Using numbered spots and bean bags to visually record times in running
As we are moving into our Athletics unit, I created an activity that helps students to grasp the idea of recording times in running and is an excellent maths integration task. Using numbered spots and bean bags, I had the students race across the gym and back while I used my iPhone to record their times.
I then had the students choose the correct numbered dots to post the time along with a bean bag to be used to visually record the time to the nearest decimal point. See the photo above to get an idea of what this looks like. During the class we posted the top three times which required the students to have to shift times around accordingly. Excellent maths integration that really connects with running in Athletics. Check out the video below to see the discussion that I had with my students and to see them actually post the times.
To differentiate and simply for my grade 1 students, I did the same activity, but did not include the decimal point. Decimal points aren't generally introduced until grade 3. For the grade 1 students, I had them simply post the time, but they still had to figure out how to position the times based on the fastest, second fastest and third fastest times. Have a look at the photos below to see what it looked like in grade 1.
An excellent example of the possibilities that exist with DIY reporting
To provide you with a bit of background information, last week I blogged about a new strategy I am trying out in PE. As my grade 5 fitness unit has just concluded, I have given my students choice in regards to their summative assessment. The one option is that I give them a teacher designed rubric and some reflection questions that they have to answer. The other option is that I allow them to design their own end of unit report on themselves that focuses on the key student learning outcomes from the unit.
I told them that I have complete trust in their ability to be honest and to genuinely assess themselves. I also said that based on what I have seen in the unit, should there be a great discrepancy between my assessment of them and their assessment of themselves, we would sit down and talk about it. I gave them the next week to complete their DIY report, but a couple of students have already handed in their work to me. Both are non-native English speakers. They are not the most athletic, but understand the value of hard work. Both did a great job in the fitness unit setting goals and working toward them.
As you can see, both assessment pieces are quite different. The first one is very reflective and addresses how the student had improved in her level of cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and flexibility. The second one focuses more on the student's understanding of what needed to be done during the unit, but also shows that she was tuned into the big ides of our fitness unit. Both assessment pieces to me offer great insight into my students' thoughts and conceptual understanding in this unit. I will be sharing more assessment pieces as they are handed in to me.
Embedding visuals on assessments helps to make connections to learning
Over the past several weeks, my grade 4 students have been working hard to develop their competence in net games. They were allowed to explore 3 different sports related to net games over the 6 weeks; tennis, badminton, and volleyball. Throughout the unit, we continually discussed what types of things were challenging for them in net games and set up drills and activities to address these obstacles. The central idea for the net games unit was:
I wanted to provide my students with every possible opportunity to identify what key fundamentals were necessary in this unit, so had planned a number of questions in advance to get them thinking during their activities. It wasn't always successful and I had to step in quite often and directly help them identify what these key fundamentals were. But, I am happy that through inquiry they were able to come up with some of these fundamentals on their own.
Net games are quite tricky to teach at this age as there are so many distinct differences in level of skill. Some students really really struggle, so helping them to achieve success must be paramount. Sometimes this was by letting them use beach balls to just work on the skill of volleying the ball back and forth. Other times, it was giving them a soft sponge ball with very little bounce while they were practicing their tennis skills. For the students who were already quite skilled in all areas of net games, I could get them playing modified games straight away. I then challenged these students to develop specific technical skills such as the drop shot in tennis and badminton.
The Summative Assessment Task
During the unit, we had created 2 key visuals. One that got them thinking about the central idea and another visual that identified major obstacles they faced while learning the different skills in net games. I used jpegs of these visuals and embedded them directly on to their assessment sheets. Once I handed out these assessment sheets, we had a quick review by looking at the visuals on the assessment sheet and had a short discussion about the unit in general before I set them free to complete the task. The entire process took less than 15 minutes. I can easily justify the pedagogical value in taking this length of time to complete such an important assessment task. They had to do a simple rubric as well as answer the following questions:
Describe how your competence increased during the net games unit.
What did you learn about key fundamentals?
What are some things that you really struggled with in this unit?
Did you improve upon these areas.
Describe how you improved?
What were you most proud of?
I have included some examples of student assessment below. All in all, a fun unit to be a part of with the students. They really seemed to like the unit and the feedback they gave me was that they wanted more choices in regards to equipment. As well. they want more beach balls to practice volleyball and they really enjoyed learning the game of badminton. Thanks for reading. Hope this blog post gives you some ideas for your net games unit.
