Making Every Moment Count
I am a big fan of Ashley Casey and the work that he does in the physed community on Twitter and on his blog. Ashley's website PEPRN, is an excellent resource for PE teachers and each week he summarizes a major research paper that has been done in the area of physical education. These weekly summaries provoke a deep reflection on my own practice and provide me with data driven insight into what has been happening in the field of physical education over the past couple of decades.
Although all of Ashley's blogs get me thinking and make me a better teacher, a recent one has really struck a chord with me and has been on my mind quite a bit over the past week. Ashley summarized a research paper written by Oliver and Lalik and the main message from this paper was 'How well do we really know our students?'. The summary puts into perspective the actual contact time that we have with each student over the year(s) that we teach them. At first when I was reading the blog, I thought to myself, 'no way, we can't actually have that little time with them', but when we really look at the numbers, the reality is that the average time that we can spend with each student is but a fraction of their existence when compared to their overall educational experience in school.
After reading the blog post, I began to truly think about this and found it a bit disturbing. I must admit that it didn't sit that well with me at first. I suddenly felt that there was no possible way that I could give them what they needed in terms of developing their physical literacy, confidence, and well-being, especially considering that I have so many students during an average week. I know that I am a good teacher and that I am always looking for ways to enhance the overall quality of instruction I offer my students. I know that I do have a positive impact on them, but I still couldn't help but think about whether or not I was taking every moment possible to connect with them, really listening to them and exploring the perceptions that they have of themselves.
After all, the perceptions that our students have of themselves greatly impact their learning. As Ken Robinson says,
The disengagement of students is rooted in their biographies........The system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity.
Engaging students and tapping into their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity requires us, as educators, to better understand their biographies and the perceptions that they have of themselves. However, this must be built up over time as it cannot happen all at once. Provided we are striving to do the above, we are moving and pushing them in the right direction.
There are so many golden teaching moments that are present to us on a daily basis when our eyes remain open to them. Despite the fact that we get very little time with each student to make a difference, grasping on to these golden moments whenever possible makes every second count. Yes there will be times that cheerleading is necessary in PE in order to get our students going, to get them motivated to learn and improve upon their performance. However, there is a big difference between cheerleading and taking a few seconds, maybe a minute of their time to let them know that we are proud of them, especially when taking risks might not be so easy for them. Letting them know that they genuinely matter and recognizing their achievements has the potential to make a lasting impact in their lives. We may never be able to measure this impact, but at least we know that we have attempted to make every moment count.
Make Every Moment Count image above can be found at http://www.favecraftsblog.com/the-big-apple-michaels-scrapbook-blogger-challenge/
Are we too results focused?
Our director at Nanjing International School, Laurie McLellan sent out a tweet yesterday afternoon with a link to a You Tube video titled 'I Will Not Let Exam Results Determine My Fate' featuring a very talented rapper by the name of Suli Breaks. It's a magnificent poem that contains a powerful message about education and is delivered in a rap style. In Suli Break's own words:
“I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate” picks up on the education topic but takes a different stance and angle from “Why I Hate School But Love Education”. This poem talks about how we have been made to think about how education and getting university degrees can give us opportunities to have a better chance in making our dream careers a reality. It also touches on how as individuals we are judged and tested by how well we perform on exams, but not all people perform well in exams so why are they made out to feel like they’re dumb? The inconsistencies of the education system are really peeled open to reveal a deep problem that needs to be addressed and how society’s needs have changed to make this even more apparent.
Suli's message is an important one that educators must reflect on as we move forward into the 21st century. Really listen to the words in the video below. What resonates with you? When I watched the video, I reflected on my stance on education in general, but began to think about a take away message that could potentially be applied in physical education. What is your take away message from the video, firstly as an educator and secondly as a PE specialist? I would sincerely like to know your thoughts.
What we can learn from these incredible Kenyan High Jumpers
If you have already seen the video below, I am sure that you were as amazed as I was at the incredible athleticism shown by the Kenyan high jumpers. Although their styles are very unorthodox in nature, watching the video sparked in me a need to reflect on the way that we teach specific techniques related to sport. Is there only the technically perfect way to teach a skill or do we allow for these overtly unorthodox styles from time to time?
