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Physical Education – examples of good practice

Physical Education – examples of good practice

This section includes stories and examples of practice from schools about the benefits that can be gained from reviewing PE practice.

For schools, these benefits included:  

  • a strengthening of systems for needs-based Health and PE planning 
  • increased teacher confidence and ability to design effective PE learning 
  • increased use of effective Health and PE practices. 

Key changes to practice that are evident in these stories include:  

  • planning that reflects students’ wellbeing and learning needs 
  • fostering inclusion and relationship building through emphasising participation and effective teamwork  
  • focusing on wellbeing and expressing feelings using te whare tapa whā as a reflection tool 
  • exploring te ao Māori through a focus on Māori games and te whare tapa whā 
  • fostering student agency and critical and creative thinking through reflection and opportunities to make up or change rules, games, or movement patterns. 

To get started reviewing PE planning use the following resource which has been designed for schools by experienced physical education teachers as part of the Healthy Active Learning initiative.  Resource: Implementing Physical Education in practice 

Focusing planning around students’ wellbeing and learning needs  

A key benefit of revising Health and PE approaches is that it enables schools to plan learning around students’ wellbeing needs such as inclusion or learning needs such as social skills or self-regulation.

The first two stories are about planning that reflects student needs. These stories also illustrate other aspects of quality PE practice such as how schools incorporate mātauranga Māori into Health and PE learning. 

At the school in Story 2, PE used to be about practicing for sporting events, now teachers consider how to address students’ wellbeing and learning needs through Health and PE learning. 

Story 2
  • Fostering self-managing learners and calm lunchtimes

    What was the learning focus? 

    At one school, the PE focus changes each year and is based on student needs. Most sessions include PE and health-related Achievement Objectives. 

    One issue for the school is that senior students often get into conflict playing games at lunchtime, so staff want to foster students’ teamwork skills and their ability to work through conflicts. 

    The biggest shift is the way we plan, it’s a lot more needs based. We are still a strong sport school but it’s not done during PE time. So sport has been taken out of the PE context. Now teachers take students out to work on the identified needs like teamwork or cooperation. They play modified games to develop those skills. These focus areas come from playground observations and issues.

    (School leaders)

    Setting the scene in the classroom 

    To support the school-wide focus, one class has developed health-related goals they are working on: fun, inclusion, playing, showing cooperation, and communication skills. These are displayed around the classroom and students get house points for showing them. 

    Schools banner for house points

    In class the teacher outlines the skill focus of the lesson. Students will be working in small groups to devise a game to practice athletics skills (run, jump, and throw). She asks the class to recap some of the things they have working on previously. The whole class stands up and practiced some of the body positions they can recall which help with throwing shotputs or landing after a high jump.  

    Students are then reminded of the health-related class goals they are working on, and the teacher asks them to say them with her. Then she prompts students to think about giving feedback to their team and how they will manage issues: “If the game is not working – what do you need to do?” 

    Students form small groups based on which athletics’ skill they are interested in. To make sure a couple of more reluctant students feel included, they are asked to pick the group they are most interested in. Each group has 5 minutes to think and talk about the game they will create.  

    Getting on with the plan outside 

    The students enthusiastically head outside, get the gear they need for their game from the sport shed, and start using it. They spread out across the field and are mostly self-managing.  Some groups start designing a game. Others are practicing the skills, so the teacher reminds them of the game focus, and they switch tack.  

    One group starts animatedly discussing how to improve a jumping circuit which uses modified high jump equipment and elastics. They make sure their game has activities of different skill levels so they all experience success in at least some of it. One student suggests that the shorter team members trial the circuit first to make sure they can all do the first part of the game. Then they all have a go at trialling the game. 

    Students adapt their games as they go and give each other lots of encouragement and supportive feedback like “Nice try… I think you can make it, try jumping a bit earlier”.    

    The teacher calls the class together for a reflection. She describes how she saw lots of good turn taking, cooperative work, and heard lots of great suggestions about games. She video records one student giving a clear explanation of his group’s game to the class. She plans to put this on Seesaw for his parents to see. 

    Reflecting and summing up back in class 

    Back in class, students reflect on the class goals. The teacher asks: “Were you having fun?  Was everyone included? What is something you could improve on?”  The students replied yes to the first two questions and suggest lots of ideas about how they could have improved their games. The teacher gives some students house points for demonstrating inclusion or communication skills. 

    What do students and teachers think about the learning? 

    When asked if they use their PE learning in other contexts, students said:

    We usually play rugby or basketball at lunch. Sometimes people will get mad so we encourage them to still play. We are getting better at it, at lunchtime and morning tea…. If someone is left out [you can] tell them they can play with you. We do this both in PE, at home, and at lunchtime. We can cope with changes. If someone has made a different rule, we just cope with it. We used to protest. [Now] we vote and do it, like we do in PE.

