Checking In For Deliberate Practice

It’s no big secret that I love using games in my teaching. Through proper design, games can create learning situations in which students can practice both skills and tactics in authentic settings.

That being said, having students remain focused on their learning objectives during game play can be challenging. I often found that my students would get so caught up in the games we use in class that they would forget why we were playing the game in the first place.

So how do we encourage deliberate practice (i.e. practicing with a focus on improvement/mastery) in game situations during physical education class?

Aside from making the students aware of the day’s learning objectives at the beginning of class, a method I’ve been using for the last year has been having students fill out quick reflection sheets multiple times throughout the class. I call these reflections “Check Ins” (as in students are “checking in” on their progress).

To create these reflection sheets, I use Google Forms (which I, and many other members in the #physed community, have blogged about before). If you’ve never used Google Forms before, the tool allows you to easily create online forms which can be used as quizzes/reflection sheets in class. When a student fills out a form and submits their answers, the information they send is automatically delivered to a spreadsheet in your own Google Drive account. This all makes for less paper, less lost documents, and quicker reflection time.


Here’s a basic example of how I use Check Ins in my physical education lessons (I’ll use a lesson in my recent soccer unit):

1. Student Grouping and Game Setup

If I’m teaching a class of 24 students, I’ll divide them into six teams. For Benchball (the modified soccer game we were using in this lesson… basically soccer with benches instead of nets and played without goalies), the gym will then be divided into two playing areas.
Team Setup
It’s important to note that I won’t just randomly create these teams. By taking the time to carefully group your students prior to class, you can already start setting each student up for success during the period. For this lesson, I created three teams composed of players with soccer experience and three teams of players still fine tuning their soccer skills. Teams from one group only competed against the other teams in their group. Students complained about the fact that they weren’t playing against all the teams, but those complaints soon faded once they realized that they were being successful in the game and/or being challenged at their own skill level. Being purposeful with your student groupings may seem like basic knowledge, but it’s amazing to think that it is still not common practice in all physical education programs.

2. Small-Sided, Short Games

To make sure that the students waiting on the sidelines weren’t out for too long, but also that the students in the game were getting enough practice time, I set the game “shifts” to four minutes. Once the timer was up, one of the teams on the field would rotate out and be replaced by the team on the sideline.
Short Games

3. Quick “Check Ins”

Once a team rotates out, they are to complete a self-assessment “check in” to help them reflect on where they are in their mastery of their learning objectives. To help the students easily access the “Check In” form, I create QR Codes which I just print and tape to the wall in the gym. By scanning the code, the students automatically load the form rather than having to type in the form’s URL (which is a huge time saver in class).
Check In
A few things I’d like to mention about these “check ins”. By keeping the form short, it not only allows the students to have enough time to fill them out, it also allows for the form to be very focused. The point of this reflection is to have the students be aware of where they are in their learning and what they need to do next to keep progressing. I let the students know that their answers will not affect their grade, which helps keep everyone honest.

4. Teacher Feedback

Using the information I automatically collect from my students’ “check in” submissions, I provide students with the feedback they need to continue progressing in their learning. This feedback can be delivered to students/teams during the time they are on the sideline, or in game time through “freeze-replay” (i.e. where I stop the game after making an observation, question the students on the decisions they are making, and then discuss their answers/other possible decision that could be made in that situation).
Teacher Feedback
Throughout the class, students will have multiple opportunities to “check in” on their learning. By having a better understanding of where they are in their progress, they can then focus on making the changes needed so that they may continue moving forward and engage in deliberate practice.

What tools/methods do you use to help your students stay focused on their learning objectives in physical education? I’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments below or on Twitter!

Happy Teaching!

Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of Be sure to never miss out on any of’s future posts by connecting with us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Email.


Joey Feith is the founder of He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.