Making assessment as visual as possible for the younger students
Striving to make assessment as visual as possible has always been one of the keys to success in my program. I use images to capture the students' attention and to ensure that these images relate specifically to important conceptual understanding in a unit. As we move toward our summative assessment task in Health Related Fitness in grade 1, I have used ideas from the students to create 3 different visuals that represent the work of the circulatory, respiratory, and muscular systems.
Using the idea of moving wind for the respiratory system, the students will be challenged to compare their rate of breathing to how fast the wind blows. For the muscular system, they will identify a color that represents how their muscles feel when engaged in different levels of exercise. Finally, the students will choose images of the working heart to compare how their heart feels when engaged in activity.
They will be designing their own exercises and referring back to these visuals over the next few classes. I'll be blogging about how it goes. Wish me luck!!
If you haven't read the above article, you are going to want to, especially if inquiry-based teaching is a passion of yours or if you are an educator that simply wants to know more about the inquiry approach to education. The article asserts that although curriculum, skills, strategies and adaptations to teaching methods are important considerations in moving students' learning forward, the bigger question is how do we identify, attract, nurture, and train teachers who have an 'inquiry friendly' personality?
Without a doubt, coaching plays a fundamental role in developing a teacher's capacity to deliver a curriculum in an inquiry-based way, however, the relationships that they build and the emotional connections made to students play even a larger role. The article asserts that teachers must reflect on the following 5 questions.
Are you optimistic?
Are you open?
Are you appreciative?
Are you flexible?
Are you purposeful?
"When a teacher comes out from behind the lectern, leaves the front of the room, kneels beside a student to coach them through a problem, offers feedback designed to promote confidence and perseverance, and becomes a true partner in the learning process, the relationship between teacher and student automatically shifts. It’s no longer about telling; it’s about listening, observing, and creating the channel of trust that opens up a personal connection between two individuals."
For me, reading the article was an important reminder to take every opportunity possible to connect with our students. It's not always easy, especially on days when motivation is low, but it's worth the time and effort. To read the article, please click on the link below. Thanks to Thom Markham, the author of "Do you have the personality to be an inquiry-based teacher?" for his insight and wisdom on the topic of inquiry. You can find Thom on Twitter at https://twitter.com/welcoming2012. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the article.
Keep them thinking, identifying, solving, generating, creating, reflecting etc.
Our natural tendency at times can lean heavily toward giving the students answers to the big questions that we ask. At least in my case it does. There are times when I give the answers away too easily, so I am working hard to make them dig and to figure out more on their own. Not all questions need to be answered on the spot and appropriate time can and should be given to allow students to find important answers out on their own through the various learning experiences we have them engage in.
In my PE classes this week we are working on answering the following question-- How does feedback help us to improve in movement composition? I am trying to get my students tuned into the importance of giving specific feedback and to steer away from making general statements when providing feedback to their peers. I noticed that a lot of the feedback students were giving to one another was very general and not really that helpful in identifying what exactly needs to be improved upon. Giving authentic feedback is a skill that needs to be worked on and practiced. If the students were given feedback that was not helpful in identifying what specifically needed to be done to improve performance, I encouraged them to ask for clarification from their peers. For example, simply saying that "your timing needs to be better" is not good enough. The students were required to be as specific as possible when giving feedback.
The visual that you see above was created to serve as a visual reminder of how feedback can help us improve in movement composition. For a number of classes, this poster remained mostly blank with only the question on it. I kept asking the students the question and when they had answers I would record them in my journal. I then created the visual with the main ideas that they had come up with in regards to how feedback can help.
Using this visual as a springboard, I created a second visual that contained key questions related to the ideas that the students had generated for improving feedback in the above visual. I now have a list of guiding questions in place that can be used for the rest of the unit to help stimulate discussion about giving good feedback and to remind the students of what they need to do when providing authentic feedback to their peers. I believe that this is making thinking visible and helps to focus the students' learning as we progress through a unit. You can see the list of key teachers questions that will help to guide the students over the last few weeks of our movement composition unit.
To summarize, I believe it is better that the students come up with big ideas and that we shouldn't give away important answers so easily hence the Better Them Than Us title to this blog post. Make them work to find out! Thanks for reading. Hope my ideas help you out!
Is our teaching keeping pace with the changing world around us?
One of the teachers with whom I regularly collaborate, Ross Halliday, turned me on to a very thought-provoking You Tube video yesterday titled 'What is 21st Century Learning?'.
Whether we like it or not, as the times change around us, we are being bombarded by all of the reminders about where education in the 21st century is headed. We can choose to tune out and carry on with what we do OR we can pay close attention to the statistics and facts related to 21st century learning. It is purely our choice in regards to what we choose to believe, but the evidence seems overwhelming to me that as times change, so must our teaching practices and doing so will require a high degree of reflection on our parts as educators.
