A lesson plan based on “Should P.E. be optional in school and taken like an elective?” from the Sports—FALL 2002 issue of L.A. Youth, in which teens offer their opinions on whether P.E. should be an elective.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, social studies and psychology
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Overview of lesson plan: In this lesson, students learn to use persuasive arguments to different audiences.

Students will:
1. Define persuasion.
2. Analyze what kinds of arguments are persuasive.
3. Summarize arguments.
4. Use arguments to persuade a particular audience.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth article “Should P.E. be optional in school and taken like an elective?” on page 16 (one per student)
— blackboard

1. WARM-UP: On the board write: What is persuasion? In a classroom discussion, ask students if they have ever persuaded someone of a belief. How did they persuade the other person?

2. DISCUSSION As a class, read and discuss the LA Youth article “Should physical education be optional in school and taken like an elective?” What kinds of arguments are these high school students using to persuade us of their beliefs? Which arguments do students find most convincing and why?
Some of the students quoted in the article express the same arguments, but way they do it makes it effective. Compare these two quotes:
“It’s good for your health to exercise at least 30 minutes each day. My doctor told me that.”
“It gives people a chance to exercise and be healthy.”
Which do students find more convincing and why?

3. Ask your students to summarize the pros and cons on the question of whether P.E. should be optional. Each argument should be based on one of the quotes given by these students.

4. Analysis When you’re trying to be persuasive, you need to choose the arguments which would be most convincing to that audience. Which of these arguments would be convincing to a group of teens? To a group of adults?

Follow-up activity/homework
Using the lists of arguments given by the students quoted in L.A. Youth, as well as other arguments the writer may develop:
— Have students write a letter to the principal, convincing him or her as to why P.E. should or should not be optional.
— Have students write a speech to the student body, convincing classmates as to why P.E. should or should not be optional.

Here are some arguments drawn from the student’s comments:

P.E. should be optional (Pro)
— P.E. grading policies are unfair, because star athletes get higher grades, and students who do what the teachers say get low grades.
— P.E. is a waste of time.
— P.E. forces teens to run until they turn purple.
— P.E. forces teens to swim and then they smell like chlorine the rest of the day.
— It’s unfair that a low grade in P.E. could lower a student’s GPA and make it harder to get into college.
— Non-athletic kids, or kids who don’t like to work out, should not be forced to take P.E.
— Kids with health problems, like asthma, should not be forced to take P.E.
— It’s a hassle to change your clothes, get sweaty and change back to your regular clothes.
— P.E. offers too few activities, so it shouldn’t be mandatory.
— Some teens hate the activities offered in P.E., so they shouldn’t be forced to do them.

P.E. should be mandatory (Con)
— P.E. helps teens stay healthy. Doctors recommend exercise.
— P.E. helps reduce obesity and diabetes.
— If given a choice, teens will choose not to take P.E.
— Teens are too busy to exercise unless they are forced to do it.
— P.E. is fun and gives teens a chance to hang out with friends.
— P.E. gives teens a chance to release extra energy.
— P.E. helps teens let their anger out.
— P.E. gives teens a well-rounded education that includes more than academics.
— P.E. gives you a lift, supplying you with extra energy for the rest of the day.