    Like students, staff also felt the school’s focus on integrating health-related goals such as communication within PE activities is encouraging senior students to demonstrate more cooperative and inclusive behaviour. Teachers thought the senior students were more “gelled” as a class and could see evidence that students were much better at self-managing play at breaktimes. 

    This had been a better year behaviour-wise. Students are more cooperative. It used to be competitive with pushing and shoving. Now the playground behaviour is good. It could be the cohort, but I’m not sure…. The Year 6s started with so [this could be contributing]. Now we let seniors play tackle rugby without supervision. One will get a whistle [and the others] respect that person. When we tried in the past, without a teacher watching it, it would be the end of world if something happened! That’s now not so. There is more of an ‘accidents happen’ [and that’s ok] mentality.

    (School leaders)

At the school in Story 3, PE used to be going outside to play a sport like basketball. Those who liked playing sports had fun, but school leaders could not see much reflection on learning. Now, instead of just focusing on Strand B (Movement concepts and motor skills), PE is integrated with health, and teachers think holistically about children’s development. Health and PE learning is designed to reflect current student needs in ways that also support wider school goals such as using pedagogies that build meta-cognitive skills and developing a local curriculum that reflects the Treaty of Waitangi and incorporates mātauranga Māori. 

Story 3
  • Using reflections on hauora to build confident teams

    What was the learning focus?

    Teachers and school leaders had noticed that their students were not very confident interacting with peers outside of their immediate class. As many students were going to secondary school the next year, they decided to design a Health and PE unit that focused on building self-confidence, self-management, inclusion, and reflection skills.

    What learning activities did students do?

    The learning was structured around a horo hopu* tournament. Horo hopu is a poi game in which two teams compete to catch and throw a poi to their goal. Students had to work in teams with their peers from other classes to make poi and train for the tournament. Each team organised themselves to take on the roles needed in a sports team (captain, equipment manager, coach, players, referee, publicity person etc).

    Initially teachers selected teams so that each included some students with leadership skills, physical skills, some quieter students, and a few who were not so good at self-managing.

    The students were given the learning intention and they set up individual and group goals. They set up a training plan, each student had a role in the group. We observed and discussed learning needs with them. We asked them [to reflect using] te whare tapa whā… Students liked horo hopu as it was new for everyone, so everyone started with the same skill set.


    Setting the scene in the classroom

    We observed students as they were working in teams to consider a new question related to taha hinengaro – Mental and emotional wellbeing, "How can we overcome the fear of failure and caring what other people think?" Using te whare tapa whā as a reflective tool, students considered this question in teams. The spokesperson from each team shared examples of their responses, which the teacher recorded on a grid on the whiteboard.

    The teams were then tasked with coming up with a group goal and an individual goal related to this question to work on as they played.

    Getting on with the plan in the hall

    The students then went to the hall to play horo hopu. First, they used their different roles to design a warmup activity and set up the game.

    There were four teams in total. Two teams played a round while the other two teams did the refereeing and cheered for their peers. The teacher reminded the teams to focus on their goals such as supporting their teammates. Students played enthusiastically – and had clearly developed the communication and movement skills they needed to play the game.

    Overall, the teams were mostly self-managing. At the end of the game the students picked up the gear and returned to their classes for a reflection on their team and individual goals.

    What did students and teachers think about this learning?

    Students thought that mixing up teams in PE was assisting them to be more confident communicators with people they did not know. Positive attitudes, integrity, patience, and goal planning were all aspects of their learning they were transferring to new contexts such as lunch time games or when meeting new people.

    Students said:

    It was cool to learn about the walls [of te whare tapa whā].

    We had groups, we chose roles, made exercise plans, it was cool to do that. We also learn how to play in a team.

    At the start we didn’t like our groups because we didn’t know them, but now it’s good. I really like getting new friends because of the groups. I have mates in other classes.

    Goal planning is useful for the future, like for uni, we can evaluate our goals.

    Mind map of the Four Walls

    Teachers and school leaders had noticed a change in the cohort. They could see the Health and PE focus reflected in how students played at lunchtime and their understandings about wellbeing. Recently a school team had won a sportsmanship award at a big interschool competition. Teachers attributed this award to students’ PE learning with its focus on relationships and honouring and respecting opponents.

    We do think students got better at communicating and working together over time. Across the whole school, we’ve seen an increase in getting ideas and using them more effectively. Students are realising Health and PE is about the mind and whole body. Mental and spiritual wellbeing is as important as the body and relationships. They have the words to use now and understand that behaviour is a reaction to how all of te whare tapa whā is in a person.


    Overall, teachers found planning as a syndicate and structuring learning so that it relates to the dimensions of te whare tapa whā had broadened and strengthened their approach to Health and PE.

    *Information about horo hopu

    Hauora is a key underlying concept of Health and PE

    Seeing how their peers used te whare tapa whā model of hauora/wellbeing* as a planning and reflection tool was a game changer for many teachers. During PLD sessions they valued being able to explore this model and the other underlying concepts of the Health and PE curriculum.

