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Physical education shouldn’t be a game of winners and losers, but a chance for every student to shine. But with diverse learning styles and abilities in one class, how do you create a PE program that truly engages and challenges everyone? The answer lies in differentiation: tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of all learners.

What is differentiation in PE?

Differentiation means tailoring your instruction to meet the individual needs of each student. This isn’t about creating separate activities for different groups; it’s about providing options and adaptations within a single activity that allow all students to participate, challenge themselves, and achieve success.

So, how do we differentiate in PE? Here are some strategies to get you started:

1. Embrace differentiation 

• Content: Offer varying levels of difficulty and complexity within the same activity.
• Process: Provide different pathways to achieve the same learning goals.
• Product: Allow students to express their learning in diverse ways, like written reflections or artistic creations.
• Learning environment: Set up stations with different equipment and options for movement.

2. Use grouping strategically

• Mixed-ability groups: Foster collaboration and peer learning.
• Small groups: Provide targeted support and individualised instruction.
• Self-selected groups: Encourage student autonomy and choice.

3. Embrace modifications

• Adapt activities for different physical abilities and skill levels.
• Offer alternative equipment choices.
• Adjust rules and game formats to cater to diverse needs.

4. Celebrate individual progress

• Focus on effort and improvement, not just competition.
• Provide meaningful feedback and encouragement.
• Use rubrics with clear expectations for different levels of achievement.

5. Get creative!

• Use technology for differentiated learning, like fitness apps or online tutorials.
• Incorporate culturally relevant activities and games.
• Partner with other teachers or specialists for additional support.

Using online resources to your advantage

PE Office can provide a massive benefit to you and your workload. Engaging lesson plans and schemes of work can be accessed to support differentiation in your PE lessons. The content includes step-by-step breakdowns of certain skills and even supplies videos of elite athletes performing them correctly. Take a look at the resources on offer and see what it can offer you and your department.