Fitness testing is one of those topics in the world of physical education that can be incredibly polarizing. For some, fitness test results represent a vital progress marker in regards to how their students are living healthy, active lifestyles. For others, fitness testing is associated with poor teaching practices, government-mandated expectations, and student shame.
Here’s the thing: I think that fitness testing can be an incredibly valuable part of a physical education program. That said, the purpose of the testing and the approach used to integrate it into your physical education program has to align with best practices.
For years now, I’ve made my S.M.A.R.T. Goals Fitness Unit an essential part of my grade six physical education curriculum. In this blog post, I’ll break down the standards-based approach I used to design this unit. I will also share the resources that I created to implement it in my teaching.
Side-note: The steps that you’ll see outlined in this blog post align with the standards-based instructional design framework that I’ve adopted in my teaching (in large part thanks to my friend Terri Drain who has taught me so much about SBID over the years).
If you are looking to up your standards-based teaching game and would like to dig deeper into this framework, I recommend that you check out my #PhysEdU course on the topic (which is on sale until October 1st, 2019!).
Ok, let’s get into it! 💪
This unit has been backwards-designed from the following three outcomes from SHAPE America’s National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes document:
As I unpacked these outcomes, I came up with the following content blocks and learning pieces:
So that’s a lot of content. It can seem pretty intimidating at first, but having the grade-level outcomes unpacked like this gives me a deeper understanding of where I’m trying to take my students in their learning. It also gives me insight into how to get them there.
Once I had unpacked all of the content from the grade-level outcomes that this unit is based around, it was time to determine the evidence of learning that I would be seeking out to know whether or not students met the outcomes (i.e. that learning took place).
Using the learning pieces I identified during the unpacking process to guide my thinking, I asked myself the following question: “what new behaviours will I be able to observe once learning has taken place?”
Here are the indicators, mapped out across the four milestone levels, that came out of that reflection:
The Learning Roadmap is a central piece of this unit as it helps students understand how behaviour can change throughout the unit as they develop the skills, knowledge, and understandings we will explore. It also helps me create the What, Why, and How for each lesson.
The next step was to select the appropriate assessment tools that would allow me to gather evidence of student learning. Comparing this evidence to the Learning Roadmap would support my ability to help students identify their next actions throughout the unit.
Before I go through these, I thought you should know that all of these assessment tools are available as part of the S.M.A.R.T. Goals Fitness Unit Teacher Pack!
The first tool that I needed to prepare was my Numbers Gradebook which would serve as a “home base” for my assessment tracking. Be sure to check out my recent blog post to learn how I’ve changed my Numbers Gradebook templates.
To help my students determine their current level of fitness, I created the Fitness Analysis Sheet.
The sheet is a living document, meaning it will get used at different times throughout the unit. At the start of the unit, students will perform a variety of fitness tests that target different health-related components of their fitness:
Shuttle Run Test: Cardiovascular Endurance
60 Second Sit Up Test: Muscular Endurance
Vertical Jump Test: Muscular Strength
Sit & Reach Test: Flexibility
Students will perform an initial round of fitness tests to understand their current fitness levels (with results kept under the “Initial” column). Students are then asked to reflect on their existing fitness strengths and weaknesses by looking at the lifestyle habits that contribute to each. They will also be asked to reflect on the benefits fitness improvements would bring to their overall quality of life.
[Let’s take a break here for a bit of a rant]
So before the army of Fitness-Focused PhysEd Fanatics come out of the Twitter woodworks again to attack my test selection with onslaughts of articles, research, opinions, and angry messages (don’t think I don’t see your tweets, you pompous iron pumpers), let me explain my choices:
First off, my gym is the size of a large lunchbox. I also usually run this unit in January using the lens of New Year Resolutions to frame it. You may not know this, but Montreal gets cold and snowy in the winter, so teaching this unit outside isn’t an option. If I had easy access to an indoor track, we would most likely run a Cooper Test to test for cardiovascular endurance. Instead, I have to make use of the space I have so we use the Shuttle Run to test the component of fitness (even though it measures anaerobic capacity). It’s a test the kids know of, it gets their hearts pumping and lungs working, and it allows to help reframe something they see as negative (“you’re making us run the beep test!”) into something positive (“I beat my beep test goal by three levels and met my goal!”) Deal with it. I made an alternate version of the Fitness Analysis Sheet without any test icons on it so you can pick your own.
