Some Considerations for Program Planning in Health and Physical Education
Instruction in health and physical education should help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need in order to achieve the curriculum expectations and be able to enjoy and participate in healthy active living for years to come. In health and physical education, instruction is effective if it motivates students and instils positive habits of mind, such as curiosity and open-mindedness; a willingness to think, question, challenge, and be challenged; and an awareness of the value of listening or reading closely and communicating clearly. To be effective, instruction must be based on the belief that all students can be successful and that learning in health and physical education is important and valuable for all students.
When planning a program in health and physical education, teachers must take into account a number of important considerations, including those discussed below. More information on instructional approaches can be found in the "Instructional Approaches" subsection of "Considerations for Program Planning".
Instruction should emphasize constructivist teaching and experiential learning. Constructivist teaching, which emphasizes the role of the teacher as co-learner and facilitator, promotes authentic experiential learning and learning through inquiry, provides engagement through student-initiated work, creates a sense of community through teamwork and collaboration, and provides options to accommodate different learning styles and intelligences. This experiential and student-centred approach is particularly important in health and physical education because it allows the teacher to respond to a range of experience, backgrounds, and abilities in physical activity settings and to respond to a range of needs and experiences when addressing healthy living topics and concepts. It is also important to have a balanced program that provides for both direct instruction in content and skills and opportunities for students to use their knowledge and skills in structured as well as unstructured activities.
Student achievement is enhanced by the development of higher-order thinking skills. In health and physical education, students have the opportunity to practise and apply higher-order thinking skills while involved in physical activities as well as when making choices and decisions about factors that affect their health and well-being. Their ability to use these skills is developed through course content that increases their awareness of the ties and relationships between health outcomes (e.g., physical and mental health) and health-related behaviours (e.g., eating habits, substance use, and physical activity). In addition to providing students with opportunities to think critically and creatively about what they are learning, teachers should also encourage students to think about how they are learning. To accomplish this, teachers should support students in developing the language and techniques they need to assess their own learning.
Students learn best by doing. Many of the skills emphasized in this curriculum are best taught and learned through participatory exploration experiences and hands-on activities, with numerous opportunities to practise and apply new learning. Learning by doing and group activities also enable students to develop personal and interpersonal skills as they acquire the knowledge, skills, and habits that will lay the foundation for lifelong healthy, active living. Through regular and varied assessments, teachers can give students the detailed feedback they need to further develop and refine their skills.
Students should have opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities and to complete assignments that not only help them master health and physical education concepts, but also enable them to develop inquiry and research skills and provide opportunities for self-expression and personal choice. Activities should be based on the assessment of students’ individual needs, proven learning theory, and best teaching practices. Effective activities enable both direct teaching and modelling of knowledge and skills and the application of learning strategies that encourage students to express their thinking and that engage them in their learning.
To be effective, instruction in health and physical education must be developmentally appropriate. Many of the expectations in the health and physical education curriculum are similar from grade to grade, to provide students with the numerous opportunities they need to explore the basic concepts and skills underlying these expectations in a wide variety of age- and developmentally appropriate ways. Although all students go through predictable stages of motor development, differences in rates of maturation and in the kinds of opportunities they have had to practise motor skills contribute to significant variability in their skills and abilities. As noted earlier, development of motor skills is age-related, not age- dependent. This is a subtle but important distinction that underscores the need for differentiated instruction and assessment. As they develop, students also pass through a number of cognitive and social/emotional developmental stages, which are described in some detail in the overviews provided in this document for Grades 1–3, 4–6, and 7–8. To meet the needs of all students at different stages of development, effective teachers provide exposure to a wide range of activities, instruction on skill progressions, opportunities for focused practice, and detailed and supportive feedback and encouragement.
Instruction based on the fundamental principles of health and physical education provides the framework for a well-planned, inclusive, high-quality health and physical education program. The following questions may be helpful for teachers as they reflect on their implementation of each of the fundamental principles:
1. School, Family, and Community Support
- Are the key messages of the health and physical education program reflected in the school’s physical and social environment, policies and programs, and community partnerships?
- Do adults in the school act as positive role models?
2. Physical Activity as the Vehicle for Learning
- Are students given frequent and varied opportunities to be active and engaged?
- Is the environment well planned, managed, and organized to maximize time on task?
- Do all students have opportunities to build their fitness and develop the habit of regular physical activity by participating in moderate to vigorous physical activity every day?
- Do students have opportunities to take part in purposeful kinesthetic experiences that help them learn about their bodies and experience the joy of movement?
- Do students have numerous opportunities to improve their skills through practice and physical exploration?
