As today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's incredibly famous speech "I have a dream..." given in Washington so long ago, people from around the world are encouraged to share their dreams today. #DreamDay is a chance to share our hopes, our visions, and our dreams, so why not take the opportunity to do so?
For me, my dream is to look back on my career one day and know that I have made a distinct difference to the students that I have taught over the years and the teachers that I have met and had the priviledge to work with. To know that I was an important part of a wider group of passioned educators that revolutionized the way that PE is taught. To know that I not only made a difference from a physical education point of view but also from a holistic perspective in regards to education in general.
I have been asked so many times why I blog. How I find the time to keep up with things considering I have a full time job, I coach, and I have a family to look after. To be completely honest, I have difficulty answering this question. There is a very personal side to why I think I blog, but sometimes I am left not really knowing. What I do know is that something pushes me to do so and I truly love and value every second of it. If my work can help to make a difference in another teacher's life, I couldn't ask anything more. What an honor that would be. So, I guess that is my dream, to know that one day everything I have done will have made a difference to others.
Even if you do not publicly announce what your dream is (which is fine of course!), I encourage you to record what it is in a journal or to share it with someone who you are close with. Thanks for reading.
Our school was fortunate to have a very gifted consultant by the name of Ewan McIntosh visit us last year to help in creating a better vision and direction for our new design center that is currently being built at NIS this school year. In order to better understand Ewan's approach to design thinking, I visited his NoTosh website to learn more. I watched several of his videos and was left feeling quite inspired to say the least.
One of Ewan's beliefs is that we must move away from more traditional practices of helping our students to become problem solvers to a different approach and journey that focuses more on creating Problem Finders. Find the problem first then design a way to overcome this problem or obstacle. Removing barriers that stand in the way through thoughtful design becomes an important part of this process.
Design Thinking, Problem-Finding and Its Relevance in PE?
I believe that it is very possible to take the problem finding approach in PE and use it to help springboard our students' capacities to overcome self-identified areas of needed growth. These areas can either be conceptual or actual skills based in nature.
Putting it into Action in PE
By putting it into action we must make student learning outcomes explicit at the very start of the unit. Have a look at our school's design thinking approach at the elementary school level The visual below was created by John Rinker, a fantastic educator, who used an original version of the model from designingthinkingforeducators.comand re-created it to meet the needs of his PYP Design Thinking Center in our elementary school.
I will do a brief summary of how I intend on addressing each step of the design cycle and apply it to my instruction within my PE program. I have changed the names of each step to reflect how I want to put the model into action in my classes. I have tinkered with many aspects of design thinking in PE, in particular my Athletics unit last year. I am going to make more of an attempt to use the cycle in my grade 5 striking and fielding unit and evaluate its effectiveness as we progress as we go. I believe that the cycle itself totally promotes inquiry every step of the way.
Discover----->Exploration of Skills in PE During this phase I intend on getting the students do a very general exploration of the necessary skills at the beginning of a unit. Define------>Problem-Finding Related to Student Learning Outcomes in a PE Unit After the students and I discuss what the learning outcomes are for a unit, I want to allow them the time to identify which student learning outcomes they may have difficulty in developing during the unit. They must think about specific reasons why they would have difficulty in meeting these outcomes. This is the pre-assessment phase of the unit. Brainstorm----->Activity Planning to Help in Meeting Identified Problem Areas in PE During this part, I would get the students to come up with a number of potential activities and to essentially create a plan for how they may be able to overcome their identified area of needed improvement. Prototype------>Putting ideas into Practice During this phase, the students would be putting into practice ideas that they came up with in the brainstorming stage of the design thinking cycle. It is ongoing over a couple of weeks. However, during this time, as teacher, I will lead a number of mini-activities for them, so there is still a teacher directed component within this cycle. Evolve----->Evaluate Effectiveness of their Plans for Improvement During this stage they may have to evaluate if they have been successful in improving upon their identified areas of weakness and may have to go back to the brainstorming session listed above. During this phase, they may have to get the teacher to step in to help them out. Formative assessment in terms of student reflection will play a bit part in this phase as they will record their learning throughout the journey.
Final Words I will be blogging about the journey in putting this cycle into action over the next few weeks. Come back and read about it if you are interested. Thanks!
Importance of Involving Students in Making Learning Outcomes Explicit at the Start of a Unit
The purpose of this blog is to show one of the ways in which I strive to make student learning outcomes explicit at the beginning of a unit. This preassessment strategy involves the use of video, skill exploration, and the creation of a visual that is a collaborative effort between the students and the teacher.
