The Evolution of My Unit Planning

The evolution of unit planning.png

Recently in my career as a Physical Education teacher, I was looking for a way to connect my students to something more than just standards and outcomes. I was looking for a way to connect them to the motivation, confidence, competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and engage in physical activity for life.

For years I was hitting it out of the park (or thought I was anyway) creating units that explored and developed the competencies, knowledge, and tactics of various physical activities, but it felt I was missing key areas that would ensure that students continue to be active outside of my classes and school setting. I was missing the deep understandings of the values behind physical activity and fostering the motivation to be active.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 5.02.24 AM

This is what my unit planning use to look like. Very standards/outcome based with a focus on developing skills and critical/tactical understanding behind physical activity. Click on the image to get a full picture…

At this point, I thought I was doing an AWESOME job planning for my units. There was progression, assessment was in there, an element of challenge, high levels of engagement planned for students, but it always felt that there was something missing. Something more I could be doing to enhance the learning experience of my students in my classes.

Eventually, I found a resource that helped me take that leap. It was stepping into the world of IB/PYP and focusing on conceptual planning and not just linking the activity to an outcome but to an idea that was part of a much bigger picture. My focus shifted from skills/tactical understanding to developing an enduring understanding of WHY we should be engaged in physical activity.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 5.12.02 AM

This step in my evolution of planning involved connecting to the WHY behind the movement and activity and the values of physical activity. Click on the image to see more.

Now, to be completely honest, this first step in my planning evolution was not voluntary. This took place when I was given the challenge to develop a PE program that would meet the needs of KG2 and Grade 1 students. Many of us have read about these “lil uns” and thought that it would just be a simpler version of how they were currently teaching with their high school and junior high students. If you have ever taught lower elementary, you know that thought is WAY OFF. I had to shift my focus away from skills and outcomes based to fostering the values, behaviors, attitudes and developing fundamental movement skills. Not a easy task at all.

These students were at such a critical part of their physical literacy development and simply developing fundamental movement skills just was not enough (but still very important). This is where an educator can develop the value of being physically active in their students and this understanding would follow them throughout their academic careers and into adulthood!!

The school I was at is running an IB:PYP (International Baccalaureate: Primary Years Program) program where the values of the lessons are focused on key ideas that guided further learning and exploration. This idea really promoted the focus on the WHY are we learning this and not just HOW to do/demonstrate something. I played with many different templates and ideas with my planning and eventually came across a template that Andy Vasily talked about on his webpage .  There I found some great ideas in this post that I took back to my own practice and made this change in my planning.

However, I found that there was still something lacking, a unique and genuine connection of the WHY of movement to my central movement focus. That meaningful connection (connecting waves and light in PE to early elementary was not easy/done well). Student engagement and motivation were being developed in a purposeful way with this new planning method, I just felt that I was still missing that connection to WHY move and the development of physical literacy in my students.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 5.40.00 AM

Evolution has finally lead me to this. A unit planning process that is focused on the concepts of physical literacy and making a meaningful connection to the WHY we should be physically active. Click on the image to see more!

In 2016 I took another step in the evolution of my planning and took the direction of focusing on developing the key values behind physical literacy and connecting them to the needs of my students and cross curriculum where it could make that meaningful connection. I came across some great resources from different programs (New South Whales, Alberta Education, IB, SHAPE America, Andy Vasily and just to name a few) and put them into this planning template that focuses on working from the inside out: WHY should students be learning this concept, HOW will we know if there is learning and WHAT will take place to promote learning. In 2017 I did a webinar for the 2017 #PhysedSummit and an in-person session at ConnectedPE in Dubai which breaks down the steps of this planning process and the resources that are connected to it. You can take a look there to see how the process unfolds itself.

I have been using this template on a sample group of students this year and I think that this one is a real winner. Throughout the year I have seen some major improvements in my students understanding of WHY we should be moving and away from the WHAT do we need to do to score points. Student engagement is up and I am starting to get satisfied with my planning and how it meets the needs of my students. It has also forced me to make meaningful connections to assessment and to cut down the number of meaningless tasks that were taking movement time away from my students.

But to be completely honest, this is not the endpoint. Evolution takes time and doesn’t have an end. There will always be that lightbulb moment where you take it and adjust how you do things so that your students can achieve. You just need to be on the lookout for those moments.

Enjoy and stay moving!


Facilitating Student-Created Outcomes

One area of my professional practice I challenge myself and constantly reflect on is assessment. It is such a powerful learning tool that can not only provide timely and effective feedback but can completely enhance the learning experience of the student. Bottom line: it is one of the most powerful learning tools a professional can use and we should always be striving to make changes to enhance student learning.

In October I had the opportunity to participate in the ConnectedPE conference in Dubai (pretty much the mecca for practices to create a high quality PE program), where I had the opportunity to learn and chat with two master class presenters; Andy Vasily (@andyvasily) and Shane Pill (@pilly66). Both were presenting on their “Power of Provocation” and “Developing Game Sense” respectively and both had separate power take always. In Andy’s session we explored the power of creating exploration within the students where teachers take a step back and simply become guides, and Shane’s session explored developing sport literacy and game sense through simplifying sports/activities into its key concept and progress from there.

