Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Physical Education

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Physical Education

Physical education (P.E.) is an educational course related to the physique of the human body, taken during primary and secondary education that encourages psycho-motor learning in a play or movement exploration setting to promote health. Also, it is an education in the care and development of the human body, stressing athletics and including hygiene (Anderson, D., 1989).

Stages of Motor Development

Birth - 6 Months: Reflexive & Spontaneous Movements Involuntary responses to stimuli like sound, touch, light, and body position & rhythmic types of motion that do not have a response to anything (Petty, K., 2009).

Birth - 2 Years: Rudimentary Movements Voluntary movements.

2 - 6 Years: Fundamental Movements This period marks a major milestone in early childhood and life span motor development with more than 30 characteristic movements starting to emerge (Petty, K., 2009).

There are essentially 3 different types of fundamental motor skills:

Locomotor skills are movements that transport a person from one place to another. They include skills like running, jumping, climbing, skipping, hopping, and galloping.

Non-locomotor skills are stability and balancing skills like twisting, turning, stretching, and bending.

Manipulative skills are skills used to control objects with the hands and feet like kicking, catching, rolling, throwing, bouncing, and striking.

Perceptual-motor awareness also occurs as kids develop a sense of body awareness and the ability to balance (Petty, K., 2009).

All these skills build a foundation for efficient and more complex movements that are needed in later child development stages (Petty, K., 2009).

6 - 12 Years: Sport Skills During this phase, changes in physical growth, body structure, and physiological development allow the child to show significant improvements in the motor skills they have been using. As kids increase in body size, strength, cardiorespiratory capacity, and perceptual-motor ability they are able to show vast improvements in their motor abilities.

As their fundamental movement skills become more refined and fluid, they can adapt them to sport and recreational activities. Children tend to become more interested in sports participation during this time, which gives them the opportunity to practice their existing skills and learn new ones (Santrock, J. (2008). Child development 12th edition. McGraw-Hill Humanities).

12 - 18 Years: Growth & Refinement While growth takes place during all child development stages, the most significant motor behavior change is seen at the time of puberty (Santrock, J., 2008).

There is an incredible growth spurt and increase in the level of hormones that occurs, and these changes generally mark the first stage of adolescence.

During this period, the major changes in muscle and skeletal growth allow kids’ motor skills to become much more advanced. Differences in motor performance between the genders becomes more apparent during this stage (Santrock, J., 2008).

18 - 30 Years: Peak Performance During this stage, especially between the ages of 25-30, individuals are at the peak of their physiological function and motor performance.

This is especially true in the areas of strength, cardiorespiratory function, and processing speed (Haywood, K., 2008).

30+ Years: Regression Though everyone is unique and there’s a lot of variation in the way people age, most people show a 1% per year decline in their physiological and neurological functioning.

You begin to see decreases in cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, and increases in body fat throughout the duration of life (Gabbard, C., 2011).

Understanding Stages of Physical Development

Understanding the stages of children's motor development will help teachers/coaches select appropriate sports activities and other fun games to play that kids will enjoy at a developmentally appropriate level. Whether it’s baby activities, kindergarten activities, or kid games for older children, the teacher/coach must make sure they choose a game that is developmentally appropriate for each child. Fun preschool activities will be too advanced for your newborn, and most toddlers activities will be boring for older elementary kids. Just keep in mind that within the same age groups there will be kids at various developmental levels (Santrock, J.,2008).

That’s why there is often a need to modify a game:

There may be a group of kids that vary in age, which one much know to level the playing field. If one of the participants has an injury or physical handicap then the teacher/coach must modify or adapt the lesson/game. If someone in the group is developmentally behind, the teacher must also modify the game. Whatever the case, in addition to the basic rules for each game we include ideas for making the games more challenging along with modifications to ensure a greater opportunity for success for everyone.

A desired outcome of physical education classes is the development and cultivation of fundamental motor skills (locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative). These skills serve as a foundation, as students must first become more competent in these domains before they can be successful in sport specific skills or other advanced movements, such as gymnastics or dance (Senne, T., 2013). Fundamental motor skills must be taught in a variety of contexts to allow for later transfer to sport specific skills. If children are successful in the performance of motor skills, they are more likely to continue to pursue physical activity, becoming more competent in their ability to perform sport specific activities as well as providing inherent enjoyment (Senne, T., 2013).

