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Curriculum and programming

Nathan Horne

Nathan Horne, PE teacher, ISS International School, Singapore

In this article you will read how to align the physical education with your school curriculum.

At the start of any new school year having your yearly programme set up and having a blueprint for the way you are going to deliver your school’s curriculum to your students is vital. Let’s be honest, curriculum documents are often long, tedious and sit on shelves far out of the mind’s eye. The problem is that if we are not looking at them, how can we ensure that the physical education programme that we are delivering to our students on a day to day basis is aligned with what our curriculum suggests?

That is why I decided to try and break my curriculum scope and sequence down into a more easily read and understood way so that I could better ensure I was meeting all requirements. I currently teach in an elementary IB World School. All teachers within our PYP school collaborate together to have their students inquire into 6 units of inquiry each year. As a physical education teacher my job is to support the students in their inquiries, collaborating with their classroom teachers to ensure that what happens in the gym or on the field is aligned with the concepts and big ideas that are being discovered in the classrooms. I can already hear you asking “But how does this leave any time for teaching movement skills, teamwork or sports?”  While I aim to collaborate on every unit, its only really possible when making meaningful connections to what going on in the classroom.

Just because students are inquiring into the water cycle does not mean I should suddenly ensure they are all drinking enough water. Or if I were a music teacher, sing songs about water for the sake of it. It is the connection to bigger ideas and concepts that really matters. In my school as single-subject teachers (physical education, art, music), we have agreed that we will aim to collaborate fully with classroom teams on at least 1 unit of inquiry a year. This unit should be authentically linked to our subject area. For example at the moment I am collaborating with the grade 3 classes and supporting their inquiry into choices and the consequences of their choices. I bet you can already think of a thousand things you could do in physical education around that concept.

Planning my programme

As a physical education teacher in a PYP school, my responsibilities also lie in making sure that I am meeting the learning needs of the students in the area of PSPE (personal, social and physical education). While a lot of the personal and social education is embedded in classroom time, as physical education teachers we cannot forget our responsibility to be active as experts in this field of knowledge. In terms of putting together what my yearly program will look in physical education, here is how I went about it this year. First I took the PYP PSPE scope and sequence (2009) and looked at the 3 strands of PSPE; active living, identity and interactions. These three strands are the umbrella that all things PSPE should fall under and the PSPE scope and sequence document breaks these strands into 4 phases, outlining expectations for student achievement at each stage. As I mentioned earlier, looking at curriculum documents can sometimes be tedious and confusing, so to make it easier on myself, I tried to colour code each of the learning outcomes into smaller concepts or ideas. You can see this below:

PSPE strands: active living, identity and interactions

Nathan Horne_image 1Nathan Horne_image 2Nathan Horne_image 3

Once I had colour coded the learning outcomes, I created a new document and grouped these learning outcomes into larger concepts like physical literacy, appreciating diversity, building self-confidence, working together, questioning, etc. This helped me a lot to see the different big ideas that I should be touching on throughout the year when students were taking part in independent inquiries. You can view these documents below.

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Nathan Horne_image 8Nathan Horne_image 9Once I had these learning outcomes and big ideas grouped, I looked again at the PSPE scope and sequence and it suggested that a balanced physical education curriculum should include experiences in the following 5 key areas:

  • Games
  • Adventure challenges
  • Movement composition
  • Health-related fitness
  • Individual pursuits

Now that I had my learning outcomes in place to guide my teaching, I could start to plan independent units of inquiry based around these 5 key experience areas. Below you can see the finished product.

Nathan Horne_image 10You can see that I tried to group experiences by different age and grade levels. For example, K1-G1 are often taking part in similar activities and G2-G3 & G4-5 are taking part in similar activities. By planning experiences in this lower elementary cycle and upper elementary cycle, I am able to assess student progression against the learning outcomes from the documents above. While both K1 & G1 might be taking part in cooperative games, they are working at different concepts and phases and aiming to achieve different learning outcomes.

