5 Important TED Talks for Physical Educators


Today’s physical educators are continuously seeking opportunities for professional development. One can choose a traditional route of enriching their craft by presenting or simply attending an annual conference. Others may opt to read the most up-to-date books and articles written by true professionals in the field regarding best practices for today’s pedagogy. One of my personal favorites, social media, has taken the physical education field by storm. Twitter in particular encompasses an enormous professional learning network full of ideas and insight. Have you heard of Voxerpe.com? Voxerpe.com is a website dedicated to helping physical education teachers connect with the global community of physical educators on voxer, a powerful free application for your phone.  Think of your phone as a modern day walkie talkie used to communicate with some of the best PE teachers in the world.  Crazy, right? Most likely, teachers, as continuous learners, are using a combination of the above examples.  What about TED?

TED Talks as Professional Development!

Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) talks are yet another beneficial resource, which has helped shape me into the physical education teacher I am today. Usually short and to the point (under 18 minutes), TED talks include many of today’s most influential and motivating professionals including teachers, doctors, athletes, coaches, CEOs and ordinary people who just have a good story to share. Below, I’ve listed the 5 TED talks (+1) that have influenced me the most as a 21st century physical education teacher.

  1. Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise Can Transform our Schools: Dr. John Ratey, MD

Dr. Ratey discusses the brain-exercise connection and how exercise can raise test scores, lessen behavioral problems, and help the overall well-being of today’s students with fitness based physical education.  Dr. Ratey also authored the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  This TED talk along with Spark inspired me and my school to begin a morning movement program called Every Lap Counts.

2.  Want Smarter, Healthier Kids?  Try Physical Education: Paul Zientarski

Paul Zientarski, educator of 40+ years, discusses his highly successful program, Learning Readiness Physical Education (LRPE) he created at Naperville Central High School.  He emphasizes how the program has produced dramatic improvements in test scores, behavior, and childhood obesity.  His talk is an inspiring reminder of why quality physical education matters!

      3.  Every Kids Needs a Champion: Rita Pierson

40 year teaching veteran Rita Pierson calls for educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.  This talk inspired me to seek connections with each of my students.  On many occasions, this has increased the comfort level of some students who were shy or hesitant about physical education class.

4. Changing the Game in Youth Sports: John O’Sullivan

John O’Sullivan chronicles his three decades as a soccer player and coach.  He recalls when youth sports were about children competing against other children instead of adults competing with each other through their kids.  This, he says, is the reason so many of today’s youth drop out of sports.  John O’Sullivan also wrote a great book called, Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.

5. The Decline of Play: Dr. Peter Gray

Dr. Peter Gray emphasizes how there has been a dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play without adult supervision over the past 60 years.  He discusses why free play is essential for children’s healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children’s lives.  Peter Gray also wrote an equally compelling book called, Free to Learn: Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.

        Bonus TED – Try Something New for 30 Days: Matthew Cutts

I wrote a blog post on this talk called 30 Day Challenges: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.   I share thoughts on how I use 30 day challenges both personally and professionally.  Be sure to check it out!

It is paramount for educators to keep up with the latest research and pedagogical practices while maintaining strategies and lessons that have proven success.  There are countless options for professional development that won’t cost the educator a cent.  Social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Voxerpe offer a bounty of information from peers in the field.  The internet is full of websites and articles waiting to be explored. Have you seen what your colleagues are doing in their classes? I learn so much from sharing ideas with the three other members of my PE team.   TED.com is one website that I frequently explore in search of inspiration to broaden my knowledge of teaching physical education.  I hope you found the above TED talks to be equally inspiring.  Be sure to share other TED talks that may have been beneficial to your professional development.

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A Field Day Formula for All



Plunger Relay

Field Day is annually one of the most exciting events for elementary school students.  It’s often a culminating activity where the entire school community comes together to celebrate the completion of the school year.  I’ve grown to enjoy getting a glimpse of field day throughout the world via social media.  It’s evident that every school has its own personal touch.  Throughout my career, I’ve worked at several different schools, each with a different take on this extravaganza.  The one common factor in every field day is fun! I’d like to share with you a 26 year field day formula with proven success from my current school.  It’s a well-oiled machine, too good not to share (see videos of our field day in action below).  

Bucket Brigade

How do we make teams?

  • Three days prior to the event, our PE team divides the school into two teams.  To make it easy, one side of the hallway is white and the other side of the hallway is blue.  Each grade has 4 classes so two classes are white and two are blue.
  • Two days prior to the event we notify the students of their color.  This gives students plenty of time to put together their uniform for the event.

What is our field day format?

Our field day is structured around a variety of eight different relay races.  As you can see below, races start out dry, then eventually turn into water events as the students get hot.  In my experience, water is a must!  Each race lasts three minutes (except water events, which last until a team’s bucket is filled with water).

  • Two classrooms from each grade level (2nd-5th) will compete at a time.
  • The other two classes will cheer from the bleachers, which are divided into blue and white sections (blue on the left side and white on the right).
  • Groups rotate on and off the field following each of the two events per rotation.  This lessens the number of students on the field, increasing the number of repetitions per student competing.  It also gives you a built in cheering section.  If you could only hear the excitement and encouragement coming from the bleachers during each race!


