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Selecting Developmentally Appropriate Activities for Complex Movements

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a physical education teacher, it is really important for you to choose movement activities that meet your students' needs. This lesson discusses what it means to choose developmentally appropriate activities for complex movements.

Understanding Complex Movements

Courtney loves her new job as a physical education teacher at Stonehill Elementary School. She gets to play the sports and games she loves, spend time outdoors, and get to know amazing children of all ages.

One of the things Courtney understands as part of her job is teaching students how to engage in complex movements, or physical activities that require the coordination of a variety of motor tasks. For instance, Courtney can see that walking is a simple movement for many students, but running while also bouncing a ball is a much more complex movement.

Because Courtney works with students of very different ages and ability levels, she thinks that she will have to be careful about what activities she chooses for different groups. She starts thinking about what it means to select a developmentally-appropriate activity, or one that will meet students' developmental capacities and needs, when it comes to teaching complex movements.

Assessing Students' Capacities and Needs

First, Courtney knows that selecting an activity should always start with assessment, or evaluating where students are to begin with. As she assesses students' with an eye toward choosing complex movement activities, Courtney relies on the following underlying questions:

  • What do I already know about this age group?

For example, Courtney knows that for the most part, kindergarten students are capable of walking and running, but skipping and galloping are often a challenge for them. On the other hand, fourth graders can engage in all of these gross motor activities easily, but might still be mastering the art of controlling a ball while moving their bodies. In this way, what constitutes a complex movement is really different for different age groups.

  • What do I notice about these students' strengths?

Next, Courtney looks at the students in front of her. After all, just because they are a certain age does not mean they will coordinate exactly with a standardized profile of their age group. Courtney tries to figure out what students are good at movement-wise, as well as what they love.

  • What do I notice about these students' struggles?

Then, Courtney is ready to observe the motor areas where students have a hard time. This helps her identify their learning edge, the exact place where they might benefit from practice and instruction from a PE teacher like her.

Choosing the Right Activity

Now that Courtney has a good sense of her students, she is ready to think about the activities that will meet their developmental needs. She uses the following selection criteria:

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