- Are students exposed to a wide variety of physical activities and movement forms?
3. Physical and Emotional Safety
- Is instruction designed to ensure a positive experience in a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for all students?
- Are all school board safety and equity guidelines being followed?
- Are intentional steps being taken by educators and students to build skills for healthy relationships and ensure that bullying and harassment are prevented, or addressed if and when they occur, in the change room, the gym, outdoors, and in all learning spaces?
- Are activities being modified or adapted as required to ensure that all students are included?
- Is exercise presented as a positive and healthy experience rather than being used as punishment?
- Does the program ensure maximum participation for all by avoiding activities in which students may be eliminated from play, and thereby deprived of opportunities to participate, practise, and improve?
- Are teams designated in ways that are inclusive and fair, avoiding potentially insensitive methods of selection (e.g., having teams chosen by student captains)?
- Are students’ diverse backgrounds taken into account when health topics are introduced, to ensure that discussions have personal relevance and that topics are addressed with sensitivity?
4. Student-Centred, Skill-Based Learning
- Are program activities and instruction differentiated to provide all students with relevant and engaging learning experiences, so that all students can experience success?
- Are the activities adaptable to meet diverse individual needs and abilities?
- Are instructions clear and succinct and delivered at intervals throughout the lesson, in order to allow for maximum activity and learning?
- Are modified and small-group activities used often, to allow for maximum participation?
- Are students given opportunities to make choices and to adapt the boundaries and level of challenge of activities, the type of equipment used, group sizes, and other features, as well as to choose topics for discussion?
- Are students actively involved in discussing and clarifying criteria for learning?
- Are questioning techniques being used to reveal meaning and to encourage student engagement in, reflection about, and sense of responsibility for learning?
5. Balanced, Integrated Learning with Relevance to Students’ Lives
- Are individual students experiencing the optimal degree of challenge in their learning, with tasks that are not too difficult and not too easy?
- Does the program integrate learning in health education and learning in physical education, in a way that helps students understand that both are essential for healthy, active living?
- Are a variety of activities presented throughout the year and over the course of a student’s experience in the program?
- Does instruction make use of real-life examples, field trips, and communication with parents, community members, Elders, Métis Senators, knowledge holders, and knowledge keepers so that students’ learning in health and physical education is reflected and reinforced in both home and community environments?
Planning and Scheduling Instruction
High-quality instruction in health and physical education is integrated in such a way that students have opportunities to make connections between concepts and skills in all four strands of the curriculum.
Planning of the health education component of the curriculum requires careful consideration of when material should be taught explicitly and when topics and concepts can be integrated with learning in physical education and linked to learning in other subjects. Teaching health sporadically or when gymnasium facilities are being used for other purposes will not provide adequate opportunities for learning. Some healthy living topics can be taught through physical education and can also be connected to learning in other curriculum areas. Thirty per cent of instructional time should be allocated to health education. Ways of managing instruction will vary from school to school, depending on student needs, timetabling, and available facilities. If more than one teacher is responsible for teaching different parts of the health and physical education curriculum, communication and collaboration between these teachers for instructional planning, evaluation, and reporting is essential.
The physical education component of the curriculum should include a balance of games, dance, movement education, outdoor and recreational activities, and opportunities to focus on developing fitness, while also developing social-emotional learning skills through these activities. A mix of individual and group activities, as well as of traditional and new games and activities, provides opportunities for students to think critically and apply movement skills and concepts in different ways. Careful school-wide planning helps to ensure that students experience different kinds of activities in the different grades, with activities in each grade serving as the vehicle for broader learning connected with movement skills, concepts, and strategies, active living, fitness, and safety.
Daily physical activity (DPA) is a requisite part of a comprehensive health and physical education program. It can be incorporated into the instructional day in a variety of ways – one being the inclusion of twenty minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity during a scheduled health and physical education class. However, since physical activity is only one component of a complete health and physical education program, there may be the occasional day when a health and physical education class does not include twenty minutes of physical activity. On these days (or on days when a health and physical education class is not scheduled), other opportunities for DPA must be provided. Physical activity can be integrated into other curriculum areas in a variety of ways, many of which are outlined in the ministry’s Daily Physical Activity documents for Grades 1–3, 4–6, and 7 and 8.
Planning the Use of Facilities and Equipment
When planning the use of facilities and equipment, teachers should organize the learning environment in a way that allows for movement and ensures student comfort, accessibility, and safety. It is important to plan routines that students can follow as they move to and from the gymnasium or activity space, make transitions from one activity to another, and collect and put away equipment. Planning time and creating guidelines for changing clothes, using equipment, and other procedures can maximize student comfort and participation. In the classroom, teachers should strive to create a space that is comfortable and stimulating and that allows for flexible groupings for student discussion and activities. Displaying student work connected to healthy living discussions can help students make connections with learning in other subjects at school and with their lives outside school.
