Montessori schools do a lot of different things in terms of their PE programming, with some schools not even offering PE in any substantial way. Most schools have an outside company run their program, and this is as only as good as the company they work with (and it’s not always you get what you pay for). Other schools have teachers run their programs, and most teachers don’t have the interest or expertise to carry out a meaningful program. Some schools have parents volunteer their services for PE, but many times the PE program is centered around the interest of the adult, like running or yoga. What can a school do right now, today, to make their PE program much more meaningful for the teachers and the students?
Align your PE program with the classroom!
The single best thing you can do to make your PE program more meaningful is to align your lessons in PE with concepts from the classroom to the best of your ability. The easiest place to find this alignment is with the culture curriculum. Humans throughout the ages have engaged in physical endeavors and sport, and these can be replicated in physical education. Are your students studying Greece? Have the students do a simulation of the Olympics Pentathlon. Are your students studying parts of a flower? Have the students play a game on pollination that reinforces the terms of a flower. Are your students studying world trade? Have them play a game that simulates how countries interact with each other on the global trade.
Every single culture engages in some unique style of sport or exercise, and by exploring them in PE; the students physically learn what they are reading and seeing in the classroom. The appreciation that your students will have for that culture will grow as they get to experience first hand the sport of that culture. Using classroom specific terminology in PE reinforces what they are learning in the classroom, which increases retention of concepts in the classroom (Lepine 2013). For some students, integrating concepts from the classroom with PE might make PE feel more “legitimate,” and the students will see PE as an extension of the classroom as opposed to another recess time.
If your classroom is doing a big project, use your PE time to supplement the study of that big topic. If the class is doing a culture fair, the students can learn about and try those different games and sports in PE. If the classroom is doing a science fair, perform experiments involving exercise with the class (which reinforces the scientific method). By chance, if you are doing a science fair this year and don’t have time to create your own PE science fair lessons, you can find some I have created here, here, here, and here.
If you can convince your other co-curricular teachers to follow the classroom curriculum, this will make your whole co-curricular program more rich and integrated. This is not an easy sell if you have many teachers all with their own curriculums however. If you are solely responsible for all co-curricular teaching, and you feel daunted by the task, anchor your co-curriculars to your classroom lessons. Immediately you will have a better scope and sequence, and you can go into far more detail within your co-curricular classes. Traditionally, if a class was studying Japan and they came across Japanese drama, they would read a couple sentences about Kabuki and maybe see a picture or two, and that would be the extent of their research. Imagine if the students created costumes and wrote their own Kabuki play. How cool would that be?
In short, align your PE program with your classroom curriculum. It will make your PE program more meaningful, and the students will retain more from the classroom curriculum. If you can get all your co-curriculars to align, the possibilities are endless. I truly believe alignment is the way of the future, and will create the most meaningful and rich learning experiences for our students. Our goal is to empower schools and teachers to be able to give amazing physical education lessons that align with the Montessori classroom curriculum. That is the definition of Montessori Physical Education.