The focus of my grade 5 PE classes is now on striking and fielding over of the next several weeks. To help set a positive tone from the start of the unit, it was critical that I make the student learning clear and explicit. But, rather than rambling on and on about what they need to know and to be able to do, I used an approach that I have successfully used in the past. Today’s class was broken into 4 distinct parts, each one having a specific purpose.
Part A I searched for a number of You Tube videos that highlighted great plays in baseball, cricket, and rounders. In total we watched about 6 or 7 minutes of video as an important introduction to the unit. Once the different video clips concluded and before moving on to the more physically active part B of the lesson, I asked them to think about the different skills they saw in the video and to begin to explore these skills using the equipment that was available to them that I had ready and prepared.
Part B This part of the lesson was very hands on and allowed them to explore the different skills that they had seen in the video clips. As safety is always important, we discussed parameters in which they could explore and I set them off. They were free to work on their own, in pairs, or in small groups. To differentiate in regards to striking I had ready to go soft baseball bats, cricket bats, rounders bats, tennis rackets, and ping pong paddles. Why tennis rackets and ping pong paddles you might be wondering?
It was more important to me, considering it was the beginning of the unit, to allow students the opportunity to explore any form of hitting with an object. In this initial phase it didn’t matter to me whether or not it was actually cricket, rounders, or baseball type striking. Using tennis rackets to hit soft balls and ping pong paddles to hit around table tennis balls still helps in narrowing their hand and eye coordination focus.
Part C In part three of the lesson, the students and I gathered together to have a discussion. I asked them to identify skills and big ideas that they felt were important to develop and learn more about in Striking & Fielding. I am very aware of the actual student learning outcomes that are focused on in our PE department’s scope and sequence, but I felt that through questioning I could get them tuned into what these may be and record their thoughts on a visual posted on the gym wall.
I was sure to create the visual using kid friendly language to ensure that the students could really understand what was being presented to them. What’s great is that they ideas that they came up with aligned very closely to the student learning outcomes in our PE Department’s scope and sequence which I thought was going to be the case. I strongly believe that allowing the students to be involved in the process of identifying learning outcomes that they will have to meet is even more explicit in nature and helps to pave the way for a much better direction from the very start of the unit.
Part D As a pre-assessment task the students had to show me what they learned from the class and to identify which learning outcome that they felt was going to give them most difficulty in the unit. This will provide me with important information to push their learning forward as we progress through the striking and fielding unit. All in all, a very good start! Have a look at their assessment sheets below. Thanks for reading.
Creating authentic links to student learning outcomes from the classroom in my PE classes is something that I take seriously and spend a lot of time developing in the units that I teach. I would like to share how I map out my PE units in respect to making authentic links to student learning outcomes from the classroom and connecting these outcomes to the learning that takes place in PE.
The example that I am showing in this blog post comes from my grade 4 Adventure Challenge unit and the current unit of inquiry happening in the grade 4 classroom dealing with 'the nature of self, what it means to be human'. My teaching journey with this unit began with getting my hands on a copy of the 'Nature of Self' unit outline that you see below.
The first thing that I do is to have a good read through the outline of the unit and consider where the strongest and most authentic connections can be made. Using different colored highlighters I mark off these connections. As you can see above there are a number of relevant connections that can be made that will hopefully help to enhance the learning of the students.
Throughout this unit, I will be making essential connections to the central idea and lines of inquiry. Although I have my own distinct student learning outcomes for the Adventure Challenge unit in PE, I believe there to be great pedagogical value in creating authentic links to the classroom unit of inquiry learning outcomes whenever possible. It just so happens that in the 'Nature of Self' unit has a number of learning outcomes that fit very nicely with my Adventure Challenge unit.
In an attempt to make these outcomes explicit to the students, I will create as many visuals as possible to help in connecting their learning in Adventure Challenge to several key outcomes and concepts from their 'Nature of Self' unit. Let's have a look at some of the connections I intend on making throughout the 7-week unit.
The central idea for their unit of inquiry in the classroom is 'We all have distinct interests, attitudes and skills which can be strengthened'. The predominant focus will be directed toward 3 areas; Developing a growth mindset, Effective goal setting, and Building habits. The main concepts being worked on in their 'Nature of Self' unit are Responsibility, Change, and Reflection. As you can see when looking through the lens of PE, many of these areas can be addressed in an Adventure Challenge unit.
Highlighted in pink are what I believe to be essential areas that can be developed through a wide range of adventure challenge type activities in PE. Without question I believe 100% that I can help the classroom teachers in better developing these areas in each of the students and it is my main goal to do so during this unit. Can you see the endless possibilities that exist in an Adventure Challenge unit to address the areas highlighted in pink?