At first I didn’t make a connection, but that lightbulb moment came right in the middle of my masterclass session where I explored physical literacy concept planning. Pretty sure I sat there for 30s just in thought while others were looking to me to facilitate my session. I guess inspiration comes on its own time.

This is where the idea of facilitating student created outcomes was born, and the process is as simple as setting the stage, encouraging thought and sitting back and watch the students do their thing.

Template for creating Student-Designed Outcomes

Since that moment of inspiration I was using this process to help facilitate students in creating their learner outcomes for our unit of exploration. At first it took 10 minutes and a lot of mental poking and encouragement, but now the students understand WHY we are creating these outcomes and how it has enhanced their engagement and understanding in the area of exploration.

So here is how it works!

1. Focus on an area of exploration (TGfU concepts are perfect for this!). This is done by the professional as a anchor for discussion and exploration.

2. Provide some examples to start the inquiry process. For the recent “Field and Striking Unit” I provided the obvious example of baseball. From their students would brainstorm and list games similar like cricket, rounders, etc.

3. Areas of Assessment: here I would let the students know what areas I would be assessing them on in this unit (Value of Physical Education (social and affective), Motor Competency, Tactical/Critical Thinking, Motivation/Confidence)

4. Create the WHY: Key Concept all these sports/games have in common. At first, this step took the most time and was the most difficult to not give the answer right away. Watching the group go from describing a triple play in baseball to “the offensive team strikes an object to an open area of the field and attempts to run to locations to score while the defensive team needs to retrieve and place the object in a location to stop the offensive team” was a entertaining/proud/hilarious moment as most of the students have never played any field and striking sport. We may have had to go over positive classroom interactions after…

5. HOW is the game/sport played: as a group we would move from the WHY concept and develop tactics and strategies of the game we could use as we explore this unit. This is a great opportunity to remind students that if I am assessing on the Tactical/Critical Thinking domain that these outcomes would be used to assess student development and reflection. We would also revisit this area of outcomes to potentially create new outcomes that students have created as we explore the unit or remove outcomes that may not apply. These also provided excellent “hooks” to center student learning on for specific classes.

6. WHAT Skill Should be Used: now that we have the tactics of the game, Students would break down the fundamental movements needed to play the sport and the “key points” of these skills. This provided for me an opportunity to informally assess the groups knowledge of skills, and modify my teaching if the group was advanced or still in development. This also provided the students the opportunity to become involved in creating skill based rubrics if my assessment area was on motor competency for this unit.

What was the end result? A map for student discovery/development that encouraged cooperation, provides differentiation for the varying levels of students in my class, evidence of those “light bulb” moments from each student, direct student involvement in the assessment process. But for the most part, it put students directly in the driver seat for their learning and I began to witness increased personal successes and a changed perception within the students.

Student-Created Outcomes may have just changed my teaching practice, again.

Reflections of a Masterclass

Copy of What is #physicalliteracy- My Journey.png

Hello everyone!! I know, it’s been a while! I originally wanted to do a post about starting the year off on the right note but how engaging would it be to hear I’ve been playing “catch up” for eight weeks?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be a Masterclass presenter at ConnectedPE. This event was the culmination of a year-long passion project I was working on: integrating Physical Literacy into concept/inquiry-based planning. Why? Because I felt that the international student community was not being serviced properly by standards that change from school to school. Focusing on Physical Literacy benchmarks (still connecting to the standards we have to use) ensures that progression of the fundamental movement competency (physical domain), knowledge and understanding (cognitive domain), motivation and confidence (affective domain), and the passion/value of physical activity (behavioral domain) that is needed to be active for life outside of a school setting. If you are interested, check out the webinar that deconstructs this process on ConnectedPE.

Now, this post is not about that project. It’s about the powerful experience of becoming part of an amazing professional learning community that has provided me with some amazing takeaways and direction moving forward.


When my wife and I moved to Dubai in 2015, I found that there was something missing from my professional journey. For years I was engaged with the Health and Physical Education Council of Alberta (HPEC) and Ever Active Schools and they provided some amazing opportunities for professional development and connecting with others who shared the same passion. It was through these connections where I experienced the most powerful moments of professional and personal development (HUGE shout out to my HPEC/Ever Active family!!). I was fortunate enough to meet up with some of my HPEC community at the recent ConnectedPE conference in Dubai and it just re-enforced how powerful these connections can be.


For me, being part of the masterclass was not about having the cutting edge research or million dollar fix to solve the words Phys Ed problems. It was about making new connections with others who shared the same passion for movement and reconnecting with an amazing group of educators. These are the connections that help me reflect and become a more effective educator for my students.




Mark and Tracy Lockwood, Ryan Fahey and myself. The HPEC and Ever Active Schools connecting in Dubai at ConnectedPE. #CanadianConnection


For me, being part of the masterclass was not about having the cutting edge research or million dollar fix to solve the words Phys Ed problems. It was about making new connections with others who shared the same passion for movement and reconnecting with an amazing group of educators. These are the connections that help me reflect and become a more effective educator for my students.

