How Can PE and Health Teachers Support the Idaho Core Standards?

Rhonda Heggen, Physical Activity, Nutrition & Tobacco Prevention Coordinator

A foundational principle of the Idaho Core Standards is ownership of literacy across subject areas. But what does this look like in the flesh? How can a PE teacher support the implementation of the English language arts/literacy and mathematics standards?

This fall, a group of intrepid PE and health teachers from southwest Idaho took the plunge into the Idaho Core, building connections to the standards and their disciplines as well as with one another in partnership with the Idaho State Department of Education.

The Owyhee County Consortium for the school districts of Homedale, Marsing and Bruneau/Grandview contacted the Department's Coordinated School Health Team about providing professional development for their district's PE and health teachers focused on the new standards. We jumped at the chance, and immediately set up four, separate daylong workshops.

During the first meeting, we covered Idaho's PE and health Standards and began looking at some of the obvious connections to the Idaho Core Standards. Time was devoted to reviewing districts' scope and sequence to evaluate curriculum covered by grade level. This allowed teachers to find gaps or duplication in the curriculum and make changes to maintain the continuity of the courses.

Sessions three and four focused on actively engaging the teachers in the best practices of health and physical education instruction, performance assessments and identification of their favorite lessons connecting to the Idaho Core. Teachers practiced using the online resources of Schoolnet, Discovery Education and the Open Educational Resources to access Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP). Teachers were also given a comprehensive list of online apps to use technology in both health and PE.

Chris Avila, the Department's Mathematics Coordinator, provided hands-on mathematics activities to help the teachers understand the connection between health/PE and math. The teachers quickly recognized the importance of challenging students using a performance-based approach and problem solving to increase understanding. Teachers requested a fourth meeting to collaborate on the concepts learned and spend more time reviewing resources, data and working on lesson plans. They also wanted to observe lead teachers in classrooms in the Treasure Valley who are applying best practices in health and physical education.

The most valuable and encouraging feedback came when teachers shared professional growth stories from these workshops and how they were applying it in their classes. The series of workshops provided clarity for the teachers and their students on the standards, expectations and connections to the Idaho Core. The teachers demonstrated skill by adding domain specific vocabulary, informational text, and writing opportunities to their instruction.

One experienced teacher and coach said, “I am almost done with my career, and I didn't really want to change anything. I have been doing it this way for years, and it has worked. Tentatively, I started trying to apply what I had learned and look for connections to standards, and it has worked with the students. When I got evaluated, I shared with the principal what I had learned and how I was incorporating the PE standards and the Idaho Common Core into my PE instruction. The principal was surprised and pleased that I was using the information in my classes.” This teacher took a small step to try something new. Hopefully, with encouragement from the other teachers, principal and the response of the students, this teacher will continue to make the class more meaningful by connecting to the Idaho Core Standards.

If you would like to schedule a similar professional development opportunity in your district, please me directly at or (208) 332-6950.