An Idea for Phys-Ed

I love phys-ed.

I love the enthusiasm (most) children exhibit in finally having the shackles of desks, chairs, pencils, and paper abandoned for movement and sweating. I revel in the way the gym makes you feel comfortable to shout to the high heavens and escape the silence we too often demand in our classrooms. Most of all, I admire the way we accept very progressive ideas about assessment, evaluation, and achievement; no other subject has been doing observational assessment and instant feedback as a rule rather than a novelty.

I hate phys-ed. class.

I hate the seemingly immovable paradigm of ‘gym’ class. I crouch over when I think about the subtle ways we marginalize physical education in the big picture. I dislike the omnipresent gender issues that creep up when boys play with girls. Finally, I dislike the way ‘sports’ in gym class alienates many kids and causes them to literally and figuratively drop-out of gym.

As a (small ‘g’) gym teacher, I always try my best to make our physical education program as active, relevant, engaging, and equitable as possible. I’m really the furthest thing you can get to an impassioned expert in this area (and most days I would be embarrassed about the mistakes I make as a teacher in that gym), but I try my best. Here’s an idea I came up with that has been a rousing success.

We call it The Obstacle Course. In partners, students design a course that is:

  • fun
  • tests a variety of fine and gross motor movement skills
  • includes everyone
  • has everyone moving at all times

It has been so wonderful to see everyone step up and take leadership in my classes. No stickers or raffle tickets needed. These kids are trying their best to make a course that impresses the most important evaluators: their peers. In terms of assessment and feedback, it has been phenomenal. Think about it:

  1. I design a game
  2. I talk to all of you about it
  3. You tell me how I think it could be improved
  4. We play the game
  5. As we play, I notice things that work, and things that should be changed
  6. We make changes as we play
  7. You learn from my game and make yours better

The play and outright exercise has been fantastic, but it has been perhaps more special to see the collaboration and constant feedback in the gym.

If you’re stuck for an idea, try this one out. Here is the organizer I gave kids in the planning stages. Let me know how it goes.



  1. Thank you for posting this! I primarily teach science, but this year a class of gym was added each morning for me. Fun! A little difficult the first year. So, I appreciate your idea, and I will be trying it next week!

  2. Hey,

    Tech guru meets HPE guru = learning!

    Just discovered your blog! (Yes… on a Friday night of a long weekend…. energized from BPC11!)

    This post caught my eye… from one Physical Education expert to another Physical Education expert (not ‘Gym’ expert because we all know you don’t teach how to build gymnasiums….) what a great way to promote game appreciation with your students!

    There is so much you can build and foster from this activity. Wonder if you go back to your students and dissect how this obstacle course can build:
    (Movement skills & Concepts) + (Movement Strategies) = MOVEMENT COMPETENCE

    A whole unit in itself….. let’s work to put the Education back into the Physical!

    Happy ‘moving’!

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