Lately there has been much discussion about winning and losing. Most often the argument for competition in sports is the fact that there is so much competition in real life.
While the above statement is certainly true, we must remember that physical education is not sports or teams. The goal of physical education is to provide our students with the knowledge and skills to become life long movers. When we focus on competitive sports, we focus on our youth who are all ready skilled athletes. These are our students who really do not need us as much as the ones who may eventually end up as couch potatoes. Those students who are not physically gifted will not enjoy being chosen last, put down, or forced to participate in contests that they are not ready for.
The other subject areas are focused on curriculum, which supposedly allows all students to succeed if they work hard. We should do the same.
While we know that not all students have equal aptitude in Math or English, their marks are not based on competing against one another, but rather showing an ability to master the subject material. Now you may say: "Ok so let's mark our students on how successful they perform just like the other subject areas." But marking purely on performance would not be prudent. Why? Remember our goal of reaching all students, particularly the ones who would become non-movers. Colleges do not care whether a student can shoot foul shots or throw a ball accurately-unless they are on a team. Colleges do care about reading and math, and may soon care about the fitness level of their incoming class. We care about fitness and health for all. Therefore, our curriculum and grading should be based on conceptual knowledge and willingness to enjoy participation in physical activities.
Games in physical education classes should enable all students to participate actively, while at the same time increase their skills, knowledge, and/or fitness. Individual challenges and small-sided games both work exceptionally well because they are student centered rather than activity centered. Challenges like: "how many times can you hit a target in two minutes?" gives each individual student the opportunity to work at their own challenge level, particularly if you allow them to vary their distance from the target. Five 3 versus 3 soccer games rather than one large game of line soccer allows all students to be active at the same time and takes the focus away from winning and losing, especially if you keep changing the team members. Many of the games I play either do not keep score, or allow the students to keep their own score. Teachers are sometimes afraid that their students will cheat if they are not watched. However, remember, as a teacher, your responsibility is to teach, not to referee or keep score. By allowing the students to keep their own score, you are now free to move around the play area helping individuals and groups. Most students will not cheat in this situation, and if they do, almost no one really cares. If you happen to catch someone cheating, you could certainly have a good discussion about honesty and sportsmanship. For those students who are athletically gifted and/or love to compete, look for opportunities in your community for leagues and recreational play. There may even be recreational after-school programs for these students.
Here is what Todd Keating, an outstanding teacher in Naperville, Illinois, had to say about winning and losing:
This topic reminded me an important turning point in my career that I
believe made me a much better teacher. One day after finishing a
competitive large group game with my 4th graders I was disappointed in
the fact that 1/2 of the class was walking down the hall celebrating
their victory and the other 1/2 disappointed and heads hung low. I
thought, "I wish there was a way I could achieve the same results of
engagement and intensity that competitive play creates but have everyone
leave with the feeling of "victory." What I discovered was creating games that kept the competitive element but changed the opponent. First I followed this rule: No groups bigger than...
1st grade: work with everyone having a piece of equipment
2nd grade: Same, but can work in partners
3rd: no more than groups of 3
4th: 3 is best but 4 in some cases
5th: 4 are ok but 3's on a team or in a group is best.
Instead of competing against each other I created challenges that had
students compete with themselves by having them compete against the
clock. How many can you do in 15 seconds? Can you beat your score? Get a partner and see how many you can do together, can you beat your score.
Let's add the class score together and see if we can beat the top score.
Also, have students compete together using cooperative games.
How many times can you hit the birdie over the net (1 pt each) in 30
seconds with your partner? Now you only get a point for Backhands only.
Don't play competitive games if talented students can dominate and
lesser skilled students are frustrated and disengage. But as students
become more skilled, you can add the competitive element, but leave
other options and choices for the other students.
You may need to search out or create your own mini-games to make this happen instead of just playing the traditional sports format of two
large teams going against each other.
Go to conventions, find excellent teachers around you and learn from
them. Don't be satisfied with an ok lesson. Keep striving for
excellence. If you believe in competition as the best way to get kids to
achieve then I CHALLENGE YOU to take your favorite competitive game
where there is a winner and loser and create a way to make everyone
leave a winner.
Try games like Tchoukball where the rules don't allow defense but
encourage cooperation and allows everyone to be successful.
Hey, I still play some competitive games (of course, with plenty of
pre-teaching about sportsmanship, respect and responsibility) but
students EARN the privilege to compete and they can lose that privilege
if they forget the meaning of playing all games...which is enjoyment,
exercise, and interaction with our peers....remember how you treat the
other team after a game, WITHOUT THE OTHER TEAM YOU WOULD'NT HAVE A GAME.
If you need other ideas feel free to contact me email@example.com. It has made a world of
difference in my teaching...after 25 years at the elementary level, I'm
still loving it.
Todd Keating - River Woods School Naperville Illinois PE4Life Academy NBCT
Here is what Gerry Cernicky, one of the great voices of Naspe-talk, had to say on this subject:
Establish challenges to beat a previous performance and change
the rules, equipment and space into grids of small group activities. Or
choose appropriate activities so it appears everybody wins. Don't keep score, as they will probably do on their own. Decrease the importance of competition but not entirely.
There has to be a sequence of understanding to move to the next level. There is a time and place for this and knowing when to introduce it.
My favorite activity/ personal challenge is Who Can? It also can be a form
of discipline when its used to settle an unruly situation. Who can dribble between their legs? Catch a ball off a wall? Volley a balloon off any body part? Self catch a ball, clap 5 times before the catch? Log roll to the end of the mat without touching the feet to the floor? Who can sit down? Get quiet before I count to three? And then, who can walk as quietly as possible without bothering the person next to you? Etc. It really does work
even up to the intermediate grades . This activity, like many others, is more independent and challenges the individual and later will be combined with partners in small groups.
If you start early enough, plan appropriately and devise/combine individual
and small group challenges, then it will be the beginning of an arrangement that most students will understand what is important. It helps to match up equally skilled students, but it just as helpful to match up with mentors or students helpers. There has to be an understanding and empathy for differences. Working together in small groups will pay benefits in any
activity. They will work to a common end and get there with team work . This will keep the competition at a low level, and winning and losing will have a different meaning.
If you would like to add to this discussion, please e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org