Section 4: Planning a Focus Course

Once the decision has been made that a focus course will best serve the needs of the students, the department head, administration, guidance and physical education teaching staff will need to engage in a number of conversations to ensure that there is a common understanding about messaging and the information related to the new course. It is important that the people in the school who are providing information, in the form of course selection material, course calendars and conversations with students and parents, share a consistent message related to focus courses. This will ensure fluidity and avoid any confusion, helping students to make informed choices about their future.

Sample Checklist – Have You Considered This?

The following sample checklist will assist an administrator, department head, guidance counsellor and/or teacher with engaging in the appropriate conversations with students, parents/guardians and colleagues when planning a focus course.

Each section of the checklist provides ideas and reasoning for engaging in different types of conversations regarding focus courses.

1. Advocating for a Focus Course

Use this section of the checklist to advocate for the inclusion of focus courses at your school. Considerg the following when offering a focus course and/or advocating for one within the department and within the school:

  • Meets the interests and needs of students by providing a variety of courses that offer a wide assortment of physical activities (e.g., PAF will support students who enjoy individual pursuits);
  • Increases the rate of student participation in physical activity and engage a wider number of students by responding to their interests in particular types of activities (e.g., PAI, PAF will support students who would prefer an individual challenge or are engaged in similar community-based activities);
  • Improves programming flexibility and broaden the range of options available to students as they select courses to meet graduation requirements, allowing them to customize their individual pathways to better suit their interests and needs; and
  • Supports the required “bundle” of courses required for Specialized High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in the school.

Gather the information you need such as evidence, research and school data from retention records as well as student survey data to support your advocacy.

2. Determining the Focus Course to be Offered

Use this section of the checklist to develop and create the required information for the course that will increase student awareness and provide guidance counsellors, administrators, colleagues and community groups with a common understanding of the focus of the course and how it will support student needs and interests.

Gather school-based information, research and data to provide a context for the need for the focus course during conversations with colleagues, students and parents/guardians.

  • Identify which course best meets the needs of your school and community (e.g., student survey, availability of community facilities, post-secondary opportunities in college/university or the workforce). For example, PAF may be an appropriate course to offer if students are interested in personal pursuits, if there are community facilities that will support and supplement the school resources, or if the local college offers a Health Promotion course which students may pursue in their post-secondary careers.
  • Select the appropriate course code from the list provided on pages 20-21 of the H&PE Curriculum.
  • Ensure that "the intent behind focus courses is not to focus on a single sport – in other words, not to offer a “hockey course,” a “basketball course” or a “tennis course” – but rather to give students the opportunity to experience a variety of physical activities as they acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living" (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 21).
  • Create the course description for a focus course starting with the full course description for the corresponding HALE course for the particular grade. For course names refer to page 21 of the H&PE Curriculum.
  • Include a statement at the end of the course description describing the types of activities that the course will focus on as the vehicle through which the curriculum expectations will be addressed. An example course description for PAF4O could be: This course will focus on the development of a personal fitness program, using both school and community resources.

3. Considerations for Program Planning

Use this section of the checklist to help H&PE departments develop materials for use in a focus course. This checklist will ensure that a focus course addresses all of the curriculum expectations; will meet the needs of the students; the content is differentiated from the HALE course at the same grade level; and focus courses are unique and utilize different lessons, activities and resources where possible.

  • Overall expectations are the same as those of the HALE course at the same grade level (e.g., PPL3O and any focus course, will all use the same set of expectations).
  • Specific expectations are all addressed. Not all expectations can be contextualized within the focus course (e.g., consent); therefore, each focus course’s development will require a uniform approach.

    Example (Consent):

    • Throughout their studies, students learn basic skills about respecting their own and others’ boundaries as they collaborate with peers, problem-solve and reflect on their experiences. Students can apply these skills as they learn about consent and learn to make healthy decisions about their relationships (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015b).
    • In order to meet the expectation(s) about consent in a healthy relationship, teachers will need to ensure that students, regardless of which course they are taking, have a common understanding. The instructional strategies, related to the age and stage of development, may differ but the content should be the same.
  • Identify which examples (the “e.g.’s”) contained in the curriculum expectations are best suited for a particular focus to ensure that the focus course is appropriately differentiated from other focus courses offered at the same level (e.g., PAF and PAI) and the HALE (PPL) course at the same grade level.

    Example (Locomotor and Manipulation Skills):

    • B1.2 perform locomotor and manipulation skills in combination in a variety of physical activities while responding to external stimuli (e.g., move into position to use either a forehand or a backhand stroke in badminton, tennis, or squash; move into position to receive a serve in volleyball or to make a catch in football or ultimate disc, while setting up for the next move; use a step and release motion to send a ball closer to the target [pallino or jack] or to take out an opponent’s ball in bocce) [PS, IS, CT].
    • PPL3O: badminton, volleyball, football, ultimate disc (Note: while the identified activities can all be utilized in both courses there may be a concern about the repetitiveness of activities if a student is taking both courses simultaneously).
    • PAI3O: tennis, squash, bocce, disc golf, lawn bowling.
  • Consider utilizing the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education to determine the minimum safety requirements for offering an activity. When considering the selection of activities within a focus course (e.g., cycling) refer to the H&PE Curriculum.

