The teachers at Beacon Primary School value Physical Education so much that they have it daily. While emphasizing ﬁtness, they also seek to inject character education into the lessons.
The pupils at Beacon Primary School look forward to attending school each day. This is the result of the school’s unconventional curriculum of daily Physical Education (PE) lessons that last for at least 30 minutes.
For Beacon, PE lessons are not just about fitness. Other than locomotive skills and games concepts, teachers also tap on this platform to impart values and develop character.
“You can really see one’s character through PE and sports,” notes Mr Nasrun, Dean of Co-curriculum. “They are the best platforms where character can be developed, practised and exercised.
Building Pupils’ Character
Of the 5 days of PE lessons, 1 day is dedicated to team-building activities. A typical team-building lesson sees pupils encountering real-life challenges and negotiating their way through them.
Working in teams and getting into small arguments are a natural occurrence. Teachers at Beacon balance their role as mediator to reduce the tension and as facilitator to identify teachable moments.
“I think these are the kinds of opportunities that if we don’t grab, we will lose it,” Nasrun says. To allow pupils to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, briefing sessions are a necessity.
“We will ask the pupils, ‘How do you think you can express your feelings better?’” Nasrun shares.
Pupils are also asked how they can encourage their friends to perform better in sports games, and how they can rephrase their sentences to sound less harsh to their friends. For example, rather than telling someone, “You’re slow,” they can learn how to say it in a positive manner.
Bringing Life into Lessons
To further enhance these pupils’ learning experience, Nasrun and his team of PE teachers decided to “physicalize”, as Nasrun describes it, other non-academic subjects.
In 2008, Nasrun and his team were tasked to revamp Beacon’s PE curriculum. During their discussions, they asked a fundamental question: “Do we want to constrain ourselves to just PE lessons, or can we expand it to other experiences?” They opted for expanding.
Subjects like Health Education (HE) and Civics and Moral Education (CME) were physicalized. Rather than merely explaining the theories, pupils are asked to act them out instead.
“It is a way we can teach the pupils and have them physically active as well,” Nasrun adds.
– Nasrun Bin Mizzy, Beacon Primary School
For example, a HE lesson on the subject of road safety consists of various fun-filled activities. Making use of the large space in their school all, traffic lights, road junctions and toy trolleys are set up to enact a real-life road scene. Pupils take turns to be motorists and pedestrians.
During CME, teachers purposefully create conflicts among pupils while teaching the topic of Respect at the same time. Discussing about what happened after the lessons helps pupils see real-life issues from many different perspectives.
Pupils welcome the novelty of having lessons beyond the classroom and are often more engaged and refreshed. Being in a FutureSchool, these pupils are highly exposed to technology. Having physicalized lessons then helps strike a balance between the virtual and the real for these young learners. At the same time, teachers become well-rounded through the variety of their daily tasks.
Creating Well-rounded Teachers and Pupils
“It requires the teachers to be more than just a teacher,” Nasrun says. “The teacher has to be an observer and a facilitator to be able to tease out the problems.” Also, physicalizing lessons involves a tremendous amount of planning because not all teachers are trained in PE.
“We plan timetables such that non-PE-trained teachers will be with PE-trained teachers,” Nasrun explains.
This allows non-PE-trained teachers to pick up skills from the PE teachers. After several combined lessons, the non-PE-trained teachers will eventually be comfortable with conducting the entire lesson on their own.
In assessing pupils’ learning outcomes, teachers look at three different aspects: physical, cognitive and affective (see box story, “Assessing Physical Education”).
“We are not just PE teachers,” Nasrun says. “We are character developers, and we create leaders as well.”
Resilient, focused and independent – these are the characteristics of a leader. Such an active learning programme in Beacon helps pupils develop these traits, allowing them to excel in both sports and academics.
And for these young learners, coming to school has never been more fun.