Blue/White divided on the bleachers
Cheering for their classmates


How do we mark the field?

Blue and White teams compete between each set of yellow cones
  • The day before the event, my team and I paint ten lanes on our field.  We keep the distance short to increase repetitions.
  • Each lane is again divided by hash marks to allow space for blue and white to compete. (example: blue from one classroom will compete white from another classroom.
  • Two buckets of water are placed on the hash marks in each lane for the water events. During the water events each bucket is placed in the center of each blue and white lane. (Notice the back-up buckets in the background.)
  • There are 10 separate competitions (same event) taking place during each relay race.

How do we keep score?

  • Each Blue/White lane has a parent score keeper tallying up the score for blue and white.
  • Each time a student touches the end line, they team receives one tally.
  • After each full rotation, a master scorekeeper receives all the scores from the parents, adds up the points, and gives a score updated to the crowd.
Score Sheet
  • Water events are scored differently.  Each team is trying to be the first to fill their 1 1/2 quart pail with water.
  • The winning team receives 10 points and the losing team receives 5 points.

Our Field Day in Action





After completing our relay races, we finish with the tug-o-war as a grand finale.  Each grade takes takes turns competing in their blue/white teams.  The winner of each round receives 50 points while the losing team receives 40.  Following each round, the blue/white teams shake hands, get a popsicle, and return to the bleachers to cheer on the rest of the groups.


Each school has its own unique formula for field day. Our school has kept field day competitive yet fun, with all grades from 2nd-6th sharing the same field and same events.  We find it’s a great way to end the year as a community.

Thanks to my PE teammates Brian, Jedd and Laura for another fantastic day of fun and excitement!  Kudos to our parent volunteers, teachers, and staff for making the day run so smoothly!

We would enjoy learning about YOUR field day!  What works for you and your school?


If you enjoyed this post, consider following my blog to receive future posts.

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

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Freedom to Explore and Create in PE


I recently read Free to Learn by American Psychologist, Peter Gray.  Dr. Gray explains that “in order to foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development.”  He states that “free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient.”

To help solidify his argument that children have a high capacity for self-education through curiosity and play, Dr. Gray cites Sugata Mitra’s experiment in India back in 1999.  In this experiment, Mitra installed a computer in the middle of one of the poorest slums in New Delhi, where most children were unschooled, illiterate, and had never seen a computer.  He turned on the computer and told the nearby kids they could play with it.  Over a course of three months, without any adult input, more than 300 kids became computer literate.  Mitra repeated the experiment 100 times in different areas of India with similar results.  Mitra defined computer literacy as follows:

  • use of Windows operation functions (click, drag, open, resize, navigation, etc.)
  • draw and paint with the preloaded program
  • load and save files
  • play games and run educational programs
  • browse and surf the Internet if a connection was available
  • set up email accounts
  • chat on the Internet
  • simple troubleshooting

As a physical education teacher, it made me realize that I sometimes underestimate the power of student learning.  Often I spend unnecessary amounts of time explaining directions and giving detailed examples of activities and challenges.

For example, at the end of each marking period, my team and I like to set up stations around the gym for our pre-kindergarten-2nd Grade students.  Stations include fitness, manipulatives, throwing and catching, striking, scooters, etc.   Yesterday, for the first time, I divided the students up into groups of three and sent them to each of the seven stations.  Instead of explaining each station in detail, I simply instructed the groups to stay in their general area, be safe and work together.   I was astonished by the cooperation and creativity.  As expected, there were a few disagreements, however, this is where I challenged the students to problem solve on their own.  Students were creating games and challenges that I could have never imagined through THEIR interpretation.

We recently listed a bunch of partner exercises on our whiteboard.  In a given amount of time, partners had to complete the list of five partner exercises as many times as possible.  The students and I gave detailed examples of how to perform each exercise with their partner. I now realize this limited their creativity and ability to freely explore movement.  It also took away a huge cooperative component in problem solving and communication.

For our next class, we offered the same workout.  However, this time we didn’t include examples and explanations.  The results were astonishing! We witnessed communication, experimentation, and problem-solving. I even learned there are other, and sometimes more effective ways to do each of the partner exercises.

As an educator who is constantly seeking professional development, I learned a huge lesson from reading Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn.  I need to give children more freedom to explore and create throughout our curriculum. I learned that students often learn best without me over explaining a game or a challenge.  I learned that children are often the ones teaching me, as they work together to invent, explore, and create.  Finally, I learned the importance of free play at school and at home, and its benefits on our children.  Children who are granted the freedom to play are more passionate about learning.  They enhance social skills and means to resolve a conflict.  They become more emotionally resilient.

Along with PE teachers, ALL teachers and administrators should consider giving students more freedom to explore and play.  Taking away recess to increase class time is such a backward way of thinking, yet still exists.  Parents could possibly encourage less structured sports and activities, and allow their children more time to simply go out and play.  After all, play is a child’s work!

“In a healthy human being, the thirst for knowledge is never quenched.” -Peter Gray

Gray, Peter. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-reliant, and Better Students for Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

If you enjoyed this post, consider following my blog to receive future posts.

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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