Into the unit deep now and going well
We are well into the fitness unit and continuing to refine how we are exercising, recording data, and deciding upon what is best as we move forward. It has been imperative to assess what they know to date as it helps me to better plan out next steps. As we began today's class, I asked my students to do a quick warm-up walk with an elbow buddy and discuss something they now know that they didn't know at the start of the unit. Here are some of their answers:
We know that :
-fitness is about cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and flexibility
-when we exercise we can do sets or intervals
-we need rest time in between sets
-we know heart rate can tell us how hard we are working
I'll be asking the same question to my other grade 5 classes and get their answers as well. I will use these answers to create a visual that shows understanding to date which will be a great reference point for future discussions in this unit, especially as we lead toward the summative assessment task.
As you can see by the photo above, I have included the use of basketballs and soccer balls as options to use when trying to work on cardiovascular endurance. The students know that cardiovascular endurance is about working the heart. After each activity that they decide to do, they are working to maintain a heart rate of 160 bpm or higher for a certain length of time. As they create different activities using the basketballs and soccer balls, they must check heart rate after a determined amount of time to see if they are in the right zone. If they are too low, they decide how they can make the activity a bit more rigorous, take a bit of a rest, then go at it again. Each time they are expected to record their heart rate in their fitness journals.
The students have done short, burst type cardio activities and have created games that last a few minutes in length to help get them into their desired heart rate zone. In the video below, 2 of my students decided to give the stationary road bike a go. They took turns doing 4 one-minute intervals. Each interval was timed by the non-riding partner. At the end of the interval, the rider checked his heart rate while the non-riding partner used a stop watch to time. Great teamwork indeed by the 2 boys that you see in the video. They went on to play a very active basketball game that they created that lasted about 4-5 minutes. Superstar work by these 2.
There are a few students still struggling with what activities to do and how to record their data, but I expected this. It is clear to see who these students are and step in to give them the guidance and support needed to move them forward. A fun unit to date. I truly believe that my students are learning loads about fitness.
This is why our #Physed community on Twitter is making such a difference
I woke up to see a great tweet sent out by Oliver Schinkten today that got me thinking about the great #PhysEd community that we have on Twitter. Although Oliver is not a PE teacher, he is a passionate blogger and educational consultant. By connecting with other educators outside of our #PhysEd community, we can learn so much to bring back into our own specialty area of PE.
So many of us are trying our best to make positive change with the way PE is delivered. What Oliver tweeted (see below) is exactly what we are all doing in some way, shape or form. I loved this tweet and wanted to share it with you all. Keep dreaming, thinking, innovating, failing, reflecting, and adjusting as it will no doubt lead to the continued success we are having as a network of great PE teachers. Thanks for the tweet Oliver (you can follow Oliver here)!
Peer Feedback and Self-Assessment in Partner Balance Routines
We are well into our grade 1 movement composition unit here at the Nanjing International School in China. Over the past few weeks, I have been working hard to introduce the idea to my students that movement composition is not only about dance, but can also include other types of creative movement.
As a formative assessment task, I had the students help me create a visual that asked them to identify everything that they knew about movement composition (see picture above). Lots of great ideas generated but it was clear that they had not yet grasped the importance of timing. I began to question whether or not I had effectively taught it and it became evident that I had not (OOOPPS :). I used this moment to help design an activity that could get my kids focused on the importance of basic timing in a routine. I blogged about the lesson here so check it out if you want some more background into how I have taught this unit so far.
Once the students had developed a good sense of what timing was, I then gave them a simple formative assessment task- to create a partner balance routine that has proper start and finish positions and 4 team balances in between. We used a 40-second piece of music from a You Tube video we had previously watched showing 2 young children performing an amazing partner balance routine. Their goal was to finish on time or as near the end of the 40 seconds as possible. They were free to copy partner balances that they had been working on or create their own. It was completely up to them.
The task required them to perform their partner balance routine for others in the class and once done, self-assess how well they thought they had done based on 2 critical criteria in movement composition-- balance and timing. They also had to draw the 4 partner balances that they had performed in their routine. Because we had worked so hard on grasping a better understanding of basic timing in the previous couple of classes, the students did an amazing job on this task. Although they all didn’t finish their routines exactly on time, during their self-assessment and peer feedback portion of this activity, they were spot on in identifying their flaws in timing which demonstrates a key conceptual understanding to me--WhewHoo!
