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Disciplinary Literacy in Physical Education


Wisconsin's Definition of Disciplinary Literacy

In Wisconsin, disciplinary literacy is defined as the confluence of content knowledge, experiences, and skills merged with the ability to read, write, listen, speak, think critically and perform in a way that is meaningful within the context of a given field. For more information on the standards, please review the document on Literacy in all Subjects or the DPI Literacy in all Subjects webpage.

Achieving Physical Education Standards Through Literacy

Physical Skills + Knowledge + Confidence + Motivation + Opportunities = Physical Literacy

What is Physical Literacy?

“Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” (Whitehead, 2014)
“Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.” (Physical and Health Education Canada)
  • Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
  • They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively, and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
  • These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.


Understanding Physical Literacy Toolkit

Standard 1. The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
Standard 2. The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
Standard 3. The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Standard 4. The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Standard 5. The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.

Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.
Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.
Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.
Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.
Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

Let’s Break it Down!
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the critical terms that are essential to the definition of physical literacy and consider what they mean:
Wide variety – Physical literacy is not about excellence in just one sport or activity; it’s about competence in a full range of activities, such as dance, gymnastics, outdoor pursuits, or general fitness and exercise activities. All of these are part of the puzzle and contribute to the development of a physically literate individual.
Confidence/Competence – These two terms are interrelated. Skill development improves confidence; in turn, the boost in confidence improves the actual use of those skills.
Health-related – This term refers to fitness, including strength, flexibility and endurance. These are not only important building blocks to all the other skills, but also to overall health.
Lifespan – Physically literacy doesn’t stop when a child leaves school! Just like reading and writing, physical literacy continues to be developed and improved. This physical development is for a lifetime; the health benefits continue well beyond a person’s formative years in school.

Physical Literacy Ideas
- Word Wall or Question of the Day
- Game Play Analysis
- Create a Peer Skills Assessment Rubric - Have students create a skills rubric and subsequently have them use it to assess a peer integrating key terminology and skill components
- Read Station Cards and Perform that Skill or Create Station Cards with Multiple Level of Difficulties
- Reading/Analyzing Nutrition Labels
- Have Students Keep Daily Fitness Logs - Identify Opportunities for Activity outside of School
- Read, Record, and/or Analyze Pedometer or Heart Monitor Data or Personal Fitness Progress
- Create Personal Fitness Programs emphasizing Goal Setting, Integration of Exercise Principles, Muscle and Exercise Identification, Pre-Post Assessments
- Have Students Use Technology to Perform Skill Analysis
- Create and describe movement vocabulary: individual’s repertoire of movement skills or sequence of skills
- Movement fluency: the ability to execute a component of movement vocabulary with expertise
- Identify and describe position roles within a prescribed sport
- Physical proficiency: the ability to select and proficiently execute movement vocabulary suitable to an environment or setting


Applying Wisconsin Academic Standards in our Teaching Practice Worksheet
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Crosswalk (Excel)
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Crosswalk (Word)
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Crosswalk (pdf)

For questions about this information, contact (608) 266-8960