What help do beginning teachers need to teach physical education more effectively?

Strategies exist that can be used to help beginning teachers teach physical education more effectively. One strategy used within physical education is to 'put on the act' even if, for example, dancing is not their favourite area. Mentees need to provide that inspirational role model to their children. They need to put on their dancing shoes and show them how to do it. You wouldn't expect the beginning teacher to go into a literacy lesson not excited about the activity, so it is important to remind them that they need to be engaged and that they also need to be excited in physical education lessons. If mentees are really worried about teaching a particular dance, they need to think back to the curriculum where the requirements are to 'perform dances using simple movement patterns' (KS1) (DfE, 2013a, p. 199) or 'using a range of movement patterns' (KS2) (DfE, 2013a, p. 199). Your mentee doesn’t have to be like the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing or Britain's Got Talent, or be the greatest dancer

Table14.4 Stage 3 task checklist for your mentee to use to observe movement skills within different age phases in physical education lessons


What are you observing - skill, individual, team?

Watch the whole movement.

Watch the whole movement more than once.


Did the whole movement look right?

Was the outcome of the movement effective?

Is the movement repeatable?

Does it match criteria? If so, how?

What criteria are you using?

Can you describe the movement using the preparation phase, action phase and recovery phase?

Can you describe the movement using the head, arms, body, legs/feet?

What improvements (teaching points) would you suggest?

Can you phrase the improvements and teaching points so it is the next positive challenge for the child?

Does the pupil improve during the session and if so, how?

Where did the children give any feedback?

What type of feedback were they given and by whom?

themselves - they don't need six months’ training - but they may feel they need to be. To boost their own confidence, you could suggest that your mentee attends a local Zumba, jive, hip-hop, line dancing or a street dance class. Perhaps hold a staff session after school so they can see that there is no expectation for them to be an amazing dancer. Alternatively, you could suggest to your mentee that they watch videos on YouTube and then bring these into their teaching with the children. They can take what they learn and focus on how to break down the skill, what the teaching points are and how to put the dances together. Some of the best dances I have done with my primary-aged children have come from watching choreography on YouTube, then drawing my own pictures, my own choreography and planning to help me visualise how to teach it to the children. One particular favourite is 'Everything Is Awesome', the song from The Lego Movie. Case study 14.3 illustrates the song 'Everything is Awesome' and how to choreograph this song into a dance.

Case study 14.3 Everything is awesome choreography

Another example of the use of films to enhance dance is illustrated in Case study 14.4.

Case study 14.4 Dance linked to films and music

The fight scene in Star Wars:The Phantom Menace is a good choice- like The Lego Movie, the film is rated as U, so suitable for all your children. The fight scene is often referred to as a dance, as the characters are reacting and acting to their movements with balance, coordination, stability, and links between actions and motifs (for KS2). These film clips can be used as a stimulus or used as whole songs to develop the aims and content of the National Curriculum. You need to allow time and space for children to review, develop and enhance their performances, as these are important aspects of the development and progression of learning. Although brilliant to move to and respond to, I have to admit the 'crazy frog song' was one that I regretted after using it for several consecutive lessons. The children, however, loved it as it was very popular with them at the time, so it is important to use meaningful and timely music and stimulus to enhance your teaching.

Another strategy is the need for detailed planning, especially at the beginning of a career, so your mentee knows how the lesson is flowing and what happens next. They will need to plan in detail for the next challenges, to differentiate. In thinking about how they are going to group the children, Pickup et al. (2008) proposed different ways to group: by physical ability (high, middle and low ability); by mixed ability; randomly; by friendship group; and by grouping non-performers. When considering grouping, the beginning teacher needs to think about the aim of the group: does the teacher want them to cooperate, collaborate or compete, as these 3Cs (cooperate, collaborate, compete) may influence the way and style used to group the children.

There are many pros and cons for each type of grouping, and these can be explored further through the resources in the Further reading section at the end of the chapter. To help build your confidence in mentoring physical education, you could use sports coaches or an expert coordinator who you may have within your school. Sports coaches or other experienced colleagues within your school can also help to develop the confidence and competence of your beginning teacher, encouraging them to work on their physical education teaching if it is not as strong as their other subject areas. You would not want your mentee to miss that moment when Freddie scores his first-ever goal or when Georgia balances across the beam for the first time. Mentees need to teach and see these moments, rather than avoiding and stepping away from physical education. Encourage them to love physical education, even if they do not see themselves as an expert.