Understanding Stages of Cognitive Development

Understanding the stages of children's cognitive development is very important, not only for teachers and coaches, but for parents as well. With this knowledge it is easier to recognize a disability or impairment in a child's physical or cognitive development. If there is an issue with the development of a child then it is critical to notice early enough to help the child as soon as possible. Here is when the teacher/coach must make adaptations or modifications within the curriculum/lesson plan/game to aid in the child's progressive learning and developmentally appropriate approaches to do so. In the case of children without disabilities or impairments, it is still important to understand the cognitive development. Having a knowledge of both physical and cognitive developments within children will allow teachers and coaches to create a fun, safe, creative, interactive, organized, active, and progressive learning environment for all children.

Specialized PE Teachers in Elementary School

The increase in health risks, decrease in team-sport participation, and lack of knowledge of fitness and health in kids today raises a question of having specialized PE teachers in the schools or not. In a society that is facing serious health issues, the importance of physical education (PE) in our public primary schools is often neglected (Morgan, P., Bourke, S., 2008).

Children need the value of lifelong physical activity to be instilled in them from a young age. In some cases this is achieved through family, but more often it relies on the school to ensure PE is embedded in their lives and that the children’s experiences with PE are positive and worthwhile (Morgan, P., Hanson, V., 2008).

In a recent study of primary teachers, it was found that many were unable to fit in the mandatory hours across all subject areas, with most participants admitting that PE was the first to suffer (Morgan, P., Hanson, V. (2008). Classroom teachers' perceptions of the impact of barriers to teaching physical education on quality of PE programs. Research Quarterly (p. 506-516). There is a range of other factors impacting on our teachers and include their lack of confidence to teach PE, a lack of time, poor facilities, inadequate resources and low levels of interest in PE in general (Morgan, P., Bourke, S., 2008).

The limited sporting resources available in primary schools, coupled with the lack of expertise to develop and execute lessons, continue to be an ongoing concern. On average, primary teachers complete about 10 hours of PE training in their initial teacher training. Many teachers are relying on their own school experiences with PE and sport, hence their own teaching of PE is a reflection of their memories, both good and bad, rather than from the knowledge gained in professional pre-service training (Carney, C., Chedzoy, S., 1998).

Kentel (2001) notes an absence of Pedagogy (a relationship of a child and adult engaged in a learning experience) in modern physical education settings, as well as a lack of understanding of its importance in learning. This is attributed to teaching practices driven by tradition and habit as well as an overemphasis on games and sport classes. Children require developmentally appropriate activities including a wide variety of equipment and tasks in order to fully develop their fundamental motor skills in a learner-centered environment (Kentel, J., 2001).

Specialized PE teachers complete four years of training to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to provide our children with quality PE. When considering cost implications, a specialized PE teacher could be shared among 2-3 schools over the week, as one hour per week of PE is sufficient for each K-6 class (Curry, C., 2011).

It is imperative that our children are encouraged to participate in physical activity, and that these experiences lead to a lifelong involvement in physical activity. Instilling positive experiences through physical education in primary schools would contribute to reducing many of the health issues currently faced in our society (Curry, C., 2011).

Surely we are justified in providing quality education in PE through the use of specialized PE teachers. Another option for increasing health and health knowledge among children could be to actually change the curriculum and re-educate the current teachers. Also, this could help increase motivation for teachers to learn more and be more creative and progressive in their teachings.

Effective Learning environments

(Alderman et al., 2006) presents specific strategies to enhance motivation in physical education settings, with particular focus on elementary and middle school education classes. This approach focuses on promoting intrinsic motivation, enhancing perceived physical confidence, and creating a mastery-oriented environment. These factors are achieved through allowing student autonomy to make choices and modify skills or activities, providing optimal challenge for every student, providing self-referenced evaluation and positive verbal feedback (focusing on the process rather than the outcome), and allowing sufficient time to develop skills. Cultivation of these practices will promote an innate desire to be active, a likelihood to perceive physical activity as positive, as well as an increased likelihood of maintaining a physically active lifestyle (Alderman et al., 2006).