    Diagram of the 5 aspects of wellbeing

    *Image and text from page 31 of the 1999 Health and PE curriculum:

Local curriculum design - integrating planning with school culture, goals and values

At a third school (Story 4), integrating PE with wider school goals was a key change for staff. Prior to this, in PE time, teachers used to teach things like large ball skills or games for inter-school sports. As they reviewed the Health and PE programme, teachers realised they were mostly focusing on Strand A (Movement concepts and motor skills). So, they shifted to an integrated planning process that included three of the goals in their strategic plan:

  • engaging students
  • fostering students’ capabilities
  • offering authentic learning in exciting places.

Each year staff meet for a planning day to develop integrated themes that fit with students’ needs. They brainstorm the big questions to focus on, then hubs (syndicates) plan the detail. The Health and PE component of the integrated plan now includes the four strands and is called hauora time.

At a fourth school (Story 5) revising approaches to Health and PE learning was supported this school to foster their school values.

Story 4
  • Using movement to focus on equity, equality, and privilege

    What was the learning focus?

    In hauora (Health and PE) time teachers use movement as a vehicle for students to learn about the school’s current big picture focuses and concepts. This term, the focus capabilities were teamwork, building empathy, and managing emotions. The focus concepts were equity, equality, and privilege. Together teachers in the senior hub worked on developing approaches to these capabilities and concepts. They were also in the process of developing ways to use te whare tapa whā to structure student reflections.

    We observed a session about privilege which built on prior sessions about equity and equality. Students had also done prior learning about the characteristics of good teams and managing emotions using the Zones of Regulation.1

    What learning activities did students do?

    As it was a wet day, the class was in the hall. The session started with a group recap about the prior hauora session. The teacher asked students to explain the meaning of equity and equality, and posed questions such as “Are both fair?”

    To introduce the new topic the class did a think-pair-share on the question “What is privilege?” In pairs they discussed the differences between privileges and rights, and how privileges varied depending on context. Most students appeared very engaged in these starter questions and wanted to share their views with their peers or the whole class.

    Students said:

    You have a right to eat food, but it is a privilege to eat ice cream…

    In other countries it is a privilege to read books, here it is a privilege to use chromebooks.

    The teacher then set up the class in two equal teams to play a game of ‘flat mat splat’. For this game, the winning team is the first to push a large gym crash mat over a yellow line at the end of the hall. Each team is divided into pairs, then each pair runs and jumps on their team’s mat. They then run back and tag the next pair. Students cannot use their hands to push or pull the mat.

    First the students selected their pairs and discussed the techniques they were going to use to move the mat as fast as possible. Then the class played one round. Students were all enthusiastically running at the mat and yelling for their teammates.

    The teacher then said he was going to add in some privileges. The first team could run. The second team were only allowed to walk. Some students seemed shocked by this idea, others thought it was OK. The teams played a second round then sat down for a reflection on how this made them feel.

    For the last round, the teacher gave the second team a privilege. The starting point for their mat was closer to the yellow line. During a reflection about this round, students expressed a range of views.

    Students said:

    I found it harder, as we had less run up and less momentum.

    I found it more fun as it motivated me more as it was a challenge.

    The teacher then asked students to “think outside of the game” to consider how they had privileges that other people might not have like wealth, or any clothes they wanted. To provide a tangible demonstration of privilege, the teacher gave each student a bit of recycling paper to crunch up. He then asked them to throw the paper into a box from where they were sitting. If they could get it in to the box this represented ‘privilege’.

    Most students who were sitting at the front near the box got their paper in. A few of those at the back also managed to do the same. The teacher summed up by noting that, like the people at the front, often privilege is something you are born with. The people at the back can get to the same place but it can be harder for them. Many of the class seemed interested in this idea, and the discussion continued as they walked back to the classroom to use te whare tapa whā to reflect on their experiences.

    What did students and teachers think about hauora learning?

    When reflecting on the concepts they were learning, students said:

    I like combining our normal learning with sports which we like. It’s not just sports, it’s about equity, and there is a topic like equity. They give a topic and ask for our ideas about it.

    I like hearing the different meanings of different words. Learn the important stuff in life like equity and equality.

    [I like learning about] the four walls of the marae. Now I see a marae – I think about it. I know that if one of your walls is not working then your whole thing is not working – like if one wall falls down, the whole marae falls down.

    Students could also describe how they transferred the school focuses on teamwork, equity, and managing their emotions to other contexts.

    When asked if they used their learning outside of hauora time, students said:

    I use equity… like in netball. You might have an advantage… so you give them an advantage, so it is fairer to both of you.

    Teachers and school leaders considered the revised approach to the curriculum had enhanced students’ learning.