Since equipment and facilities in individual schools across the province will vary, care has been taken to ensure that the expectations of this curriculum can be met in a variety of settings and using a broad range of equipment. The curriculum contains a wide assortment of examples and prompts that illustrate different ways of meeting the expectations. Teachers can use these as a source of ideas for adapting the delivery of the expectations to meet the particular needs of their students. When making decisions about equipment and facilities, teachers should ensure that they are distributed in a way that provides fair and equal access for all students, taking into account criteria such as gender and range of abilities, and that allows for a variety of activities and choice in activities. The principles and guidelines of Universal Design for Learning should also be considered when planning the use of equipment and facilities, so that the needs of all students, including those with special education needs, can be met.
It is important to note that activities that help students fulfil the curriculum requirements do not necessarily require the use of a school gymnasium. The scheduling and accommodation of regular physical education classes, however, may require some creativity, especially if facilities are limited and must be shared by large numbers of students. Classes may be combined if there is sufficient space to permit students to participate safely, and hallways, portables, and outdoor spaces can also be put to use. It may be possible as well to use alternative venues, such as nearby parks, fields, and recreation centres. The use of these various settings will have the advantage of increasing students’ awareness of the facilities that are available in their communities.
To support the development of specific skills and add interest to physical activities, a variety of equipment should be used. For example, an activity that focuses on students’ catching objects of various sizes and shapes is more effective if it uses a variety of objects, such as beanbags, tennis balls, beach balls, rubber chickens, and discs. When supplies are limited, teachers will have to be resourceful to ensure that each student has opportunities to use as many different kinds of equipment as possible. Teachers must provide specific instruction to students on the appropriate handling of equipment, ensure that equipment is in good repair and suitably organized, and take into account the size, ability, and age of the students when choosing the most appropriate equipment to use.
Co-educational and Same-Sex Classes
Although all the curriculum expectations can be achieved in either co-educational or same-sex classes, addressing parts of the curriculum in same-sex settings may allow students to learn and ask questions with greater comfort. Same-sex settings may be of benefit to some students not only for the discussion of some health topics, but also for developing and practising some physical skills. Such considerations are particularly relevant in the case of adolescent learners.
It is also important to have time for co-educational learning, which can encourage learning about others, and about differences and commonalities among people, and allows for the development of relationship skills. Teachers should base their decisions about teaching in co-educational or same-sex settings on students’ needs. Different strategies may be required at different times, so that students have opportunities to learn in a variety of different groupings.
When planning instruction and considering class groupings, teachers should be aware of and consider the needs of students who may not identify as “male” or “female”, who are transgender, or who are gender-non-conforming. For more information about gender identity, gender expression, and human rights, see the website of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Acknowledgement of and respect for individual differences regardless of sex, gender identity, or gender expression will encourage student participation and help students learn to collaborate with and respect others. Strategies for encouraging understanding and mutual respect among students include:
- creating an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere in the class and supporting all students to be active participants;
- fostering authentic opportunities for students to provide input into learning activities and approaches;
- providing opportunities for all students to assume leadership roles;
- encouraging and respecting the interests and abilities of all students;
- ensuring that responsibilities are shared equally by all students.
Within the context of a healthy school, the health and physical education curriculum provides all students with the skills and strategies they need to participate in a wide variety of physical activities. A supportive school environment will provide opportunities for students to continue their learning either in the school, at home, or in the community. Intramural programs allow all students to participate in activities that are informal and not highly competitive. Interschool programs offer students opportunities to participate in more organized and competitive activities. Other recreational activities and clubs also provide opportunities for students with common interests to participate in physical activities in non-competitive settings. In planning and organizing the health and physical education curriculum, schools should use community organizations, facilities, and programs as resources to provide students with additional experiences and opportunities for physical activity and healthy living.
Classroom teachers are the key educators of students with special education needs. They have a responsibility to help all students learn, and they work collaboratively with special education teachers, where appropriate, to achieve this goal. Classroom teachers commit to assisting every student to prepare for living with the highest degree of independence possible. More information on planning for and assessing students with special education needs can be found in the "Planning for Students with Special Education Needs" subsection of "Considerations for Program Planning".
Guidelines for Meeting Special Needs in Health and Physical Education
The following general guidelines can help teachers ensure that students with special education needs are able to participate as fully as possible in health and physical education activities:
- Focus instruction on what the student is able to do rather than on their disability or special education needs.