The text highlighted in blue is what we want the students to understand by the end of the unit. Once again, I believe that there are a plethora of ways to address these areas. I plan on addressing these areas through the creation of visuals and through class discussions during break times between the adventure challenge tasks that they take part in. I will endeavor to record their ideas, thoughts, concerns, and AHA moments on the visuals that we create together in class. I believe the act of recording and creating visuals help to make learning outcomes explicit which is an important part of the learning process.
In the students will be able to.... section, I have highlighted in pink what I consider to be of massive importance in adventure challenge. Addressing the keys to success in Adventure Challenge will require me to have important discussions about their attitudes, opinions, personal qualities, strengths and limitations throughout the unit. To me the above highlighted areas captures the real essence of what it means to work effectively on a team and a critical part of cooperative learning.
I will be blogging about this unit as it unfolds, sharing the learning that will be taking place. I will also be in close contact with the classroom teachers to see how things are going from their end. Would love to hear strategies that you put into practice in your Adventure Challenge units as I am always on the lookout for new ideas. Thanks for reading!
I recently had the very fortunate experience of going to India to lead a workshop in inquiry and assessment in PE. As I planned for this workshop, I emailed someone that I have a lot of respect for whose work I follow with regularity, Edna Sackson. Edna is the founder of a great website called 'Inquire Within' that can be found here. If you are not following Edna on Twitter, I recommend that you do. She can be found at https://twitter.com/whatedsaid.
I asked Edna if she had any suggested readings on inquiry that I could potentially use as resources during my workshop. She got back to me with a link to a 7-minute animation called 'The Potter'. Edna highly recommended the video as it is an excellent resource that really sums up the power of inquiry within our teaching practice. Many PYP classroom teachers have probably already seen this video, but I am not so sure about PE specialists.
As you watch 'The Potter', I would like you to reflect on a few questions:
How does the student learn in the video? What feelings does the student experience throughout the learning process? What role does the teacher play? What core concepts and big ideas about inquiry can be extracted from 'The Potter' and applied to the learning experiences that we offer our students in PE?
I think that this video is quite powerful in capturing the real essence of inquiry and sums up the fact that there is indeed an important process that should take place during a student's learning journey. Although this is an animation and is in no way related to PE itself, the greater message to me connects to an important question that I will leave you with.
How can we as PE teachers better help our students to become more intrinsically motivated during their learning journeys?
To see a great blog post on 'The Potter' please visit this link. I'd be happy to hear your stories on the role that inquiry plays within your PE programs. Thanks.
Creating More Authentic Cross-Curricular Connections in PE
When constructing learning experiences for my students (and for me!!) in PE I continually strive to create authentic links to important content, skills, techniques, and concepts that are focused upon in the classroom. However, I only do this when I see genuine connections that an be applied within my PE classes in order to truly enhance student learning and to reinforce the importance of authentic connections across the curriculum.
Doing so requires me to consistently think outside the box and to be creative, but to me I love these challenges and feel as though I am continually improving upon my teaching practice when I do this. My brain has to switch gears away from my specialty area of physical education and to think more specifically about the whole child and what is best for them in regards to their cognitive development. So, a question for you to reflect on is how can we, as PE teachers, create authentic connections to language arts?
I want to share with you a strategy that I will be putting into use in my PE classes this year. The curricular connection as mentioned above is language arts and the strategy as it is known by classroom teachers and students alike is called the 'Fab 4'. I believe that there are a multitude of ways that language arts can be integrated with regularity in PE, but the 'Fab 4" strategies are perfect in my opinion. The picture that you see at the top of this blog is the Fab 4 bookmark. The Fab 4 bookmark is used by all students when reading and essentially gives them cues to follow as they read (alone, in small groups or in large groups). The teachers consistently uses the terminology on the bookmark to initiate class discussions during whole group reading time as well. The 4 strategies that are being worked on are:
Predicting Questioning Clarifying Summarizing
As the students read, they are constantly encouraged to predict what will happen next, to formulate questions about the text, to clarify meaning in the text, and to summarize the text. The teacher models these strategies for their students and allows them opportunities to work on them with one another and on their own.
As an extension in PE classes, I believe that there is great value in getting our students to predict, question, clarify, and summarize. These strategies are not only applicable to reading, but can easily be applied in daily life both in and out of school. By showing my students that there are multiple purposes for predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing, I believe that I am helping them to better understand the nature of transdisciplinary learning and the importance of having an arsenal of little strategies to draw from when in need.