Designing appropriate learning tasks: a common inappropriate practice is the use of static skill followed almost immediately by dynamic game play. This often results in boredom in rote repetition of skills and frustration as the progression to performing in a game environment becomes too difficult (Palmer, S., Hildebrand, K, 2005). The importance of manipulating the environment through task design to accommodate varying skill levels cannot be understated. The GLSP (Generic levels of skill proficiency) categorizes student’s abilities to perform skills in the form of a skill specific continuum of stages the child may pass through: (Graham et al., 2004)

  1. Precontrol: student is just learning the skill and cannot perform it consistently
  2. Control: student can perform the skill consistently alone, or with one other person in a static environment. Much concentration is needed
  3. Utilization: student can perform the skill in a dynamic environment and in situations with other students. Less concentration required for successful execution
  4. Proficiency: student can perform the skill automatically, attention can focus on manipulating the environment.

Instructors must identify task modifications suited to individual skill levels, and appropriate environments in which to perform skills taking into account space, obstacles and defenders, equipment, goals and targets, and team members (Palmer, S., Hildebrand, K, 2005). Modifications to make tasks easier include increasing the size of a goal or target, increasing the predictability of the game, and limiting the mobility of defensive players. Modifications to increase difficulty include increasing the size of a striking implement, increasing the degree of co-operation among team members, and raising the height of the net in racket sports.

Beighle and Pangrazi (2002) have identified habits of effective physical education instructors that create an effective learning environment. These include establishing class procedures and routines such as start and stop signals, equipment retrieval cues, and warm ups. Creating 2-5 rules, such as “respect yourselves and others”, “stop look and listen” communicate appropriate behaviour to students, and developing consequences such as verbal warnings and time outs help to address misbehaviour. Positively enforcing acceptable behaviour increases the likelihood of it being displayed in the future. Setting high yet achievable expectations allow students to reach and then build upon their successes. The development of effective lesson plans include identifying lesson objectives with set equipment, tasks, and activities. Instruction time should be brief and clear, kept to a minimum (30-45 secs), with modifications and further rules added thereafter. Throughout the lesson educators should remain attentive, constantly moving through the teaching area scanning the class, providing appropriate personal feedback and addressing misbehaviour when necessary. Finally effective instructors should be constantly reflecting on their practice, constantly seeking improvement in their teaching, including the use of peer observation and videotapes (Beighle, A., Pangrazi, R., 2002). These practices together will result in an environment conducive to learning new skills and will allow students to thrive in an inclusive physical activity environment.

Inappropriate Teaching Practices

Negative physical education experiences can undermine one's confidence, result in humiliation, and can shape attitudes and behaviour toward future physical activity participation. Cardinal et al, (2013) found that students that had the experience of being picked or chosen last for a team in games settings participated in less exercise per week in later life compared to those who had not.

Williams (1992, 1994, 1996) “Hall of Shame” articles provide a thorough criteria for inappropriate games and teaching practices: A game need only possess one of these elements to qualify:

  • Absence of the purported objectives of the activity or game
  • Potential to embarrass a student in front of the rest of the class
  • Focus on eliminating students from participation
  • Overemphasis on and concern about the students having “fun”
  • Lack of emphasis on teaching motor skills and lifetime physical fitness skills
  • Extremely low participation time factors
  • Extremely high likelihood for danger, injury, and harm

Inductees to the Hall of Shame include dodgeball, kickball, duck duck goose, red rover, and tag games (Williams, N.F., 1992, 1994). Multiple teaching practices are also identified that result in humiliation and compromises the emotional well being of students (Williams, N.F., 1996). These include highlighting (having one student perform a skill or routine while everyone else watches), using exercise as punishment, drills with long lines, using student captains to pick teams, and “rolling out the ball:” allowing students to run and police their own games. The author suggest instructors engage in critical thinking to modify practices to maintain physical and emotional safety while also cultivating positive attitudes towards lifelong physical activity participation (Williams, N.F., 1996)

TGfu: Teaching Games for Understanding

Developed by Bunker and Thorpe (1982), the TGfu model has been adopted by teachers and coaches around the world over the last ten years, and is a holistic teaching approach that encourages student based learning and problem solving (Webb, P., Pearson P., 2008). The model is centered around tactical awareness as opposed to a traditional skill based approach, and is aimed at generating a greater understanding of all aspects of games. The generic framework allows teachers to integrate their approach across a variety of games, drawing on students to exercise their cognitive skills in the way of tactical awareness, decision making, and problem solving in a modified game environment (Webb, P., Pearson P., 2008).

