P.E. goes academic

Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore, reports the New York Times. In addition to teaching health and fitness, P.E. teachers are trying to add reading, ‘riting and rithmetic to their classes.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On a recent afternoon, the third graders in Sharon Patelsky’s class reviewed words like “acronym,” “clockwise” and “descending,” as well as math concepts like greater than, less than and place values.

During gym class.

Ms. Patelsky, the physical education teacher at Everglades Elementary School here, instructed the students to count by fours as they touched their elbows to their knees during a warm-up. They added up dots on pairs of dice before sprinting to round mats imprinted with mathematical symbols. And while in push-up position, they balanced on one arm and used the other (“Alternate!” Ms. Patelsky urged. “That’s one of your vocabulary words”) to stack oversize Lego blocks in columns labeled “ones,” “tens” and “hundreds.”

P.E. teachers worry their jobs will be cut if they’re not seen as critical to a school’s core mission — and test scores, a Palm Beach County administrator tells the Times.

Across the country, P.E. teachers now post vocabulary lists on gym walls, ask students to test Newton’s Laws of Motion as they toss balls, and give quizzes on parts of the skeleton or food groups.

At Deep Creek Elementary School in Chesapeake, Va., children count in different languages during warm-up exercises and hop on letter mats to spell out words during gym class.

The District of Columbia has added 50 questions about health and physical education to its end-of-year standardized tests.

More academics can mean less exercise.

In Kristina Rodgers’s gym class at Indian Pines Elementary School in Lake Worth, Fla., students spent as much time pondering pictures of broccoli and blocks of cheese to stick into pockets on a food chart as they did hopping or running.

Taking the “physical” out of physical education won’t help all those boys getting antsy in class. Kids need time to move.

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  1. Sigh. Ideas like this one are why I homeschool. It’s not just the boys – my daughters need exercise before they can focus. Why do our teachers expect a level of discipline and attentiveness and focus from our children that you’d never be able to produce in a room full of adults?

  2. PE has been going this way for years. I have kids asking to have five minutes at the end of a period so they can study for a volleyball test (and they’re seriously studying) … two hundred multiple-choice and T/F questions about the rules and the manner of play.

    If you’re going to have the kids 45 minutes a day, and you decide to include some vocabulary, I can’t see much wrong with it.

  3. And we wonder why our children are fat. Knew a heavily overweight kid who refused to participate in the active portion of PE, but had a 90 because he aced all the tests. Honestly, I’m a big fan of taking them to the track and making them run for most of the period.

  4. This is so awful that I don’t know where to start. First, I’m not a fan of PE, at all, because the kids most in need of exercise have been finding ways to avoid it for at least 60 years (and would do so if just “running” on the track). For those kids who get plenty of exercise, whether from farm chores, kids’ play or organized sports/dance, it’s unnecessary. My kids were all serious athletes and typically were either (1) discouraged from excelling or (2) expected to inspire/coach less adept kids. They hated it.
    Curmudgeon: PE every day? My kids never had more than 2x/wk, thank Heaven. At the ES level, just provide recess, perhaps even two short breaks (at least in good weather, with no winter gear needed). Beyond ES, PE is a waste; showering is necessary if kids are actually going to exercise and that, plus changing, takes up too much time. PE is the equivalent of ESL for everyone; at the same time that many kids are overweight and sedentary, many more kids than ever are full-time athletes. A 13yo swimmer who trains 5 hours/day, a gymnast who trains 25 hrs/wk, a soccer/hockey player who’s juggling several teams or a nationally ranked tennis player doesn’t need PE. And it’s silly to require such kids to learn the rules of volleyball or how to play softball; if they wanted to do it and had the time, they would. Even the kids who go to the gym on their own, swim laps without ever doing a meet, or play on city rec teams are getting exercise. I agree, absolutely, that kids need a break or two in the school day, but I’m for recess, not PE.

    • I should have said that kids could ELECT to take PE, or even be required to do so if not involved in outside athletic activity (although the latter would quickly be subverted by the PE teachers/union).

  5. Just another way standardized testing is destroying America. How ironic that the conservatives that supposedly espouse the Shakespeares and Michelangelos and Mozarts of the world (not Leonardo, he wasn’t ‘straight’) are creating a future like the movie ‘Idiocracy’. Why? Because impoverished, uneducated people are easy to control and manipulate. The deliberate dumbing down of America continues.


    (The website and book have *nothing* to do with me; I’m just putting it here because everyone should read it!)