Integrating Literacy & Physical Education

This week I went to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to see the special exhibit “Come Back Season” about the influence of sports post 9/11. The museum states,

“Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11,” a special exhibition at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, explores how sports and athletes helped to unite the country, consoled a grieving nation and gave us a reason to cheer again following the 2001 attacks.

This exhibition illustrates many iconic moments — such as former President George W. Bush’s first pitch during a World Series game at Yankee Stadium and the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza’s dramatic, two-run home run during the first professional baseball game in New York City after 9/11 — as well as previously untold stories that highlight the unifying force of sports in American life. Acknowledging that the world would never be the same, sports provided the opportunity for escape, healing and relief.”

I was moved throughout the exhibit by the photographs, artifacts, and letters that showed how all the major league teams displayed patriotism, support, and unity immediately after the events of 9/11. It is an interesting question, When should the games go on? Looking to history, the NFL played a game two days after Kennedy’s assassination – a regret from the NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle at the time. After Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “assured the baseball commissioner that sports can boost public morale.” The major league baseball teams did not play until almost two weeks after 9/11.

In the exhibit I read a letter written by the daughter of one of the pilots killed in the plane hijacking to Derek Jeter, then baseball player on the New York Yankees, about how much her father looked up to him and the horrible time her family is going through. Derek Jeter invited her and her sister to attend a Yankee game and they still keep in touch today. To see the hats, helmets, jerseys and equipment with the first responders names and insignias on the uniforms shows the respect that professional athletes paid to those who lost their lives and gave their time at Ground Zero. There was recognition for victims of the tragedy while patriotism and solidarity for America was celebrated immediately after 9/11.

I teach a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas and every semester I have one ore more Physical Education students taking the class. My objective is to help illuminate the connection between literacy and physical education. Literacy in its simplest form means the ability to use language to read and write. In an article for PE Central, Charles Silberman writes, “As physical educators it is now our responsibility to integrate components of literacy into our classrooms. This does not mean we become reading teachers—that would be counterintuitive. This means we take critical elements of the new definition of literacy and seamlessly integrate them into our daily teaching. We do this to not only support the holistic growth of the child but also to help them obtain the knowledge needed to understand what a healthy life is and how to lead one.” PE teachers can infuse literacy by including a story in the game or activity, have students brainstorm what they already Know – What to Learn – and Learned about a specific sport or health concept (recording answers on a large KWL Chart, another activity is to have students select three tactics from a list and explain in writing what each tactic is and how each tactic contributes to successful game play. In James and Manson’s Physical Education: A Literacy Based Approach, “There are several content area literacy strategies that physical education teachers can use to promote the learning of physical education content as well as promote literacy skill development at the same time. These strategies include cooperative learning, graphic organizers, think-alouds, and integrating vocabulary into physical education instruction.”

Sports, physical fitness, nutrition and health are all around us. Using real world readings, videos, and text like the Come Back Season Exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial Museum brings to the forefront the integration of physical education and literacy in our everyday lives. Sports are great for debates, readings, addressing teamwork and character development, there is the history of sports, and even a big push to promote health and wellness.

Check out this video from NFL’s Nick Foles talking about failure and think how you can use this in your classroom as a teaching tool.

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