To start off the weekend, Andy Vasily shared an amazing keynote speech about his journey and how physical activity saved him. A few weeks ago Andy reached out to me when he heard of my brothers passing and shared that he knows exactly what I was going through. The kind words and support were appreciated but I didn’t realize how deep his experience was until he shared it as a keynote speech. It was here, where Andy shared how he used physical activity to create an “armor” to protect himself from the grief and loss and how he used this to fuel his passion as an educator. It was at that moment that I didn’t feel like I was alone dealing with tragedy and that I was on the right track. Weeks leading up to the conference I was concerned that I was not handling the grief effectively and was hiding it by being active and working on some of my passion projects. Andy’s words reconfirmed the power of physical activity and that it is always there to help bring us back.



One of my favorite slides from Andy’s keynote. It really set the tone for this weekend!


From there, it was days full of sharing and collaborating. I had the first block of masterclass sessions right after Andy’s keynote and was feeling inspired. I didn’t start off my session the way I originally planned to, I demonstrated my humanity and not my expertise by sharing my recent life events, the responses and support I have received from my PE connections and how it has re-enforced WHY I am an educator. I felt that this was powerful in establishing the future connections that I would make all weekend. I was able to help inspire others through the integration of fundamental movement skills in a cooperative games unit, be the ear for others to listen to as we discussed their unique teaching situations, deconstructing the tools I have created so they can be applied in everyone’s unique teaching style and personality, but most importantly I was helping others on their journey towards personal and professional excellence.



The second-day masterclass session where I am trying not to focus on my varsity boys volleyball team playing in the semifinals right beside me!


The rest of the weekend was an amazing experience! The other masterclass presenters put on some top-notch sessions which challenged my understanding of developing game sense to promote sports literacy, the power of provocation and developing student-designed learning outcomes/benchmarks and the power of creating a program to encourage healthy living and wellness inside your school. The people who I shared this title with are truly those who are pushing the importance of quality physical education.



The rest of the weekend was an amazing experience! The other masterclass presenters put on some top-notch sessions which challenged my understanding of developing game sense to promote sports literacy, the power of provocation and developing student-designed learning outcomes/benchmarks and the power of creating a program to encourage healthy living and wellness inside your school. The people who I shared this title with are truly those who are pushing the importance of quality physical education.


Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 2.32.08 AM

Little application in my Net/Wall Games unit. Having the students develop game sense and creating their own outcomes

In the end, the most powerful takeaway from this weekend is that we are all connected. It is through this connection that we can not only support each other in achieving personal excellence, but we all can support our students in achieving their personal excellence as well. We are all in this together, rowing in the same diretion and ultimately towards the same goal; quality physical education for all of our students.


2016-2017: Year in Review

2016-2017 Year in Review.png

Well, it’s that time of year again! The end of an another school year filled with excitement, growth, challenge and of course reflection. We all do it in the final days of operation and wonder “where did the year go?” and start planning out our summer adventures.

But before I go on my first summer adventure as a new papa, let’s sit down and take a look at the successes and growth that this year offered!

Every year I always take a look at where I want to end the year off at. For example, my focus for this year was to become efficient at all the “other stuff” like communication with staff/parents, planning and creating lessons so that I can focus on why I truly love teaching: face time with the students. I wanted to avoid at all costs sitting in my office during breaks and after school working on the other stuff and not making the students at the school feel welcome and letting them know that there is someone who wants to see them every day. Sometimes I think we forget that is why we got into teaching in the first place! To accomplish this I had to get a few things in place/challenges to overcome/curve balls thrown…


I spoke in my midyear reflection about going paperless and embracing the Google machine and all the bells and whistles that came with it. As I began to use products like Chrome, Google classroom, google docs, google forms, calendar and many other applications and add-ons it allowed me to provide a sense of connection to my students in a virtual sense. This was a great way to start with effective and student-centered communication as it made it easier for me to contact students and vice versa. In a world of instant messenger and chatting apps, this was something that the students responded very well to. They had the ability to have their lessons at the fingertips on their smartphone or they could collaborate on a concept and learn with their peers reinforcing the power of collaboration and peer teaching. The uses that Google presents to the teachers and students are so vast it is difficult to keep up with all the positives that came by using them!

With anything, there are also negatives. This also made it too easy to contact me and to separate my professional life from my personal life (I know, it’s hard to distinguish the two as an educator!).  I often found that work could easily influence my personal life which would go against my strict rule of  “no work at home”.  Throughout the year I had to develop different systems and procedures for students that would eliminate the need for them to email or post at 1:30 am about their assignment. One strategy that worked well was having students identify the urgency of the situation. Many of you have seen the Eisenhower Box where we are asked to label a situation as based on its urgency or importance.


Here is the example that I used with the students. When I had the conversation of necessity vs waste and how many of the students get instantly stuck in the area of waste because they are misidentifying their priorities. Some very powerful conversations were had with students and this had a lasting effect on students prioritizing their work.


When I set this goal, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a simple “one and done” situation. If you have ever taught internationally, you know that it is a completely different experience than teaching in a school that has been around forever with staff that helped place the first brick of the foundations that the school runs off of. With international teaching, it is a very fluent dynamic which offers a variety of different experiences and resources but I found that it lacked a sense of solid culture that was preventative and encourages wellness within its students. It is very easy to focus on academic content and consistency when there is a fluid movement of staff, and the students figured this out quite easily. 

