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Physical Literacy

In 2014, SHAPE America released National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education. One of the key changes to this third iteration of the national standards was the incorporation of the term physical literacy, in the goal of physical education, along with the following definition (Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk & Lopez, 2012):

Physical literacy is the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.

Setting the Standard

Not only is physical literacy comprehensive in conveying what SHAPE America is trying to accomplish in physical education, it also parallels terminology used in other subject areas, such as math literacy and health literacy.

Including physical literacy into the National Standards gives educators a framework for producing physically literate individuals, setting students on the road to enjoying a lifetime of healthful physical activity.

Next Steps

In 2015, SHAPE America was part of the working group charged with developing a strategic plan for introducing physical literacy as a desired outcome for all children living in the United States. The 15-member group was convened by The Aspen Institute and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As part of its report, Physical Literacy in the United States, the group issued the following succinct definition of physical literacy:

Physical literacy is the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life.

How Does Physical Literacy Connect to PE + PA?

Physical education (PE) develops the physically literate individual through deliberate practice of well-designed learning tasks that allow for skill acquisition in an instructional climate focused on mastery.

During physical education class, students practice the knowledge and skills they have learned through physical activity (PA), which is defined as any bodily movement that results in energy expenditure.