As we approach our summative assessment task, I feel as though the success to date has been a direct result of the visual creation earlier in the unit. Through the use of this visual we were able to initiate important discussions which ultimately led to me having to go back and re-teach timing, instead of ploughing forward in this unit. Assessment for learning plays such a critical role in how we direct the future learning of our students in PE. Have a look at some examples of student work below. As always, thanks for reading my blog. I always appreciate feedback, so let me know your thoughts and ideas.
Is success in our teaching a smooth and easy ride?
When I observe great teachers in action, they make everything look so easy. Every aspect of their teaching and classroom management just seem to flow so smoothly for these educators; their body language and use of voice, their subtle questioning and feedback strategies, the way that they connect with their learners and so on. No matter how easy these teachers make teaching look, the reality is that there is a lot of turbulence happening right below the surface.
I am currently reading a great book called Jolt which focuses on the need to always jolt ourselves into action regardless of our profession. My immediate takeaway from this book has had me reflecting on how good teachers are always creating these little jolts in their instructional practice. These teachers never settle for being good but are always in pursuit of mastery and the only way to measure this excellence is by looking at the learning that is happening with their students. These teachers continually jolt their own practice and are constantly reflecting on ways to improve. They are forever in search of new ideas to implement in their teaching.
Turbulence is a life force. Let's love turbulence and use it for change.
I love this quote from Jolt. When I read the quote, I immediately thought about how good teaching should seem chaotic and crazy at times and feel as though there is constant turbulence within our practice. Its this turbulence that causes that internal feeling of pressure that good teachers feel. That pressure that causes those continual little jolts in our instructional practice. Those jolts that deepen our love of teaching. So bring on the turbulence as the seemingly rough road will always lead us to a better place as educators. My thoughts for today. Thanks for reading.
A Video Glimpse into Student Designed Fitness Unit
I thought I would give a little wee glimpse into our grade 5 fitness unit to see what it looks like in action. The students have selected their own areas of fitness that they would like to improve upon in this unit. Using fitness journals to document their journey, the students are creating their own activities and exercises under my guidance.
My main objective in this unit is to get my students to understand that fitness can be broken down into specific areas and that we can set goals to improve upon these areas. I truly hope that I can inspire them to intrinsically value fitness and the joy that goal setting can bring to a person's life.
I believe that by giving them freedom of choice they will be more engaged in this unit. I am not forcing them to do anything, but closely observing each individual student journey throughout the 6 weeks that this unit lasts. We have looked closely at 3 areas related to fitness; cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and flexibility. The students can choose 1, 2 or all 3 areas to improve upon which brings time management very much into the picture. They are required to record data related to heart rate, which activities they are doing, and how long their rest periods are for.
I put together a short slide show of the students in action. The student design aspect allows me so much freedom to move around and take anecdotal notes during this unit. Very pleased with the way the unit has gone so far. Thanks for reading.
Reflecting on our teacher talk time
If you didn't see the #physed article from the UK that I posted on Twitter yesterday, check it out here as it is worth the read. Despite disagreeing with the majority of the content in the article, it did get me thinking about teacher talk time in PE. I am very aware of the fact that we must keep our students active, but for those of you who read my blog from time to time, you know that I am big on slowing the class down to have important discussions related to big ideas and concepts in the units we teach in PE.
Although I try my best to keep teacher talk time to a minimum, I can easily justify the importance of having these critical discussions in class. The UK-based article claimed that research shows PE teacher talk time takes up on average 2/3s of class time!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I question this statistic but can only control what I do in my own classes.
Bearing this in mind, I thought that it was important to reflect on my own teacher talk time in PE. I am certainly not the first PE teacher nor the last to ever have had someone time their teacher talk in class, but it was well worth doing. I had a student who had to sit out due to injury use a stopwatch to time how much I talked during the lesson. Obviously I was aware of the fact that I was being timed, but tried to work as I normally do. I must admit that there was a sense of added pressure though.