Throughout the year I had various successes and a few set backs when trying to establish a community of wellness within the the grade 9 students at the school. One tool I used was our homeroom program for our grade 9 students. I used many different activities (monthly homeroom challenges and wellness activity assemblies which focused on simply just playing and working as a community) but found that it did not have the effects that I was hoping for. Often students were hesitant because they were not held accountable. I remember one conversation I had with a student and they described how easy it was for a student to not do their work or participate in a community activity at our FIRST WELLNESS ASSEMBLY!! This conversation resonated with me throughout the year as it pointed to a larger issue, a lack of accountability because we lack empowerment to engage and hold students accountable. It was clear that you need a team of champions to demonstrate a passion that students can learn from and this changed the direction I was heading for the remainder of the year.

If you work in education you know how busy it is! So how could I have the homeroom team become part of the process without putting more of a burden on them? This year we have been working with Russle Quaglia and one resource we walked away with was a framework for building school community with a positive student voice. This framework is structured to be delivered easily, with limited prep and fits our needs perfectly. With a few additional ideas around activity and mindfulness added in by me I started to see a small progressive change towards this sense of community that we were lacking. This gives me a solid foundation to work off of moving forward next year!!


Next year I have the opportunity to continue the great work I started building and creating a school culture with our awesome administrative and GLC team. We still have a long road ahead in terms of improving and getting our culture where it needs to be, but all of use are in it to ensure our students are successful! I am super excited about the policies and programs we have constructed for the 2017-2018 school year that will promote the development of respectful, mindful, balanced and community focused student body. There will be more on that as it rolls out!

I hope that everyone has a relaxing and empowering summer break! We have all deserved it!

What is #PhysicalLiteracy: My Journey

What is #physicalliteracy- My Journey

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I last posted, I swear that it is for a good reason #HereComesTheExcuses.

Recently I was giving a presentation at a #teachmeet here in Dubai (you should follow this on twitter @dxb_pe) and I spoke about Physical Literacy and its role in assessment in Physical Education. When I looked at the crowd I was a bit took back by the “what are you talking about” looks I was receiving from the crowd. Did I just toss out a buzzword to these people?

To be honest when I first heard of physical literacy I thought just that. Great, another buzzword that has been thrown into the realm of physical education. Probably just another way to integrate reading and writing into a course that should be focusing on developing an understanding of a quality active lifestyle, movement competency, motivate to be active and develop social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. As it turns out, physical literacy is just that.

So what is Physical Literacy?

The concept of physical literacy all started with someone doing a bit of research and looking for a way to create a high-quality physical education culture. In 2001 Margret Whitehead introduced this concept and since then it has been picking up momentum throughout the physical education and active living world.

There have been many different definitions of physical literacy (just google it and you will see), but this one is one of my top five:

Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life” -Whitehead, 2016

Looking at the definition physical literacy is not just about being a gifted athlete, it is about being able to be active for life and understand its benefits and applications. The only thing I would add to that definition is to include a variety of environments and activity contexts. Physical literacy does not just take place in a gymnasium or fitness center, it can be seen everywhere!

How Can Physical Literacy Impact My Physical Education Program?

Physical Literacy has the potential to have a huge impact on your program. It has the potential to be integrated into your planning and curriculum delivery, assessment and communication with students, and the way that the school community can perceive the value of your program and its importance. This is all possible because physical literacy is a concept, not curriculum. It provides PE programs the endpoint that can help guide them to creating and developing a quality program that meets the needs of its students and school community.

With this in mind and the Whitehead’s definition of physical literacy, a quality program should strive to create individuals who have the motivation, confidence, competence, knowledge and understanding to continue on their own physical literacy journey when they leave. It’s almost like having the baby birds leave the nest, you develop the ability for them to be successful without your guidance.


This concept directs all of my planning by keeping the big picture in mind. It helps me plan units and lessons that effectively develop the students ability to be physically literate (please note that this does not mean the physical skills, there is MUCH more to it than that). When I started to initially look at how could I work backwards from end result and structure benchmarks that could guide my development and progression of lessons I got a little frightened. This turned out to be a HUGE task and I was not sure how I could make that happen. Thankfully I came across this framework from the NSW Education out of Australia: Physical Literacy Continumm

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.19.22 PM

Click on the link above to get a eyes friendly version, or just use a magnifying glass…

Taking a look at this framework really helped me further my understanding of this concept of physical literacy. It considers the developmental needs of the students and provides some great benchmarks to ensure that when the students leave the program that they are capable on completing their physical literacy journey after their school years. Since being introduced to this framework I have been using it to create developmental goals for the students and also to develop ways to introduce remedial physical literacy development for those students who are demonstrating gaps in their development.


