Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 1
Including Culture in Physical Education
By: David Sbriscia
Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 2
“Approximately 14% of school-age students speak a non-English language in
their home environment” (Torrey, Ashy, 1997).
My new position as a physical education instructor for elementary school students
must not look through these facts. America has changed from its old days of rolling out a
kickball in “gym class” to a majority set of students, to a new and successful physical
education class that I hope to affect them for a lifetime with all races, languages, and
cultures. Physical Education class is no longer the standard games with minimal
instruction. In my new school I will incorporate many different cultures and different
activities for the students to perform to expand their horizons and allow them to receive
the Physical education class they deserve.
The demographic that was once is truly changing. Predictions say that the
majority will decrease and segments of the minority will increase dramatically. One
statistic to support the previous statement is that today Hispanic and Latino population
make up 25% of the entire United States population. In the schools one in every three
students is part of an ethnic minority. In my new position I will take the time to learn
about their different cultures and ethnicities so that I can teach them with all confidence
that they understand and I am making directions and activities clear for them (Maurer-
Starks, Whalen, 2007).
The first change that I need to make to the class is to adjust the school and their
views on cultural (Torrey, Ashy, 1997). When teaching I need to have the school is
involved. The school should choose a new race of people every month to learn about and
adopt some of their activities. In my experience working at Ithaca South Hill Elementary
I have learned that this is a great idea and the whole school can be involved when South
Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 3
Hill studied Africa. There are many different ways the school can get involved. In
reading class the books can be directed toward Africa, physical education class can be
directed toward African games and dance, and Art class can be directed toward different
African paintings and art. If the school is involved then the students will have six hours a
day to learn about different cultures instead of forty minutes.
After the school is involved I will use my resources in the class. When I say
resources I mean students. In my class I am sure I will have a mix of different students
and backgrounds. A simple activity that can start every class is the “student of the day”
activity. This will be when a student talks about their culture and a game or activity that
their culture performs. This will educate the students about different cultures and only
donate a few minutes at the beginning of class.
As a new teacher I know that I need to gain knowledge from the students and my
surroundings. It is important to never stop learning when you teach. A teacher needs to
have cultural competency. Cultural competency is to understand and relate to different
unique cultures. If a teacher can do this then they can apply it to their lessons so the
students have a greater idea about the culture. This goes along the line of multicultural
teaching and placing it into your class (Domangue, Carson).
Before I address how multicultural teaching can be implemented into my class I
want to talk about what is multicultural education. “Multicultural education is based
upon the premise that there is value in all cultures and that every learner has personal
worth” (Torrey, Ashy, 1997). This idea sums up that every person has the right to
maintain their cultural identity in society. Physical education class is a great place to
Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 4
allow students to do so. Multicultural education can be defined as five different guide
lines when being taught during my class.
The first is the policies and practices within the school. This is going to the
school and asking them to make adjustments to the curriculum and adopt different
cultures such as South Hill elementary did in my experiences.
The second key to having multicultural education in classes is that the
administrative staff and teachers have to be on board with the idea. In my school I am
going to stress the staff how important this is to be excited about culture and put forth full
effort in teaching it. If the teachers are not excited about the lessons the students will see
it, the teachers energy will be down and it will cause a domino affect for the students.
This is why in my school I will call for meetings with the staff to make sure they all agree
with the ideas and have input into the topic that we choose.
The third key is to have a staff that has some multicultural background in the
topic. When teaching I could ask the school to go outside of the normal staff to bring in
presenters about the different cultures and introduce the students to new experiences. As
a physical education teacher I could involve different cultures games such as Tchoukball
experts and dance instructors. A study was performed by Rovegno and Gregg to find out
how different types of folk dances and geography could be placed into the physical
education background. The students liked to idea and found it fun and interesting to
perform because it was new and creative. During the twelve week unit the students
learned all kinds of different folk style Native American dancing. One particular activity
that I would love to incorporate into my new job is the different patterns and styles of
dance so that the students can create their own dances. During the study it was stressed
Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 5
that the students enjoyed this activity. This is because the students were allowed to be
creative and adopt another cultures information and incorporate into their create ideals
(Rovegno, Gregg, 2007).