The original TGfu model (Thorpe, R., Bunker, D., Almond, L., 1986).

  1. Game form: a modified form of a game with regard to playing surface, equipment, number of learners, and space.
  2. Game appreciation: declarative knowledge of the rules that define the game, that will define the repertory of skills required
  3. Tactical awareness: principles of play, ways and means of creating space to overcome the opposition
  4. Decision Making: How to do it (selection of an appropriate response), and What to do (assess the situation to recognize cues and anticipate possible outcome)
  5. Skill Execution: actual production of required movements
  6. Performance: observed outcome of previous processes

The general premise of the model is to shift games learning from a technique base to a student based approach which links tactics and skills in game contexts, enabling students to become skillful and knowledgeable performers (Webb, P., Pearson P., 2008).


Alderman, B.L., Beighke, A., Pangrazi, R.P. (2006). Enhancing Motivaion in Physical Education. JOPERD, 77(2), 41-45, 51.

Anderson, D. (1989). The discipline and profession. Foundations of Canadian Physical Education, Recreation & Sports Studies.

Beighle, A., Pangrazi, R.P. (2002). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Physical Education Teachers. Teaching Elementary Physical Eduction, 13(4), 6-9.

Cardinal B.J., Yan, Z., Cardinal, M.K. (2013). Negative Experiences in Physical Education and Sport: How much do they affect participation in later life? JOPERD, 71(8), 22-26.

Carney, C., Chedzoy, S. (1998). Primary student teacher prior experiences and their relationships to estimated competence to teach national curriculum for physical education. Sport, Education & Society (p. 19-36).

Curry, Christina. (2011). Why public primary schools are desperate for specialized PE teachers. Education Policy & Politics.

Gabbard, C. (2011). Lifelong motor development 6th edition. Benjamin Cummings.

Graham, G., Holt/Hale, S., Parker, M. (2004). Children Moving: A reflective approach to teaching physical education (6th ed). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield

Haywood, K. (2008). Lifespan motor development 5th edition. Human Kinetics.

Kentel, J. (2001). The Absence of Pedagogy: Ten Common Practices in Elementary Physical Education and the Need for Change. Physical and Health Education Journal, 67(1). 4.

Morgan, P., Bourke, S. (2008). Non-specialist teachers' confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences in PE. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy (p. 1-29).

Morgan, P., Hanson, V. (2008). Classroom teachers' perceptions of the impact of barriers to teaching physical education on quality of PE programs. Research Quarterly (p. 506-516).

Palmer, S.E., Hildebrand, K. (2005). Designing Appropriate Learning Tasks: The Environmental Management Model. JOPERD, 76(2), 48-55.

Petty, K. (2009). Developmental milestones of young children. Redleaf Press.

Santrock, J. (2008). Child development 12th edition. McGraw-Hill Humanities.

Senne, T.A. (2013). A Better Path Toward Ensuring Lifelong Physical Activity Participation. JOPERD, (84)4, April.

Thorpe, R., Bunker, D., Almond, L. (1986). Rethinking Games Teaching. Loughborough: University of Technology, Loughborough.

Webb, P., Pearson, P. (2008). An Integrated Approach to Teaching Games for Understanding. University of Wollongong, Faculty of Education, Wollongong, Australia 1-9.

Williams, N.F. (1992). The Physical Education Hall of Shame, Part I. JOPERD, 63(6), 57-60.

Williams, N.F. (1994). The Physical Education Hall of Shame, Part II. JOPERD, 65(2), 17-20.

Williams, N.F. (1996). The Physical Education Hall of Shame, Part III. JOPERD, 67(3), 45-48.