Regardless of subject areas taught, the students of today need more from us. They need us to better prepare them for the world that they will be thrown into in a decade's time as they leave school. Many of us do the best we can by methodically planning and delivering what we feel to be pedagogically sound lessons that hopefully enhance the learning of our students. Although our lessons are well thought out and our students busily engaged in the work that we give them; is this enough? Are we doing them a service or disservice in preparing them for the ever changing world that is bearing down upon them? Are we going through the motions of what has always been familiar to us with our teaching practice or are we endeavoring to change for the better?
Read the words below. They are taken directly from the You Tube Video. Ruminate over the facts, the numbers, the stats and the reality of what our students face. I think that I do a good job in teaching physical education to my students. I work to constantly challenge them to critically think, problem solve, collaborate, and explore while ensuring they are participating in maximum levels of rigorous physical activity. But am I doing enough? The answer to me is clearly a big fat NO. I can do more and I will do more. I can choose to let the video below intimidate me as an educator or I can reflect and make the necessary changes needed to my teaching practice.
I must be sure that my teaching keeps up with the pace of change that my students experience on an ongoing basis. Please read the words below before watching the video and take the time to watch the video afterwards. Ask yourself this question, 'Am I doing enough for my students?' Thanks Ross for turning me on to this video!
This is 21st Century Learning
The number of people learning English in China nearly equals the US population.
By 2025, the most populous country in the world will be INDIA
In the next 2 years, 1 in 4 of the world’s workers will be Indian.
These are exponential times.
In the past 5 years, the digital universe has grown by 1000%.
46% of teachers say that their homework requires technology.
94% of students say that they use technology to do their homework.
GOOGLE handles 1 billion queries every single day OR about 115740- the time it took you to read this.
Today there are more than 450,000 words in the English language. That’s 7 times what Shakespeare could have used.
Many of the top jobs in 2012 did not exist in 2002
Social Media Strategist
User Experience Specialist
Elder Care Coordinator
Many of the jobs students will have don’t exist yet AND they will use technologies that haven’t been invented to find solutions to problems that haven’t emerged.
The world keeps changing.
This is not your classroom
You are not this teacher.
Today's teachers must be:
Because, preparing students for the 21st century isn't just about technology or skills for the global economy.
21st Century Education is about:
AND making your classroom as DYNAMIC as the world around us.
EF Explore America
Breaking down the big ideas (expectations) into smaller components
For those of you who have read my blog in the past, you know that I am a firm believer in the necessity of making learning outcomes explicit in the initial phase of the units I teach in PE. Getting our students to know and understand learning outcomes gives them the guidance and direction that they need to move forward with their learning journey. It provides them with a sense of purpose, but is this enough? I believe that there should be much more involved in the process of making learning outcomes explicit if we are to truly have a greater impact our our students' learning.
I like to try and vary up the ways in which I making learning outcomes explicit at the start of each unit. In my opinion, it doesn't have to happen on the very first class of a unit. We can allow some time to have important discussions related to the big ideas of a unit before moving into what it is that the students need to be specifically working on. The key is that we ask the right questions and always record the students ideas and thoughts as we go.
In the first couple of weeks of my current movement composition unit, my students and I had a number of important discussions related to the big ideas regarding how we can be successful in this unit. I took the time to record their thoughts, making these ideas visual by creating posters. You can see an example below.
As we move into the second half of this unit, the students are going to be able to design their own learning and explore a specific path of their choice. They will need to take the big ideas that we have discussed and to create a final routine focusing on an area of movement composition that interests them the most. At this point of the unit, it was essential for me to ensure that they really do understand the student learning outcomes for the unit. I pushed them to breakdown the big ideas and to describe what success looks like in each of these areas.
Through purposely planned questioning, I challenged the students to be clear and concise about what makes for success in movement composition. Whenever I take this approach, I can say with full certainty that the students are able to identify what the actual learning outcomes are in a unit. If they don't nail one of the big ideas, my questioning pushes them to think about other areas of movement composition which are important to consider. I ask them to describe 'observable' features of success.
Through our discussions this week, my grade 4/5 students were able to identify a number of criteria that are important for success in movement composition.
Teamwork, Planning, Body Control, Safety, Routines Looking Good, and the Importance of Practice
Identifying these outcomes was still not enough as we needed to breakdown considerations for success in these areas. As the students worked on partner balances, we took time every now and then to discuss what good teamwork looks like, why safety is important, how routines look good etc. I was able to use examples from their own routines to model important features of success such a the importance of good flow and rhythm. I didn't expect them to be able to breakdown these learning outcomes completely on their own, but was there the entire time to help guide them through this process.
