effective to inventive to creative movement

From  movement as obligation to movement as part of your own story

From fear and avoidance to accepting and overcoming a challenge

From thinking to spontaneity

I believe that we can encourage these types of shifts by providing a rich learning environment for students to play in, creating a culture of honoured movement, reflecting on our own practice and, perhaps most importantly, having students reflect on their practice and journeys of joyful movement.

Look for sweaty, smiling faces.

Look for grim-faced determination followed by quiet satisfaction.

Look for meaningful social interaction.

Look for focus – the ‘tongue out of the side of the mouth’ kind.

Look for failure, then some more failure followed by overcoming a realistic challenge.

Look for joy.


14 Comments on “Delightful Physical Education

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  8. Doug I missed you at SHAPE. If you wouldn’t mind I will tell you a story about the conference. It was around 11 oclock pm and Judy Lobianco was just finishing up telling future professionals what they needed to do to get a job and be a successful health and pe teacher. I than took the group of students up stairs to a large corridor where we were playing a new game called Paddle Zlam (would highly recommend you check it out ) There were people standing around talking and laughing. 8 people were playing the game. I asked the students why were these adults playing the games at 11 at night? They finally figured out that the game was fun. We were def moving and burning calories but not one person cared about that. That is why our students will move after they graduate from school. They will have fun and feel competent in doing it.

  9. What a powerful word, “Delightful!” As educators, we have the power to instill that joy and delight when teaching Physical Education!
    As an elementary PE teacher, my goal is not only to promote active living but to continually say, “Do something YOU LOVE!” Encouraging students to find the activity that makes them happy, brings them joy is a powerful message. Building confidence in our students not to follow others passions, but finding their own!

    We need to be sharing with our students, what we love to do to be active. Promoting healthy active lifestyles is important, as well as being a role model ourselves. Bringing our own joy for movement to your teaching, shows our students, it’s possible.

    Thank you for sharing and emphasizing that we all should get involved in the activities that we love!

  10. I agree with the statements made- but to five in even farther I have 2 points/comments:
    In relation to the joy of movement, where is that in many of our school athletic programs? Should that not be a focus as well, especially in middle school? How do we get the joy back in athletics, athletes and coaches??

    Secondly I believe the joy in the students in our pe and athletic programs need to start with the joy in teaching and coaching. Teachers and coaches need to demonstrate their joy in moving themselves and having others move as well, and this needs to be emphasized just as much.
    Just my 2 cents

Come on, MOVE me!

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