Can students connect physical education (PE) to a unit of inquiry and can lower elementary students be in charge of their own PE?
The ultimate goal for a PYP PE teacher is to integrate Personal, social, physical education (PSPE) into a unit of inquiry. When beginning teaching PE in a PYP setting, I was the one thinking of connections and reinventing games that I had previously used, changing them slightly and renaming them. I was satisfied but as I reflected, I realized I could do much better by looking at PE from a different angle. Instead of me creating the activities, I was thinking that the students could easily do it themselves. After all, primary age students are very creative and with 15 creative minds in one class, there would be more chance of having great results.
I decided that for every PE class, from years 3 to 6, I would prepare an activity but before even telling the students what I had planned, I would ask them how they could connect PE to their unit of inquiry. Students came up with a variety of games; for example, a game called book tag that was connect to a How we express ourselves unit on stories around the world, and a Tsunami game that connected to a How the world works unit inquiring into earth changes.
Because I saw that the students could create their own games and activities, I next wanted to see how they could inquire during PE class. I brought out a variety of PE equipment and told the students they could play whatever they liked, but they had to return the things they did not play with anymore. I stood back and watched them. This is what I noticed…
Students were very engaged and started to come up with ideas for games either by themselves or with others. When a student noticed a game that was fun, they would ask if they could join in. They were challenged by seeing others doing things that they wanted to learn to do and they would ask each other for help. Students played in groups that they usually did not play in. The class that usually had the most issues, was very engaged and the usual issues did not come to the surface. After implementing this idea a couple of times, students were very eager to start when they again saw all the equipment out on the floor.
Should you only use this approach? Of course not because there are skills that need to be taught in PE class, and by limiting yourself to this approach some important skills might never be learned. But there is an opportunity for a student-led inquiry in PE and you do not have to dig deep to find it.
David Lambert has been an international educator for over 12 years. He has been working in several international schools in China. He has worked in Zhuhai International School for one year as a classroom teacher and a PE teacher. He is working towards a Masters in Educational Leadership at the Hong Kong Education University.