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Does PE belong in the PYP?

Yes, it does.

I heard a claim the other day that a PE teacher at an IB World School claimed that PE does not belong in the PYP. Now, this is through the grapevine so I do not have any evidence of this actually occurring firsthand but it did get me thinking. As you can see from my first three words, it does. If you are willing to dive into the rabbit hole with me on this one, then please join me. Otherwise, if not, just understand that I firmly do believe PE belongs in the PYP.

The Name:

Firstly, in the PYP, the official title of our discipline is PSPE (Personal, social, physical education). It looks at all facets of being human. Let's relate the name of our discipline to our curriculum. Our curriculum has three strands: Identity, Active Living and Interactions. We can loosely connect these three strands to our curriculum name but of course, we cannot compartmentalise too much. Personal can connect to the Identity strand, Social can link to the Interactions strand and Physical can be related to the Active Living strand.


These are just names, but what about the content? If you refer to mapped curriculum on this website, you will see that there are identity outcomes in every unit. It is by far the largest of the strands and it needs to be addressed every unit. Every central idea has an element of the identity strand in it so when I unpack it with the students, it is explicit. Let's look at a central idea from Grade 4:

Central Idea:

"Independent training, intrinsic motivation and self-belief can enhance body control for movements in Athletics"

Identity Learner Outcome:

"Motivate themselves intrinsically and behave with belief in themselves"

"Work and learn with increasing independence"

To be clear, I do need to change this Central Idea for the next school year since it locks itself into only Athletics. But I do like the meaning behind it, it is all about 'yourself' - training yourself, motivating yourself, believing in yourself. The PYP curriculum allows these big ideas to be explicit. Rather than blindly learning some skills, the PYP gives us meaning to why we are learning these skills.

Another great reason I am an advocate for PE in the PYP is the focus on student-centred inquiry-based learning. I remember back in my youth, my coach/teacher got a football out, picked two team captains, started the game and shouted at us if we did not score a goal. I enjoyed PE but that was because I was competent. But I could not tell you anything besides, "we played football." I remember a few of my less-than-capable friends not really enjoying the experience - passive participants.

Transdisciplinary Skills:

However, referring back to my Grade 4 Athletics example, the PYP also makes transdisciplinary skills explicit. Refer to the "Valuable Resources" page for more information. But the Athletics unit had several trans skills - and they were not just physical. I framed the unit around the term, "yourself." The first lesson is spent on the provocation and unpacking the central idea - get the students excited. Second and third lesson is spent getting their baseline information, pre-unit testing. At this stage, I have given them just enough information on how to perform a high jump, throw a shot put or discus, safely. Once that was established, the students picked their own 3 events they would like to compete if for the Athletics Carnival at the end of the unit - 1 track event, 1 jump event, 1 throw event. This is where the student choice comes in. After that, the students have 8 lessons to inquire on how to execute their skills competently (Trans Skill: Gross Motor, Safety, Observing, Acquisition of Knowledge), they research, give each other feedback (Trans Skills: Cooperating, Adopting a Variety of Roles, Cooperating, Comprehension), record their training (Trans Skills: Collecting Data, Recording Data, Organising Data, Interpreting Data) and throughout the unit, they progressively improve. During this unit, I am more of a facilitator of learning, I prepare the equipment and let them go train. Every so often, I will host a "hot lesson" for a specific event to check-in and give some more direct instruction.


Then, there is the technology integration. The PYP believes that students need to be ready for the 21st century and that includes being able to use technology safely and competently. The Grade 4 Athletics unit allows students to research their events (Chrome, Safari - iBooks where I sometimes airdrop information to them), record their results (Numbers), present their assessments (BookCreator, iMovie) and share videos or ask questions (Seesaw). This unit is fantastic for schools that allow for 1:1 devices. There is a great amount of opportunities for tech to be integrated into PE and the PYP encourages it.


The encouragement for integration with other disciplines of the school is a key element of the PYP. I just completed a Movement Composition unit with my grade 3s. This was an integration between the homeroom, music and PE. Students learned how they can express themselves through dance and music. Students learned about rhythm, harmony and chords in music and I taught basic gymnastics and expressive movements in PE. Not only were the students working on a big project between 3 classes but they saw the same concepts in three different environments, which further enhances their understanding of the concepts of form, function and perspective.


Lastly and I think this is most important. Generally, students love PE. They love the fact that they get to run, be active and release some energy. Since they are excited, they are engaged. When they are engaged, they are motivated to learn. When they are motivated to learn and you provide meaningful lessons, fantastic learning experiences can happen. Therefore, they are primed for the big ideas of your lessons.

Use your activity as a vehicle to transport them to an understanding of your big ideas.

That is the beauty of the PYP. It allows you to bring these big ideas to life. Resilience, overcoming adversity, optimism, self-belief - these are all hugely important terms that are addressed in the PYP. Attach them to a unit that the kids are already excited about and you will be creating a generation of kids who know how to handle the challenges that they will face in their lives.

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