At what point do we let go and allow our students the freedom to learn skills in a way that best suits them? Provided that they are safe and the techniques in which they use do not put themselves at risk or others around them in danger, is there any merit to letting them learn in ways that may be unorthodox in nature? If a student is able to fully participate in the activities that they do in PE and truly enjoy them, is there a need to step in and change up the style in which they execute certain skills, even if these skills are unorthodox in nature?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we should still strive to teach proper technique, but if the goal that we have for our students is to be able to participate in and enjoy sport for a lifetime, should the focus of our instruction shift to allow more flexibility in the way that our students learn technical skills related to sport? I believe it an absolute necessity to step in and correct glaringly obvious ineffective techniques in sport, but once again, when the student is able to participate in and find joy in the physical activities and games that we do in class, I think that this speaks volumes for the teaching and learning environment that we have set in our programs.
I am not implying that all physical educators are iron fisted in the way that they teach their classes, but at minimum I think that it is critical to reflect on how we teach skills and what is truly important for students to walk away from our programs with if they are to enjoy sport and fitness for a lifetime?
We Sometimes Never Know Just How Powerful of a Role We Play as Educators
I came across the following tweet (see below) this morning written by Brad Currie, a school administrator from Chester, New Jersey. Brad is the co-founder of #Satchat on Twitter, a fantastic weekly chat that covers a huge range of topics. I try my best to be involved in those chats, but with two young boys, Saturday mornings are often taken up with soccer, swimming, and other clubs that they belong to (and an occasional round of golf for me :)
There are so many amazing links that I come across on Twitter and trying to read them all is impossible as all experienced Tweeters know. Selecting which ones to open and read comes down to what motivates us as educators. I am always inspired by those amazing teachers who have such a powerful impact on their students. Of course, we all have influence and impact over our students, but we can all certainly recall those very special teachers that we had in the past that made a huge difference to us. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post specifically about this here.
Anyways, I clicked on Brad's link and watched the short You Tube video about a teacher by the name of Albert Siedlecki. Although Mr. Siedlecki has no doubt positively influenced hundreds of students he has taught over 30 plus years of teaching, the video below explains in detail how he had a tremendous impact on one student in particular. It is absolutely worth the watch, so I encourage you to click on the link to see and hear the wonderful story. This is a perfect video on those low motivation days that we sometimes have as teachers.
Think about all of the students we teach and have taught over the years. Hearing stories like Mr. Siedlecki's reminds us just how powerful a role we play as educators. We should never under estimate the value that our jobs hold. Hope you enjoy the video. Thanks to Brad Currie for sharing the link on Twitter.
Allowing students a voice in identifying the attributes that they have excelled in
Not only is recognizing student effort in PE important in creating a positive tone and motivating our students in our classes, equally critical is allowing them to identify specific reasons why they have been successful in regards to the learner profile. A new approach that I am taking when recognizing student achievement in my classes is to get the students themselves to select which learner profile attribute they felt was most important in them being successful. When I challenge the students to be specific and to explain why they have been successful, I can see the wheels spinning as they must truly think and reflect on the reasons for their success.
In the example below, the student being recognized made amazing progress in the striking and fielding unit. When I asked which learner profile attribute was most important in him being successful, he first thought open-minded, but later changed it to risk-taker. When I recognized his efforts and explained to the class why he was being given the award, he had a smile that beamed from ear to ear. His picture is now up on the Learner Profile in Action in PE display board in the elementary hallway for all to see.
As teachers we can recognize students by telling them which attribute that we think that they have demonstrated, but I feel that it is more effective to get them to identify the attribute for themselves. Doing so creates a more authentic connection to the learner profile.
Quick and Easy Color Coded Assessment Strategy in PE
We just concluded our Grade 5 Striking and Fielding unit at Nanjing International School in China. The entire unit was structured around 6 learning outcomes that were made explicit during our pre-assessment task. You can read a blog that I wrote about this pre-assessment task here.
As the striking and fielding unit focused on these 6 learning outcomes, the students were challenged to come up with their own ways to work on these identified areas. The student learning outcome visual that we created during the pre-assessment task was posted on the wall over the past several weeks and constantly referred to as we progressed through the unit. They were very aware of what these learning outcomes were from the very start which greatly helped in giving specific direction to the unit.