Out of the 65-minute class, I talked for roughly 10min15sec. I had 4 whole class discussions lasting between 2-3 minutes each time. During this time we discussed important concepts in striking and fielding, rules, and player responsibilities in the mini-games we were playing. I loved the idea of being timed. It re-emphasized the importance of being succinct with what we want to say and planning our questions better. I'll certainly do it again, that's for sure!
A Very Active Brainstorming Session
I wrote a blog post up yesterday about the Fitness Journals that I designed and created for my grade 5 fitness unit. In today's class I introduced the journals and the students completed the first few pages setting goals and self-assessing how fit they think they are.
They discussed their goals with their peers (while speed walking around the gym) and afterwards we had a very active 5-minute brainstorming session that challenged the students to come up with as many ideas as possible about how to improve upon cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and muscular endurance.
On one side of the gym, I had a bunch of yellow post-it notes stuck up on the wall. On the other end of the gym I had the visual that you see in the picture below posted on the wall. The challenge was set! In small groups the students had to brainstorm as many possible ways to improve upon their level of fitness. They walked very quickly, jogged, and sprinted up and down the court from one far side to the other. During this time they jotted down their ideas on the blank post it notes on one side of the gym then ran their ideas back and stuck them on the visual on the opposite side.
Activity With a Purpose
This activity was to get their minds and brains flooded with possibilities about ways that they can improve upon their cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and muscular endurance. I told them that they could write any ideas that came to their head, even if impossible and silly. By extending their thinking we can probably merge some of their crazier ideas with our learning space and the ideas that are actually possible.
I'll give you one example here. A student wrote that they could "Hike up Mt. Everest" to become more fit. From this idea, I will discuss why hiking up mountains makes us more fit. Obviously the elevation and hiking upward is tremendously challenging. Using our own environment, I will ask the students to identify areas of the school that they can go up. There are numerous areas of the school which have up to 4 flights of stairs. Stair climbing could potentially become a part of the plan to improve their cardiovascular endurance. So, from a silly, impossible idea, we may be able to generate realistic possibilities within our own learning environment. See my point here? Using their generated ideas as a starting point, we can truly create possibilities to work from when setting up their fitness plans.
The students came up with over 70 ideas in the 5 minutes. Here are just a few of them:
Here is s snippet of what our 5-minute brainstorming session looked like. It was an excellent way to keep them active but also thinking at the same time. Stay tuned for more action from our grade 5 fitness unit at Nanjing International School in China! Thanks for reading.
Time For Action in Setting Goals For Area(s) of Improvement
I blogged a couple of weeks ago about a new approach that I am taking with my grade 5 fitness unit this year. To sum up, I am giving my students freedom of choice in regards to how they would like to improve upon their current level of fitness. We have looked at 3 key areas of fitness; Cardiovascular Endurance, Muscular Endurance, and Flexibility. The students took part in a number of different fitness tests the first couple of classes of this unit and recorded their results. They will finish off the unit with some fitness testing as well so that they can compare how they have improved.
There is an undeniable reality that adults own the choices that they make regarding their level of fitness. I discussed this fact with my students and told them that they too own the decisions that they make about how fit that they want to be. Now that my students have gotten through the initial phase of our fitness unit, they are responsible for choosing which area(s) of fitness that they want to improve upon as a next step. I have created fitness journals for them to use in order to help guide them through the rest of the unit. I will be with them every step of the way offering them whatever help and guidance that they need in setting goals and creating an action plan.
I had the students do an initial self-assessment at the very start of the unit to get them thinking about how fit that they thought they were. We had not discussed or broken down any areas of fitness at that point. Now that they have a working knowledge of the 3 different areas of fitness and have completed various fitness tests, they will do a more specific self-assessment of how fit they think that they currently are based on their new knowledge of the 3 different areas of fitness. This will be done in tomorrow's class.
We have discussed the need to record data in regards to how they progress with their training program and their classroom teachers have agreed to use this data back in the math class which is great integration. If there is ever a unit that students must record information, this one is it. I have tried to create the journals in a way that is straightforward and easy for them to use.
