Friday 28 December 2012

Literacy in PE

Literacy is a key theme this year and one which is being raised and commented a lot in various forums.  Ideas and discussion have flowed on Twitter.  Numerous blog ideas have looked at how to develop better reading or writing techniques with students.  I have had books recommended to me and courses have passed through my inbox.  Now I am no expert at all.  Not in the slightest.  In fact, at our last INSET day I had the pleasure to finally be a member of the audience and not actually be delivering any sessions.  This was a brilliant experience as I actually got a chance to learn new things of some amazing colleagues.  Now in terms of my own personal literacy I even attended a 'Spelling, punctuation and grammar' workshop where I spent most of the time grappling with apostrophes, colons, semicolons and so on.  For the first time in a number of years I was brought back to my childhood and had vivid recolections of my old school English lessons.  So many of the literacy skills I was taught seem to have been lost somewhere in the grey matter.

Obviously I can write.  I can structure reports and communicate effectively with parents.  I can produce instructions, explanations and descriptions for students which clearly make sense.  But as a PE teacher I had two niggling thoughts which kept me saying 'I could do more, I could do better!'.  In my PE lessons, particluarly in practical PE sessions, am I developing literacy skills with my students?  Am I creating opportunities, learning experiences or activities in my lessons that draw out key literacy skills?  The answer to be honest is probably no.  And if I was, I wasn't making it clear.  So could I do more?  Yes is the answer.  And could I do better?  Im afraid the answer is yes again.

At the end of the literacy INSET day we were given time to feedback about the various sessions we had attended.  We were also given time to collaborate with colleagues and come up with strategies and ideas for developing literacy further.  This time is where the magic happens and a number of ideas were developed.  Leaving this session the PE team were very excited about driving literacy within our practice.  But beyond our own department, I was constantly wondering what other schools and practicioners are doing.  Were there any ideas from other PE departments around the country (or globe) that we could use or even develop?  Whilst wondering about these questions I got together a number of Twitter PE teachers and set up the #literacyinpe hashtag, the Literacy in PE Dropbox and Google Doc.  Over the months a number of PE teachers have collaborated and combined ideas.  Inspiration has flowed and real trials have been shared.  In a subject where I personally had forgotten to highlight literacy regularly, a number of great strategies have been formed.  So what have we come up with?  Well, what follows is a summary of ideas for developing literacy in PE.  The list is in no particular order.  They have come from a number of contributors (see the bottom of the post).  Some of them may not neccaserily tick every box of every schools literacy agenda, but what they do achieve is a great starting point for other PE teachers to develop literacy in their departments.

Literacy in PE ideas:

Here is a collection of ideas that have been shared so far via e-mail/Twitter in an effort to develop literacy ideas in PE.  Please feel free to share further ideas, however small, which I can add to this list so that we can have a selection for teachers to use.  The criteria for an idea for this list is here:

  • Must have the improvement of literacy as its core aim
  • Needs to be manageable for all staff and all departments
  • Must be easy to use
  • Must have a clear impact on developing literacy, whether in the written or verbal form.

Fact in Fiction writing tasks - An excellent task for PE theory.  It is a task where students have to incorporate factual topics into fictional writing.  Really challenges their writing skills and demonstrates a clear understanding of the topics.  As a teacher you will have to write the opening few paragraphs of a fictional story and the students take over and finish it, incorporating the key points of whatever topic you are covering.  The need to include a list of points and key words which all must be underlined.  It also helps to develop extended writing and check for SPAG.  A good explanation of Fact in Fiction tasks can be found here.  I have also attached an example here:

PEED/IDEA - We have also developed a 'PEED' (Point, Evidence, Explain, Develop) type strategy in our department called IDEA (Identify, Describe, Explain, Apply) which worked really well last year in the exam.  Really helped those who struggle to structure a scenario/long answer.  I have linked it here:

SOLO Taxonomy - SOLO to help students structure long answer questions (picking out a fact, giving the definition, linking it to an example and bringing in other topics/aspects - going from pre-structural to EA).  Really links to the scenario and 8 mark questions in the AQA spec which students often find difficult to write. Paul McIntosh has an video example of this at A level PE

Student speak - We also teach our Year 7's & 8's how to give effective feedback through Sport Education so they can verbally structure it.  By teaching students how to give feedback to peers we are helping them how develop to use their verbal skills, choosing correct and specific terminology and thinking about how to give descriptions/instructions.  I have attached the resource here:

School sports newspaper -  Happened a few years back.  Lasted 5 editions.  Had a team of sports reporters, writers and editors.  The team went to fixtures, wrote reports and then published them in our paper.  Printed copies were distributed to tutor groups and displayed outside the PE block and in the library.  Cost and time meant it had to stop.  Could this be a blog page now? An example of our front page from 2007 is above.

