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Content suggestions to meet SHAPE America's Grade-Level Outcomes for middle school

This is an excerpt from Essentials of Teaching Physical Education With Web Resource, The by Stephen A. Mitchell & Jennifer Fisette.

Middle School: Grades 6-8


In this section, attention turns to grades 6-8 to suggest content to address SHAPE America’s Grade-Level Outcomes for middle school. Again, the relative emphasis for Standard 2 at the middle school level is discussed, and ideas on assessment are provided.


Relative Emphasis

Middle school students are likely to receive a curriculum that transitions them from learning motor skills and movement concepts to learning how to use skills and movement concepts to address the problems confronting them in game play environments. Assuming that this is the case, Standard 2 outcomes will take on greater importance at the middle school level because your students will spend more time in modified game play than they did previously. Game play environments present problems that go beyond just executing skills. The solutions to these problems are found in the students’ effective use of their knowledge of tactics.


Modified games provide problem-solving and decision-making challenges for students.
Modified games provide problem-solving and decision-making challenges for students.


Applying Knowledge of Tactics

Before going further, the difference between strategy and tactics should be explained. Whereas strategy refers to an overall game plan, tactics refers to the moment-to-moment adjustments that players make to solve the problems presented by the game. Tactics are perhaps more relevant here because middle school physical education often uses small-sided games (usually of fairly short duration). Generally, game tactics can be divided into those required for scoring and those necessary to prevent opponents from scoring (Mitchell, Oslin, and Griffin, 2013). Tactical knowledge is required both when players have the ball and when they do not. For example, both offensively and defensively, the tactical use of space is important in all games, particularly in invasion games. Offensively, players must be able to create space for themselves and teammates by moving with the ball when they are in possession and by moving to appropriate spaces when they do not have the ball. Defensively, players must move to reduce the amount of space available to opponents.


Space is also important in net games and in fielding and striking games. For example, badminton tactics require that players open up space by moving their opponent around the court and then landing the shuttle in the space they have created. Defensively, players must move to cover the space on their side of the net to make it difficult for their opponent to attack. In softball, players must recognize the available spaces in the field and try to hit the ball into those spaces to increase the likelihood of scoring runs. Of course, defensively, players need to cover spaces in the field to make hitting and running more difficult.


The concepts of trajectory, speed, and force are important for effective performance in target games such as golf, bowling, and horseshoes, in which players have to hit a target with an object. The correct combination of these concepts will result in a greater likelihood of success. Shot selection is also important in a target game like golf. Selecting the right club is an example of the decisions that players need to make.


Assessment and Program Planning

Similar to assessment of Standard 2 outcomes at the upper elementary (grade 3-5) level, assessment at the middle school level requires that you observe student performance. SHAPE America’s Grade-Level Outcomes indicate that this observation needs to be of performance during game play. Again, this requirement raises issues of the time necessary to observe an entire class during game play and the setting up of enough small-sided games for students to get sufficient opportunities to be involved. As an example, Outcome S2.M2.8 for grade 8 students reads: "Executes at least 3 of the following offensive tactics to create open space: moves to create open space on and off the ball; uses a variety of passes, fakes and pathways; and give and go" (SHAPE America, 2014, p. 45). You could assess this outcome by observing your students in small-sided game play and scoring their performance based on the rubric and recording table shown in figure 5.5, which could be used in any invasion game.



Outcome S2.M7.8 for grade 8 students reads: "Creates open space in net/wall games using either a long- or short-handled implement by varying force or direction or by moving opponent side to side and/or forward and back" (SHAPE America, 2014, p. 45). This outcome could apply to a variety of games including badminton, tennis, pickleball, or racquetball, but the rubric shown in figure 5.6 could be used regardless of the game.



Program planning at the middle school level needs to include content that provides students with opportunities to apply their knowledge. Game-based approaches such as teaching games for understanding (Bunker and Thorpe, 1982), the tactical games model (Mitchell, Oslin, and Griffin, 2013), and sport education (Siedentop, Hastie, and van der Mars, 2011) provide many game performance opportunities for your students and are worthy of consideration.


Key Points

  • Standard 2 learning becomes more important as students move into middle school.
  • The focus of instruction is on understanding game tactics and strategy.
  • Games are categorized into invasion, net and wall, striking and fielding, and target games.

Concepts, Principles, Strategies, and Tactics

Advice From the Field

What approaches do you use for teaching strategies and tactics during game play?

Jeff Jacobs, Worcester Elementary School (Lansdale, Pennsylvania): When teaching these concepts, I give students just enough information so they can form their own ideas about what strategies and tactics may be useful in specific situations. A good example is a simple activity of poly spot exchange where all students attempt to move to a new poly spot, at the same time, on a given signal. The goal is for the entire class, cooperating as a group, to do this as quickly as they possibly can. After they have made a few attempts and understand the activity, I ask questions: "How can we do this faster?" "How can we do this more efficiently?" Then we put their ideas into play to see which are the most effective. Having students come up with their own tactics and strategies is a much more valuable process than just providing them with answers.

How do you help your students understand principles of movement and performance?

Diane Wyatt, Abilene Middle School (Abilene, Kansas): Practice the movement, show the movement, then break it down for them.

What advice do you have for other physical educators?

Diane Wyatt, Abilene Middle School (Abilene, Kansas): Don’t just give the answers to them right away. Let them struggle. Most of us remember and learn through our mistakes. Also, I believe students who go through that struggle learn perseverance and know that they can stay on a task and solve it or get the answers they need. I think the tendency is that students want the answers quickly but they don’t retain any information when that happens. They just want the answer to complete the task as fast as they can. The trick is to get them interested in the process by asking questions to provoke thinking. Use comparing and contrasting skills and let them develop strategies. Help them with choices and allow them time to figure out solutions.

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Learn more about The Essentials of Teaching Physical Education.