If you do not have sports coaches within your school and you are the expert coordinator, then it is important to share with your mentee how you develop your plans. Ask them to come and watch you. Encourage them to ask you for advice on how to progress learning in consecutive lessons, especially when they change to new topic areas or focused areas within the curriculum. When they are learning how to identify faults and begin to offer feedback and next step progressions to the children, ensure that you have encouraged them to only identify one fault at a time. Trying to identify everything, even though they may now be able to see movement and see that everything that is wrong, won't work! The key here is that your mentee knows how to preserve children's motivation and excitement within physical education. Although it is sometimes easier to do so, they must not be tempted to tell children that everything is rubbish or needs lots of improvement. Instead, ask them to focus on positives and why the movements are right. Beginning teachers need to identify which part will make the most difference and then focus on this, thus giving the children clear directions and guidance on how to progress - the HOW of movement. Your mentees need to be detailed in their progression of the movement in their feedback, as shown in Case study 14.5.

Case study 14.5 How to extend feedback focusing on the how of movement for Jonny undertaking a handstand

You can't just tell Jonny, 'You need your legs higher in your handstand'.

You need to tell him how to get his legs higher: he can't see his legs, and he may think that his legs are really high! If mentees don't know how, they need to ask and seek support from their mentors and physical education coordinators.

You could support Jonny with the extra details of the how:'Jonny, as you put your hands down on the floor, shoulder width apart, focus on pushing down hard with your hands as you kick the legs up towards the ceiling, with toes pointed.'

That way, Jonny has a clear target and goal to be working on: the pressure of the hands, the direction of the legs and the extension and tension of the toes. You can then come back, question and reassess his progression later. Some visual guidance may be needed, such as demonstrations from your mentee or from Jonny's peers, as well as verbal guidance to help show where the fault is and how to improve it.

Be clear and concise in your feedback, so the mentee can step away from this child with them fully understanding what the beginning teacher would like them to do next and what they are expecting from them. Don't be afraid to ask them to repeat back to the beginning teacher what their next challenge is. If the phrase 'the next challenge’ is used, the child has a goal and purpose, and it will help them to remain positive.

If you acknowledge the importance and value of physical education, then your mentees will too. Howells (2012) identifies that primary schools are places where habits, likes and dislikes are formed, and therefore the value of physical activity, physical education and school sport can have an impact on children continuing to be active and healthy later into life. Therefore, be a role model and show the importance of activity; do not treat physical education as a moveable item, or miss physical education if it is raining or due to the nativity play. Physical education is a statutory compulsory subject through all key stages, from the age of four until the age of sixteen. Although it is the responsibility of schools to determine the amount of time per week allocated to physical education, the government and Ofsted recommend two hours of high-quality physical education a week. It should be given the same value as literacy, mathematics, science and computing. It is therefore recommended that it is not taken away due to poor behaviour within other subject lessons and is not used as a time to practise the school play or because the choir needs the space. These excuses are inexcusable!

For some children, physical education will be their only structured time of physical activity. Bailey, Howells and Glibo (2018, p.2) identify that 'physical activity has an important part to play in protecting young children from mental illness, and has the potential to save lives through helping to reduce feelings of hopelessness, suicide and self-harm'. Howells and Bowen (2016) state that physical education and physical activity have a positive influence on self-esteem of primary aged children. School and physical education lessons are often seen as the vehicle to provide opportunities for children to be physically active and to solve the obesity crisis. Pate, O'Neill and McIver (2011) propose that physical education lessons are often claimed to be the key place to provide ‘important benefits to public health' and the World Health Organization (WHO) has previously suggested that one way of increasing children's physical activity levels could be to increase the number of physical education lessons - as long as children do not spend longer in a queue than they do participating!

Physical education can also be a time and place where other holistic skills are developed, not just physical skills, so it is important a beginning teacher recognises how and where these skills are being developed. Kirk (1993) and later Laker (2000) developed domains of

Table 14.5 Domains of learning applied to the National Curriculum for physical education in England




Mastering basic movements



Throwing and catching



Coordination and control




Tactics and principles for attacking and defending

Applying and developing skills to link to make actions and sequences

Understand how to improve

Recognising success

Compare performances and demonstrate improvements



Challenges both individually and within a team

Compete with self and with team against others

Cope with not winning


Source: Howells (2015).

