Driving our learning forward in PE
I have completed an invasion games formative assessment task in all of my grade 2 classes this week. My main objectives at this point in the unit were to assess what my students know and how to use this information to springboard their learning forward. I was also interested in digging into the feelings and emotions they experience while playing invasion games against their peers in class.
I want to address the reasons for students experiencing common emotions such as anger and frustration while playing games and come up with strategies that we can use to help better deal with emotions such as this.
My goal was to have the students engaged in maximum participation type modified invasion games that gave them an opportunity to put into action several different physical skills that we had worked on in the previous lessons leading up to this class. Each game lasted about 5 minutes at the most. In between each game, we had a chance to have a quick discussion about what was going well and what needed more attention. As most students were going full out during these games, the short rest was well-needed.
To open the lesson, I had a keynote (powerpoint) ready to go and we began with a 4-5 minute general discussion first related to invasion games before moving into the activities that I had planned for them.
During the last 5-7 minutes of the class, the students completed the assessment sheet that you see below.
I haven't looked at all of the assessment sheets yet, but will do so this weekend. Once I have a look through all of their assessment sheets, I will be able to design the next steps needed in the invasion games unit in order to push my students' learning forward. My ultimate aim is to get the students to select an area of growth for the remainder of the unit. Perhaps some will want to explore basketball or soccer more deeply. Others may want to play more capture the flag invasion type games. What's most important is to now give the students an opportunity to narrow their focus into one specific area and better develop their skills related to this area. We will hopefully be able to achieve this through further exploration and play that will not only enhance their physical skills but also better develop their sense of space.
You can check out examples of completed student assessment below, as well see a 3-minute video that will give you a better picture into how I structured this lesson. There are snippets of each of the games played. Feel free to use this assessment task and if you do, let me know how it goes for you and your students. I have attached a PDF of the assessment template for your use at the bottom of this blog post.
Making every moment matter
I came across this quote on Twitter today and had to take a screen shot of it. There are days when motivation is low and when being at our peak is a very difficult thing to do. Teachers are human, they have ups and downs like everyone else.
Having our maximum impact as a teacher requires us to stay motivated, even on difficult days. The smallest of actions can have such a profound impact on our students for they, too, have tough days. Our actions can have a profound impact on our students when we least expect it. How many opportunities slip through our grasp, especially on our tough days?
The quote that I came across today reminded me of this very important fact. How have you made a difference today? Thanks for reading.
Grade 5 students being as creative as they want
I started up my movement composition unit with my grade 5 students a couple of weeks ago. We are in the immersion phase of this unit which means the students are being exposed to a variety of different types of movement composition possibilities from Stomp performances to skipping and dance routines. My main aim is to get them to understand that movement composition comes in a variety of forms.
However, regardless of the movement composition avenue they ultimately journey down in this unit, the success criteria and student learning outcomes are the same. This allows them to bring their own creativity into the summative assessment task, but to be sure that they strive to meet the important student learning outcomes in the unit.
This past weekend I was planning for my upcoming movement composition lessons and was trying to come up with something funky to try out with the students. My wife showed me an old 80s Soul Train type dance video that a friend had posted on Facebook. Some massively funky dancing very much unique and creative in style, so perfect for my grade 5 lesson. I decided to run with it.
In today's lesson their were 8 phases the students went through with the last phase being the final routine itself. Here's a breakdown of the lesson.
We reviewed important success criteria that we had uncovered so far in the movement composition unit which were timing, pattern, and teamwork. We discussed what each means in regards to movement composition.
To get the students warmed up and engaged in some dancing, I used the following Just Dance video to get them moving and jiving.
Once we were done dancing to the Just Dance video above, I showed the students the Soul Train video and asked them to identify what was unique about it. They loved seeing the old 80s style dancing. Some very classic dancing styles indeed. Check out the video below.
Once we discussed the Soul Train video seen above, I told the students that we would be creating a similar dance line by the end of the class. The students went off in pairs for a 10-minute exploration of possible moves that they can use in this dance. They did not have to decide what moves to use but explore and narrow down possibilities at this point.
In the fifth phase of the lesson, the students were given another ten minutes to decide on which moves they would use for sure and to practice these moves as much as possible over the allotted timeframe they had been given. The emphasis here was to work on timing and pattern.