End of unit summative assessment options for the students
We didn't go quite as far as I would've liked with my grade 5 fitness unit as we lost some valuable time to the school's elementary theatre production. The students missed a couple of classes due to rehearsal, but I feel as though they still had enough time to grasp the big ideas in our fitness unit.
As a summative assessment option, I am providing the students with two options in regards to the summative assessment for this unit. One option is that they complete an assessment that I give to them. In this assessment, they will self-assess themselves in 6 key areas based upon student learning outcomes for this unit. They will also do a general reflection that will get them focusing on how well they think they had done throughout the unit.
The second option for summative assessment is that they design it themselves, a 'do it yourself type' end of unit report. To be honest, I have never done this in PE, but have always wanted to. So, I thought that I would give it a go for the first time. If the students choose this option, they can present their learning to me in whatever format that they would like. Creativity will play a big role in this task. Using the visual above, they will need to be able to show what they know and understand about each of the 6 key areas.
I discussed both options with my students and asked their thoughts. Most said that they felt it would be more accurate if I am the one that assesses them. It gave me a chance to let them know that I totally trust them in the design it themselves report and that it would be a good way to compare my assessment of them with their assessment of themselves. In some cases, it might be meeting halfway and in other cases, perhaps both teacher and student self-assessment are spot on. In my first grade 5 class, I had only 2 students choose the design yourself report which is A-OK with me. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I will be presenting the same idea to my other two grade 5 classes later this week.
Big or little things in our teaching?
I once read Steven Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and still keep it on my shelf to this day. I take it out once in a while to try and capture some inspiration that I can take with me for the day. As I was looking through highlighted sections of the book the other day, I came across a quote that had resonated with me. It got me thinking again about all of the little things that happen in our teaching on a daily basis. It is a known fact that our young learners can pick up on so much from simple things such as body language, facial expression, tone of voice, etc. There may be classes when we have had little to no communication with some students, so they look for cues and meaning in the little things happening around them. But are these really little things?
Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things...I am tempted to think there are no little things
Whether you agree or disagree with the above quote doesn't matter. At least have a think about the little things in your teaching practice and reflect on possible consequences both positive and negative. Are these things really little or do carry much more weight than Thanks for reading.
Keeping it Fresh!
I try to implement as many different warm ups as possible in my Phys-Ed classes. The kids really get into this one, especially when the music is pumping out. It is a tiring activity for them but an excellent one as it really builds upon their footwork skills, their ability to move in space and avoid others, as well as their ability to avoid obstacles around them. This activity usually lasts between 8 and 10 minutes. Have a look at the video below to see how I increase the difficult as we advance through each phase of the activity.
4 Cornerstones to Success in Teaching
I am going to bare a bit of my soul here when I share an experience that I believe has truly shaped who I am as a person and an educator. Although I believe I was always passionate about teaching, an experience nearly three years ago totally changed my outlook on what it means to be a teacher. On May 6th, 2011, I was almost killed in an accident while working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Long story short, I was at an international football tournament and a bus backed into a group of players from another international school (fortunately none of the students were injured). Sensing imminent danger, I ran to the front of the bus and smacked the door to get the bus driver's attention.
My left hand shattered the glass and the ulnar artery, ulnar nerves, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in my left hand and wrist were completely severed. As I pulled my hand back in horror, I immediately realized that I was in grave danger. Blood was squirting from the deep gashes in my left wrist with ferocity. I clamped on to my wrist and raised my hand above my head and with blood pouring down on my head and shoulders, I went in search for help.
The principal of the school was first to help. He grabbed on to my wrist as well to try and slow the bleeding. The school's driver rushed me to the the ex-pat emergency clinic located in the center of Phnom Penh. Both the principal and I sat quietly in the back seat clamping down on my bleeding wrist. What is usually a 20-minute car ride took nearly 45 minutes due to morning rush hour traffic. You can imagine the thoughts racing through my head during those 45 minutes. I thought I was going to bleed to death. I thought that I would never see my beautiful wife, Neila, and 2 amazing boys, Eli and Tai again. I fought hard not to pass out in the car.