A balanced programme

While it was a lot of work to get this in place (it did take me over 2 years to get it fully in place), I feel that my physical education programme is much more balanced and authentic to the curriculum in which I teach. By identifying the learning outcomes and breaking them down into big ideas and concepts, I was able to see exactly what it is that I want my students to be able to know and do, and in turn exactly how and what experiences I am going to facilitate in order to get them to discover these understandings and skills. Having this programme in place also has allowed me to feel more confident on a day to day basis in delivering lessons as I know exactly what it is I should be doing, rather than racking my brain for activities, that while meaningful and beneficial to the students’ physical education are not necessarily aligned with the school’s curriculum. Now that you have seen how I have done it, ask yourself the hard question of “How does my programme align with my school’s curriculum?” If you find it difficult to answer then spend some time before the students come back and really break your curriculum down into a way that is easily understandable for you, then start planning your yearly program. While time consuming and sometimes brain breaking, it will leave you and your students with a more meaningful and engaging physical education experience in this coming school year.

The original article can be found in Nathan’s blog here.
Nathan Horne has previously worked in schools in Italy, Cambodia, United Kingdom and Australia. Nathan is passionate about advocating for 21st century physical education and breaking the negative stereotypes associated with “gym class”. He has lead workshops in Singapore, UK and Canada on the use of technology in PE to promote critical thinking. He blogs about inquiry and technology in #PhysEd at and can be found on Twitter @PENathan.

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19 Responses to Curriculum and programming

  1. Lynn Taylor 25 September 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Nathan, I think that is a fantastic thing that you have done. I’m not a PE teacher but am going to use your idea about how to break the curric up into useable pieces. Well done and thanks again for all your hard work.


  2. Nathan 26 September 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for the kind words Lynn, I am glad that you found it useful. As a Physical Educator it is important to see myself as primarily an Educator first, who is lucky enough to be able to educate in a physical domain.

  3. Angela Tweedie 8 November 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Hello Nathan,
    I’m not a teacher but I do run a youth group and have an interest in IB since my children are following the curriculum. I have a question for you as I notice you wish to debunk the negative stereotypes about gym class. Like many, I have negative memories of being ‘the last one picked’ during gym (or maybe the one before the last…) What is the contemporary thought or approved practice on having children select their own teams? I think it’s outdated and usually unfair, but maybe I’m being too ‘politically correct’?

  4. Nathan 8 November 2013 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Angela,

    My current thinking on best practice for choosing teams would to not let students choose to avoid that negative connotation of being last pick, or even have the teacher choose in 1 by 1 fashion for the same reason.
    I currently use an app called Make My Groups which you can see here –
    It works really well and enables me to have the element of random selections of teams. This way the kids don’t argue. You also have the choice within the app to ensure certain students end up on different teams so still to ensure some control over the strength of the team or avoid behavioural issues.
    I highly recommend it. I am glad you contacted me and commented on the blog. Team #PhysEd is working hard to break those stereotypes of “gym class” and bring learning back to #PhysEd!

  5. Eddie Gillespie 2 December 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Hi Nathan,

    great work, obviously a lot of thought went behind this and you are right, it does hurt my head to think about it but looks very valuable. Can you tell me how you run your Athletics – Individual Pursuits program. I have been running an 6-weeks athletics program for 3 years now and it is continually evolving. Would be very interested to hear how you run yours.



  6. shaheen 12 December 2013 at 5:47 am #

    I would be glad if you could extend your help in finding out how the curriculum standards for MYP english works.
    I am a teacher and looking at different curriculum study.
    Thanks and regards

  7. Joey 2 April 2014 at 7:15 pm #


    I teach PE in NH at an IB school and I was wondering if you could share a planner or two with me?


  8. Frankie Smith 3 November 2014 at 3:17 pm #


    I am working on my masters and I am looking for an example of using the “mind’s eye” teaching strategy in a physical education class. Do you have any examples of using the “mind’s eye” strategy in your physical education class?