Speaking of the “that’s not the best test for that component” game, the Vertical Jump Test is a test of lower body power and not the best indication of muscular strength. Strength is a variable of power, so that was pretty much the reasoning behind it. Oh, and I can’t have my grade 6 students all perform a 1RM Bench Press Test safely and efficiently in class.
Last but not least, you may have noticed that we don’t test body composition in this unit. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it: we do at the start of the unit when we review the health-related components of fitness. With their body compositions changing so drastically at their age, I try not to put too much emphasis on it as I know that this component is something that they can become unnecessarily obsessed with. Also, there is no way for us to measure body composition in class that keeps my students safe (e.g. emotional, mental, social safety).
To gather evidence of my students’ ability to design their self-selected fitness goal, create their program of remediation, and identify the components of the F.I.T.T. principle, I developed the S.M.A.R.T. Action Plan Sheet.
The sheet helps guide students through the process of using the S.M.A.R.T. principle to design an effective goal. Although we will go over the principle in class with the help of a learning visual (more on that in a bit), having students deconstruct their goal gives me insight into their understanding of what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is.
The sheet also lets me see if students understand how the F.I.T.T. principle (which we will also explore in class) can be used to outline a fitness action plan.
To help me determine whether or not my students can map out their F.I.T.T. principle-based action plan into a schedule and monitor their progress as they go, I created the Daily Exercise Journal. This document is meant to be kept by students in a safe place so that they can fill it out outside of school.
As outlined in the unpacking process, my students will be working towards being able to apply the F.I.T.T. principle to target different health-related components of fitness. To help them showcase this understanding, they will be able to design a sample workout in one of this unit’s lessons.
Out of all of the F.I.T.T. principle’s components, intensity is the most challenging for students to understand, especially in regards to how it relates to each health-related component of fitness. The Workout Design Sheet helps students reflect on intensity and usually leads to essential discussions on how to measure/plan for intensity when targeting the different components.
The final assessment piece I designed for this unit is the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Reflection Sheet which allows students to determine the degree to which they achieved their fitness goal, reflect on the factors that led to that achievement level, and identify what would be the next steps in regards to continuing to develop their fitness.
This sheet will be completed after the students have redone their fitness testing and compared their final results to their initial results (which is all marked down on the Fitness Analysis Sheet).
This whole unit can be broken down into the following steps:
With that outline in mind, here is an overview of the lessons from this unit:
In this opening lesson, I invite my students to reflect on our definition of fitness: to be able to take on whatever life throws at you every day without getting too physically tired to do so.
After a Walk & Talk and follow-up group discussion on why fitness is important to them, I work with my students to break fitness down into its health-related components (which we have explored in past years).
We use our Fitness Component Concept Cards to help with this:
Once we successfully identify the five health-related components of fitness, we discuss how the health of each component affects our overall fitness levels. I then explain to my students that our goal for the day will be to assess our personal fitness levels by performing an array of fitness tests.
Here’s how I usually organize the testing:
Step One: Shuttle Run Test (As a whole group)
Step Two: Vertical Jump Test & Sit-&-Reach Test (Students do each one on their own time)
Step Three: 60s Sit Up Test (Students get in pairs and take turns performing the test)
As the students perform their fitness tests, they record their results under the “Initial” column on their Fitness Analysis Sheet. Once all of the tests are complete, the students then try to make sense of their results by using the appropriate spaces on the Fitness Analysis Sheet. They identify strengths and weaknesses within their fitness levels, reflect on the causes of each, and think about how changes to the weaker areas of their fitness would benefit their lives.
In our second lesson, the students will start to look at how they can intentionally improve their fitness levels with the help of the F.I.T.T. Principle.
We go over each of the principle’s components, and then the students break off into four groups. Each group will get to perform a 15-minute workout that targets one of the four health-related components of fitness that we tested last class.