Integrating the concept of physical literacy has also had a huge impact on the way I look at assessment for my students. I has caused me to be reflective and to create the goal that each assessment method should be helping students develop the tools they need to continue their physical literacy journey, not just tell the student what they can and cannot do. This has been tricky for assessment in PE because in the past it has been very skill and participation focused, qualities that are simple to assess. Physical Literacy offers a much more comprehensive way to assess where a student is at in their journey by taking a look at four domains:

  • Physical Domain (Physical Competence)
    • Fundamental skills development
    • Fundamental skill performance
    • Tactics
    • Development of Physical Fitness
  • Affective Domain (Motivation and Confidence)
    • Confidence
    • Fun and Enjoyment
    • Motivation
    • Persistence and Independence
  • Cognitive Domain (Knowledge and Understanding)
    • Understanding of skills and context
    • How to perform
    • Use of tactics
    • Knowledge of activity contexts
  • Behavioral Domain (Engagement in Physical Activity)
    • Cooperation and collaboration
    • Leadership
    • Communication
    • Inclusion/Teamwork

There is a metric ton of great research out there and each piece offers a different view on the domains of physical literacy development. In my journey I have used the concepts from Dr. Dean Dudley, Dr. Vicki Goodyear, and my good buddy Dr. Doug Gleddie to help  design my own framework of the domains and their qualities based on the developmental needs of my students. This framework will be used to help guide assessment practices and challenge the students to take part in the assessment process and not just the subject.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

I have to say that at this point I am more than excited to bring this understanding and integrate it into my practice with a new group of students next year. Designing the learning journey with the students, fully integrating this concept into the activity selection and structure and having the students be an active part of the assessment process and creating quality tools to communicate where they are at in their physical literacy journey actually makes me feel giddy! Ultimately, this will help create the physical literacy culture that we need to compliment the academic literacy and social/emotional literacy development that is already happening here!

And of course, I am excited to share this with you!! Thought I forgot about you didn’t you?

WHY We Need Quality Health and Physical Education in Junior High/Middle Schools

Why we need quality HPE.png

First off, I would like to apologise in advance for this post. Usually I attempt to provide some tools and tips to help improve instructional practice and program development, and today I am not going to do that. I am not going to talk about the HOW but the WHY, why we need to have quality Health and Physical Education specifically for in junior high and middle school students.

Too often we focus on how to do something. How am I going to assess students? How am I going to communicate progress with students and parents? How am I going to develop a quality physical education experience for the students. Before we approach the how we need to address the why, why should we have quality Health and Physical Education programs for our junior high/middle school students. Its simple, with a high quality program and experience comes the motivation, confidence and competence to find the joy in an active lifestyle.

Recently Doug Gleddie and I have been having chats about finding the joy in physical activity. Often we would reflect on our own personal journeys through physical literacy and often it comes down to a positive experience that we had during our teenage/pre-teen years. As humans, we are born with the inherit desire to move and be active. Baby Ferguson cannot wait to get moving around, her favorite thing to do is pull herself up and stand and try to move with us. So what happens to this desire of movement, where is teh disconnect happening that makes many teenagers and adults dread having to perform physical feats? I believe that this desire to move might have something to do with our experiences.

These experiences are influenced by not just our families but also our educational experiences. I can proudly speak that the PE programming that my junior high school teachers Mr. Fiveland and Mr. Damone provided all of us yahoos in that small rural school drastically influenced our outlook on developing a healthy lifestyle even though we fought them every step of the way. They knew that helping us to understand why physical activity is joyful before we became young adults was the most important job they had. These two educators created an environment that was engaging, challenging, reflective and most of all fun. We truly understood why we were there and how it can impact our ability to be healthy and physically y active.


A lot of the running that happened here was from the principal…

If you have done any research on the development of physical literacy, you may have come across the Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD) that Canadian Sport for Life has published and has been used as the framework for developing many of our Canadian sport and athletic programs. In their research they make a statement that the between the years of 9-16 for males and 8-15 for females (the Learn to Train and Train to Train stages) are the most important years for creating a competent and physically literate individual who has the enduring understanding of what a healthy lifestyle is and the motivation to continue to develop a healthy and active lifestyle.

I believe that this is the same for developing the enduring understanding, motivation and competence in health and physical education. Why wouldn’t it be? Supportive and positive academic behaviours such as studying, classroom behaviour and learning styles are solidified in the same age group and follow the individual throughout their lifetime.

With this in mind, it is important that we are creating a climate and culture in our health and physical education setting that encourages students to not only test their physical limitations. We need to move away from delivering content and the how to be active and healthy and have more student engagement into the why we should be active and healthy. We can easily frame this into our programming by purposefully planning for it. TGFu and inquiry based learning have been great frameworks for pushing the WHY but we need to have a sense of purpose, a set of values and mission statement that helps keep us focused from just developing skills to developing understandings.

Ultimately, we need to help change the mindset in the health and physical education community. We need to strive to create inclusive learning environments that celebrates the students individual learning needs and strive for the WHY  understanding. If we miss these students during these critical years, we may have lost them forever and getting them back is a struggle. It’s time to change mindsets and not settle for old methods and traditional health and physical education.

But don’t take it from me, just take a look at #hatepe on twitter and the students will tell you WHY we need to have quality health and physical education for our students.

What is Your Purpose: Anthony De Giorgio

This year I decided to step outside of my comfort zone with my professional development and networking, I decided to fully embrace my use of Twitter. I have had my twitter account since 2010 but never really used it until I witnessed the potential that it has at the ConnectedPE conference. The way you can network, share ideas and inspire others is truly awesome!
One connection I have made since embracing twitter is Anthony De Giorgio (@adegiorgioPE). Based out the the Bahamas in a MYP IB programmed school, this has not stopped us in having some awesome 140-characters-at-a-time conversations revolving around quality health and physical education, development of physical literacy, learning throughout all domains and also the importance of quality professional development. 

