How Do You Integrate Other Subjects into PE?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

We teach physical education. With that being said, we have a plethora of state and national standards that guide our instruction. Those standards steer us as we work toward our goal of helping students gain confidence in a variety of skills with the ultimate goal of becoming lifetime movers!

However, there has been an academic shift in recent years. More and more administrators are looking for academic standards to be taught in gymnasiums. Some even expect them to be integrated at the expense of movement time.

When you plan your lessons, are you required to integrate classroom content/standards?

I am fortunate to work for an administration that does not require integration of other subjects into our PE classes. We have a mutual understanding that we can celebrate where those classroom connections naturally exist but not force them to take place.

There are several natural connections where PE and classroom content can be easily connected without compromising movement time. Some examples include:

Fitness Tag – In most tag activities, a handful of people (taggers) are chasing other students who are trying to avoid being tagged. You can rename the taggers to be hawks and those being chased to be field mice. The mice are simply trying to get away from the hawks. You now have a predator/prey relationship that directly relates to science standards. All you have to do to create this is to change the names of the participants.

Clean Your Room – In this activity, the students are divided in half. Each group sits on opposite sides of the gym with a ton of foam or yarn balls spread out on the floor. Upon a signal to go, the students can move around their half of the gym, collect objects, and throw/toss them to the other side. The goal is to have the least amount of objects on your side. You can incorporate math by using estimation at the end of each round. You can also incorporate science by renaming the foam balls “water” and the students “clouds.” In the water cycle, water collects as surface water (i.e., foam balls spread out on the gym floor). With the help of the sun, the surface water evaporates, condenses, and becomes clouds (i.e., a student picks up a foam ball). When the cloud gets enough water that it cannot hold it any longer, it then precipitates/rains (i.e., the student throws their foam balls to the other side). The objective of this activity is to make it “rain” on the other side!

Make It Take It – I previously shared this activity in an article that focused on activities with variations and levels. One of the variations of this activity is to have the partner who is waiting on their turn sort the objects. They can sort them by color, shape, or organize them into a bar graph.

Design Your Own Lesson Plan – This collaborative activity allows the students to use the Engineering Design Process to write a lesson plan. We then select and teach from a handful of their plans.

Vote for Your Favorite PE Activity – Once or twice a year, we allow the students to vote for their favorite large group activity. We then select the top vote getter to use during their next PE class. This process provides for connections to the social studies standards about voting.

In the Hoop – This activity allows the students to move around the gym as they meander around hula hoops that have been scattered on the floor. When the music stops, the teacher will call out a number and a body part. For instance, the teacher may say, “Six hands in a hoop.” The students then work together to organize six hands in a hoop. The students are counting, sorting, and using mental math.

Math Detectives – This activity allows the students to pair up and sit around the perimeter of the gym. The students take turns moving to get an object using a variety of locomotor movements. Partner number one will move to the center of the gym and retrieve a number. Meanwhile, the partner who is waiting will look at their gathered numbers and try to find a sequence of numbers (i.e., 1-10) or make simple math equations with imaginary signs (i.e., 347 would be 3+4=7).

Pattern Detectives – Same as Math Detectives, except partner number one will retrieve a bagel (i.e., sliced pool noodle). The partner who is waiting will look at the various colors of their bagels and try to make a pattern (i.e., RBRB, or YYGGYYGGYY, etc.).

Word Detectives – Same as Math Detectives, except partner number one will retrieve a letter. The partner who is waiting will look at their gathered letters and try to find a sequence of letters (i.e., A-M) or make words. We let the students choose between trying to find the most words, the longest word, and the most unique word.

Individual Jump Rope (IJR) – When teaching IJR, you can talk about gravity. You can explain how every time you jump up that gravity wins by pulling you back down to the ground. You can also discuss how the rope revolves around you like the earth revolves around the sun.

What natural connections have you found where PE and classroom content can be easily connected without compromising movement time?


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