  9. Frankie Smith 3 November 2014 at 3:19 pm #


    Can you give me an example of using the “mind’s eye” teaching strategy in a physical education class?



  10. suprita 29 January 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    our school is intiating pyp from this year. Your blog has answered several of my queries.

  11. Kadriye Daniels 24 September 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    Hi everyone, just beginning the PYP journey this year. I will be working with the Kindergarten kids. I’m looking for plans for the first theme ‘who we are’, any help will be greatly appriciated. Here is my email address:

    Thanks a million in advance!!!

  12. Edgar Franz 11 November 2015 at 7:18 am #

    The burning question is how you mapped your learning outcomes to your expectations for each unit. You have 18 buckets of progressive learning outcomes, and you have generally 6 units (not counting swim gala, and not counting doubles). So are you trying to distribute those LO’s to the units (i.e. 3 LO’s per unit) so that you have a fully balanced program in terms of the LO’s for which you are backward planning and that you are assessing each unit? For example, you might assess Working Together, Conflict Resolution and Appreciating Diversity (your buckets, 2 from Interactions and 1 from Identity) in your across-the-board unit on Cooperative Games. Then you would have your progressive LO’s – for Phase 1 the youngest students would be assesed on their ability to 1) enjoy interacting playing and engaging with others; 2) take turns, listen repectfully to others, share their relevant ideas, reach out for hlep when it is needed for themselves or others, identify when their reactions have impacted others and 3) [from Identity] reflect on their experiences to create a deeper understanding of self.

    The older kids would obviously (and meanwhile) be assessed to the more advanced LO’s related to Phase 4: 1) reflect critically on the effectiveness of the group during and at the end of the process, 2) independently using different strategies to resolve conflict, and working towards a consenses, understanding the need to negotiate and compromise, and 3) accept and appreciate the diversity of cultures etc etc etc. [from Identity]

    Secondly, did you consider any of the old LO’s, or PE-specific expectations outside of Interactions, Identity and Active Living as relevant to your units, e.g. movement skills, strategies and concepts in your unit on Athletics [just throwing some learnign expectations out there here: body maintains a desired shape in a stationary position, and stability with dynamic balance, locomotor concpets used to move the body from one point to another in various ways (e.g., walking, wheeling, running, chasing, dodging, sliding, rolling, jumping, leaping). • Manipulation skills involve giving force to objects (throwing kickign etc…]

    I would be interested to hear how you rebundled your learning outcomes to suit planning, observation and assessment in your balanced curriculum



  13. Kate McCauley 25 October 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    Nathan — I teach a university freshman seminar class called Understanding Ourselves and Others Through Films. I was looking for images to talk about inquiry learning, and I ran across your blog. I love how you have organized your thinking. This makes me want to re-write my entire class. I’m going to be thinking about what you have shared here for a long time.

  14. Aneeba Sadiq 3 May 2018 at 3:45 pm #

    Its really great thanks .I want to design POI for PYP .I hope it will help me a lot

  15. Tim 3 November 2020 at 12:39 am #

    Hi Nathan,

    I’m a PSPE teacher at a PYP school in Geelong, Australia.

    I’d love to connect and ask some questions if possible.


  16. Ronnn 3 February 2021 at 2:03 pm #

    Hi Edgar! I came across this article and found it very insightful. However, these questions that you posted are also exactly what I wanted to inquire further after reading. May I kindly ask, were you able to have more takeaway from your further discovery? Much appreciated!

  17. Madhavi 23 March 2022 at 6:22 am #

    It’s really a great emphasis on the elements of PSPE. Thank you

  18. gurmailk 24 June 2022 at 5:09 am #

    thank you so much for sharing your ideas.

  19. Mary Grace 20 July 2022 at 9:19 am #

    Hi Nathan,

    I am a PE teacher at a PYP school in the Philippines. Is it possible to connect with you? I have some questions on my mind and maybe you can enlighten me. Thank you

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