Top 5 Topics To Incorporate Into Your PE Curriculum

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Physical Education Curriculums continue to evolve, but one thing remains a constant – motivating students is incredibly challenging. At PLT4M, we have found that what is often cited as a “lack of motivation” is actually a lack of engagement. We explore some of the most popular new topics to incorporate into your PE curriculum. 

The Challenge Of Motivating Students in PE 


In a recent national survey, Physical Education teachers were asked, “What is the biggest pain point in your day-to-day as a PE Teacher?” 


The answer? Student Motivation. 


In fact, 50% of teachers ranked student motivation as their number one challenge. 


The next closest result? Lack of support from Adminstration with 12%. 


So, if motivation is such a universal challenge for today’s teachers, how do we address it?

The Accessibility Issue – Why Students Shut Down In PE 


“It’s social media.” “It’s kids these days.” While it is an easy way to explain away the lack of student motivation, it doesn’t actually address what is going on. 


For physical education, one of the biggest reasons students shut down is because they are intimidated, embarrassed, or lack the confidence to try the different activities in front of their peers. This is especially true for middle and high school students where the peer pressure to fit in is elevated.


In PE, they see an activity or unit and often imagine everything that could go wrong and quickly process the risk/reward balance. 


  • Chances I miss the shot, drop the pass, whiff on the ball…high
  • Benefit to my overall well being if I do it right…low
  • Embarrassment if I do it wrong…high
  • Choice? Don’t give any effort.
  • So what do we do to shift the mindset for students?

Casting A Wider Net


While games and lifetime activities have played a central role in modern day Physical Education, we should remember that less than 25% of adults will actively participate in sports as adults. 

So what if we introduce a wider range of healthy lifetime activities that students can experiment with?


By exposing kids to different workouts and training activities along with our traditional sport units, we ensure that every student has a chance to find something they enjoy and excel at. 


And when kids enjoy and excel at something, motivation and participation soon follow. 


Top 5 Topics To Incorporate In Your PE Curriculum  

  1. Foundational Fitness
  2. Yoga 
  3. Strength Training 
  4. Dance Fitness 
  5. Mindfulness 
  6. Bonus: Pickleball 

These topics can engage and motivate student participation while aligning with state and national standards. Better yet, these topics will allow students to explore both the physical and mental components of living a healthy life. 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and there are countless other topics that can be added to your semester. But for the purposes of this article, let’s explore why these five topics are must-haves in your physical education curriculum. 

Get the highlights! Check out this video of Director of Content Doug Curtin breaking it all down! 

# 1 Foundational Fitness

It is in the name itself and number 1 for a reason! Foundation! We often assume that most students know how to perform basic exercises like an Air Squat or Push Up. Consequently, it can be tempting to jump right into more advanced content. 
However, failing to teach students foundational human movements and proper techniques for performing them is like a math teacher never covering arithmetic because “kids understand how to count.”
We’re talking squat, lunge, hinge, press, and pull. And these movements can be taught, reviewed, and practiced at ANY age or grade level. It is literally the foundation of human movement patterns and can help students build confidence, body awareness, and good form and technique for any future units to come! 
And when we say introduce foundational fitness. We mean giving in-depth breakdowns of movements and providing scaling and modification options, making fitness accessible to everyone. 
From there, all the other doors are opened!

# 2 Yoga

Yoga has become wildly popular for students because it is a fun, dynamic form of exercise that is very accessible to all students. While yoga used to have a stigma of people doing headstands and chanting, more and more people understand the physical and mental health benefits of yoga practice for everyone!  
Physically it helps build greater balance, strength, endurance, posture, and breathing. Mentally, it boosts self-esteem, lowers stress levels, and promotes better attention, focus, and peace of mind. 
There is a lot to gain from keeping it simple when teaching yoga. First, building up a library of poses that students can confidently do correctly is key. From there, you can slowly introduce more comprehensive flows that more closely resemble a yoga class. This progression will help all students to see the lifelong value and opportunity they have with yoga. 

# 3 Strength Training 

Strength is a necessity to enjoy a long and healthy life. Strength training increases bone density, increases caloric expenditure, motivates fat loss, prevents structural ailments like low back pain and knee injury, and all the while helping to stave off chronic disease. Most importantly, it just helps us navigate everyday life! 
And when it comes to actually introducing it to students, you can meet your students where they are at! Strength training can come in many forms based on the students you are working with. Barbells and dumbbells are great for strength training, but before we get there, we can employ a host of bodyweight exercises or things like medballs and other equipment that engage muscles throughout your entire body in strict form.
Doing so will also help all students see the opportunity to strength train for what suits their goals and interests! It opens the door to any local gym or fitness center! Every single student will benefit from some form of strength training! 

Ready to Learn More? 

Schedule a free 10 minute consultation to see how PLT4M can help save you time and empower student learning!

# 4 Dance Fitness 

Dance fitness is a fun way to get students moving. While all forms of dance can be a great form of exercise and physical education, dance fitness is a style that will be the most inclusive for a wide range of students. Its’ basic choreography and intentional repetition will allow students to build up confidence in dance, rather than frustration and intimidation that could come from other styles of dance. 
When teaching dance fitness, students can participate in a warm-up, choreography, dance cardio effort, and cool down that will leave students smiling and sweaty! Not only that, they will get to move and groove to music styles that are contemporary and fun. Some students can stay within the steps, and others might have a chance to explore the self-expression all dance can encourage. 
And if you are not sure if your students will participate in dance fitness? One sure-fire way is to get moving with your group and let them know it is okay to feel a little silly. Don’t skip this one! 

# 5 Mindfulness 

While physical education is often about physical activity and moving, we cannot neglect students’ needs to slow down and calm the body and mind! And for students, this does not come easily. Teaching and incorporating mindfulness is how students can develop social-emotional learning skills that can be applied to their everyday lives. It can help bring more calmness, clarity, and attentiveness to students. 
And while we are slowing down and often sitting during mindfulness, it by no means is a passive experience. Mindfulness lessons can include centering techniques, movement, and mindfulness skill practice. Altogether, a mindfulness lesson can bring together a larger picture of total wellness. 
This might feel a little silly for students, much like dance fitness, but these are lifelong skills that they will greatly benefit from. Practice with them!

Key Takeaways To These 5 Topics 


You probably are incorporating many of these topics in your curriculum! But for the topics you are not, do not be afraid to start small. 


  • Review a foundational movement at the beginning of each class 
  • Take 5 minutes to practice mindfulness with your students 
  • Make “Fun Friday’ a chance to dance once a week 


As you get more comfortable with new content, you could grow into complete units and semesters worth of these topic areas! Whatever you choose to do, your students will engage with this new exciting material and embrace the fit for life mission! 

Bonus! Pickleball


Pickleball drills for physical education serve (pun intended) as an introduction to the basic components of pickleball! These instructional materials aim to provide every student with a foundation in which they can develop their pickleball skills that will eventually lead to fun and successful gameplay. While we know everyone is eager to get right into pickleball games, breaking down and practicing the different elements of pickleball can go a long way! 

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