November Teacher Feature: Pascale Vandenhaak |

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November Teacher Feature: Pascale Vandenhaak

Friday, November 24, 2017 - 10:22

Ophea’s excited to bring to you a series of “Teacher Feature” blogs. Featuring Q&A’s with leading Healthy & Physical Education teachers, the blogs share ideas, insights, and resources straight from the source.

This Teacher Feature brings you practical and inspiring ideas for teaching H&PE and integrating Daily Physical Activity (DPA) at the elementary level.

Q&A: Pascale Vandenhaak

1. What grades do you primarily teach? I teach students from kindergarten to Grade 6.

2. How long have you been teaching Healthy & Physical Education (H&PE)? This is my 24th year as a teacher, and my 21st year teaching H&PE.

3. Why were you interested in teaching H&PE?

As a student, physical education was one of my favourite courses, even though the program was delivered by my elementary classroom teachers. When I was in Grade 8, we had a trainee teacher who was studying physical education at the University of Ottawa, this helped me realize that physical education was a legitimate post-secondary field of study. As my parents are both teachers, I had already started thinking about teaching but then teaching physical education became my objective.

Then in high school, I had an excellent physical education teacher and athletics coach who had a Ph. D. in physical education! His passion for physical education and the extent of his knowledge motivated me to learn everything I could from him before pursuing my degree in physical education. I still consider him as one of my greatest mentors.

4. Given the new Daily Physical Activity (DPA) policy updates (allowing for smaller blocks of DPA time throughout the day), what strategies might you use when implementing DPA?

At my school, we’ve linked physical activity to our school effectiveness framework to improve overall school and student success. We’re also following the process to become a healthy school, with our priority health topic focus being physical activity. These two initiatives help ensure DPA implementation at our school. Teachers intentionally plan DPA sessions during long teaching blocks. Being able to divide DPA implementation into smaller blocks helps make this task easier for teachers and benefits students, providing them opportunities to move more during the school day.

Moreover, during staff meetings or professional development days, the principal schedules an active break where DPA activities are modelled to get staff moving and bring forth new DPA classroom ideas and DPA resources. This reinforces the policy and makes sure staff feel supported in implementing DPA with their classes. We’re also developing a DPA resource kit for classroom teachers, providing them access to a variety of activity ideas. These include On bouge! (Let’s Move!) from the Viamonde School Board, Ophea’s 50 Fitness Activity Cards, BrainBlitz, and First Nations Inspired DPA, and CIRA’s Everybody Move. We also have a physical education community on the Viamonde School Board Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) where we have access to a number of DPA-related resources.

In my physical education classes, the learning objectives posted often include active participation in the activities. Students and I co-construct evaluation criteria to support self-monitoring, and students work to understand the details they need to observe in order to assess what they do and where they need to improve, regardless of the activity. I often ask students how they feel before, during, and after a moderate to vigorous activity. The more students notice and feel the benefits of exercise and participate in the assessment process, the more engaged they are as learners. It’s important they understand why they need to be active and how to succeed in doing so.

5. Share some of your go-to activities or ideas on how to implement DPA throughout the day.

We’ve placed decals in the school hallways to create an Active Hallway using Ever Active resources. Students use the decals in creative ways and make different locomotor movements when, for example, bringing the attendance to the office or going to the bathroom; it becomes a small energizer break. Some teachers have also incorporated them into a lesson to support connecting to the curriculum.

At the 2017 Ophea conference, I attended an interesting workshop that focused on a movement-based approach for self-regulation. The presenter, Erin Byron, encouraged the use of a “secret” word to initiate an active break or active snack. For example, the teacher can choose a word like “result”, and when the teacher says it during a lesson, the student that notices it shouts out “secret word”. Then, during the next active break time, all students get up and move. This activity is adaptable and I really enjoy using it. Give it a try!

During my physical education classes, I really like incorporating “mission possible” activities, comprised of a series of physical activities or exercises, regardless of order. It’s also a good time to ensure inclusion by ensuring that all students move together from one station to the next and have a variety of materials and activities. I often use activities that incorporate a deck of cards and exercises linked to the number or colour on the card, where the number indicates repetitions. I also use seasons or cultural festivities during the year as inspiration for exercise circuit stations, dance steps or movements that are tied to a theme. There are many examples of activities like these that can be found on Ophea’s Teaching Tools website and in the many resources we put in our school DPA kit (see answer to question 4). And let’s not forget popular tag game; simple, yet one of my students’ favourites!

6. What are the benefits of DPA for students, educators, and administrators?

Oh boy, I could write a novel on this! Studies show so many statistics on the benefits and links between physical activity and positive mental health. A student that is more active than sedentary will have more energy, feel happier, relaxed, will have an increased level of concentration, and will have improved academic results. Once a DPA routine is well implemented in class, teachers and administrators will notice that students are more engaged and productive.

7. What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year that will support your students in building healthy living skills?

Our school’s commitment to becoming a healthy school with a focus on physical activity, ensures that students will have more opportunities to be active. It’s very motivating to work with my colleagues towards this collective goal. The more we offer students opportunities to be active through a variety of physical activities, the more they will be able to move with ease and confidence. More in-class and school discussions will also take place throughout the year to help students acquire the knowledge they need to make heathy choices for their personal well-being.

8. Do you have go-to DPA and H&PE equipment, resources or tools that you would recommend?

The material I use most often for DPA and H&PE include: skipping rope, agility ladder, deck of cards, dice, vinyl rope (to mark a spot or mark boundaries of an area), pool noodles, uplifting music with a good beat, markers, tape and paper. I can use this material anywhere; in the gym, hallway, classroom or outdoors.

The resources I use most often include: Ophea’s All About HPE posters on the fundamental principles, the evaluation and assessment tools in Ophea’s H&PE Elementary Curriculum Resources, several TGfU activities from Ophea’s PlaySport resource, CIRA’s You’re “It”! Tag, Tag… and More, and Bang for your Buck, Ophea’s 50 Fitness Activity Cards and Yoga Alphabet Cards, and let’s not forget, Pinterest!

Do you have tips or recommendations to share with H&PE teachers? Share them with us @OpheaCanada using the hashtag #OpheaHPEtips.