Using the Fab 4 as one of my teaching strategies will help to enhance the quality of the group discussions that we have in PE class (hopefully). I will be creating some visuals as we progress through the year that will highlight the Fab 4 strategies and will share them on my blog. Do you have any other ways of integrating language arts in PE. If so, please
Once again I am always reminded about the power of Twitter. It is so easy to connect with other educators whom you share a common vision with. Ross Halliday and I have come to know each other relatively well despite never meeting in person. We have had a number of excellent Google Hangouts in which we have talked in-depth about defining what good teaching is. Although being relatively new to the teaching profession, Ross is miles ahead in terms of his openness to learning as much as he can to improve his practice. He realizes that good teaching practice is very non-PE specific in nature and is constantly on the lookout for any research or resources that can help him improve. Reflection plays a big part in Ross' professional journey. I love his approach to education and regularly follow his blog and recommend that you do as well. I would like to thank Ross for taking the time to share his thoughts and vision on PYP PE with Andy.
A bit about Ross: Ross was born in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland in 1982. He spent his whole youth playing sport in nearby parks, fields, gyms and anywhere else he could find a game.
His soccer potential was realized to some extent when he was “drafted”/ “scouted” for Hibernian FC in Scotland as a youth pro. Although he gave it his best effort, his direction in life changed as he completed his Bed Physical Education (hons) at the University of Edinburgh.
He now works as Head of PE and Sport in a Prep-6 junior school in Melbourne, Australia. Ross is very busy these days as he is about to begin a new life in October as he and his fiance are engaged to be married on October 19th.
As a teacher and a learner he is in endless pursuit of the things in #PhysEd lessons that really make learning ‘fizz’. He blogs at http://makingpefizz.com/.
Ross' Guest Blog Through reading various blog posts recently, specifically ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ by Dr Ash Casey, I've been forced to reflect on my own PE experiences and what brought about a desire in me to put my heart and soul into becoming the best teacher I possibly could.
As you may guess, I was "one of those" sporty students who lit up in the gym but sat back offering basic compliance in other areas of the school, or the subjects in which I was allowed to anyway. There were some superstar teachers who didn't accept basic compliance, not-so-coincidently theirs were subjects in which I succeeded also.
But even though I prospered in PE, even back then I wanted it to be more popular. I wanted everyone to light up at the thought of going there, to enjoy it, to value it. I had friends (often girls) who loved sport but hated PE and it broke my heart to see them dodge and wag their way through our school years. I still remember “notes from parents" being central to weekly avoidance strategies.
It felt like I had found the best band in the world but only a couple of people wanted to come to the gig with me.
I've said before that I thought I became a teacher the day I graduated and got my first job. But, I was mistaken. I am, and will always be, “becoming” a Teacher.
As soon as I came to this realisation, it allowed me to reflect more honestly on my teaching practice, go easy on myself for making mistakes, be up front about what strengths I have and, as important, areas in which I can (and must) improve upon.
You may notice I've referred to myself as a ‘teacher’ first, and a ‘PE teacher’ second. Andy told me recently about how he asked workshop attendees to write “I am a physical educator” on their name sticker, he then told them to remove the “Physical” from it.
That’s what we are - Educators.
We just happen to educate through movement, physical activity, skill acquisition, games understanding, personal, social domains etc. The BEST things in my opinion!
So while my PE experiences were mostly enjoyable, I have always had an inherent will within me to ensure PE brings joy to all students, a joy that will stay with them beyond school and into adulthood, that’s what we’re ultimately aiming for, right?
A goal of ours should be to teach with the next 60 years in mind and not only the next 60 minutes.
Considering myself as an educator first has pushed me to look outside of the gym walls for ideas on enhancing my practice. Indeed, as a learner myself, I have felt compelled to look outside the walls of the school for inspiration. Remember that place where our students live?
A bright twitter pal of mine once told me about how she “always has learning goggles on.” This to ensure she never misses an opportunity to grab and develop an idea to enrich her students learning. You just never know where this inspiration might come from. One thing is for sure, you need to have your radar up and ready to make sure you capitalise on it. Do you have your learning goggles on all the time?
If you surround yourself with amazing people, whether through friends, family, twitter or other networks you don’t have to wait too long, or look too far for the next piece of gold to pop up.
If it’s a piece of solid gold, it’ll most likely need some work from you to make it yours or more essentially for your students, to make it theirs.
Back in my school days (oh no, have I really started saying that?) PE teachers only taught “the hands.” It was all about doing. Seems plausible given we’re in a practical learning area. But the one thing I promised myself I would always do was to ensure my program, (my lessons) value the hands, the head AND the heart.