    There is more substance to it [Health and PE] is good for teaching social and emotional stuff. Now instead of ‘You are going to learn to pass a ball’, your learning is about having a growth mindset or learning from mistakes. We collaboratively said [a focus on team work] is what the kids need…. Now [as they move up the school] they know what a good team mate is because that is what the juniors’ focus is.


Story 5
  • Building school values in junior school through PE

    What is the learning focus?

    A junior syndicate was working on developing a more holistic view of movement and wellbeing structured around te whare tapa whā. Their current focus connected taha whānau/social wellbeing and the school value of “teamwork”. The aim is to build students’ ability to offer encouragement and good quality feedback to peers using the medium of a basic movement skill (throwing using a vortex).

    Setting the scene

    In class the teacher introduces the WALTs (learning intentions). To remind students of the movement skill aspect, the teacher plays a video which breaks down the movements needed for a running throw of a vortex. A student pauses the video at key points so her peers can discuss what they are seeing. Using a pair-share technique the teacher asks the students to share the key steps for throwing a vortex, and what gave them the most success in previous sessions.

    She then introduces the school value of ‘teamwork’ and asks students for their ideas about what this might look like.

    Students said teamwork was about:

    Taking turns

    Using nice words like ‘nice throw’ or ‘good job’

    Building on students’ ideas, the teacher introduced the new focus about giving encouragement and constructive feedback. She provides some prompts for students to use: ‘Good job, and here’s a key to how to hold the vortex…’, or ‘Good job, try holding the vortex by the ball and have a go’.

    Going outside to give it a go

    Outside the class do warmups and the teacher splits them into teams of around four. She asks, ‘Who can remember the school value?’ Students discuss the value in their groups and then have a go at throwing the vortex and returning it to the next team member. As they do this, their team members yell encouragement and give the thrower feedback. All students are enthusiastically participating, and we hear many examples of students encouraging their peers.

    The teacher asked a couple of students to demonstrate to their peers who find the vortex hard to throw. One walked alongside his peer who was struggling and suggested a technique which worked well.

    The wrap up was a class reflection on the WALTs. Students were asking questions such as “What were some of the things we did that showed we were being a good team player?”

    What did students and teachers think about this learning?

    Later we talked to a group of students who liked the school’s focus on learning values through movement. This brainstorm shows one student’s view on the key aspects of PE learning.

    Students interpretation as a mindmap

    Teachers and school leaders thought the junior school focus was building a more positive school culture and enhancing students’ ability to set goals and reflect on learning.

    Every morning we have te whare tapa whā time. We are now more aware of how different parts of one activity can apply to all four boxes…. Using te whare tapa whā, kids set goals and challenge themselves. We also use the ‘learning pit’, and I notice kids taking on new challenges and pushing themselves further. One student said this morning that he was happy because he was gaining resilience (he was talking about how he was handling not winning). There is evidence of kids thinking more after the fact.


Building stronger community and cultural connections

Making stronger links to local places, resources, spaces, or people can help schools promote a wider range of types of physical activity. These connections might take a variety of forms including:

  • making more use of local parks and playgrounds
  • exploring a wider range of active recreation opportunities and sports such as sailing
  • accessing resources at other schools such as bike tracks or swimming pools
  • making stronger connections with local marae or culturally important places, spaces, or times (e.g., joining local Matariki events)
  • forming stronger links with local primary or secondary schools.

Story 6 provides an example of how one school was making use of free local resources in ways that promoted physical activity and supported their curriculum focus.

Story 6
  • Exploring the community to help integrate the curriculum

    At a school that was working on integrating learning areas and values such as inclusion, a teacher was developing a new approach to planning. She was struggling to see how she could integrate Health and PE into the school’s arts and language focused inquiry topic.

    Prompted by a school brainstorm with the RST activator about free local resources, she decided to explore the local community as one starter activity for the inquiry topic. Blended in the mix was a focus on physical activity and building relationships (for Health and PE) to support junior students to feel comfortable contributing to the classroom community.

    We went on walks around the parks, to explore what art is around, the design of playgrounds, letterboxes…. we had walking Wednesdays around the community, walking and talking – it’s about relationships – and the emotional things. It was a simple thing but for those kids who never talk (in class) their [oral] language started coming through as we explored the local area… e.g., they said ‘my aunty worked there’ and talked about that…. We took photos and used them for a writing activity. This then became our oral language in class; reading and writing activities about the photos we took. Everyone was engaged, and it was free as well! It was looking at the curriculum differently.


    I thought it was going to be tricky… explaining that [the inquiry focus] to parents!... Why weren’t we developing cricket skills and being competitive? …But actually it wasn’t.


Fostering wellbeing and inclusion

Revising approaches to Health and PE can assist teachers to focus on wellbeing and teach about mental health, through an increased focus on inclusion and te whare tapa whā. Teachers can use te whare tapa wha to support students to talk about feelings and explore a wider range of dimensions of wellbeing, beyond their usual focus on physical wellbeing.