This fellow abroad Canadian has helped provide me with some great insight into the framework of a high quality HPE program, assessment and promoting Physical Literacy. Hopefully we get a chance to catch up at the Branksome Hall MYP sessions taking place at the end of July! But for now, I did manage to track him down to share some of his insights for What is Your Purpose…

What am I passionate about?

My greatest passion is definitely about the holistic power of health. I truly believe that understanding why and how to put your health first allows you to live your life to the fullest potential and get the most out of every day. Most people would think the word ‘health’ refers to fitness or nutrition, but it is so much more than that. It keeps us physically moving & away from the doctor, it provides us with purpose and direction both socially and emotionally and helps us be more productive both in our professional and personal lives. I was lucky enough to have parents who from before my first steps made movement, activity and (by such) health a priority. I hope to instill these same values in my daughter and future children as well as my students so that their relationship with health allows them to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life. 

Why do I do what I do?

I believe that my job as a teacher and coach serves the purpose of the greater good, which is to shape my students to become quality human beings who see the value in being a caring global citizen. As a HPE teacher, we teach our students the ‘how’ and ‘why’ about health and set them up to be healthy, active adults who lead a positive lifestyle and can ultimately take full control of their lives. Understanding the value and importance in prioritizing one’s personal health is a pre-requisite for anybody before they can help others. Only then can we become facilitators in other’s lives and begin to affect the greater good I previously mentioned. We have such a great chance to positively change the lives of our students and serve not only their individual needs, but also our societal needs. 

If you haven’t done so already, you need to follow Anthony on twitter at @adegiorgioPE. Thanks for taking the time to share with others your passion for quality health and physical education!

Developing an Assessment Framework


Word Of Caution: This is a LOOOOONG post so better go get a coffee/water, maybe a snack and possibly have a bathroom break before we start.

Assessment, everyones favorite topic! If you want to get a heated conversation going in your staff meetings or department, just say this magic word and watch the show. It is the one things that everyone wants to do correctly, but it terrifies everyone. Assessment is such an important part of the education process and when used correctly it can help guide instruction planning and ultimately learning in your program.

Let’s be honest, when you start thinking about assessment you kind of start to get this image in your mind…


Yes, we all make that face when we start thinking of assessment framework

Assessment isn’t scary and it shouldn’t be seen as explaining quantum mechanics. Quality assessment follows the 5 C’s (yep, I added one of my own terms!):

-students, parents and teachers should know how they are assessed and the methods behind it
-assessment expectations should be clearly understood and identifiable
-should be easily identifiable and evident in your practice

-should be used to encourage student learning rather than a final judgement
-should be part of instruction done in a variety of contexts, using varied methods and instruments that match the specific outcomes
-should be part of an ongoing process rather than a set of isolated events, often at the end of a unit or term

-should address the curricular outcomes and include a variety of strategies that meet the diverse learning needs of students
-should be developmentally appropriate; e.g., age and gender appropriate, and consider cultural needs and students’ special needs
-should be constructive, focusing on student strengths, and encourage further learning by creating positive atmospheres and positive self-images

-should engage students so they will become more responsible for their own learning and develop a positive attitude toward leading an active and healthy lifestyle
-should help to make students feel competent and successful related to their own physical abilities and encourage them to set goals for further improvements
-should involve parents, and possibly the community, to different degrees and at different times.

-based on the general and specific outcomes/standards of the curriculum
-identify the critical aspects of performance that describe, in specific terms, what is involved in demonstrating student learning
-should include students in identifying and/or creating the criteria
-should be communicated to students so that they know what the target is in relation to grade-specific outcomes
-should ensure communication, prior to and throughout instruction, to both parents and –students about the criteria the teacher is looking for that are important at that particular time.

So now the big question is how can we apply these qualities into realistic assessment in your Physical Education program? It is actually much easier than you think (especially if you are using standards/outcomes like the ones from SHAPE America). To start this process you first need to create an assessment framework that will help guide, organize and communicate your assessment practice.

Step One: Find your ROCKS, PEBBLES and SAND


Yes, even your assessment framework can look as nice as the jar one right when everything is put in the right order!

If you are using standards/outcomes you will notice one thing from the very beginning, THERE ARE A LOT. That might be why you start to get the image of numbers and symbols everywhere and a very confused look (see earlier meme for reference). To help make things CLEAR and COMPREHENSIVE you need to start by organizing your standards/outcomes into ROCKS, PEBBLES and SAND.

ROCKS are your central ideas and concepts essential to your program. These are the concepts that support the WHY behind physical education and physical literacy, WHY it is valuable and WHY you will use these skills throughout your physical literacy journey. These rocks provide a strong foundation for future assessment tools, communication of learning to parents and a solid foundation for assessment OF/FOR/AS learning.

An example of what ROCKS in your assessment framework can look like could be based of the core concepts of physical literacy. Connecting the general outcomes/standards of your curriculum can be pretty simple, just connect the concepts that best match the requirements behind the standards and outcomes. Not only do you create a foundation of your assessment framework, but you have already started creating student friendly language that will help them understand assessment in your PE program.