Table14.6 Domains of learning applied to the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in England




Controlled effort

Active games

Energetic play

Use of beanbags, cones, balls

and hoops

Stand on one foot

Move freely


Negotiate space, adjust speed, direction, avoid obstacles

Catching, rolling

Draw lines and circles

Experiment with ways of moving

Jumping off objects

Increasing control over objects



Target throwing

Create different moods and talk about feelings

Use key movement vocabulary

Use key manipulation vocabulary

Pose challenging questions Follow sensible rules Understand how body feels and express how it feels

Know why you get hot


Collaborative throwing, rolling, fetching, receiving

Play with one another

Understand boundaries of self and others

Match activity to interests.

Source: Howells (2017).

learning to include physical/practical, cognitive and social (including emotional) elements of learning that take place within a physical education lesson and that teachers can focus on. Howells (2015) applied these domains of learning to the National Curriculum for Physical Education (DfE, 2013a) (Tablel4.5) and later in 2017 they were applied (Howells, 2017) to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYES) (DfE, 2014) (Table 14.6). The aim was to be able to share and to show experienced teachers, mentors and beginning teachers how they were already thinking in the domains of learning within the planning they were undertaking. In a very similar way to adding transferable skills to plans, these domains of learning can also be applied.

How can mentors best support mentees in their teaching of physical education?

Given that children’s physical education lessons occur in most schools for only two hours a week, it may be that most/some beginning teachers have limited experience of teaching physical education. It is therefore likely that mentees are in great need of your support. For many, sports coaches may have taken physical education lessons, or perhaps the mentee had their planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time allocated during physical education time during their initial teacher education.

It may have been that they were not in a year group or the right time of year when classes went swimming, so may have missed teaching any swimming. Even though their initial teacher education gives them the best opportunities to learn and develop, they may not have had many opportunities. However, there are also beginning teachers who specialise in physical education during their initial teacher education. Such beginning teachers need challenging and developing, perhaps through peer tutoring of others. They need to share and to be asked questions about what their dissertations and independent research projects focused on. This could lead to enhanced practice at a whole-school level.


This chapter has identified that you, as a mentor, need to spend time with your mentee to check on their confidence as well as competence levels, and to support them in their planning. In particular, it is important to check that real learning is taking place within the lessons- that is, that their identified teaching points ensure progression of learning is occurring rather than just doing activities/skills. Ideally, mentors need to challenge the beginning teacher in discussion about how they go about planning, in particular, for consecutive lessons and how they are planning for the range of abilities within the class, including children with SEND. The latter can be an area of which many beginning teachers are fearful, and some may not know where to start. It is also important to have discussions with the beginning teacher about what else other than physical learning is occurring within the physical education lessons.

Spending time watching your mentee teach, but with a specific focus on, for example, the length of time it takes to give instructions, how to stop the children or how to learn on the playground vs the field are all areas that would benefit the mentee. You should offer physical education-specific related advice linked to the focus that the mentee has requested or negotiated, as sometimes mentees do not know what they need. They also need guidance on, or discussions about, how to record assessments so they can develop children's learning from one lesson to another, so they can pass information onto the next year's class teacher to continue the children's progression in physical education. This means the children are never in a position where they may be bored.

Physical education can provide a wonderful learning opportunity for children and also for teachers, although it is recognised that many teachers - beginners and experienced educators - are worried or fearful about teaching physical education. There are so many opportunities in physical education to help support children to lead healthy, active lives, to build character, to build children to be the next generation of Olympians, Paralympians, sport

Mentoring for physical education 189 reporters, sport analysts, all through inspiring and motivating them during their formative years within primary school settings. All this needs is you and your mentee to support the children to fulfil their potential.

Further reading

Howells, K., with Carney, A., Castle, N., and Little, R. (2017) Mastering Primary Physical Education, London: Bloomsbury.

Pickup, I., Price, L., Shaughnessey, J., Spence, J. and Trace, M. (2008) Learning to Teach Primary PE, London: Sage.

Sewell, K. (ed.) (2018) Planning the Primary National Curriculum: A Complete Guide for Trainees and Teachers. 2nd ed., London: Sage, pp. 266-80.

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