Story 7 illustrates how a school refocused PE learning to support wellbeing goals. Many schools have some students who do not enjoy physical activity and do not want to participate in PE learning. This story shows how offering students more opportunities for input, combined with a focus on the social and emotional aspects of hauora, was resulting in more students joining in and enjoying PE.… Has helped me to explore with my students the different elements of hauora. How we can use what we know about hauora in our daily learning and express how we feel about things in a safe way.

Story 7
  • Mixing up the rules for maximum inclusion

    Prior to, one teacher enjoyed teaching PE which she ran like a ‘drill camp’ with clear rules and lines of kids waiting quietly for a turn. had prompted a mindset shift for her.

    I came from a traditional PE teaching background—the drill-camp [approach] worked well for me! So I was quite reluctant at first [to change my practice]. But once I got involved in the actual games with students … I’d never go back to how I used to teach PE.


    One light bulb moment was going to a PENZ conference where she heard other teachers talk about using hauora as a planning framework that could help with designing ways to foster social and emotional wellbeing through PE learning.

    What is the learning focus?

    Adapting this approach, the teacher’s PE planning now integrates the key competencies and hauora. The current focus is on emotional wellbeing and building students’ ability to understand their feelings and what it is like to be left out, how to be resilient if things don’t go your way, and how to take action and make games more fun and inclusive for yourself and others. This focus is integrated within games and activities that also assist students with the movement skills they need for sports and school events.

    What learning activities did students do?

    We observed a PE session in which students were playing a game of dodgeball. The challenge for students was: ‘How can you make rules that make sure everyone is participating?’ The challenge for the teacher was supporting a couple of reluctant students to participate.

    The teacher introduced the session to the class. First, she asked some students to explain the main ‘usual’ rules of dodgeball and safety considerations. Then she reviewed the prior rules students had developed to make dodgeball fun, more active, and fair for everyone. The class then used a thumbs up or down technique to vote on which of these rules they would use for the first game.

    Building on several previous sessions about different ways to pick fair teams, the teacher asked the class to decide on a technique. She then organised one of the quieter students to pick teams using a numbering off technique the class voted on.

    Students said:

    We learn about picking different teams in PE. We played a game, and the teacher gave each person a team category. And the people who sat out, we talked about how that feels for them—so [we talked about] how the less confident and more confident people feel. So now everyone gets stuck in more when we play a game. It’s better.

    After playing for a while the teacher called the class together for a review of ‘what went well and what went not so well’. Students suggested a range of creative options for making the game fairer and ensuring those who got ‘out’ could still participate.

    Students said: [I like PE more this year as]

    We get to modify it, so if we get someone out, you can go back in. It helps you get more into the game. So you cannot stand there feeling sad as you are not in the game. You get a second chance so you feel happy.

    As the game resumed, the teacher asked one student who had been sitting out if she wanted to use the whistle and be the ref. She didn’t want to but grabbed a ball and stood by her friend who did. These students calmly sorted out an incident that occurred in the second half without teacher assistance.

    The students were called together for a final reflection and asked for suggestions for what they might change next time. The 3 o’clock bell went, one student stayed on and animatedly explained a new rule the class could use next time. Other students collected the gear without being asked.

Exploring te ao Māori and te reo Māori through PE learning

Health and PE learning can be designed to support school or Kāhui Ako goals about building culturally responsive approaches or fostering te reo. One approach is to broaden the types of games used as learning contexts, with less focus on the usual European games like soccer and basketball and including more Māori games and movement such as horo hopu (see Stories 3 above and 9 below). Schools should also be encouraged to include other games that reflect the cultures of their students. For example, designing a unit of work around African games, or designing student inquiries that give students space to explain a game from their family to their peers.

Many schools had increased their focus on te whare tapa whā and Māori games or movement. Like teachers, students found having a structure such as te whare tapa whā assisted their reflections and understandings about wellbeing. Many students also enjoyed learning about new games such as horo hopu, tī uru, or kī o rahi. Some Māori students noted they liked seeing their culture valued in this way at school. Others acted as leaders as they supported their classmates to understand the meaning of te reo Māori concepts or terms, or how to pronounce words.

What do you like about PE? Students said:

It’s cool to learn about the walls of learning [hauora].

Most of the stuff we do is cultural which is really cool: Māori, Irish, te reo. We learn the traditional background at the start.

What are the different things you learnt in PE this year? Students’ learning about te whare tapa whā included:

The 4 walls, tana tinana, tana wairua, tana hinengaro… The purpose of each wall, what they involve.

The four walls make it easier for some kids because they have trouble putting it [reflections] into words and into groups in their own mind. Students’ learning about horo hopu included.

What are the different things you learnt in PE this year? Students’ learning about te whare tapa whā included:

The culture of the game, traditions, and how it was passed down.

Different techniques, because none of us knew the game.

