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Positive strategies for teaching games

by Lori Cooper

In recent years, the discipline of physical education has received some flak, particularly from fitness experts who view the games taught in a physical education curriculum as "elitist, overly competitive, and not conducive to developing health and fitness" (Mitchell, 2006, p. 8). To be fair, the traditional view of sports in physical education classes does support their argument: Half or more of the students in any given class watch from the sidelines, and only the stars of game play get a significant amount of physical activity time.

Should sport education and game play be cast aside? Absolutely not. In More Teaching Games for Understanding (Butler, 2010, p. 70), the authors state, "Sport and physical education are ideal tools to also teach life skills such as respect, inclusion, cooperation, and teamwork and metacognitive skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and goal setting." Many students regard the games played in physical education as the most enjoyable part of class.

So, then, how to teach activities that engage all students and keep the entire group moving and physically active while acquiring the skills for a lifetime love of physical activity?

Several approaches are used today in physical education:

There is no doubt that teaching games and sport can help students lead healthier lives, learn leadership skills, work effectively within a group, develop the capacity to make reasoned decisions, and become involved with others. The key is making the content meaningful and relevant to students. By doing so, students become more engaged, internalize the information, and have more fun—all necessary ingredients to adopting active lifestyles. Albert Einstein once wrote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." By the same measure, stressing the rules and drills is limiting. Helping kids  understand and enjoy games and sports is limitless.

Lori Cooper is a senior marketing manager in the HPERD division at Human Kinetics.

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