Key words/quotes - displayed around the department for students to develop terminology - increased exposure to these words can only help develop their use.

Articles - Using carefully selected articles in lessons which students can analyse and dissect.  During our cycling project we have used a number of online ones where students read them, analysed them and pulled out key information linked to the topic we were covering.  These rich resources explained what we were learning in such a clear and detailed way and contextualised the content that we were learning   

Analysing articles - Here is a sheet I used with Yr 11 GCSE students when we read and analysed 4 cycling articles:

Unit glossary sheet - A simple sheet which students can transfer key terms, key words and specific terminology from any given topic:

Evernote - Using Evernote or similar voice note taking application to allow students to verbally explain written text, then share back with students to write up their explanation.  Completes a cycle of thought process and gets students to improve initial draft.

Blogs - Using Student blogs to access literacy.  Students write a blog post that reflects on their learning.  This is shared with their teacher who can give feedback both on the reflective part to aid progress but also on the literacy of the writing.  Here is an example of our student class blog that we are writing up for our cycling project

Reflection blogs - To encourage reflective writing all students will have access to either Edmodo or Posterous and will review their learning after each session.  This is aimed at getting students to write about what they have done and look at targets to improve.  The impact on literacy comes through the extra practice at writing and enhanced through modular focuses looking at writing structure.  A guide to this strategy from Matt Pullen can be found here:

Questioning - ‘Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce’. You ‘Pose’ a question to the class; ‘Pause’ for an extended period of time (10-15secs); ‘Pounce’ on someone to answer the question; ‘Bounce’ to someone else to build or contest the original answer. May target lower ability for the immediate answer, and use higher ability students to extend.

Comic Life - Great for students to improve literacy in PE or any subject, the app costs £1.99 but is worth every penny. Students are fully engaged using the application and produce some fabulous pieces of work.  Jon Tait explains Comic Life further here.

Tagxedo - turns words - famous speeches, news articles, slogans and themes, even your love letters - into a visually stunning word cloud. Great for introducing new topics and keywords associated with it. Good to use with GCSE PE to act as prompts when students working independently on topics.

Word Replacement - When getting students to describe things adopt the “forget the first word that comes into your head policy”, basically the student must forget the first word they think of and replace it with another word this exercise extends students vocabulary.

Desk Writing - Encourage students to write on desks using whiteboard markers (an engaging alternative to their books) Students will love it trust me and not want to put the pen down.

Seek N Spell - Fantastic application for android and apple that not only gets students active, but encourages and develops literacy skills as students run to collect virtual letters and spell different words for points, students become really competitive.

Media - Develop a school media team and have students run it. The blog our students run and update can be found at  Students are responsible for creating match reports and various articles and uploading them to the blog.

Audioboo application - This software allows students to create short & sharp podcasts to listen to as a quick revision of certain topics. Students  create their own podcasts and broadcast them through the departments twitter site in lessons, this once again allows us to instantly listen to the work created within the lesson and provide instant feedback on the work. The podcasting is a great way to improve students literacy skills without them really knowing. The students really enjoy making the podcasts and have come up with some sensational work. Once the files are uploaded to twitter, they are there for everyone to listen to and refer too for extra help during assignments and exams etc….

Skimming & Scanning - Students are shown a piece of information that relates to the upcoming lesson for 8 seconds, it is then removed. This exercise encourages and develops students ability to scan and skim pieces text.

Skype - We have used Skype in lessons to aid revision of subjects.  Colleagues and myself have set up Skype between classes and got students to ask the other classes questions through a live video feed to the other classroom.  This can be further developed to skyping to another school, this is something I did with success last year.  Enhances students communication skills.

Explain Everything - is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. GCSE students can use this software to create tutorials and display their knowledge on specific subject areas.  By creating these, students have to carefully think of what to say, how to say it, what terminology to use and so on.