Backyard Atua Matua

This resource created by the Manawakura team at Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti uses the atua matua approach to learning that involves experiencing your environment and learning to understand the knowledge it holds, particularly knowledge connected to atua and the tribal interpretations of that knowledge. 

Reviewing their planning assisted the school in Story 8 to make stronger connections between Health and PE learning and school goals about fostering te reo Māori and developing a bicultural curriculum.

Story 8
  • Learning te reo Māori & goal setting through Māori movement

    What was the learning need?

    Including Health and PE within a collaborative and integrated planning process was a key change for teachers at one school. The school changed their planning process as well as the content.

    Health and PE was always totally separate. We used to have… term 1 was soccer, term 2 was basketball... Now when we plan, we talk about all subjects… We spend a lot of time planning together but the team are happy to do that. It is better than doing all your planning on a Sunday by yourself. For big units we talk daily about tweaking things. It’s good because we get good outcomes.


    Together the team planned the year of Health and PE learning to support a school goal about developing a more bicultural curriculum.

    In term 1, to scaffold students so they could reflect on their hauora and be empathic towards others, student made a lego model of a hauora house to use as a self-assessment. They were asked questions such as ‘How are you feeling today?’ They altered the house walls and explained to their peers how this showed how they were feeling in each of the four hauora dimensions. This empathy building exercise was a preparation for a social justice topic about different forms of poverty and vulnerability.

    In term 2 teachers used a sports education teaching model* to build students’ self-management and communication skills based around big picture topics of participation and inclusion. The aim was for students to organise and run a school tournament of tī uru**. The students from 3 classes were mixed up in 3 teams. Students needed to learn the game, and train for, and manage, the tournament. All students got changes to try out different team roles such as umpire, coach, timekeepers, or warm up designer.

    In term 3 the focus was on integrating Māori legends and movement through dance. Student studied the legend Rona and the moon in literacy time. The aim was that they would act out the legend as a dance. They were not allowed to talk, so this meant they had to use their bodies and faces for expressive purposes. To assist them to develop movements, the Health and PE focus was exploring Māori movement. Exploring Māori values and building te reo Māori was also part of the mix. The starting point was a unit on tikanga to help students understand the meaning behind this form of physical activity. Students also watched videos** that demonstrated and explained forms of movement inspired by the traditional training of warriors and legends about the Atua (gods). Warmups, cool downs, and challenges were also included.

    Students then had to set a movement challenge for themselves in the form of a SMART goal. They videoed themselves engaging in this movement and did a self-reflection on their goals using the hauora house as a framework. To wrap up the unit, they videoed their final performance of Rona and the moon.

    Teachers’ and students’ reflections on their learning

    Teachers thought this programme of work had been very successful. Integrating Health and PE gave space for students who were “non-sporty” to find an interest in PE learning. As one example they could use creative thinking to develop movements. Overall teachers considered integrated planning that incorporated Māori contexts and knowledge was supporting many school goals such as building a stronger te reo Māori programme; deepening approaches to biculturalism; and fostering a schoolwide approach to wellbeing.

    The hauora model we use is schoolwide and is quite embedded. For looking at wellbeing across the school, we have a common language now.


    Students particularly liked setting SMART goals and could describe many other things they had learnt through the year.

    Students said:

    I learn how to modify games, new warm-ups, how to strengthen the hauora houses and set SMART goals. We were doing goals for Māori movement…. We had to write a SMART goal to learn how to do something by week 8. Mine was to do at least 20 squats.

    I like all the Māori game we play as my family is from a Māori tradition. I learnt lots of Māori, and I like playing the games as they are really active and it helps you refresh your brain and you don’t feel stressed. We played tī uru, tapa ae…

    In one term we had Māori games and we had a chart in the window and it showed roles – there were equipment managers, coaches, refs, players, time keepers, and warm up people. Everyone had a role and some people were playing. It was fun. We learnt, like if you were the time manager, you could get better at timing, and it could help you with your maths.


Story 9 also illustrates how Health and PE learning can support school goals about culturally responsive teaching. Another theme is how Health and PE learning can foster inclusion.

Story 9
  • Social wellbeing and community connections through horo hopu

    For one teacher, her past PE lessons consisted of going out to the field for a game without a clear learning focus. Now in PE she feels confident to transfer the same good practice pedagogies that she uses in other learning areas. She is also more confident designing PE learning to foster wellbeing and the key competencies. Her main focuses are incorporating PE within the school’s integrated learning themes and working towards a school goal of making stronger community connections.

    This year [the mentor] worked alongside the syndicate and looked at our integrated unit—giving advice with the big things. He supported us with planning and links to the Achievement Objectives and our inquiry. He modelled what it looks like in action.


    Integrating PE within inquiry themes is assisting the school to meet a goal of making stronger connections to their community.