Inquiry in Action
I believe that the questions that we ask and the learning environment that we set in our classes has great impact on whether or not our students can genuinely put inquiry into action. Allowing them ample opportunity to tune into the important learning outcomes can trigger the inquiry process and is worth a try if you haven't done so. You'll be surprised with the great ideas that they can come up with on their own. Check out our grade 4/5 student learning outcomes in movement composition. Thanks for reading and happy teaching!
Letting student choose assessment criteria they feel is most important
We are now into our 3rd week of movement composition and it was extremely important for me to gauge if my students are grasping on to the big ideas of our unit. I am allowing the students to explore a multitude of movement composition activities to help open their minds to all of the possibilities that exist. Simply put, I don't believe that movement composition should only be about dance, there are so many other avenues that can be explored.
I had my students focus on partner balances in today's PE class, in particular the 9 balances that you can see on the assessment sheet to the left. After having an initial discussion about what partner balances were, we discussed safety then moved into the activity.
My first goal of the lesson was to have my students, in pairs, practice doing each of the partner balance activities and to self-assess themselves. They did this by circling one of the following three choices; EASY (to do) SO-SO (to do), or NOT SO EASY (to do).
My second goal was to have them design their own mini partner balance routine by selecting 4 different partner balances. They had the option to copy any 4 from the assessment sheet or they could create their own. They had to record the balances they had selected in the 4 blank boxes that you can see above on the assessment sheet. Once they had selected and recorded their balances, they practiced for their routine which they ended up performing to a 40-second piece of music.
The final goal which was by far the biggest one to me was to have each team discuss which assessment criteria that they felt was most important to remember when doing their mini routines. We have had ongoing discussions since the start of the unit about the big ideas in movement composition. These big ideas relate to how they can be successful when taking part in any of the movement composition activities that we have done to date.
Keeping in mind that assessment for learning is about teachers adjusting their plans based on formative assessment tasks, I was very keen to see what assessment criteria they had selected. Over 90% of the class identified assessment criteria that was critical to success in movement composition. To help those who didn't, I can spend extra time with them to have important discussions in order to ensure that they get on track with their learning.
Assessment tasks such as this are excellent for helping to guide are teaching and to plan accordingly based on what our students know. Have a look at some example student assessment below as well as a slide show of the fun that took place. Thanks for reading.
The focus of my grade 3, 4, and 5 PE classes today was to get the students focused in on the big ideas of movement composition. I had planned a few activities related to body control and spatial awareness at the start of class before moving on to some Just Dance videos. I had posted the question, the one you see in the photo below, at the start of class and asked the students to share their ideas as we progressed through today's lesson. I then recorded their ideas down on the poster.
Most of the ideas generated tie into the student learning outcomes of the unit. I will keep the poster up for the rest of the unit and refer back to it when I see the need arise to have discussions related to their learning in the movement composition unit.
A great inquiry strategy to open up movement composition unit
Tapping into our students' natural curiosities is a huge part of the inquiry cycle. I am always on the look out for new strategies to try out in PE and I first learned about the 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' strategy in a Visible Thinking professional development session run by well-known consultant, Ron Richhart, a few weeks back at our Feedback for Effective Thinking conference at Nanjing International School. I know that several of my colleagues used the strategy with great success after they had learned about it in the conference. Since that time I have researched how it is done and decided that I would give it a go when introducing my movement composition unit in grades 3, 4, and 5.
I started off my showing the students a number of different movement composition type videos from You Tube. These videos were not focused exclusively on dance as I wanted to open their minds to the endless possibilities that exist in terms of movement composition. I showed Kung Fu Panda fight sequences, a Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Sword fighting scene, Stomp, a gymnastics routine, a martial arts sequence using a staff, and a juggling act. Regardless of the type of movement, all the videos showed great creativity and emphasized the fact that movement composition can come in a variety of forms. Here are links to the You Tube videos that were shown:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFH6lXJ6c4k Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zehZo-hObys Kung Fu Panda
I See, I Think, I Wonder in Action
Before watching the videos, I gave my students a number of yellow stick it notes and a pencil each. As they had all been exposed the the 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' strategy back in their classrooms, it didn't take a lot of explaining. I asked them to explain to me what this strategy means and we began the activity. While watching the videos, the students had to write down their thoughts. What was it that they were seeing in the videos? What caught their eye? What were they thinking as they watched these videos? And most importantly, what did they wonder about? What captured their attention and caused them to really wonder?
I can say that they were fully engaged in this task and the ideas that they generated about movement composition, in general, worked to really set a great tone for this unit. After the last video, I gave them a few minutes to have a discussion with their elbow buddy before posting their ideas up on the 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' posters on the wall of our movement composition room. We had a group sharing session before moving on to the next activity. The 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' session lasted about 15-20 minutes.