Color Coded Assessment Strategy
I used a very quick and easy assessment strategy for the summative task which involved the use of colors for the students to self-assess themselves in regards to the 6 learning outcomes. As you can see in the picture above, they had the following 4 color choices:
Green-Not so good
When creating the summative assessment sheet, I pasted a jpeg of the actual learning outcomes poster that we had created together as I knew that the students were very familiar with it. I added in white boxes for each learning outcome. The students were simply required to color in each learning outcome box in the color that they felt best represented their progress in this particular area. As well they had to complete 2 reflective questions that had them explain what they felt their best area was and an area that they needed to improve upon. They also had to justify their reasons for selecting which areas they felt that they were best at and needed to get better at.
Making learning outcomes explicit at the beginning of the unit helped in creating a very positive tone and a much clearer direction for the students to explore the major skills. I have included 5 different examples of student assessment below.
Although PEPLC has been a great learning journey so far, there are a few misconceptions that are important to clear up as our professional learning community moves forward with its learning. If you are a PEPLC member or interested in joining one of our numerous learning teams from around the world, thanks for choosing to read on.
#PEPLC Mission Statement
Support physical education teachers by exposing them to evidence-based research so they may question and change their teaching and leadership practices in order to enhance the learning outcomes of their students.
#PEPLC Vision Statement
Provide an ongoing support network for physical educators to grow professionally, learn from others and contribute to a community by sharing their knowledge and experiences.
No need to work at a fast and furious pace
From its conception, PEPLC was intended to provide its members with a source of long term sustainable professional development free of charge. There are no deadlines that must be adhered to during this process. Each learning team is encouraged to progress through the different phases of the project at a pace that best suits its members and the team itself.
Completing the 4 phases of the PEPLC journey may take 6 months for one group but a year and a half for another group. This is absolutely fine as we expect that there will be vast differences between the teams in regards to when they finish their particular project together. What is most important throughout the process is that there is a genuine commitment to the learning that will take place.
Missing a team google hangout does not signify an end to your involvement
We are all mothers, fathers, partners to someone we care about, coaches, teachers, and passionate about other things outside the world of education. We understand that it is very difficult to time it so all of your team’s members can be present at each and every Google Hangout that takes place.
Of course the process is made easier if we can all commit to times that we are available for Google Hangout sessions with our teams, but unexpected things can pop up or we can be bombarded by extra responsibilities in our lives. These moments will no doubt make it difficult to work with our PEPLC learning teams. However, if a Google Hangout is missed, it does not mean that your team is doomed and will fail. Because Google Hangouts are streamed live, it is easy to stay abreast of your team’s latest progress. As well, by staying in touch with your learning leaders, you will know exactly where the group is at and what has been learned and shared to date. As well, you can always access the PEPLC podcasts to tune in and listen to the valuable discussions from all of the other learning groups around the world (https://itunes.apple.com/sg/podcast/peplc-peplc-podcast/id693541582?mt=2)
We all have busy lives and must strive to be balanced. PEPLC should never take away time needed for professional and personal priorities in your life. Of course there has to be some element of commitment if you join a learning team, but essentially you join under your own terms and these terms are dependent upon the life schedules that we all have. If you are just too overloaded with work and family responsibilities, it is fine to take a break then join back in when you are ready. The most important thing is that you all stay in contact with your learning leader to let them know when things get too hectic to handle. This will allow your leaders to plan accordingly throughout the process.
You are all on your own
We couldn’t disagree more! If you are a learning leader or in a group that hasn’t begun its PEPLC journey there are no worries at all. Given the nature of online professional learning communities, each team will have its own entry and finish points. If a team is having trouble getting started, we have help readily available to assist in the process. Do not hesitate to contact any of the following educators for advice in getting started;
Andy Vasily, Nathan Horne, Kelly Ann Parry, Matthew Pomeroy, Naomi Hartl, or Mel Hamada as they are very familiar with the process and more than happy to help out. Nobody is out there on their own in regards to the PEPLC learning journey, so we encourage you to contact us for help if needed.
Not a flash in the pan but a slow and steady drip of authentic PD
The main aim of the PEPLC network is to provide physical education teachers with long term sustainable support in the development of their teaching practice. It is about sharing ideas that we are implementing within our PE programs. It is about sharing our experiences and learning from one another. It is about taking time to review research that exists that supports good teaching practice and having important discussions about this research on our learning teams. All of the above cannot be completed in the short term and will take a considerable amount of time to accomplish.
As we take in all of this new information, as learners, we naturally need time to let it digest. Throughout the process we will connect with certain ideas and concepts that resonate with us that we can implement in our own practice. Along with implementing these new ideas will no doubt come failure, but with failure comes success. This is why it is so important to share with your group what is working for you and what isn’t.