- Consult with the student about their needs and about choosing strategies that will help them feel comfortable and included.
- Approach each situation on an individual basis, in consultation with the special education teacher and/or support systems and agencies, making individual adaptations in response to the student’s needs, and requirements outlined in the IEP.
- Make adjustments only when necessary and consider adjustments to be temporary and fluid. Continue to make accommodations and modifications as needed.
- Break down new skills and focus on building each skill in a structured progression.
- Be fair to all participants and avoid drawing attention to accommodations or modifications that are provided for individual students.
- Make sure appropriate equipment is available, and use specialized equipment, such as balls of appropriate sizes, colours, weights, and/or textures, when necessary.
- Adjust the rules of activities to increase students’ chances of success while retaining a suitable level of challenge (e.g., by increasing the number of tries/attempts allowed, making a target bigger or bringing it closer, adjusting the size of the playing area, varying the tempo of the music, lengthening or shortening the playing time).
- Give verbal cues or prompts.
- Have a partner provide assistance.
- Consider what accommodations, adjustments, or special guidelines may be required to assist students in understanding social rules and codes of conduct in a variety of spaces, and in coping with change room routines, transitions between activities, and moving to and from the gymnasium.
Depending on the special education needs of the students, some additional considerations may be relevant for their instruction in health education. These considerations may apply to all health topics, but are particularly relevant to human development and sexual health. Some students with intellectual and physical disabilities or other challenges may be at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, and some may not have experienced acknowledgement of their healthy sexuality or their right to enjoy their sexuality. These students may also have had fewer formal and informal opportunities to participate in sexual health education. Teachers need to ensure that these students’ privacy and dignity are protected, and that the resources used are appropriate to their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development and needs. Different kinds of accommodations and approaches will be required for different students, but it is important to ensure that all students have access to information and support regarding their sexual health.
Some students with special education needs may have difficulty with abstract thinking, including thinking about the consequences of their behaviour or the meaning of consent, and with understanding the boundaries between private and public with respect to behaviour or their own bodies. When teaching students with special education needs about sexual health, it is important to teach the information in a variety of ways and to provide ample opportunity for information to be repeated and for skills such as refusal skills to be practised and reinforced. Examples need to be concrete. Students need to be taught about their right to refuse and about ways of showing affection appropriately and recognizing and respecting consent.
In Ontario, the Education Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Ryan’s Law, and Sabrina’s Law collectively ensure that school boards provide a safe and productive learning and work environment for both students and employees. Under the Education Act, the teacher is required to ensure that all reasonable safety procedures are carried out in courses and activities for which the teacher is responsible (Regulation 298, subsection 20(g)). Teachers must model safe practices at all times; communicate safety requirements to students in accordance with school board and Ministry of Education policies and Ministry of Labour regulations; and encourage students to assume responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. Students must be made aware that health and safety are everyone’s responsibility – at home, at school, and in the workplace.
Teachers are responsible for ensuring the safety of students during instructional activities and also for encouraging and motivating students to assume responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. Teachers are encouraged to review:
- their responsibilities under the Education Act;
- their rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations;
- their school board’s health and safety policy for employees;
- their school board’s policies and procedures on student health and safety (e.g., on concussions, on medical conditions such as asthma; with respect to outdoor education excursions);
- relevant provincial subject association guidelines and standards for student health and safety (e.g., Ophea’s Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education, formerly the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines);
- any additional requirements that may be mandatory, particularly for higher-risk activities (e.g., field trips that involve water-based activities), including approvals (e.g., from the Supervisory Officer), permissions (e.g., from parents/guardians), and qualifications (e.g., proof of successful swim test completion by students).
Teachers should follow board safety guidelines to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills needed for safe participation in health and physical education activities. Safety guidelines should outline the practices to be followed for each activity, addressing questions related to equipment, clothing and footwear, facilities, special rules and instructions, and supervision. They should also reflect school board policies on how to conduct activities, and they should be reviewed on a regular basis. While all physical activity involves an element of risk, administrators and teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment to minimize that risk. Safety awareness, based on up-to-date information, common sense observation, action, and foresight, is the key to safe programming.
Concern for safety should be an integral part of instructional planning and implementation. The primary responsibility for ensuring safer practices rests with the school board and its employees. Wherever possible, potential risks must be identified and procedures developed to prevent or minimize, and respond to, incidents and injuries. In a safe learning environment, the teacher will:
- be aware of up-to-date safety information;
- plan activities with safety as a primary consideration;
- observe students to ensure safe practices are being followed;
- have a plan in case of emergency;
- show foresight;
- act quickly.
