by Joey Feith
For the last few years, I have dedicated myself to helping physical education teachers get online so they could connect, share, and collaborate with fellow educators from around the world.
The goal was to help build a community of physical educators who were willing to help push each other to be the best teachers they could be and, throughout this process, raise the bar for physical education everywhere.
This process of building a vibrant, engaged, and geographically diverse community was part of the first phase of my overall vision of having every child everywhere get the high-quality physical education experience they need and deserve. Today, with over 10 000 teachers within our community (including some big-league thought leaders), I think it’s time to move onto Phase Two.
Phase Two: Big Problems, Big Solutions… Together.
Phase Two is all about tackling, as a community, the big problems that have haunted our profession for far too long. Problems like bad teaching practices, inaccessible professional development, and negative stereotypes. Problems that have people rolling their eyes when they hear you’re a “PE Teacher”.
Phase Two will be a series of projects that will produce resources/services that will serve as solutions to these problems. Although I will continue to produce resources on my own for this site, I will not be able to complete this Phase Two projects alone: they are simply too big and, frankly, I don’t have the skills/knowledge to get the job done alone.
I need your help.
The Problem: Skill Content Knowledge
I was having an awesome conversation the other day with a fellow teacher about what it really means to “meet the needs of every child”. Through our discussion, we determined that one of the most important keys to meeting the needs of each of your students is an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the content that you are teaching.
If you are teaching a skill, you need to know the critical elements of the mature pattern for that skill. Without knowing exactly what a mature pattern of that skill looks like – before your start teaching it! – how can you expect to guide your student to a place where they are able to understand the skill and perform it with that very mature pattern?
In SHAPE America’s new National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education publication, the authors go over some of the fundamental movement skills and provide five critical elements for each skill. These critical elements are also cooked into some of the GLOs for Standard 1 (Demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns).
It seems like basic Physical Education 101 knowledge, but the truth is that too often we start our Standard 1 (or your PE curriculum’s equivalent) lessons off without having reflected on the actual language and breakdown of the skill. We go based of what we know about the skill without worrying too much about making sure the language we are using is consistent from class to class (I’ve realized that this was a big problem in my teaching).
Now, although there are a ton of resources out there that can help you find breakdowns of different skills, wouldn’t it be nice if you could find all of that information in one place? Wouldn’t that help you in your planning, instruction, and assessment? Couldn’t a resource like that help you get closer to being the best teacher you could be?
If you agree with me that this kind of resource could be incredibly helpful, then help me build it.
The Solution: The Skillbook
The Skillbook is an open Google Sheets file that I am hoping you will help me turn into a database of skills, critical elements, learning cues, and resource links. The goal here is to create a teacher-friendly one-stop-shop for all skill content knowledge. Here’s how it works:
At the bottom of the Google Sheets page, you’ll find a variety of tabs. Each tab will be used for its own category/sport/activity. This is why I need you all so much: we all have a variety of levels of experience in a variety of sports and activities. However, as a community, we are experts at everything. With our collective knowledge and experience, we could theoretically have a sheet for every sport/activity in the world (take a second to think about that… this is huge).
Skill Names and Definitions
Once we’ve created a tab for a category/sport/activity, then it is tie time to list the various skills that a required within that category/sport/activity. We have a lot of experts and high level coaches within our community, not to mention athletes who have a tremendous amount of experience in different sports. Let’s make sure that we are calling things by their proper names (e.g. a “forearm pass” rather than a “bump” in volleyball), and that we are providing a working definition for each skill. Don’t be afraid of editing other people’s work. The goal isn’t to claim ownership over the work we are producing: the goal is to produce the best resource possible.
Mature Pattern Critical Elements
For each skill we are going to enter into the Skillbook, we will need to include five critical elements of the mature pattern of that skill. Yes, there might be skills that seem like they need more than five and some that might need less. However, for the purpose of consistency here, we are going to stick to five for each skill. Again, we will need to edit these as a community to ensure that these critical elements are as clear as possible.
School-Level Learning Cues
Although the critical elements will be very useful for the teacher who is assessing throughout their lesson/unit, the language might not be appropriate for all learners. To help make some of these elements easier to understand for our different learners, I’ve added columns for Elementary (K-5), Middle School (6-8), and High School (9-12) Learning Cues. Although not all skills will be taught at all levels, it’s still handy to know how you can explain a skill to learners who are at a more (or less) advanced level.
Finally, if the information you are adding to the Skillbook came from a source that is not yourself, or if you know of great resources that could help fellow physical educators who want to dive deeper into their understanding of the skill, I added a “Sources/Resources” column at the end of each row where you can share titles/links.
Moderation and Access
The Skillbook is an open-source project for physical educators. I’m really hoping that a lot of you, over the years to come, will add to it and help create something truly special.
A project this large will require a lot of moderation. However, I have enough trust in the community that, together, we will be able to keep the Skillbook a neatly organized source of information (and not turn it into a platform for self-promotion).
Here’s the golden rule: If you’re providing value to the Skillbook, then you are welcome to collaborate on it and use it as a resource. However, if the Skillbook becomes a platform for spam/promotions/and other things of the such that really get under my skin, I will change the privacy settings and the resource will become invite-only (which means slower progress and fewer people involved).
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Don’t be a jerk and keep your marketing urges elsewhere.
The Skillbook is a project I’ve been wanting to launch for a while. I tested the waters with the #PhysEd Playlist Project, and everything seemed to go just fine. Now it’s time for bigger and better things, and this will be the first of the Phase Two projects.
Again, this cannot be done without your help. Join in, be a part of the revolution, and help lead change in our profession.
I can’t wait to see how this goes!
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. Be sure to never miss out on any of ThePhysicalEducator.com’s future posts by connecting with us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Email.
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