Key Considerations When Designing and Creating This Assessment Journal
For those of you who have seen my work, you know that I am big on creating visuals. What I like to do is embed jpegs of those visuals on in the assessments that I use as it works to spark my students' memories and helps to get them connected with prior learning in a unit. As well, I scan actual assessments used in the past and use these jpegs as well. It has worked so well to get them really tuned into their learning.
We will have a brainstorming session in tomorrow's class to get them thinking of all the possibilities that exist for improving upon their level of fitness. Hopefully this will get their brains firing with ideas to put into practice. I will blog on this brainstorming session later in the week. In the meantime, I have posted all of the pages from the fitness journal that they will use. Check them out and let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!
We must always be willing to share why we do what we do as an educator. Reflecting on the 'why' is an important component to improving our instructional practice. I have recently been blogging about a grade 5 fitness unit that I am running at Nanjing International School in China. Rick Baldock, a project coordinator and current president of ACHPER Active and Healthy Magazine posted a question to me on Twitter today regarding my fitness unit. Rick is an experienced practitioner who brings a lot to our #PhysEd community on Twitter. Here is Rick's profile on Twitter. He can be followed at https://twitter.com/baldyr55
I had my grade 5 students take part in an active brainstorming session in today's class geared at getting them thinking about all of the possible activities that they can do to improve upon their chosen areas of fitness. We are looking at 3 different types of fitness; muscular endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance in this unit. I have changed things up with my unit this year by allowing my students to select which area(s) of fitness that they want to improve upon. I will act as a coach and a facilitator during the action phase of this unit helping them to set goals and to create a plan aimed at improving upon their desired areas of fitness.
Rick sent out a tweet today (see below) asking me a question and why I have set product outcomes (fitness) seeing as only 10-20% of the population can improve in these areas. It's a fair question and it got me thinking about my unit and why I am doing what I do. In the back of my mind, I have always questioned how much of an impact we can make during a 6-week unit. We can try our best to produce the best learning moments possible, but the reality is that we have limited time with our students. We must maximize every opportunity possible by focusing on the big ideas of sport that are transferrable in my opinion. Yes, I absolutely want my students to become more physically literate in my program. However, I also want them to grasp the big ideas and to help build upon necessary skills that will allow them to be successful in all areas of life, especially as they mature.
I have chosen to run my fitness unit the way I have for special reasons that are rooted in the reality that we all own the decisions that we make regarding our level of fitness. It is a reality that level of fitness is a very personal choice. I have had this discussion already with my students. The research out there clearly shows that autonomy and engagement are the keys to success in learning. Bearing this in mind, I am allowing my students to freedom of choice in regards to the fitness area(s) that they would like improve upon.
Is it critical that they actually improve in these areas? Absolutely not! What is more important to me is that my students understand that setting goals is a good thing and that recording progress is crucial when we have goals. Reflection plays a pivotal role in this process as well. Regardless of which area(s) of fitness my students choose to improve upon, the heart and essence of this unit lies in getting them to be the very best that they can be. If they walk away from this unit learning that there are different types of fitness and that there are specific ways to measure improvement, I think valuable learning has taken place. If I can get them to intrinsically value setting goals and working hard to improve their level of fitness, I'd be more than pleased.
Students taking action away from class is a great indicator as to whether or not they are placing intrinsic value on improving their level of fitness. I have sent a letter home asking the parents to observe their child to see of they are doing any extra fitness work on after school and on weekends. This is valuable feedback to have in this unit. I believe that we must always change up the way we do things and that end of unit teacher reflection always helps to deliver a better unit next time around. We'll see how this unit goes. Thanks for the question Rick!
Recognizing those important moments in PE class
Striking and fielding can be quite difficult for some students as they have had no prior experience to the unit. The act of striking and fielding a ball takes time and practice. What is important to me is not that they master these skills, but more importantly demonstrate and understanding of important concepts related to the games we play in class.
I had one student this week who did an amazing job on one of her assessment tasks. Although she struggles with the skills and striking and fielding, she was able to identify and explain important concepts of our unit in the assessment task done in class. Definitely worth recognizing these moments in PE!!