Teachers must establish and support a culture of safety-mindedness. They must think about safety before they ask students to participate in any activity. They must consider any potential dangers, assess those dangers, and implement control measures to protect the students from the risks. By implementing safer instructional practices, such as using logical teaching progressions and transitions and choosing age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate activities, teachers can reduce risk and guard against injury. Board policies related to concussion prevention and management (including processes for returning to learning and to physical activity) are particularly relevant in physical education settings. (With respect to concussion, it is important to clarify for students and parents that helmets are designed primarily to prevent injury to the skull, and mouth guards to prevent injury to the teeth and gums. There is no current evidence that they prevent concussion. Helmets and mouth guards do not stop the brain from moving within the skull.)
Field trips may present additional health and safety issues that are not encountered in in-school activities. Field trips can provide a meaningful and authentic dimension to students’ learning experiences, but they also take the teacher and students out of the predictable classroom environment and into unfamiliar settings. Teachers must plan these activities carefully in accordance with their school board’s relevant policies and procedures and in collaboration with other school board staff (e.g., the principal, outdoor education lead, supervisory officer) in order to ensure students’ health and safety.
Students demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind required for safe participation in health and physical education activities when they:
- understand why rules are in place;
- follow established routines (e.g., for entering and leaving the gym, changing clothes, and engaging in warm-up and cool-down activities) and apply personal safety skills related to physical activities in the classroom, gymnasium, or other locations in the school; outdoors; or in the community;
- identify possible safety concerns;
- suggest and implement appropriate safety procedures;
- follow the instructions outlined for each activity (e.g., for starting and stopping);
- consistently show care and concern for their safety and that of others;
- wear clothing and use protection appropriate to the activities (e.g., a hat and sunscreen for outdoor activities), wear appropriate footwear and ensure that shoelaces are tied, and remove jewellery when participating in physical activities;
- handle equipment safely and show awareness of the space around them;
- take age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate responsibility for safe behaviour (e.g., for the safe use of equipment) and take necessary precautions when engaging in activities (e.g., using a safety mat);
- follow rules and expectations pertaining to the setting for the activity (e.g., skiing only in designated areas, following venue rules).
When considering students’ safety, including their physical safety, it is important to ensure that students feel comfortable physically, socially, and emotionally. For example, teachers should be aware of student comfort and safety when students are changing their clothing for physical education, forming groups, demonstrating physical tasks, and discussing health topics. They should also ensure that all students – students of all social and cultural backgrounds, abilities, sexes, gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations – feel included and recognized in all activities and discussions.
It is vitally important that parents inform appropriate school staff members of any medical conditions, including allergies, diabetes, or hemophilia, that might affect their child’s participation in physical activities. Sabrina’s Law: An Act to Protect Anaphylactic Pupils requires all school boards to have an anaphylaxis policy. Boards must provide regular training of school staff in dealing with life-threatening allergies, and school principals are required to maintain individual plans for pupils who have an anaphylactic allergy, and have emergency procedures in place for anaphylactic students.
Health and physical education offers many opportunities for accomplishing the goals the three goals for environmental education in Ontario outlined in Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow. The learning environments for health and physical education include the school grounds, fields and trails in the vicinity of the school, and various other outdoor venues. Teaching students to appreciate and respect the environment is an integral part of being active in these spaces. Appreciating the value of fresh air and outdoor spaces, understanding the environmental benefits of healthy practices such as active transportation and the environmental implications of various food choices, being aware of the impact of using trails, and understanding the health risks associated with environmental factors such as sun exposure and air pollution are all components of environmental education that are integrated with learning in health and physical education. To facilitate these connections, health and physical education teachers are encouraged to take students out of the classroom and into the world beyond the school to help students observe, explore, and appreciate nature as they discover the benefits of being active outdoors.
The development of social-emotional learning skills, which are integrated throughout the health and physical education curriculum, support environmental education. As students learn more about themselves through the development of self-awareness and self-confidence, learn to work effectively and respectfully with others through the development of relationship skills, and acquire the capacity for systems thinking through the development of critical and creative thinking skills, they increase their capacity to make connections with the world around them and to become environmentally responsible citizens. The skills of recognizing sources of stress, coping with challenges, and building positive motivation and perseverance also can be applied and linked to environmental education.
The central aspects of healthy relationships are discussed in a sub-section of the Considerations for Program Planning. The skills that are needed to build and support healthy relationships can be found throughout the health and physical education curriculum. Expectations that focus on the characteristics of healthy relationships and on ways of responding to challenges in relationships introduce students, in age-appropriate ways, to the knowledge and skills they will need to maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives.
