By: Tracy Sharlow, 2016 National Adapted Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
The development of a collaborative educational team approach, proactive strategies for success, and establishing trusting relationships with your students are key factors to setting the tone for a successful school year. Collaborative team engagement with other special education/therapy providers helps in the understanding of students’ individual needs (physical, emotional, sensory, communication and learning styles) so you can best provide a quality physical education program that follows State or National Standards.
Impulsivity and poor decision-making are common problems that can interfere with students’ learning and safety. My lessons during the first couple of weeks focus on activities that promote establishment of classroom expectations, especially concerning safety and success in the school environment. Establishing good methods of communication, listening skills, and compliance abilities in my students are high priorities and promote overall safety awareness, especially when setting the tone in the beginning of the year. For the first few weeks, students participate in games and activities that teach and assess their ability to listen and comply in order to promote safety and success in APE.
The proactive development of a strong behavior management plan is extremely important. I have found, especially at the Elementary level, that adapting each classroom’s specific classroom rules to fit the APE setting is a more successful approach than having a generic set of basic APE behavior management rules. I adapt each classroom teacher’s rules to fit the APE environment and then copy, laminate, and velcro these individual classroom rules to the wall for easy access when behaviors arise. I use the Project Adventure Debriefing method in most classes to address and manage behaviors. When unsafe and/or inappropriate behaviors arise, the students are directed to gather in the center circle of the gym. We then review the rules and establish guidelines so we can return to play with renewed, productive, and responsible attitudes. This collaborative team approach creates an intrinsically motivated atmosphere, which therefore promotes improved student behavior and participation.
The Least Restrictive Environment should also be a major focus. The primary reason most students cannot access general PE classes is because of challenging behaviors and the lack of appropriate pro-social skills needed to be safe and successful in PE. My lessons in APE have a strong focus on SHAPE America Standard 4, responsible personal and social behavior, and the promotion of the pro-social skills needed for students to be both safe and successful.
Finally, it is very important that paraprofessionals appropriately assist students in APE to ensure the successful development of student growth and achievement. I have learned that daily posting of student learning objectives is a proactive approach to help improve paraprofessional’s comprehension of successfully assisting students. The SLOs should be reflective of the students’ gross motor skill development, affective domain, and level of independence when engaged in activities. By doing this, you are once again promoting a collaborative team approach for learning. My paraprofessionals know that I thoroughly respect and need them for our student success and growth. I remind them daily that we are a team and as a team, we expect our students to have fun while engaged in the learning process, develop an intrinsic lifelong love for movement, and in addition successfully return to their classroom in a ready to learn state of mind.
Good luck! Enjoy your students! Enjoy your team! Enjoy the 2017-18 school year!
Join Tracy Sharlow along with other 2016 National SHAPE America® Teachers of the Year for a free webinar “Back to School: Setting the Tone for Success.”
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