These workouts are straightforward, and I use them as an opportunity to introduce my smartphone-carrying students to a few of my favourite workout apps:
While the students work out, I’ll go around and connect with anyone who didn’t seem to fully grasp the reflection part of the Fitness Analysis Sheet that we completed last class. Circulating like this gives me a chance to check in with those students and encourage them to go a little deeper in their fitness levels reflection.
After the first workout round, my students come together for a discussion on intensity: what I consider to be the hardest of the F.I.T.T. principle’s components to understand. As we discuss how intensity is measured for each health-related component of fitness, I’ll introduce my students to the Perceived Exertion Scale.
Following the discussion on intensity and perceived exertion, my students will select a second workout from the options listed above and get back to exercising!
To end class, students will fill out a quick Google Form with their school-supplied laptops (we’re 1-for-1 with MacBooks at my school). Doing so will help me ensure that my students have grasped the F.I.T.T. principle and are ready for the next step in this unit.
In this lesson, the students are invited to design a workout plan that aligns to the component of fitness that they are seeking to improve.
Using the Workout Design Sheet, they will have some time to research different exercises on their own as they create their workout.
While the students exercise, I will touch base with students that had a harder time with the Google Form from the previous class. Doing so allows me to help them further develop their understanding of the F.I.T.T. principle.
In the second half of the lesson, I’ll have the students come together so that we can go over the S.M.A.R.T. Principle together.
We’ll go over each component of the S.M.A.R.T. Principle, making sure to take the time to go over both examples and non-examples. Knowing that the students fully understand how to design a S.M.A.R.T. goal will be essential for our next task.
I’ll then hand the students two sheets: their Fitness Analysis Sheets and their S.M.A.R.T. Action Plan sheets. Based on the opportunity for growth that they identified on their Fitness Analysis Sheet, students will be asked to design a fitness goal that uses the S.M.A.R.T. principle.
With their goal written out, students then get to use the F.I.T.T. principle to map out a simple action plan to reach their fitness goal. I’ll collect these sheets at the end of class so that I have an opportunity to assess my students’ work.
After the first three lessons of this unit, we’re ready to put things on hold for a while. However, before we move on from this unit, I will return the S.M.A.R.T. Action Plan sheets to my students (setting aside any that need additional work/review).
Students will need to have the final version of their action plan signed by two additional people before returning it to me: a parent/guardian and an accountability partner of their choosing (e.g. friend, sibling, teacher). I’ll also give the students their Daily Exercise Journal sheet. They will be able to keep this sheet at home and fill it in as they track and monitor their action plan efforts over the next three weeks.
The students will have three weeks to implement and monitor their Fitness Action Plan before we move onto the final lesson of this unit.
After three weeks have gone by, it will be time to see if the students’ action plan efforts have paid off!
In this lesson, students will receive the Fitness Analysis Sheets that they completed in our first fitness lesson. Using the document to track their results, students will go through the same array of fitness tests they did at the start of the unit.
Once all of the tests are completed and the results recorded, the students will receive their S.M.A.R.T. Goal Reflection sheet that will invite them to reflect on:
🏆 The degree to which they achieved their S.M.A.R.T. goal
✅ The factors that led to that degree of achievement
👣 The next steps they can take to continue to develop their fitness level.
I tell my students that what they will learn in the S.M.A.R.T. Goals Fitness Unit may be the most important lessons that I can teach them: to understand one’s health, to determine how to improve it, and to take effective action.
This unit has evolved a lot over the years, with each new iteration shaping itself to become more student-centred. To be able to teach my students how to care for their fitness in a way that meets important outcomes, involves no external pressure (public scores or standardized tests), and that celebrates their individual successes has helped me create a fitness unit that is meaningful to my students. I swear: they look forward to that second round of tests!
I hope that this blog post has given you a clear idea of how to design a standards-based fitness unit that is grounded in best teaching practices. If you’re interested in bringing this unit to your school and are looking for some help with the resources involved, I’ve created a Teacher Pack that contains all of the digital files I mentioned in this post:
You can download the S.M.A.R.T. Goals Fitness Unit Teacher Pack in the #PhysEd Shop by clicking the button below:
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading and happy teaching!