Explain Everything II - I use the above method to record student discussions in class for them to review later in their own time, it is expected that students make notes about the discussion after the lesson rather than during it to help with engagement in the discussion.

Literacy key words - Not very 'revolutionary' but this week when using an indoor facility, I have my objectives up, my success criteria, any techniques PLUS a designated section on the whiteboard with a minimum of 5 specific key words which they will learn/use in that practical lesson. Learners encouraged to use these whenever possible during peer/self assessment, reciprocal teaching etc.

Physical Literacy - A number of research articles into Physical Literacy, online ( and also one shared in the Dropbox folder (

Comic Life - Using Comic life on iPad for non doers, take pictures of sessions and comment on students and what should be improved.  Can then share these or use as displays.

Reading corner - We developed a literacy reading corner, with a section in our sports centre on some comfortable chairs and on the table we had sports magazines, books about different sports stars.

Newsletter - We also have our Sports College newsletter which we produce every half term for the students to read and designed by the students. This did work well and was commented on by Ofsted. We are now as a whole school developing literacy even further. This is through having one literacy and numeracy co-ordinator in each faculty area. This then ensures the whole school is focusing on literacy.

Key Word Booklet - All key words for each department area will be collated in a whole school booklet which will be in each classroom and students can refer to.

Marking - When marking work teachers will circle under the spelling mistake (no highlighting or underlining) and students will put in the correct spelling. Dictionary in each classroom to help with this.

Focus Day - We had a suspended day with Year 7 in our area for the day and the students had to write and present a broadcast on one Olympic story from this year. They then linked to Art and Drama with the performance.

News Display Boards - Having an 'articles' board in our Sports Hall entrance.  The board is split into various topics from our GCSE course and each week we print off an article from a newspaper that relates to it, enlarge it, pull out key paragraphs/quotes and then have QR code links down the sides to similar articles online we have found.  Trying to encourage reading with all years and also supports our GCSE from Year 7.  I'm already tweeting articles out on my GCSE PE Twitter feed to my Year 11's.  Matt Pullen looked at this and developed this further by adding in augmented reality to bring words to life.  Simply record yourself talking through the article (or get students to do it).  This then makes it accessible to students that struggle to read English but understand spoken English.  Take photo of article in Aurasma, record voice on iPad or iPod using camera, link the two in Aurasma.  Voila.  Matt produced a post with a downloadable guide here which is an essential read.

Literacy mats - We're going to create some mats which have things like generic PE key words, connectives, verbs etc.  We'll use them predominantly in indoor lessons to help students verbalise their ideas and give feedback.  Bigger versions of them will be printed off and displayed on our walls to refer to.

Sports Quotes stories - An adapted idea from @AlysonEgerton.  Provide students with a number of sports quotes.  Students have to select one that inspires them and write a short story that ties in with the quote.  You can use this to focus on grammar, use of connectives, sentence structures....  Add a limit to the story to maybe 50 words, 75 words or 100 words.  Forces students to refine their writing and avoid waffle!

BTEC Verb progress mat - A colleague who leads the BTEC is going to create a mat that has key verbs, their meanings and how they relate to pass, merit and distinction (it seems most of the same verbs are used in the pass criteria, merit criteria and dist criteria).  The mat is designed to support at that level and show how to move onto the next level

Extended from idea above.  Student news blog.  Group of students write a blog post based on things going on around school.  Share this with students and get students to comment on posts.  Could be good for sharing positive things going on around school and also gives a student voice as they get to comment if they enjoyed things or how they could be improved.  This will start of focusing on 4 areas, digital literacy and use if devices in the classroom, sports news, from match reports, inter house and general PE news, house news, what is happening around school and finally post 16, integrating post 16 life into the rest of the school.  An excellent example from City Academy can be found here.

Ebook - Create an ebook that contains all the keywords needed for each subject.  These can then be simply shared with students to access when they need.  Using iPads this is quite easy to do using book creator app.  Within the ebook can be lots of links to other literacy ideas as well.  This is now being started using word salad to create keyword pictures contained in one book, engaging and useful`.  An explanation of this can be found here and an example of a BTEC ebook from Matt Pullen can be found here:

Marking Policy - A literacy marking key which teachers use on students work. Simply add a symbol or code where there is a literacy mistake and students refer to the key to see what needs improving.  Things on the key could be 'sp' for spelling, individual 'P', 'E', 'E', or 'D' for point, evidence ... which can be used in AQA scenario or long mark questions. Key can be on A4 and stuck in students books.