We must offer our students the chance to learn, “to do”, “to know” and “to be” and only then might they light up when they enter the gym. Only then might they learn to value a healthy and active lifestyle and only then may their hearts grow warmer in front of our very eyes.
I encourage you, whatever you teach, to look outside of your classroom, look outside of your school, place your learning goggles firmly on, and see the world through the eyes of the opportunist super-learner.
Who better to advocate for quality PE; from the voices that matter most!
Over the past several months it has been great to follow the discussion on Twitter regarding ways that we, as physed teachers, advocate for quality PE in schools. There have been so many fabulous ideas shared and many teachers have given examples of how they feel as though they positively advocate quality PE within the communities in which they teach.
Today is our first day of school at Nanjing International School and I decided that the best way to start off the year was to initiate an important discussion with my students about the reasons why physical education should be a part of their school experience. I shared with them the discussions I have been involved in with fellow PE teachers around the globe related to positively advocating for quality physical education. I also discussed with my students the reality that PE time is being cut and/or reduced by many school boards around the world.
To get them moving around and discussing their thoughts, I asked them to walk briskly or jog with a partner and come up with reasons why PE should be a part of their school experience. They were instructed to be specific in their reasoning and try to highlight the real value that PE brings to a school's curriculum. I gave them no answers at all and made them do all of the work.
Bringing the voices of those who matter most, our biggest stakeholders, into important discussions about why we need to positively advocate for PE, is a giant step in getting an important message out to those who are in charge of making critical decisions about the future of PE. As well, getting students to reflect on just how significant PE is to a school's curriculum and to each and every one of them physically, mentally, cognitively, and socially also impresses upon them that PE is much more than just running around and playing games. It emphasizes that there is a greater purpose to physical education which helps set a very positive tone in our classes and in our programs.
I will endeavor to get all of my students in the first week to do the same activity and will create a separate visual for each of my classes. These visuals will be posted in and around the hallways of the school for parents, teachers, and administration to see. Advocating for quality PE is a journey that should be collaborative in nature and definitely involve the voices that matter most, our beautiful students.
Please see the ideas that my first class came up with in the picture below. Thanks. Should you decide to do the same activity with your students, I would love to see their answers. Please share with me.
With a new school year upon us, I would like to take this time to throw a few questions out to any teachers reading this blog. But before doing so it is a good time for me to emphasize just how powerful a role I believe reflection plays in improving ourselves as teachers. My school year officially kicks off tomorrow as it is going to be the first day with my students. As I write this blog post, I am excited to start teaching again, but at the same time feeling a little overwhelmed by the fact that continued improvement of my teaching practice requires a tremendous amount of time and commitment. Taking the step and writing my first blog post of the 2013/2014 school year to me signifies a total switch in gears from holiday mode to work mode.
For those of you who know me personally or follow my blog, you know that I am a bit crazy-passionate about what I do. Simply put, I think that teaching is the greatest job in the world and not a day goes by where I feel as though it is a job. I was recently having a discussion with Ross Halliday on Google Hangout about many things related to good teaching practice. Ross and I were sharing our thoughts and ideas about what defines excellence within our profession and we both highlighted reflection as being critical in the process of seeking to improve our teaching.
For me personally, reflection plays a big part in both my personal and professional life and it is difficult for me to shut my mind off. I love all of those mysterious chance encounters and coincidences that we come across with regularity in our lives. I truly believe that we can learn something from each and every one of these precious moments.
My wife, Neila, loves reading and when she comes across inspirational quotes or passages from books that she personally connects with, she will take a non-permanent marker and plaster the words up on the walls of our kitchen. There are moments when the walls in the kitchen are completely covered with pictures, words, and phrases. When I came home from my morning run yesterday I saw this quote:
I read it over a couple of times and couldn’t help but make a connection between the quote and how I am feeling about starting up another school year. I believe that we really do need to create space in our heads, our hearts, and our lives when beginning a new school year. We need to clear the clutter from the previous year and open ourselves to new possibilities in our teaching. We need to set professional growth goals and identify areas in need of improvement or areas needing further development.
We need to ask ourselves what is working well for us in regards to our instructional practice. We must identify what is not working so well and what we want. Most importantly, we must address what we have to do next if we are to continue to improve our own learning journeys and the learning journeys of our students. In living the quote from above I ask you to ‘Create space in your head, heart and life. To create some new possibilities start to ask yourself: What’s working? What’s not? What do I want? And What’s next?
The very best of luck to all of you for the 2013-2014 school year. Happy teaching folks!