The fourth key to multicultural education is to have the class information connect.
The information can not be all over the place and the activities need to have some base
and connection. If I am including geography in the unit about different countries then I
need to keep referring back to the point that I want the students to take. I will do this in
my new job when teaching the different units, an example can be manipulative skills and
incorporating soccer and countries and territories.
The fifth and final key is to have a positive attitude to all cultures when teaching.
This means being accepting and not having any prejudices towards cultures. This will
allow the students to learn about the cultures without having the teacher influencing them
based on their ideals. When I teach in my new job I will allow the students to learn and
have their own thoughts so they can learn without distractions (Sparks, Wayman, 1993).
Along with creating a culturally diverse class the teacher has the challenge of
controlling these different cultures and creating a successful class for the students. A
teacher has to control many different aspects of cultures to create a positive learning
environment. In my new class there will be students with many different cultures. With
these different cultures there will come dress, language, interaction patterns, and
perceptions of physical activity (Griffin, 1985). It is important to understand
characteristics of cultures but it is extremely important not to follow stereotypes as a
teacher. It will be important in my class to address the topic of class attire. This will let
students know that there are many different ways to dress and that no way is better then
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the next. They will be told what is appropriate and what is not. They will follow the
same rules and be allowed to incorporate their beliefs and styles as long as they obey
Language will also be addressed in the class. It is important for the students to
understand that just because they do not speak the common language of the school they
will not be penalized in my class. I will demonstrate and break down the different
activities for the students so they can all be successful without language being a factor.
Interaction patterns with students also need to be addressed. There are different
interactions that have been studied based on race. In one study performed Griffin it was
found that black female children were more assertive in the activities and participation.
This is a tricky subject because as a teacher you should never base your decisions on
studies performed by other people. You should always examine your class and take each
student individual needs into account. Some students will be more assertive then others
and each student should be assessed by the teacher (Griffin, 1985).
Physical activity is also another subject that the teacher should asses. I will watch
each student and the gains that they make during my class so that all students are based
fairly and not on assumption. Each student will start at a different place and need help
with different skills. It is important as a teacher to find out what each student needs and
develop fun activities that will help them learn and direct them toward physical education
goals you have set for your students (Griffin, 1985).
American is changing and teachers need to change with it. In my new class I will
need to adopt the philosophies I listed above. I will become a multicultural educator,
have cultural competency, and create an environment for the students in the school and
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classroom that they can learn from. With changes in demographics it is more important
then ever to create a class with various activities and cultures. The main goal of physical
education is to keep students active for a lifetime and involving many different cultures
ideals is a great way for the students to find something they love.
Sbriscia, Including Culture in Physical Education 8
Domangue, E., & Carson, R. L. (2008). Preparing Culturally Competent Teachers: Service-Learning and
PHysical Education Teacher Education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 27, 347-367.
Griffin, P. S. (1985). Teaching in an Urban Multiracial Physical Education Program: The Power of
Context. Quest, 37, 154-165.
Maurer-Starks, S., & Whalen, S. (2007). America's Melting Pot-The Need
for Cultural Competence.
Athletic Therapy Today, 8-9.
Rovegno, I., & Gregg, M. (2007, November). Using Folk Dance and
Geography To Teach Interdisiplinary, Multicultural Subject Matter: A
school-based study. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy,
Sparks, W. G., & Wayman, L. L. (1993). Multicultral Understanding in Physical Education. Physical
Educator, 50(2), 58-68.
Torrey, C. C., & Ashy, M. (1997). Teaching Multiculturalism
Sociocultural Factors. Physical
Educator, 54(3), 120-127.