The Great Unpacking: Preface (Part II)

This is the second part of the preface to our new blog post series: The Great Unpacking. If you haven’t read part one, you’ll want to start there before continuing to read here.

So where were we? Oh yes, we were about to see how to make sure our lessons and units are based on and aligned with each of SHAPE America’s national standards for physical education standards, as shown by Terri Drain in her awesome video.

Ready? Here we go:

STEP ONE: Unpacking the Standards

Unpacking the standards is the first important step to take to ensure that the lessons, instruction, assessment, and evaluation throughout your teaching will always be perfectly aligned with the overall goal of physical education: to develop physically literate individuals. If the term “unpacking” seems confusing to you, just think of it this way: it’s just a cool way to describe the “breaking down” process which will allow you to backwards design later on (reading that over, I’m not sure that explanation totally helps, but I’m sticking to it for now!)

SHAPE America has already done two levels of unpacking the goal of physical education for us:

1. Unpack physical literacy (goal of physical education) into five national standards.
Level 1

2. Unpack each national standard into grade-level outcomes.
Level 2
Now it’s our turn to continue this unpacking process. Here’s how:

i. Start with the grade level outcome that you wish to unpack (for this example, we are going to use GLO S1.M10.6)
Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 2.57.19 PM

ii. Circle the main verb of the GLO (usually the one the GLO starts with).
2. Circle

iii. Underline the remaining content within the GLO. What I’ve discovered is that some GLOs are “heavier” (i.e. they have a lot of content within them), whereas others are “light” (i.e. they only have one piece of content within them). S1.M10.6 is pretty heavy: it has three pieces of content.
3. Underline

iv. Take the verb that you circled and add it to each piece of underlined content to create content blocks.
4. Content Blocks

v. Look at each content block and break it down further into learning pieces. Learning pieces are smaller learning objectives that will be the focus of the lessons within your unit.
5. Learning Pieces

Something that I would like to mention quickly here is that it is at the learning piece level that I align the SHAPE America national standards to Quebec’s provincial curriculum. In Quebec, we have three standards (which we call competencies) which are broken down into smaller blocks known as the “Progressions of Learning” (POL). Most of the elements in the POL are very “light”, so, in many cases, I have been able to use them as the learning pieces for the content blocks that I break down (which is why the way I break down content blocks might look very different than the way you will). This process has helped me make sure that, even though I am currently following the SHAPE America National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes when designing my physical education curriculum, I am still making sure that my students are reaching the objectives/competencies that my school is mandated to ensure that they reach by our provincial government. Like I said before, this could/should be a whole other blog post. I wanted to briefly explain it here because a lot of people wonder where the Quebec curriculum is in my teaching. It’s there, I’m covering it, and I’m helping my students go even beyond what it expects of them.

Take a second, breathe, and give yourself a high five! You’ve just broken the overall goal of physical education down into third and fourth levels:
1. Unpack physical literacy (goal of physical education) into five national standards.
2. Unpack each national standard into grade-level outcomes.
3. Unpack each grade-level outcome into content blocks.
4. Unpack each content block into smaller learning pieces.
Unpacking Levels 1-4

Ok, feel good? Great! Let’s get back to work:

The Great Unpacking blog post series preface will continue soon, so stay tuned! Be sure not to miss out on this post series, or any of’s future posts, by connecting with us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Email.

Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of


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