4 Ideas for Creating an Elementary Physical Education Curriculum

Curriculum & Instruction Updated August 6, 2015

For educators, designing an effective physical education (P.E.) curriculum for elementary school can be both fun and frustrating. Young students are typically motivated to run and play, but creating a curriculum that meets necessary school and state requirements can sometimes be difficult.

Below are four ideas for developing a basic elementary school physical education program that both teachers and students will enjoy.

Develop goals and structure

Most states likely have a specific set of physical education goals that must be accomplished by a curriculum. It is also necessary to determine what goals are appropriate for a particular grade level. Both national and state standards can be found at the website for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

For elementary school students, the physical education goals may be quite simple. Learning motor skills, for instance, will make up a part of an elementary curriculum. These skills include:

  • Throwing
  • Climbing
  • Running
  • Catching
  • Jumping

Designing a curriculum to teach these skills effectively requires breaking down a program to its basics.  As an example, the four categories required by the Michigan Department of Education are:

  • Motor skills
  • Physical fitness
  • Cognitive concepts
  • Personal and social character traits

Any curriculum must take into account areas such as these to be considered complete.

Keep activity levels high

According to The Journal of Pediatrics, children need at least an hour of physical activity every day. While a 45 or 60 minute elementary school P.E. class might come close to meeting those time requirements, often the activity levels of such classes are not adequate.

A curriculum must be designed to keep motivations high. Some students who are not interested in one sport may be quite excited about another. Designing a program that takes various interest into account increases overall class motivation.

Address state and national standards

It is important to keep state and national standards at the forefront of any curriculum. If these standards are addressed at the beginning of the design process, they can be incorporated fairly easy into any curriculum.

Those creating a curriculum must determine how to best meet those standards while taking into account their particular school and student body. Some standards may be easier to meet than others, but it is best to face all such benchmarks at the beginning of the design process.

Design with assessment in mind

There must be a measurable way to determine if students are grasping concepts the curriculum is attempting to teach. By considering assessments in the initial creation process, the curriculum can be designed to both teach and measure progress.

P.E. goes beyond just physical fitness, and instructors must have a way to measure more than just the number of push-ups a student can perform. With effective tools to measure a students’ grasp of higher level physical education concepts, a well-designed curriculum will cover all aspects of teaching physical education.

Practice adaptability

Designing any curriculum is a process of trial and error. One of the advantages of creating physical education curriculum, is the variety of activities to choose from. Don’t be afraid to try different ideas! This field of curriculum is easily adaptable to different circumstances. Using the above ideas, P.E. teachers can develop an effective elementary school physical education curriculum that everyone will look forward to.

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This section is devoted to information for improving student academic achievement with resources devoted to research development and curriculum implementation. Articles will direct you to online resources that will help students inside--and outside—the classroom. The relationship between “what to teach’ (curriculum) and “how to teach” (instruction) is also explored.

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