    Example (Cycling):

    • A2.1 participate regularly in sustained moderate to vigorous physical activity to the best of their ability for a minimum of twenty minutes (e.g., cycling, sledge hockey, snowshoeing, continuous moving during a game) [PS].
    • A3.1 demonstrate behaviours and apply procedures that maximize their safety and that of others (e.g., wearing appropriate clothing and/or required safety equipment where necessary, such as when hiking, skating, skiing, or cycling; bringing an epinephrine autoinjector in case of emergency; ensuring proper hydration; maintaining proper posture while performing strength and/or resistance exercises; checking environmental and facility conditions before an activity; wiping down strength-training equipment after use to avoid spreading germs; ensuring that personal flotation devices fit properly before engaging in water activities) in a variety of physical activity settings (e.g., gym, fitness room, ice rink, field, pool, lake, ski hill, hiking and snow trails, recreational facilities) [PS, IS, CT].
    • A3.2 demonstrate an understanding of basic procedures for ensuring safety at physical activity sites and events (e.g., preparing an emergency action plan, ensuring that a working communication device is readily accessible, checking to see that activity areas are free of hazards and that equipment is in safe working condition, ensuring that everyone involved is familiar with relevant school board protocols for dealing with events such as concussions and lightning strikes), and describe resources, community agencies and services that can be accessed in emergency situations (e.g., on-site emergency equipment such as a first-aid kit or an automated external defibrillator (AED), on-site medical team made up of certified personnel, community and commercial medical emergency response teams, nearby hospitals or community health centres) [CT].

    In the above example, cycling may be included in a PAI course as part of the “wide assortment of physical activities” for the focus course. As a new activity within the program and not something that is currently being offered as part of the HALE program at the same grade level, the teacher will need to make sure that the safety requirements can be addressed as articulated in the curriculum expectations. The Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education provide the current minimum requirements for all activities and should be consulted with respect to any type of activity. This will ensure that the placement of a new activity into the focus course can be offered. Reference the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education: Cycling activity page.

  • Use teacher prompts to assist in the contextualizing of the course content (where appropriate).
  • Determine how living skills will be addressed within the context of the focus courses.

    Example (Living Skills):

    • Healthy Living and Personal and Fitness Activities (PAF): This course may lend itself to the development of personal and critical and creative thinking skills as students will need to use information about their personal fitness levels and develop an individualized program to address their goals, interests and needs. This will involve opportunities and activities to support students in developing their self-awareness/self-monitoring skills and their ability to plan, process and draw conclusions related to their personal fitness and goals.
    • Healthy Living and Outdoor Activities (PAD): In this course students are often exposed to new challenges associated with the outdoor environment and will need to focus on the development of personal skills. This may involve activities to support the development of their adaptive, coping and management skills.

4. Other Considerations

Use this section of the checklist to support necessary conversations within the department and with teachers involved in the development of materials for use in a focus course. This will ensure that a focus course meets all of the expectations, delivers the expectations in a manner that meets the needs of the students and is differentiated from the associated HALE course, both within the same grade and between grades. This will ensure that courses will be unique and utilize different lessons, activities and resources where possible.

  • How will your department ensure differentiation of the learning within different courses at the same grade (e.g., PPL3O/PAF3O/PAL3O)? 
  • How will your department ensure differentiation of the learning within focus courses at different grades (e.g., PAF2O/PAF3O/PAF4O)? 
  • How might the Learning Summaries by Strand Appendix of the H&PE Curriculum (p. 201-205) be used by departments to identify and build a scope and sequence of learning within focus courses offered at different grade levels?
  • How might The Program in Health and Physical Education section of the H&PE Curriculum (p. 19-42) be used by departments to identify and build a scope and sequence of learning within focus courses offered at different grade levels?
  • How will teachers ensure that all the expectations of a course are being addressed (e.g., Human Development and Sexual Health) and differentiated within grades?
  • How might teachers collaborate to provide the necessary differentiation where necessary when addressing curriculum expectations within the Healthy Living strand when one or more focus courses are offered at the same grade level as the HALE course?

    Example (Personal Safety and Injury Prevention): 

    • PPL2O: C1.1 demonstrate an understanding of factors that enhance mental health and emotional and spiritual well-being [PS, IS].
    • PPL3O: C1.2 identify behaviours and actions that can lead to adolescent injuries or death and explain the factors that can influence adolescents to engage in or refrain from potentially harmful or dangerous behaviours [PS]; C1.3 describe warning signs for suicide and identify sources of support that can help people who may be contemplating suicide [IS].

One of the most difficult tasks that many departments may encounter is how to plan collaboratively to avoid duplication of lessons, content and use of the same resources between the HALE course and focus courses offered at the same grade level. This collaboration may be facilitated through an activity such as “curriculum mapping” and collaborative inquiry. Please see Section 5: Using Curriculum Mapping For Planning Courses at the Same Grade Level in H&PE and Section 6: Using Curriculum Mapping For Planning Scope and Sequence for Focus Courses at different Grade Level in H&PE for further support in planning a focus course.