The head of the clinic, Dr. Nick Walsh, from Australia, was on call that morning. As soon as he saw me, he said that I needed to be medically evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand for emergency surgery. The problem was we didn't have our passports as they were being renewed at the Canadian embassy in Bangkok. Seeing as there was no Canadian embassy in Cambodia, we had sent them off to Bangkok a week earlier to be renewed. Leaving the country was impossible. To complicate matters further, the handful of qualified orthopedic surgeons in Phnom Penh were not in town on that morning.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock......every second seemed like an eternity. A tourniquet was put in place to slow the bleeding as Dr. Nick tried to figure out what to do. Every time he came back in to see me, I could tell by the look on his face that the situation was getting worse. At one point, he put on goggles and went into my wound with arterial clamps to stop the bleeding and to buy more time as he searched in vain for someone who could help. The sight of blood squirting out on to his goggles will be burned into my memory forever.
The pain was indescribable and my arm was turning a dark shade of purple. Dr. Nick came back in to tell me that he found a retired Scottish orthopedic surgeon who runs a charity that provides volunteer surgeries on land mine victims. Dr. James Gollogly is the founder of this organization. He is a saint of a man who has devoted his life to making a difference in the lives of so many. I was rushed down to Dr. James who was waiting outside his clinic for me when the ambulance arrived. He performed an arterial ligation on my injured left wrist and is responsible for saving my arm at minimum and possibly my life.
A week later I was flown to Singapore to have total reconstruction done on my wrist and hand. Although my hand has not fully recovered, my perspective on life and on teaching has forever changed. And here is a picture of the man who changed my life, Dr. James Gollogly. If you ever feel in the mood to donate money to a charity, please visit the website of this amazing man's non-profit organization, the Children's Surgical Center of Cambodia.
The following three months after my surgery was an extremely difficult time. I was experiencing a lot of physical pain and setbacks as a result of the injury. Although I was doing intensive rehabilitation, there was little improvement in the condition of my hand. I had little feeling in the hand itself and very limited movement. It was a dark and depressing time, but all that began to change when I started up my new job in August 2011 at the Nanjing International School. Getting back doing what I loved doing was a critical turning point for me. Being able to teach again made such a difference in my mental and physical recovery.
Although I was always passionate about teaching, something inside of me had deeply shifted. For the first time, I realized that teaching really was my true calling. I made a promise to myself that I would be the very best teacher I could be. I wanted to touch as many teacher's lives as possible in an effort to highlight my belief that we have such a powerful role in making a difference to the children we teach. I made a promise to document my own teaching and learning journey and to publicly reflect on my own practice.
Reflection has played a big role in who I am as an educator. I sought to narrow down what good teaching really is. Intertwined with good teaching is being a thoughtful, caring person who has loads of empathy and compassion for others. I have broken down what I feel good teaching to be into 4 main components that I call the L.I.F.E model. Whether you are a teacher or a student, these 4 areas are critical to our success. Which areas resonate with you? Thanks for taking the time to read through this blog post.
All students can be successful!
As part of my grade 1 movement composition unit, the students are required to create their own dance moves to a 1 minute 14-second piece of music from the well known song YMCA. I have been using Just Dance throughout this unit as the students love moving and grooving to these fantastic videos. The YMCA Just Dance video has been a very popular one with all grades during movement composition, so we decided to use it for our summative assessment task.
We are using only the first 1minute and 14 seconds of the dance as this is a long enough stretch of music for the students to identify patterns of movement and to replace these movements with newly created ones of their own. As you can see in the YMCA Just Dance video below, all 4 dancers start the song in a freeze position then move into the dance with distinct patterns of movement. Our summative assessment task requires the students to create a number of specific dance moves of their own but to try their best to stay in time with the music. You can see the first 1 minute 14 seconds of the YMCA dance below. If you haven't used Just Dance with your students, you must give it a go!!
The 2 students that you see in the video below are quite quiet and shy. They usually sit at the back of class and do not contribute to our group discussions that much as English is their second language. They certainly busted out their dance moves and did a wonderful job in yesterday's class. They understood the task well and have worked hard to create their own very unique dance. Their timing in the dance was spot on. I had them perform it for the rest of class and recorded them in action. It is worth the watch! There are still a couple of more classes for the students to refine their dance and to make it better before the final performance next week. The students will all be peer assessing each other and giving feedback as well. I'll share with you their assessments at the end of the movement composition unit. Thanks for reading!