    We’ve been building relationships with our local marae and that’s one of our school goals that links into At the last planning meeting with the PLD mentor we looked at linking Māori traditional games as part of our stewardship focus. We’ve tapped in to the local marae, and this has opened up these various doors to people. This week a kuia is coming to talk about harvesting harakeke for weaving and the karakia that goes with this—and then making or weaving things to use in the games.


    What is the learning focus?

    In Term 4, the big picture inquiry theme was Tūrangawaewae—My place to stand. In PE, the focus was on Strand 4 (Healthy communities and environments). For students, the aim was to design approaches that enhanced social wellbeing and inclusion.

    Last term we worked on wellbeing—te whare tapa whā. How it feels if one of the four walls is not in place. We were thinking about looking after each other, how we are caring for the environment, how we are including others in games, how it makes them feel. Now we are [learning through] traditional Māori games. We looked at the rules yesterday. We played a game and then reflected on how it could be made better.


    What learning activities did students do?

    We watched as the class prepared to play horo hopu—a game where two teams compete by swinging and throwing a poi to team members. The aim is to keep the poi in your team and get it to the goal.

    In the classroom, the teacher facilitated students to set WALTs [We Are Learning To statements] about social wellbeing such as including others, talking to your teammates, and joining in. At the start of the game, the two teams had a huddle to remind themselves of these WALTs. After playing for a while the teacher called the teams back into huddles to reflect on how they could change the game to include more people. In one huddle, a student asked all the students who had not had a go to put up their hand. This team decided to make more effort to pass to these people. The class continued playing. More students were passing poi to their peers who had not had a go.

    Overall, most students were active, participating, and enjoying the game. Many wanted to share their ideas in the reflection huddles. During the game, the teacher assisted students to work through differences in viewpoints by reminding students of the focus on social wellbeing and including others.

    Students said: [In PE we learn about]

    encouraging each other … Teamwork—helping each other, trusting each other. We do reflections at the end of the game—so people who don’t really like games are encouraged.

Fostering critical and creative thinking

The stories in previous sections show how schools had woven more opportunities for student reflection within PE learning. This reflection could be a just-in-time approach to consider how to improve an aspect of learning or a summary session using te whare tapa whā as a framework to guide reflection. Reflection is one form of critical thinking.

Within the Health and Physical Education learning area students are encouraged to think critically and creatively, and to plan for and potentially engage in critical action related to issues that evolve from their own and others’  lives and experiences.

Stories 10 and 11 show other examples of how schools incorporated a focus on critical and creative thinking within Health and PE learning.

For further information on how well students are doing nationally in regard to critical thinking in HPE, and ideas on how this can be fostered, the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) data and ‘Insights for Teachers’ report provides some useful reading.

Often teachers’ shifts in thinking were assisted by the process of trying out new practices, and then seeing their impact on students. Story 10 is about the journey of an experienced teacher who was reluctant to teach PE due to her concerns about safety. A change in school approaches to PE helped her develop more confidence. At her school, learning gymnastics in the hall on gear like beams and vaults was a standard winter fixture that had “stayed the same since 1963”. Now use of this equipment was integrated with other learning themes and needs-based learning goals for students. Teachers had shifted their view that PE learning was about “doing the right step on the beam” to setting up learning that enabled students to build creative thinking capabilities as they explored movement and challenged themselves.

Story 10: “I was crouching, but now I’m flying”
  • Learning through creative movement

    One experienced junior teacher self-identified as a non-sporty person who did not like being outside. She was terrified of the possibility of accidents, so ran her PE classes like a “military operation”.

    That gym session used to really worry me. I was working within my parameters and doing the lesson properly with a warm-up, safety, and proper cool down, closing, but with ‘thou shalt nots’ rather than a reflection. [It was about] lining up and not running—basically not having fun.


    What was the learning focus?

    The teacher designed a new approach that integrated the school-wide inquiry theme of ‘disasters’ and made use of gym equipment to support students to experience physical challenges such as balancing.

    What learning activities did students do?

    Students were divided into small groups. They were tasked with using different gym equipment to show how they could escape from a disaster. The teacher added disaster-themed music into the mix.

    We were using our imaginations, and no one got hurt! Students had to walk through the flood to higher ground to be safe [on the beam]. They had to jump to safety; they were clawing their way up to safety. The music added a layer. It was a multi-sensory experience which added to the excitement. I wanted them to be safe, happy, and totally involved in movement. To challenge themselves and feel good about it—that empowerment. They achieved everything needed but in a fun way and they had much more power. I was a mere facilitator. I can step back, and just let it happen. But it takes time to come to that realisation.


    This teacher now felt much more confident to plan and teach PE.

    I feel I have really grown through this practice … I was crouching, but now I’m flying … Seeing this has given me ideas, and I didn’t think I had ideas about sport and PE! I feel I have the licence to do it now… But you are always seeking to be fed new ideas and you always need to be reflective and build your practice. I look forward to it.