In particular, students need to develop and practise skills to support their ability to relate positively to others. The social-emotional learning skills component of the health and physical education curriculum provides the basis for developing the self-awareness, communication, relationship, and social skills that are necessary for forming and maintaining healthy relationships. Physical activities in the gymnasium and other spaces and health education discussions in the classroom provide numerous and varied opportunities for students to interact and refine these skills. In addition, students improve their ability to contribute to healthy relationships as they develop self-awareness skills, the ability to identify and manage emotions, cope with stress and challenges, persevere, and develop critical and creative thinking skills in all strands of the health and physical education curriculum.
In health education, the study of healthy relationships includes learning about the effects and the prevention of all types of violence and bullying/harassment, whether face-to-face or online. Learning focuses on the prevention of behaviours that reflect sexism, racism, classism, ableism, sizeism, heterosexism, and homophobia and transphobia. Instances of harassment, such as teasing related to weight, appearance, identity, or ability, need to be addressed and can be related directly to concepts that students are learning. As teachers strive to create an inclusive and respectful learning environment, it is also important that they examine and address their own biases.
Teachers of health and physical education create an environment based on the principles of inclusive education in a variety of ways. For example, in implementing the Active Living and Movement Competence strands of the health and physical education curriculum, they ensure that students are exposed to a wide range of activities and skills that appeal to all students. Sports and games should be balanced with small-group, individual, and recreation activities, including exercises for physical fitness and activities for stress reduction, such as simple yoga techniques.
Teachers must also provide accommodation for students from various faith communities, consistent with the board’s religious accommodation guideline – for example, in some cases, segregated swimming classes for male and female students and same-sex partnering for small-group activities might be required – and be aware of clothing restrictions that might exist for some students. In addition, teachers may need to provide accommodations for students who are fasting for religious reasons.
The physical activity component of the curriculum should also take into account the range of student abilities and the diversity of their backgrounds and needs. Teachers should familiarize themselves with strategies that would allow them to involve all students in an appropriate way. Introducing games and activities that have roots in a particular com- munity, for example, can make the learning environment more relevant for students from that community as well as promote cultural awareness and respect among all students. Lacrosse, with its origins in games played by the Haudenosaunee and other First Nations, is an example of a culturally relevant activity that can also appeal to students from all backgrounds. When including these kinds of activities in the program, teachers should seek out culturally relevant and appropriate resources that make the connection to the cultural heritage explicit, in order to build understanding, awareness, and respect.
The Healthy Living expectations provide teachers with the opportunity to address a number of key issues related to equity, antidiscrimination, and inclusion. Among these are gender issues in the area of healthy sexuality, including the existence of differing norms for sexual behaviour and different risks associated with unprotected sexual activity. In addition, food choices and eating habits may be influenced by personal beliefs or by religious and cultural traditions (e.g., vegetarianism, religious fasting, traditional foods), and these should be addressed in instruction relating to healthy eating. The issue of body image and the detrimental effects of homogenized standards of beauty and physical appearance promoted in the media also have implications for equity and inclusiveness that may affect students. The use of steroids and drugs to enhance athletic performance and appearance, and harmful diets to achieve impossible standards of beauty, should be examined.
More information can be found in the "Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusive Education" subsection of the "Considerations for Program Planning".
Health and physical education is linked to financial literacy education in a number of ways. The Healthy Living expectations provide opportunities for the exploration of financial issues in connection with a variety of health topics, such as considering how affordability can impact healthy eating choices, and examining the economic costs associated with substance use. In making decisions related to achieving their personal fitness goals, students consider financial factors such as the affordability of different physical activity options. They will also have opportunities to develop consumer awareness as they consider choices that affect their health and well-being. The exploration of such issues involves the application of the social-emotional learning skills component of the program. The awareness of their own identity and sense of self, the skills for positive motivation, perseverance, and stress management, and the relationship and thinking skills that students develop in the program may support them in making sound and informed financial decisions throughout their lives.
More information can be found in the "Financial Literacy" subsection of "Cross-curricular and Integrated Learning".
Literacy is an essential tool that encompasses a wide variety of related skills, including thinking, expression, and reflection. The importance and scope of literacy in Ontario schools is discussed in detail in the "Literacy" subsection of "Cross-curricular and Integrated Learning".
In the health and physical education program, literacy includes researching, discussing, listening, viewing media, communicating with words and with the body, connecting illustrations and text, role playing to create meaning through stories, and – especially important for kinesthetic learners – communicating through physical activity. Students use language to record their observations, to describe their critical analyses in both informal and formal contexts, and to present their findings in oral, written, graphic, and multimedia forms.
