Elementary PE teachers collaborate to make remote lessons accessible to all

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After the 2019-20 school year ended, Westerville elementary physical education teachers came together to review their approach to teaching virtually for the first time.

Even though they received positive feedback from families, they wanted to do more. So they pooled their resources slated for updating their class equipment to purchase video recording gear.

The plan: Collaborate to design and produce video lessons that make PE accessible to all students. 

“While there are so many different and tremendous resources created by national organizations and PE teachers across the country, we felt it was important that our students receive content from someone that was connected to their interests and needs,” said Michael Henderson, who teaches physical education to grades 1-5 at Hawthorne Elementary.

“We wanted to come around our families just as these families came around us in the spring of last year. We wanted to provide quality instruction despite the challenges. We wanted to ensure all our learners had the opportunity to learn, grow and achieve.”

Before the start of the school year, PE teachers across the district’s 15 elementary schools gathered to map out what they wanted students to learn and how they were going to teach it remotely. They created lessons that showcase the proper technique, offer low and high modifications based on students’ fitness levels, and take into account the equipment they may or may not have at home.

A unit on juggling, for example, shows teachers using scarves while a lesson on strengthening the lower body features teachers demonstrating body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, wall sits and tuck jumps.

“It has been difficult to try to create material that encompassed a lot of the actions we would normally work on in our classrooms, especially considering the space that is available for students, their safety, their time, and their equipment,” Henderson said. “Despite these challenges, there has not been an assignment we have delivered that I have felt was unachievable or out of reach of our students.” 

So far, teachers have met five times this year to record the videos, which range from four to 15 minutes in length. They have amassed at least a dozen recorded lessons, from teaching students how to take their pulse and measure their heart rate to covering the basics of overhead and underhand throwing motions. 

The videos serve as a “pre-lesson,” said Alisa Franklin, who teaches PE for kindergarten students at Hawthorne and all students at Pointview Elementary. 

“We’re trying to teach the background information so that when we do get to see them, we can hit on it a little bit more so they have a better understanding of it,” she said.

Elementary PE teachers have collaborated in the past during district-wide teacher training days, but not quite like this. 

“We’ve had wavier days where we’ve sat and talked, but this is the first time where we’ve truly been able to collaborate and work together,” Franklin said. “It has been amazing.” 

Henderson said his relationships with other elementary PE teachers has deepened through this experience. 

“I'm excited to see how this period of collaboration will extend into future school years — how our curriculum changes in the long term and how we can continue to support each other as we and the world around us continue to change and grow,” he said.