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Integrating Health Concepts - The Whys, The Types, and The Hows

This is an excerpt from Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children-19th Edition by Robert P. Pangrazi & Aaron Beighle.

Integrating Health Content Into PE

Why Integrate Health Concepts?

In an era of accountability that places great pressure on classroom teachers to increase academic achievement by improving high-stakes test scores, physical educators can support classroom teachers by offering to supplement the classroom content related to health educations. This proposal shows classroom teachers that physical educators are team players concerned with student learning. Integrating also motivates classroom teachers to observe or visit the physical education setting to see how concepts are being integrated. Lastly, if physical educators are integrating health content and showing an interest in the classroom, classroom teachers may be inclined to integrate physical activity into their classroom instruction. If this situation arises, the physical educator should assist classroom teachers with ideas and strategies for teaching physically active students (Pangrazi, Beighle, & Pangrazi, 2009). Specifically, classroom teachers may need assistance with management strategies and equipment.

Integration in physical education has benefits and limitations. The benefits include building goodwill in the school, helping students who are kinesthetic learners, teaching content in a new setting through a different method, demonstrating that physical educators are educators too, and increasing students' activity level when classroom teachers integrate physical activity into their instruction. The limitations most often cited are finding time to develop the lessons, planning for integration that does not sacrifice the physical education lesson, and feeling uncomfortable teaching outside an area of expertise. These concerns are legitimate, but with some practice and the belief that integration can supplement classroom learning, physical education teachers can create effective integration activities.

Types of Integration

Several models are available to guide the planning of health integration. Models range from the physical education teacher working alone to a group of teachers working together to develop learning experiences in various settings. The individual model involves the physical education teacher working to develop ideas for integrating health content. For example, the teacher might integrate concepts related to stress during the game part of a four-part lesson. This idea requires reviewing information about stress and determining how best to integrate that content in a game. Again, the stress-related game must contribute to the physical education lesson outcomes.

Another model is the partner model. In this model, the physical education teacher collaborates with a classroom teacher or other special-area teacher. This collaboration can be as simple as the physical education teacher and classroom teacher working on vocabulary words for the week that relate to a health concept. A more complex use of this model would be two teachers developing a yearly calendar that teaches similar concepts during the same time. For example, a physical education dance lesson that includes a dance to a song that reinforces nutrition concepts could be taught during the same week that the students work on making healthy choices in the classroom. For the physical education lesson, the teacher could use key terms during instruction and reinforce that nutrition choices can be healthy choices. Such changes do not compromise the physical education curriculum because the rhythm and dance are a part of a well-balanced, quality curriculum; instead, they enrich the educational experience and reinforce health concepts learned in other areas.

The group collaboration model usually involves a group of classroom teachers from a common grade level and the physical educator. This model involves a fair amount of planning that usually centers on a health theme. Teachers take the theme and generate learning activities that cut across health areas. For example, during a set period, the student activities can be related to a hygiene theme. Classroom teachers and the physical education teacher worked together to determine the key concepts and skills to cover. Examples might include bathing, brushing teeth, and combing hair. The teachers then develop classroom learning experiences tied to these concepts and skills, and the physical education teacher creates games and activities that reinforce this concept.

How to Integrate Health Content

As stated earlier, integrating health content must be carefully and thoughtfully planned to ensure that the activity is a quality learning experience and that it maintains the integrity of the physical education curriculum. The following topics are a series of steps for initiating integration in physical education, identifying what to integrate, and learning how to enhance the effectiveness of the integration activities. These suggestions are most suited if the classroom teachers are teaching health education in the classroom as well.

Step 1: Decide on the Integration Model

The individual model requires a fair amount of research to determine what lessons to teach, at what level it should be taught, and how to teach it. The partner model requires you to choose a potential teacher to partner with. The key is to find a fellow teacher who is equally interested in what is being taught in physical education. Ideally, the classroom teacher is also interested in strategies for teaching health concepts through physical activity in the classroom. Choosing the group model requires that you select teachers who are generally interested in all the activities, not just those they are teaching.

Step 2: Ask Teachers What Concepts They Will Be Teaching

Take an interest in the concepts that classroom teachers are teaching. Doing so shows that you are an interested, supportive teacher who wants to help students reach health outcomes. Classroom teachers can provide a calendar that lists the concepts being taught in the coming weeks. From this calendar, you can generate integration ideas. Classroom teachers may also have ideas about concepts that could be taught through physical education.

Step 3: Ask How Concepts Are Being Taught

After the health concepts to be integrated are established, find out how those concepts are being taught, if at all, in the classroom. Using key terms or similar ideas and slightly modifying them may be helpful when teaching the integrated material. Approach the classroom teacher to find out what concepts students are having trouble with in the classroom. Physical education may offer an excellent opportunity to teach the same concepts with a different strategy—namely, teaching the concepts with movement. If this is the case, discuss the idea with the classroom teacher. In some cases, teaching the same concept with two different methodologies or perspectives may confuse children rather than help them learn.

Step 4: Share What You Teach With Classroom Teachers

Invite the classroom teacher to a lesson involving integration. This offer serves two purposes. First, the classroom teacher can provide feedback concerning the integration activity that you might use to make the activity more effective. Inviting the classroom teacher also exposes the teacher to physical education. Often, classroom teachers have little knowledge of what is being taught during physical education. Having them observe a lesson will show them that physical education is educational and makes an important contribution to the school curriculum.

Step 5: Reflect

When reflecting on your instruction, review integration activities you taught as well. For example, did the integration activity sacrifice any of the activity planned for the physical education lesson? Could you have integrated the concept with less interference? Did the students understand the health content? How could you change the integrated activity to make it more effective? Would the integrated concept fit better in another part of the lesson or in another lesson?

More Excerpts From Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children 19th Edition