Understanding in health and physical education requires the understanding and use of specialized terminology. In all health and physical education programs, students are required to use appropriate and correct terminology and are encouraged to use language with care and precision in order to communicate effectively.
Fostering students’ literacy skills is an important part of the teacher’s role in health and physical education. In addition to developing reading, writing, and media literacy skills, students in health and physical education need to be able to communicate orally by listening and speaking and to communicate physically through body language. (Oral communication skills are traditionally thought to include using and interpreting body language. In the health and physical education curriculum, this skill is broadened into its own category of “physical communication skills”.) Developing these skills will help students to acquire other learning in health and physical education and to communicate their understanding of what they have learned.
Physical communication skills are fundamental to the development of physical literacy. Students learn to understand how their bodies move and how to use their bodies to communicate their intended movements. They learn to adjust their movements through self-correction and peer feedback in order to improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the action. As students develop movement skills, they are also developing social-emotional skills: they learn to use their bodies to express their feelings and share information and they also learn to interpret body language for a variety of purposes, such as recognizing signs of danger and resistance in the body language of others, recognizing physical signs of emotions during conflict resolution, and reading body cues in personal interactions or game situations. To develop their physical communication skills, students need to observe movement and to practise moving and expressing themselves through their bodies. Physical education activities and active and experiential learning in health education provide students with numerous opportunities for hands-on practice and observation of the physical communication skills that allow them to send, interpret, and receive information without saying a word.
Although physical communication skills are an important component of health and physical education, oral communication skills are also a key part of the development of health and physical literacy and are essential for thinking and learning. Through purposeful talk, students not only learn to communicate information but also to explore and to understand ideas and concepts, identify and solve problems, organize their experience and knowledge, and express and clarify their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. To develop their oral communication skills, students need numerous opportunities to talk about a range of topics in health and physical education. These opportunities are available throughout the curriculum. The expectations in all strands give students a chance to engage in brainstorming, reporting, and other oral activities to identify what they know about a new topic, discuss strategies for solving a problem, present and defend ideas or debate issues, and offer critiques or feedback on work, skill demonstrations, or opinions expressed by their peers.
Whether students are talking, writing, or showing their understanding in health and physical education, teachers can prompt them, through questioning, to explain the reasoning that they have applied to a particular solution or strategy, or to reflect on what they have done. Because rich, open-ended questioning is the starting point for effective inquiry or for addressing a problem, it is important that teachers model this style of questioning for their students and allow students multiple opportunities to ask, and find answers to, their own questions.
When reading texts related to health and physical education, students use a different set of skills than they do when reading fiction. They need to understand vocabulary and terminology that are unique to health and physical education, and must be able to interpret symbols, charts, and diagrams. To help students construct meaning, it is essential that teachers continue to help students develop their reading skills and strategies when they are reading to learn in health and physical education. In addition, there are many works of fiction that can be used to illustrate key concepts in health and physical education, such as resilience, mental health, healthy living, and active living. Teachers of Language could assign works of fiction that model concepts from the health and physical education curriculum in order to provide opportunities for meaningful discussion about healthy, active living.
Critical Thinking and Critical Literacy
Critical thinking is the process of thinking about ideas or situations in order to understand them fully, identify their implications, make a judgement, and/or guide decision making. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, analysing, synthesizing, examining opinions, identifying values and issues, detecting bias, and distinguishing between alternatives.
Students use critical-thinking skills in health and physical education when they assess, analyse, and/or evaluate the impact of something and when they form an opinion and support that opinion with a rationale. In order to think critically, students need to ask themselves effective questions in order to: interpret information; analyse situations; detect bias in their sources; determine why a source might express a particular bias; examine the opinions, perspectives, and values of various groups and individuals; look for implied meaning; and use the information gathered to form a personal opinion or stance, or a personal plan of action with regard to making a difference. In the health and physical education curriculum, the social-emotional learning skills expectations address both critical thinking and creative thinking skills, and students have opportunities to apply these skills in a variety of contexts and situations across the curriculum.
In health and physical education students who are critically literate are able to actively analyse media messages and determine possible motives and underlying messages. They are able to determine what biases might be contained in texts, media, and resource material and why that might be, how the content of these materials might be determined and by whom, and whose perspectives might have been left out and why. Only then are students equipped to produce their own interpretation of an issue. Opportunities should be provided for students to engage in a critical discussion of “texts”, including books and textbooks, television programs, movies, web pages, advertising, music, gestures, oral texts, and other forms of expression. Such discussions empower students to understand the impact on members of society that was intended by the text’s creators. Language and communication are never neutral: they are used to inform, entertain, persuade, and manipulate.