Dean Dudley, professor at Charles Sturt University, in Australia provided us with a great analogy a few months back on Twitter that I constantly refer to when discussing PD in my presentations. It is the analogy of the intravenous drip. That slow and steady drip that sustains us over time and keeps us going. This is exactly as the organizers of PEPLC envision the PD taking place. PEPLC is here to stay and is meant to be that slow and steady drip of authentic professional development that we all need in order to improve our teaching practice as physical educators. It is self-directed and autonomous learning which has been proven to be the most effective way to sustain motivation over time when it comes to better ourselves as teachers.
Summing it all up
To sum up, we want all current PEPLC members and any new teachers wanting to be involved in this project to understand that the whole process of professional development takes time. We already have some exemplar teams that we can all learn from, but the most important point is that PEPLC is here for the long term and will slowly be defined by the successes of the different teams as they move through their learning journeys together. We all have equal ownership over this great learning network.
HAPPY LEARNING to ALL PEPLC MEMBERS!!
The importance of using visuals in the assessments we give our students
We have just concluded our Target Games unit in grade one PE at Nanjing International School. I wanted to share our summative assessment task. Anyone who has seen my style of assessment before knows that I strongly believe in the use of visuals on the assessment sheets that I have the students complete. I have found that using visuals such as images to go along with key words or phrases on the assessment sheets greatly helps in allowing kids to better connect with their learning.
In particular, I find that the ESL students in my classes really benefit from the use of these visuals, especially in the lower grades. Not only are the assessment sheets visually enhanced, key vocabulary stands out so much more helping to engage students on a deeper level as they complete these tasks.
Whenever possible I also try to include a photo of the students in action and paste in on the assessment sheets for the students to see. Today's summative task was quite simple, but was a fun way to conclude the Target Games unit. The lesson was broken down into 5 parts as you can see below:
A) A general introduction to the task which included a questioning session that allowed students to identify 4 the major means of sending an object towards a target that we had worked on for the previous several weeks.
B) Choosing their favorite way of sending an object toward a target and having a few last practices.
C) Getting their picture taken using their favorite way to send an object toward a target
D) Completing a self-assessment rubric
E) A final discussion that allowed students to tell me ways that they think that the Target Games unit can be improved upon next time around
Getting Important Feedback About the Unit
As mentioned in section E above, I asked the students to describe ways that they feel the unit can be improved upon for next year. I recorded their ideas in my journal and will definitely make the changes next time time we do the Target Games unit. It took about 5 minutes to have this final discussion and I recorded their ideas in my own words, but some of the main ideas can be seen in the picture to the left.
Have a look at some of the assessment sheets completed by the students. I feel as though they were all quite accurate in the way that they self-assessed themselves. Overall, the unit went very well and I am happy to have allowed them the opportunity to discuss ways that they feel Target Games can be improved upon. I will include their thoughts and ideas in the teacher reflection section of the unit planner. Thanks for reading!
Building a Sense of Community in Our PE Classes
This is another follow up from the Feedback for Effective Thinking Conference held at Nanjing International School a few weeks ago. I believe that some of the most powerful tidbits of advice that we receive as teachers are so very simple in nature yet often times overlooked in regards to the importance that they play within our teaching practice.
One such example that I would like to share is from Dylan William, one of the keynote presenters at the conference and has to do with the importance of building a sense of community in our classes. According to William, there is so much evidence that supports the fact that when students feel a sense of community in the environment around them, they learn better. As educators, one of the ways that we can help to establish a better sense of community is simply through increased use of collective pronouns such as 'we' and 'us' during the important discussions that we have in our classes. So very easy to do and an important reminder to consider when trying to create a better environment for learning in the classes that we teach.
I will continue to blog about these important reminders over the next several weeks as it helps me to reflect on my own practice. I am hoping that any teachers reading these blog posts will find use in them as well. As always, thanks for reading!
I enjoy connecting with other PE departments around the world and was recently asked to do a Google Hangout with the Stamford American School in Singapore. Mark Williams, the head of PE at Stamford, asked me to open up a 2-day session of professional development for the PE teachers in his department.
Among some of the topics covered were authentic inquiry, the importance of asking the right kinds of questions to our students, assessment, and making learning visible in our classes. Sharing my practice with other schools is something I take pride in and helps me to reflect on how I can get better at what I do. If your school is interested in something similar, please let me know. Thanks.