Two years ago, when our daughter was in Grade 1, her physical education (PE) teacher pulled me aside to tell me about the creative strategies she had for getting out of PE class and that he had concerns about her lack of progress.
This happened just before I got involved with Active for Life, and though we’re still not the sportiest family on the block, we’ve focused on having fun while being active, and as a consequence our kids have been developing physical literacy.
Our daughter is now in Grade 3 and a few weeks ago I ran into the same PE teacher in the same hallway. This time he mentioned how impressed he was with the improvements in her performance in physical education class.
Now I definitely have ideas about what might be behind the change but I thought it would be interesting to see what she perceives as the difference and why she thinks it happened. So I asked her. Later on, I asked the same questions of our son, who is currently in Grade 1.
Here’s what they had to say.
How did you used to feel about PE class?
Kiddo 1: I used to feel that the teacher pushed us really hard and it was difficult for me because in kindergarten all we had done was free play. Grade 1 was the first time we were learning sports and I wasn’t used to it. When I was little I had a habit of hiding from things I didn’t want to do that were hard for me and I would find ways to get away from it because it was hard for me and I thought maybe I don’t have to do this, maybe he has something easier for me, but he didn’t. But in Grade 2 I got more used to it and I started realizing that I had to stand up to things that were hard for me and I just had to try.
Kiddo 2: I was the only one who didn’t like it as much but when I got older I seemed to like it more.
How do you feel about it now?
Kiddo 1: Now I look forward to gym like everybody else. Sure badminton, what we’re doing now, is quite hard for me and I keep on losing the matches, but I try again and it’s fun. It’s not my favourite sport but definitely something I’d like to try and practice in the summer.
Kiddo 2: Now I feel that it’s pretty good and now I like it.
What is different?
Kiddo 1: I am less distracted in class and I have time to focus on me and who I am, what I like, what I don’t like, what I want to try, and what I’m good at.
Kiddo 2: We don’t just do free stuff and actually now we get to do sports and stuff, like we get to do badminton. I like that better.
What is your favourite thing about PE class?
Kiddo 1: Well definitely one of my favourite things is still free play because it brings back memories but soccer is pretty cool. Last year I used to go to the gym and play soccer sometimes at recess. It was really fun and I was usually the only girl there. Once it was me and the teachers against the boys. It was actually a tie game and it kind of went to show that grown-ups, boys, and girls, can have the same skills.
Kiddo 2: My favourite thing is when we get partners because I get to pick some of my friends that I really like and I can have fun with them.
What is your least favourite?
Kiddo 1: Probably my least favourite part would be … you know it’s kind of hard to talk about my least favourite part right now, I like PE a lot. Sure it’s hard sometimes but most of the games that are hard, even if we lose, end up being fun and worth a try.
Kiddo 2: I don’t like that we do stuff for a long time and people start to get bored of it, like badminton.
Have any of our outside of school activities helped you enjoy PE class more?
Kiddo 1: When I was in Grade 1 and I wasn’t enjoying PE, I was struggling until I started taking karate classes and I started getting a little bit better and it felt easier. I take gymnastics, karate, and I used to take harp lessons. The concentration of karate and the harp, and the movement of gymnastics, I think have really helped me to develop some great PE skills.
Kiddo 2: Yes, maybe playing baseball. It helps me with badminton with swinging the racket and hitting the birdie.
What is your favourite way to be active?
Kiddo 1: One of my favourite ways to be active is playing at the park and puddle jumping. I also really enjoy walks; walking and talking with someone. I find that being active comes in handy when I want to get something off my chest. If you’re just sitting in the living room it doesn’t seem as relaxing. But if you’re walking, the cool air, it helps get more stuff out.
Kiddo 2: Playing baseball. I also like running and climbing and having fun and playing stuff I like. I like walking around and talking which is actually active, walking is active and moving your mouth is active for your mouth.
Why is being active important?
Kiddo 1: The PE teacher actually teaches health class too and I remember that he told us that it’s good to be active to be healthy. Everyday life is better if you’re active. It’s really simple, you just have to know throwing, running, jumping, and catching. And those things will help you have a better life and enjoy things like the park more.
Kiddo 2: Because it’s healthy for you and being active is good for your body and it’s also very fun.
What advice would you give to 6-year-olds who may be struggling in PE class?
Kiddo 1: Don’t take your teacher for granted because he or she can really help you. And just think about trying. It’s okay to have something you don’t like and it’s fine not to be good at something. You don’t have to love everything and be good at everything just to have fun. You can also change things up, I’m not a big fan of hockey and sometimes we do floor hockey in PE class but I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter so I just kind of thought about moving around with the hockey stick as flying on a broomstick. Even if you don’t have a very active imagination, you can still change things up. If you have a pet, has your pet ever escaped and you’ve had to chase it? Think of the soccer ball as your runaway pet and try to get it!
Kiddo 2: I would say to them “I can help you, I’m good at sports.” That’s what my friend did to me, with badminton, she was really good and she was my partner and helped me.
What advice would you give parents who have kids who are struggling in PE?
Kiddo 1: I would say that they should tell their child that they can make it fun and even if they don’t get the best grades in the world on their report card that you won’t be angry. And I would tell them to practice soccer in the backyard or at the park with the child because it will help them get to be one of the best.
Kiddo 2: That, to ask their friend for help if you know they know how to do it. And maybe make an active calendar thing, not a calendar but … so Tuesday: have a short walk, Thursday: play tennis with your dad or your mom or your brother, Friday: have fun and do whatever you want outside.
What sport would you like to try next?
Kiddo 1: Basketball and golf.
Kiddo 2: Not lessons, but I would like to play tennis. I would like to try and play Frisbee.