Just taking a boulder and making it into smaller rocks…

PEBBLES are pieces of your ROCKS made into smaller, specific pieces to help make assessment COLLABORATIVE and COMPREHENSIVE. Telling students that they are being assessed on their movement competencies is one thing, but further breaking that down to specific concepts further helps communicate to the students WHAT it looks like and WHAT is involved. Creating smaller pieces of a rock definitely makes it more manageable and easy to integrate into your assessment tools and an easily fit into your framework when they have been changed into student friendly language.

I have always found that when I have my concepts clearly organized and set in front of me, it always answers the question of WHY am I assessing and WHAT is being assessed. When I can easily answer that question, so can the students and they now know what qualities are being assessed and can provide feedback for future learning and a potential reflection.


Rocks are much easier to manage when broken down into smaller pebbles

SAND is connecting the specific standards/outcomes to the concepts that build the foundation and supports of your assessment framework. This piece helps make your assessment framework CRITERIA BASED and guides assessment FOR/OF/AS learning in your your classroom.

Just like when you play with sand, it can get a bit messy. Connecting all the specific standards/outcomes to your concepts will take some time but is totally work it in the long run. Connecting the specific standards not only help you create criteria based assessments, it will help you in creating the specific assessment tools that you will use in class.


When I am doing this, I pretend that its like Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity. Just need to find the right match for my audience.

So, now you have gone through and taken your huge boulder of standards and outcomes, broken it down into rocks, made those rocks smaller and more manageable and filled the gaps with your sand, you could potentially have a product that looks like this. This assessment framework not only helps you turn assessing all this criteria into manageable pieces, but it easily communicates to students and parents WHAT is being assessed and HOW to guide their learning journey.


Proof that an assessment framework CAN BE REAL

Ummm, you missed something…

Who caught something that I didn’t cover? There is something that I left out on purpose (not like that time I was building that swing set, that was an accident).

What about CONTINUOUS…

Now that we have an assessment framework designed and can be used to easily communicate to students, staff and parents. The assessment journey doesn’t stop there. From your framework you can now design specific assessment tools that are CRITERIA BASED, COLLABORATIVE, COMPREHENSIVE and CLEAR, for assessment to be CONTINUOUS it needs to be integrated into your planning process.But that is another post for another day…


What is Your Purpose: Robert McLeod


Rob is a motivational speaker and frisbee ambassador with 6 Guinness World Records and 10 World Championships! He is frequently asked to come into schools to speak to students and run frisbee workshops. This year he will be on the panel at the YYC Fit and will be presenting at the Alberta HPEC/GEOC conference coming in May!

Rob has also created a challenge called Unplugg’d ( to inspire kids to spend less time in front of their screens and more time with friends and family playing and moving (kind of how we use to play back in the day…). You should definitely take a look at his site!


Take a look at Rob in action here!

Why I Do What I Do?
“I have been teaching kids since I was 10 years old – 24 years now. What started as figure skating then became golf, soccer, hockey, swimming and now frisbee. I am a literacy champion and my main focus is on character education through emotional, physical and digital literacy. I see too many people saying what kids shouldn’t do rather than saying what they can do instead.”
“I love to connect with kids. I love learning more about what is happening and incorporating data into my speaking. I have an engineering and entrepreneurial mind so everything I do is about problem solving, finding a niche, doing whatever it takes to get the job done and surrounding myself with people who are similar to me. I love to connect people who I believe will add value to each other’s lives and I love seeing the impact that my work has on kids.”
What Motivates Me to Do What I Do?
“My main motivation comes from knowing that there is so much potential with my messages to have an impact on kids. I feel as though a torch has been passed to me by my mentors and friends and it’s my duty to ensure that I work hard to make sure I fulfill my destiny. I feel strongly that I’m on the path I’m meant to be on or I’m at least getting closer and closer to being on that path. I try to be open to opportunities, I work hard to create and I do my best to be aware of signs the universe gives me. Sometimes it can be small things; other times it’s much bigger. The more I learn, the more I grow and the more I create, the more clear things become and start to unfold in front of my eyes. Learning how to look past the fads, the marketing and the misconceptions has enabled me to get to the core of what matters, what works and what will have an impact.”

The Art of Going Paperless


Just a fair warning, this may come across as an advertisement but I assure you that I am not receiving any funds for promoting these products. One can only wish right?

In my first post I spoke about the professional challenge I took this year fully implementing technology throughout my professional practice. To be completely honest, IT WAS TERRIFYING!! There was a huge learning curve involved and huge risks involved that could potentially create a huge mob of students, parents and teachers carrying pitchforks and wanting to burn me at the stake. Being the risk taker that I am, I fully embraced this change, fought the fights I had to and in the end I found that i did reach my goal for this change: student engagement and success increased and my professional efficiency went through the roof .


When taking on any challenge, I always needed to have an endpoint and start my planning backwards from there. Initially, I wanted to approach this challenge for one reason: I have a baby coming any day now and I need to find a way to be as efficient as I can as an educator and to make time to take on my priority role of being a father. My secondary goal was to find a platform that would promote student engagement, accountability and enhance learning in my courses.

