Physical Education Teachers Collaborate For Health, ELA

“Who’s Mia Hamm?” asked Jill Hopkins, Love Elementary School physical education teacher.

“A famous soccer player,” said second-grade students in Danielle Russell’s classroom.

“You are a smart bunch of students. Before we read the story, look at the ‘I can’ statements on your wall. One says, ‘I can have determination.’ You’ll see in the story that Mia Hamm has determination. Do you know what determination means?”

“Never give up?”

“That’s part of determination; let’s see what Mia does that makes her determined.”

Hopkins led a health discussion with the second-graders as part of a unique collaboration between Love School physical education teachers, Hopkins and Charles Gustafson, and classroom teachers.

Love School Principal Renee Hurtling provided the opportunity for collaboration, with each grade level setting up their health lesson focus. The second-grade team decided to start the year off with a reading/writing activity that would reinforce positive attitudes and work habits in both the classroom setting and in the gym. Hamm’s book was the perfect connection. The team worked together to develop the “I can” statements.

“Having physical education teachers in the classroom working with us on health and carrying it over and doing extensions of those lessons during gym has helped the students grasp the material we are working on,” said Russell. “They think it is neat to have the physical education teachers in their classroom and are excited when they come back from gym to talk about the practices they have done during that time. The students have responded with a lot of interest because they see the collaboration between their classroom teacher and the gym teachers and realize that health time is important.”

The students notice the difference too.

“It helps me to learn about health but in a cool way,” said Mickia Freeney, Love second-grader. “I didn’t know who Mia Hamm was until we read the book, and I learned that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but to be a good soccer player, you can never quit. I also like that we got to try soccer during gym. It was fun.”

Along with determining the focus of the health lesson, the physical education teachers are careful to incorporate English Language Arts in each meeting. Depending on the grade level and the Common Core Standards, the focus could be, for example, vocabulary or re-telling of a story. The physical education teachers then take that focus and continue it during gym class. They have a “wall of words” for each grade level with important vocabulary and definitions like the word “determination” from Hamm’s story, which are reinforced during gym class. They also link the lesson or story to physical education class by, for example, playing soccer.

“We really hope we are supporting the classroom teachers both with the health curriculum but also with ELA and math skills,” said Hopkins. “The entire school is trying to work together no matter your area to reinforce what is taught in the classroom in the special areas like art, music and physical education. It is just a good cross-curriculum collaboration.”