Some PE teachers would be completely opposed to this type of activity as it requires kids to sit and to essentially not not be active. I would strongly argue that great thinking occurs when using strategies such as this. In my opinion, there is absolute pedagogical justification in taking time to tap into their curiosities, to address conceptual learning, and to create a learning rich environment by having important conversations in our classes.
Once we were done this activity, I had the students gather around the smart board to do a Kung Fu Fighter Just Dance video. It was a great way to transition into the dancing part of the class and the students really loved it. They go crazy for Just Dance and it is one of my essential instructional tools in my movement composition unit. In the video below, you can see my grade 3 class rocking it out. I recommend that you look into the 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' strategy if you have not used it. Thanks for reading!
Introducing the Central Idea in Grade 1 Health Related Fitness Unit
Although we are into our second week of the health related fitness unit in grade 1 PE, I have held back on introducing the central idea for this unit. For those teachers who may not work in the Primary Years Program (the PYP), the central idea is essentially the driving theme behind the unit. We want the students to progressively build upon their understanding of the central idea as they work their way through the units in PE. Through a number of learning engagements very much inquiry-based in nature, the students continually develop their understanding of the central idea and share their knowledge on a regular basis.
The main reason why I do not introduce the central idea straight away in a unit relates to my pedagogical belief that great value lies in allowing young people time for exploratory activity at the start of a unit. Regardless of the unit, I try to provide as many opportunities as possible for the students to explore and to develop curiosities related to the unit. These curiosities are recorded in the form of student questions. As well, the exploratory time gives them a chance to think about what might be important to learn. When I record their ideas about what is important to learn, this is a great chance to make the learning outcomes explicit at the start of a unit. I think that it is critical for the students to be aware of the learning outcomes at the beginning of the unit as it often times leads to greater success.
In yesterday's class I introduced the central idea for the health related fitness unit by writing it down on a large piece of chart paper. As you see above, the central idea for this unit is "Our heart, lungs, and muscles work together when we exercise." Although this statement might seem simplistic in nature, the real challenge of understanding this central idea lies in the students making connections between these body systems. As they progress through the unit, the students develop a greater understanding of these connections and are challenged to demonstrate this understanding in a variety of forms.
Making Learning Visual
As I introduce the central idea in a unit, I collect a bunch of visuals related to the topic. As this is a health related fitness unit, all of the images I gathered connect to sport, health, and exercise. As we unwrap the central idea, I add these visuals to the central idea poster. The poster remains up on the wall for the entirety of the unit and is constantly referred back to when having important discussions related to the big ideas.
In yesterday's class the students were able to identify the 3 systems that they felt were working the most in the unit which were the heart, the lungs, and the muscles. Now that we have identified these 3 systems, I have introduced the proper name for these systems (circulatory, respiratory, and muscular). Both my grade 1 classes had a go at contributing their thoughts to the central idea poster. The first class, as you can see by the photo below identified the three systems at work when exercising and the second class was able to identify different types of exercise and what was needed to keep our bodies healthy. The visual that was created will definitely help to stimulate further discussion. Any new ideas will be added to the visual as we progress through the unit. Have a look at the photos below to see how the second class added to the ideas of the first class.
A glimpse into how I use 'No Opt Out' questioning strategy in PE
A few weeks back I wrote a blog post about my goal to work on using better questioning techniques in PE. You can see the blog post here. I have been working on the 'No Opt Out' strategy which is an excellent way to keep students engaged in the discussions taking place in our classes. I have also been working to establish a no hands up policy during my lessons which has definitely resulted in better student engagement as well.
It is so easy to chose students with their hands up to answer our questions and is often times so habitual in nature, so breaking this habit requires consistency and a lot of practice. There will always be those students who like to answer all of the questions and get most of the chances to do so in our classes. By moving to a no hands up policy, the onus of answering questions becomes much more spread out and gives everyone a crack at the plate so to speak when answering these questions.
The 'No Opt Out' strategy does not allow students to remain silent or say 'I don't know' to our questions. If a student cannot answer our question, the idea is that we let them know we will be coming back to them. It is OK to move on and ask another student the same question, but we now have more options when moving back to the original student. When moving back to the original student, we now have different options. We can ask whether or not they agree with the answer just given and to explain why or why not. We can ask them to extend upon the answer giving us more information or we can ask them to summarize what the previous person had just said. These are only a few examples, but the strategies that I have been working on.
Below is a very short video of a health related fitness discussion with my grade 1 class. I am always reminding the students that I will not answer them if their hand is up as I am still working to establish this routine, to make it a habit. The video cuts off a bit early, but I go back and ask a student to summarize any of the answers that were given. You'll notice at the very end of this short video that one student puts his hand up to answer but immediately drops it back down as he remembers the no hands up policy. It must be working!!