Overemphasis on Competitive Activities and Winning Competitive activities have an important place in physical education, but they should not dominate class activities or recess periods. When competitive activities are part of the curriculum, winning should be kept in perspective and students should be taught how to be good sports, win or lose. The primary purpose of physical education classes should be skills instruction with the goal of active participation for all students. When competition and winning become the focus in physical education, some students will quickly find ways to avoid or limit their class participation as protection from embarrassment by or ridicule from peers. Some students who do not feel safe find reasons to avoid participation in physical education activities and miss these important instructional opportunities. Though recess times enable students to choose activities in which to participate, teachers who supervise recess times should provide a range of activity options and actively monitor student interactions during play to assure that recess time is inclusive and respectful for all students.
Picking Teams Publicly Though picking teams has been a long-time practice among children on the playground, this often results in the public humiliation of children who are chosen last. As educators, elementary physical education specialists and classroom teachers need to set higher, more educationally sound standards for dividing students for game play in classes and in recess times. Such options as dividing into teams by birthday month or date, sneaker colors, favorite ice cream flavors or other creative ideas can be fun and serve the purpose of dividing students into groups or teams.
Dividing Students by Gender for Instruction or Class Games Dividing physical education classes or recess activities by gender for instruction, game play or open activities is illegal according to Title IX. Moreover this practice is based on gender stereotypes that assume that interest in and aptitude for sport and activity participation and performance are linked to gender. By dividing students by gender, these stereotypes are reinforced rather than challenged. In addition, for transgender students or students who are gender non-conforming, dividing students in this manner places them in a position that calls potentially unwanted attention to their gender expression or gender identity. Sometimes students divide themselves into gender-separate groups. Teachers should monitor these peer divisions to make sure that no students are excluded from participation in an activity because of their gender or gender expression. Gender Stereotyping Sports and Other Physical Activities Elementary teachers need to make sure that physical activities and sports included in the physical education curriculum or recess times are presented as appropriate for students of all genders. This is especially important for activities that are strongly gender stereotyped such as flag football or jump rope. If teachers present activities as “boys’” or “girls’” activities or teachers communicate the expectation that girls or boys will be more interested in a particular activity, it is more difficult for students to make activity choices based on their own interests rather than gendered expectations. Sometimes students use anti-LGBT name-calling as a way to tell other students that they are stepping out of the bounds of gender expectations. As with all name-calling, it is important for teachers to let students know that this is not appropriate or acceptable.