Shown: 1st graders playing “Hungry, Hungry Hippo”.

“Fall Down Seven and Get Up Eight” is a Japanese proverb my judo sensei would remind the class about when faced with adversity and challenges, inspiring us to find our inner strength and power to persevere to achieve. As I reflect on this semester, I notice a common thread across the range of grades: each unit challenged students to strive for success. After the two COVID years of focusing on essential movement skills, fundamental motor skills and fitness, being able to teach actual units was refreshing. Rhythmic activities (dance, rhythm sticks, jumping rope), Target Games, Striking and Fielding Games, and Net Games-each unit requires complex skills, strategies and concepts. Each presents challenges to all levels. This is how we develop persistence during Health and Wellness class. 

 We have a motto: “A skill might be difficult today, but with practice, I will improve.” Each activity is a game or competition which is going to be fun. The difficulty level is measured, the mindset is ready for the challenge, and the goal setting begins. The outcomes of the activity are explained, and students set their learning targets based on the game’s goals.  

Skills within the game are broken down into attainable pieces to ensure success and avoid repeated failure, leading to frustration and eventual abandonment of the task at hand. Our striking and fielding games might have only one base and home plate, simplifying the decision-making for both the offensive and defensive players. Additional bases can be added once the fielders perform the required skills and comprehend the common concepts and strategies within the unit. Simplifying the game makes failures manageable, and students accept to persevere through the more significant obstacles within the game.

Persistence is not dependent on physical ability. Team games rely on all players for success, so a highlight for me is when students assist, coach and teach a student—the community at its finest. Students who feel like they have mastered a skill have the opportunity to teach it to another person, like how to perform the double turn jump using the short jump rope. The students are very open to learning from their classmates. Students are connected, and there is a lot of camaraderie within the homerooms. Learning is more than physical, and there are even psychological learning benefits.

The intriguing factor about skill development is the reward at the end of the tunnel. I refer to our motto that if a student keeps trying, the skill will be accessible one day. Trust in the process, goal-setting, and hard work benefit the student because the student has learned from the perseverance. 

The WHY is more important than the WHAT. Students need to see the benefit of creating internal motivation. I work with my students to link what we are learning today and their learning targets. There is a sense of purpose and meaning to the learning we are about to take on. 

Kudos to the students! Your persistence paid off on the court, on the field and in the gym. 

Shown: 3rd Graders playing “Global Ball”, a variation of Newcomb.