Celebrating Inquiry: Spring 2016 v.2 no.2

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Jeremy Sakamoto.....Engagement in Elementary PE

How can I best achieve engagement in an elementary school physical education class?

At the onset of my PS3 internship I was assigned to teach PE for three separate grade 2 classes. Early on, I encountered a variety of issues from the students including misbehaviour and non-participation, a scenario that is all too familiar to teachers inside and outside of a PE classroom. I knew that if I wanted to be successful in teaching PE this had to change, particularly as these types of issues can endanger the students' safety in a PE context. After consideration of previous coursework, and consulting professional resources, I decided that I could likely address the majority of the issues I was encountering by achieving higher levels of student engagement.

My initial step was to institute an ordered routine of a warm up activity, stretching activity, and main lesson activity into each class; however, I greatly varied the individual activities within that routine structure. In essence, the students knew what to expect without knowing what to expect. After consulting a variety of resources, and making considerations for the small amount of time available on a daily basis for PE, I modified my routine. Warm up activities were replaced by "instant activities", the stretching activity was removed, while the main lesson activity remained the sole constant from my original approach. To inform my activity selection I began to survey the students on a weekly basis regarding their engagement level during each activity I introduced in class. This data was then used to inform subsequent activity selections. It was a challenge to gather reliable qualitative data as many students were concerned with hurting my feelings through negative scores, but it got easier to counter this over time through the establishment of trusting relationships and interpretation of the data within the specific context of my classroom.

This project positively impacted my students as I saw a marked decrease in behavioural issues and non-participation in my PE classes as my internship progressed. Over time, I began to see anticipation build in the students as they would eagerly ask, "What are we going to do today Mr. Sakamoto?" This project has impacted the school as I have left behind an online repository of all the activities and ideas I instituted throughout my practicum complete with descriptions, student engagement scores, and my own anecdotal observations for any other teacher to use as they see fit. The experience has also greatly informed my pedagogical practice in elementary level Phys. Ed. and will remain with me throughout my career. Furthermore, it has pushed me to connect with other physical educators all over the world who will continue to help me progress as a more effective PE teacher.

Jeremy is a B.Ed. after degree student majoring in social studies education. In 2014, he graduated from the U of L with a B.A. degree, majoring in history. He is married and has a 6 year old daughter. He enjoys reading and a variety of sports in his spare time.