I found that keeping these goals in mind really kept me on track when I began implimenting these changes and the challenges that came with them. I knew from the beginning that I had to really understand the WHY behind this huge challenge that I set ahead of me. Without the why it has a 90% chance of failure and I knew that the stakeholders in this experiement have zero expectations of failure.


That was a question that took me all summer to research and plan for (and you guys thought I just travelled around playing slopitch all summer, fooled you!). There are a million-and-one online tools out there for educators and it is not an easy choice to commit to just one platform. When I was looking for just the right platform I had a few key qualities in mind:

  • Ease of access to teachers, students and parents: For this to be sucsessful, all three of these groups needed to have ease of access. It had to be streamlined enough for students to effectivly use it to collaborate, be informed of their assessments and help keep them organized. Parents had to have easy access to this so that they were informed of what is going on and they could also support their children from home by having the required materials for those pesky lessons that students may struggle with. I also needed to be able to effectivly manage the platform so that it was organized (OCD here) and that it could be navigated effectivly by students no matter their experience with tech.
  • Seemless use over multiple devices: My philosophy is that if you have it, use it. If a student has a smartphone, why not teach them that they can use it instead of enforcing an archaic rule that phones should not be in class. The platform that I needed had to be easily usable on any device that the student could bring into the classroom
  • K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Silly): I think its rediculous when you have to login to an account, be redirected to another site, have to login with a different account and then use a different program or software to create a product. The simpler the platform, the easier it is for me to teach the students how to use it and we can move on to the actual learning

In the end, I made the decision to use Google Classroom and their suite of sweet apps and programs (Chrome, Docs, Sheets, Slides, ect). I will admit, there are some flaws with this platform but the benefits greatly outweigh its drawbacks!


  • it can get really messy REALLY fast: With its “Facebook Timeline” style of structure it can easily communicate information but that information can easily get lost in a growing and never ending list of announcements, assignments and discussions. But it is easy to keep things organized in a growing list of chaos. There is a really neat feature where you can add topics to your classroom. These topics can be used to organize assessments, daily announcements and other items so that students can easily access the applicable material.
  • if you are going to commit to it, you might as well commit all the way: Google works best with google and there are some hiccups with other products (like Keynote, Publisher, ect). Some students got hung up on using some of these programs and would submit work that was google classroom was not able to open. It took some time and procedures in place but slowly the students started to figure it out. All it took was a lot of patience and some support to help the process along!
  • Multiple Platforms for Multiple Classes: this was an issue I did not see coming until I was in the middle of the semester and students started complaining about “I have to login to here for this class, login to there for this class and use this for this class”. Obviously out of one teachers control, but anyone can tell you that consistency is key for changes to take place and become common place practice. If you or your school is looking to explore the realm of going paperless, make sure that you all are using the same platform for the students sanity. We forget that they are just little adults and how much work they actually do have on their plate. Its suppose to make things easier, not more confusing.

In short, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze! When I started using the platform and had the students trained and educated on how to work the system I witnessed the quality of learning go through the roof!!

Untitled drawing.jpgBenefits

  • student collaboration and accountability levels went through the roof: I’m a firm believer that if a teacher established clear structures of student accountability in their class, the quality of learning will drastically increase. Simply put, when they care about the subject manner and are given high/realistic expectations to meet, they will rise above and demonstrate their learning with pride. Using google classroom it easily made students accountable for submitting and completing their work. To avoid the “well I didn’t know” response I started to put my lesson plans and resources on a daily announcement called “What We Did in Class” and this ended that age old excuse. Students get notification right to their devices and emails when I make these announcements so unless they actually go out of their way to avoid the message, they are on page for what went on in my class (minus the lip syncing and dancing usually takes place). If students are actively avoiding the message, then that is a whole other conversation that provides a great opportunity to communicate to the student the value of these announcements
  • Assessment FOR and AS Learning was given a home: this year I really wanted to make assessment for and as learning a physical presence in my classroom through formative assignments, concept work and discussion on google classroom. Linking all of this work to the “Assessments” tab gave the students clear access to what they need to complete to document their learning and development journey. In terms of using this in a Physical Education context, this is a great place for SPORTFOLIOS: a documentation of the journey to developing movement competency and development, understanding of physical activity contexts, developing the motivation to continue an active lifestyle and to document their understanding of the importance and value of physical education. This will be covered in a future post when I finalize this process so stay tuned!
  • Did I mention that communication with students and parents is easy: students and parents now can easily know exactly what is going on in class, how they have done on their assessments, can get direct feedback on their formative assessments and can easily contact the teacher for feedback. This has made my life so much easier!!
  • I have never been this efficient: I feel that my preparation time and instructional time is as efficient as it has ever been. There is no more taking time to hand out papers, kids just open up the links and away they go! Need to make a change to a document, you can do it live and the students have the newest edition just as soon as you have finished it! My ultimate goal was to be more efficient to spend more time with my new family and this has definitely happened!

So, now that you have read this and hear my story of going paperless I have a question for you: what is stopping you? Take it from me, it has been the best professional decision I have made for me and my students!

Until next time, take risks and stay active my friends!