Story 11 describes how one school is approaching integrated Health and PE within the wider curriculum and with school goals about building student agency and thinking skills.

Story 11: Ninja Warriors
  • Designing a game for a student inquiry

    What was the learning focus?

    In term 4, the brief for a Year 4-6 class is “design, trial, and improve a multiplayer outdoor game”. This student inquiry focus came from a consultation with students, parents, and teachers about what they would like to see in the curriculum.

    To set the scene for this small group inquiry, for the prior three terms, the class has been exploring cooperation (listening and negotiation), competition, and teamwork in ways that interweave a school focus on ako and tuakana/teina relationships, and the key competencies.

    The endpoint is that students will share and play the final version of their game with their class. If time permits, they will also explain the game to a junior class and play it together. Finally, the students will reflect on their group work skills, what went well, and what they would do differently next time.

    Previously, to unpack the brief and scaffold students, the teacher supported the class through discussions and mini inquiries. For one mini-inquiry, students were tasked with finding some interesting information about a little-known sport. Some students shared games from their family culture. As a scaffold for those who found it harder to come up with ideas, the class watched Youtube clips such as ‘canal vaulting’ from the Netherlands, and ‘cheese rolling’ from the UK. The teacher realised the class needed to think more about safety, so they also watched Australian Ninja warrior – a TV confidence course competition. All these videos gave the class a range of ideas about what could be in a team game and how to manage safety issues.

    Setting the scene in the classroom

    We observed students as they were having a class recap and thinking about next steps in their planning and trialling process. The teacher was integrating literacy learning within the planning process, so he suggested students write a list of equipment in their inquiry exercise books and asked for ideas about relevant language features. Students suggested a bullet point list and the class briefly talked about appropriate headings and punctuation.

    Then students split into their groups to carry on with planning or trialling. Some students elected to stay inside to continue planning. One boy whose family were from central Asia was researching a horseback sport from his home country which was going to be adapted so it could be done using bikes (the school has a bike track and bikes).

    Other students wanted to go outside to trial and improve their ideas. For these students, the teacher noted their session might be messy, but that was OK, as it was part of the process. Two students volunteered to acted as sport shed monitors to help their peers get access to the gear they needed. The class also did a small group brainstorm about what they would do if they did not have access to the equipment they needed.

    Trialling the games outside

    Outside on the playground, one group were trialling their team game they were calling ‘School Warriors’ (based on the idea of Ninja Warriors). The plan was for two teams to compete on an obstacle course which incorporated some of the school’s adventure playground. Students were also adding new obstacles such as cones on which each player had to carefully balance as they jumped from the base of one to the next. Students trialled placing the cones different distances apart, so this bit of the course was “not too hard or too easy”.

    As they trialled the course, they swung on the bars, and engaged in animated conversations about questions such as “What should we call it?”, “How can it be safe?”, “What happens if two people are on the wobble bridge at the same time? Will that work? Will they start at the same time?”

    A second group were trialling a game called “Trust me” where two students led a third blind-folded student around an obstacle course. One of the student guides told the truth about the next obstacle and the other was lying. The blind-folded student had to listen carefully to work out who was giving accurate instructions. The group members trialled different obstacles to make sure they were challenging but not unsafe. One obstacle was a plank walk, and students checked whether this would work if the plank was balanced on a chair. They decided this was unsafe as they could see the plank was flexing and might break. Instead they balanced the blank in a position that was more stable on a low step.

    Most student were self-managing and actively engaged in the task. During the process, the teacher visited and posed questions for each group to think about.

    Reflecting and wrapping up

    To bring the activity to a close for that day, the teacher called students inside for a reflection. He posed a series of questions for students to discuss using a think-pair-share format:

    • “What went well in helping you get to the end product?”
    • “What helped you work well with others?”
    • “What could you do better next time?”

    Students talked in their groups, reflecting on what went well like “putting our ideas together” and “explaining to each other how the game worked”. Some identified they had a few disagreements that they needed to negotiate. To close, the teacher talked about the importance of negotiating.

    What did students and teachers think of the learning?

    Students said they were enjoying making up their own games, and liked thinking creatively, having fun outside, and learning to play games. The features of PE learning they valued included:

    making games and build teamwork and confidence

    sometimes we get to teach each other, we help our teammates’ learning, and teachers

    making new friends

    we learn – don’t put teammates down if they do something wrong

    Teachers and school leaders valued the way Health and PE learning was now more integrated and was assisting in actioning wider school goals and setting students up for life.

    Our planning is different, it is now solid, and spread out through school. We have turned planning upside down. Health and PE is not an add on but a dedicated part of what we do.

    (School leader)

    The discourse is different [from my old school]. Here we call it Health and PE, we look at the curriculum, the skills are a by-product of what you are doing as opposed to the purpose. We tie learning more into the key competencies… Overall, this promotes a more holistic and real approach to being healthy.


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