Literacy peer marking - When doing extended writing, swap work and get peers to mark for spelling, punctuation or grammar errors (content can be checked at same time or in second round of the peer review).

Voicethread - Use voicethread app to build students confidence in public speaking.  Take a picture and get them to write about it, then record just voice talking about it, then video self talking about it, then hopefully have confidence to present live.

Critique and drafting - Getting students to create multiple drafts of work which has set dates when it will be critiqued.  During this critique session, students use the rules 'Be kind, specific and helpful' and analyse the work.  They then provide feedback and feedforward for the writer.  The writer then acts on it.  By drafting and critiquing work numerous times, students are constantly developing their literacy skills.

Get in some experts - As part of the Cycling project we got in journalists who gave a literacy master class. These experts gave valuable pointers for writing articles, speeches, persuasive arguments etc. The top tips they gave are summarised here.

Whole school literacy focus - Each half term the whole school can have a literacy focus.  This could range from using capital letters correctly, using apostrophes, quotes, specific terminology and other SPAG points.  Students could then self assess or look for these foci within their work to further reinforce it.

Sport specific literacy booklet - For the particular sports that you teach you can have students fill out a literacy booklet which encourages them to use their relevant skills and learn specific terminology.  An example from Ben Horbury can be found here:

If you want some further details on these ideas, here is a video explaining seven of the above ideas in depth.  They were recently presented at a Youth Sports Trust event organised by @PEeducator

So there you have it.  These are just a simple list of ideas for developing literacy in PE but they could easily be transferred across any subject with small adaptations.  Obviously a more powerful strategy as pointed out by Peter Green would be to have a whole school drive or focus.  But, what we have here are a list of manageable and realistic literacy ideas that can easily be embedded at the start of the new term.

If you decide to use any of these please let us know using the #literacyinpe hashtag. 

So finally, who were the main contributors to this PE literacy project?  Here are a few (and must follows!):

Matthew Pullen @Mat6453 - All round good guy.  Big influence on me within PE teaching & learning.  Great advice on developing technology within PE.  Follow this guy at all costs.

Jon Tait @TeamTait - Not only a huge inspiration but a great Twitter friend.  Having collaborated with him both on Twitter and behind the scenes, this man knows his stuff and is motivated to develop T&L in PE further.

Ben Horbury @TheBenHorbury - The first PE teacher I followed of interacted with on Twitter.  Collaborated with Ben on a number of projects using SOLO, moderation, exam prep and now literacy in PE.  A must follow!

Glenn Martin @bod83 - An ex Bedord/De Montfort graduate (who I spent most of my time at Uni with).  Now a Director of Faculty but still very much a PE teacher at heart.  A great collaborater and knowledgable teacher.

Ben Leornard @PEeducator - PE teacher at Westfield Sports College.  A big driver of PE in the curriculum and using technology within lessons.  A great guy to follow and collaborate with.

Kevin Jones @kevjones27 - A PE teacher who is making a difference.  Keen on T&L and a great guy to chat to on Twitter.  Knows his stuff.

Peter Green @peter8green - Along with Ben, this is one of the first PE teachers I followed.  A great guy who I have collaborated with many times.  A great source of inspiration and well worth the follow.

Stephen O'Carroll @PE_SOC - Lead teacher of boys PE in a London Academy.  A PE teacher through and through.  Full of ideas on driving the subject forward.

Paul McEvoy @MrMacPE - Teaching & Learning Coach, PE teacher,TES top resource contributor and football coach.  A great source of ideas and inspiration on Twitter.

Ross Wickens @MrWickensPE - Trainee PE teacher at Loughborough University.  Key resource on Twitter and sharer of many great links and articles.  Has a great blog covering many aspects of education, particularly technology in the classroom.


  1. Hello. I really enjoyed reading all of these wonderful strategies. I would really like to see the examples of these strategies but the links to the dropbox are not working. Is there another way to see these examples? Thanks.

    1. Apologies. When an external site linked this to their site it removed all of the links. I'll look to add these in the next month or so.

  2. I enjoyed reading. :) Thanks for sharing.