The literacy skill of metacognition supports students’ ability to think critically through reflection on their own thought processes. Acquiring and using metacognitive skills has emerged as a powerful approach for promoting a focus on thinking skills in literacy and across all disciplines, and for empowering students with the skills needed to monitor their own learning. As they reflect on their strengths and needs, students are encouraged to advocate for themselves to get the support they need in order to achieve their goals.In health and physical education, metacognitive skills are developed in a number of ways. For example, the social-emotional learning skills expectations include the development of skills for building self-awareness, identifying and managing emotions, managing stress, coping, and staying positive and motivated. As students develop these skills, they learn to recognize their strengths and needs, develop coping strategies, monitor their progress, and develop plans for making healthier choices and for healthy living. Similarly, students reflect on technique and monitor personal progress to develop and refine movement skills, and monitor personal progress to help improve personal fitness.
More information can be found in the "Critical Literacy and Critical Thinking" subsection of "Cross-curricular and Integrated Learning".
Inquiry and research are at the heart of learning in all subject areas. In health and physical education, students are encouraged to develop their ability to ask questions and to explore a variety of possible answers to those questions. Teachers can support this process through their own use of effective questioning techniques and by planning instruction to support inquiry (particularly in the context of experiential learning). Different kinds of questions that can be used to stimulate thinking include the following:
- simple skill-related questions, which elicit purposeful feedback and develop skill awareness (e.g., How was your head positioned when you landed from the jump? What information should you be looking for when reading a food label?)
- analytical questions, which develop decision-making and problem-solving skills with respect to game or activity strategy or a personal health choice by asking how or why (e.g., How can you and your partner work together in order to keep possession of the ball longer? How would you go about solving a problem in a relationship? What steps do you need to take?)
- review questions, which develop thinking skills related to reflecting on an activity or on the development of a skill and devising ways to improve the activity or approach (e.g., What could you change in this activity so that everyone has more of a chance to be involved in the play? What did you like about that activity? What skills are you developing by playing this game? What might you have done differently to reduce the risk of injury or harm?)
The ability to respond to such questions helps students build their confidence and competence as they develop physical and health literacy. The teacher’s questioning also provides students with a model for developing their own habits of inquiry.
The health and physical education program also builds on, reinforces, and enhances numeracy, including fundamental math skills, particularly in areas involving computation and graphing. For example, calculations and graphing are often used when tracking changes in fitness or when recording food intake in connection with the development of healthy eating plans. Conversely, students’ well-being and sense of self-worth and efficacy can be enhanced through learning in the mathematics classroom (see Ontario Ministry of Education, “Yes, I can! Paying Attention to Well-Being in the Mathematics Classroom”, Capacity Building K–12, January 2018).
More information can be found in the "Mathematical Literacy" subsection of "Cross-curricular and Integrated Learning".
The health and physical education curriculum provides varied opportunities for students to learn about ethical issues, explore ethical standards, and demonstrate ethical responsibility. As students learn and apply the principles of fair play – through concepts such as inclusion and respect for all – in a variety of settings and activities, they are developing an understanding of ethics. This understanding deepens as they develop social-emotional learning skills – as they learn about themselves and their interactions with others, and as they practise thinking critically and creatively. The health and physical education program also provides opportunities to explore ethical issues related to topics such as violence in sport, the use of performance-enhancing substances, and the notion of winning at all costs. Similarly, students can explore how sports and physical activity can be used to build com- munity, and they can consider ethical questions related to health promotion and the use of human subjects in research. The website of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport provides numerous other examples.
Students can also learn and apply citizenship education skills through health and physical education. Educators can consult the Citizenship Education Framework to make relevant connections.
When exploring issues related to health and physical education as part of an inquiry process, students may need to make ethical judgements. Such judgements may be necessary in evaluating evidence and positions on various issues or in drawing conclusions about issues, claims, or events. Teachers may need to help students in determining the factors to consider when making these judgements. In addition, teachers provide support and supervision throughout the inquiry process, helping students become aware of potential ethical concerns and of appropriate ways to address those concerns. Students who are conducting surveys or interviews may need guidance to ensure that they respect the dignity, privacy, and confidentiality of their participants. Teachers also supervise the choice of research topics to ensure that student researchers are not inadvertently exposed to information and/or perspectives for which they are not emotionally or intellectually prepared (e.g., personal interviews that lead to disclosure of abuse).