In this important part of the lesson, they had only 5 minutes to give and receive feedback. They had to seek out other groups to get feedback from but also to give feedback related to their dance moves.
We came together to have a trial run of the dance and gave feedback as a group, worked out some kinks and talk about how to make it better. This lasted about 3-4 minutes.
The final product in action. See video below. A great effort given by all, even the shy students who don't like dance that much. A fun and engaging lesson to be a part of. Try this lesson out and let me know how it goes!
How do we know our students are learning?
I'd like to share an idea that I have been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. It has to do with learning more about just how much my students are actually learning in my PE program. Although I'm confident that my students are having a very good experience in my classes and that they are quite engaged, the depth to which they are learning is most important to me to understand.
So, even though I can see that my students are learning, I would like to put to the test the depth to which this is actually taking place. Ensuring that my students are fully aware of the expected learning outcomes in a unit is a must and much of what I do is geared toward ensuring this happens. However, understanding what these learning outcomes are and being able to practically apply them is a different story.
Our PE network on Twitter has been instrumental in helping me to deepen my own practice and to bounce ideas out there via my blog. The PEPLC initiative that I kick started a year and a half ago, with the help of Nathan Horne and Kelly Ann Parry, was very rewarding to be a part of as it brought teachers together to set professional growth goals and be teamed up with other educators to help journey toward these goals.
Our network has so many dedicated and passionate physical educators and I am looking to team up with a few to trial out something that I think will be extremely useful in truly assessing the student learning taking place in our programs. Here is how I see it working...
Essentially what I am proposing is that we call in on Skype to each other's PE classes from time to time to interview students about what they are learning. For example, right now I am doing a net games unit in grade 4 PE. The learning outcomes have been made explicit and the students have set goals that they are working on. What I would like to set up is having a fellow teacher from our PE network Skype into my grade 4 class. This teacher would randomly select 5-6 students and interview them. The goal of these interviews would be to ask my students a few questions that would allow them to opportunity to share their learning with this person. The interviewer would record the information then provide feedback to me about the learning that is taking place.
Is this a perfectly reliable measure of the learning taking place in my PE program? Not quite, but the information gathered is still very valuable in the process of me learning about the learning taking place in my program.
Having an outsider interview my students would provide me with some valuable insight from a different perspective. I would then of course do the same for the teacher who Skyped into my class. A list of questions could be agreed on ahead of time to help the process run more efficiently.
If you are interested in being a part of this initiative, please click on the Google Form link below. If I see that a number of teachers are interested, I will connect people together to begin this process. Thanks. Hoping that a few of you will take me up on this idea!
Devote some time to trying this out
Reflection plays a very important role in my life both personally and professionally. I'm always open to new ideas that will make me dig a little deeper and challenge me to continue to learn and grow. My wife, Neila Steele, is very passionate about mindfulness and yoga, as well as teaching at the elementary level.
This week she threw out something completely new to me when we were chatting before going to sleep. She said that she came across a great reflective practice article in her mindfulness studies and shared the details with me. So simple in nature yet so complex. It is about thinking about the following three questions and honestly answering them.
Who made a difference to you or helped you out today?
Who did you make a difference to or help out today?
Who did you burden today?
It took some time to answer these 3 questions, but I did it and have done it every day since. Answering these questions helps me to appreciate what I have to offer, makes me aware of those who have taken their valuable time and energy to help me, and who I may have unnecessarily/necessarily burdened. I'm sure that you can answer these questions and encourage you to do so.
Keep fighting the good fight, come on PE teachers!
Just this week, I was engaged in a Twitter chat with Dr. Doug Gleddie and I'm Sporticus (this is his Twitter handle, click on his name to connect). I'm Sporticus holds a director of sport position in education in the UK and blogs at http://drowningintheshallow.wordpress.com/. I'm Sporticus ( I think his name is Alex), wrote up a very thought provoking blog post that focused on the stigma attached to PE. To get an idea of his message, here is a short excerpt taken directly from his blog post. I highly suggest you read the blog post to get a clear perspective on the powerful message he wrote about.
I feel the message being sent at the moment tells children this; mind at the top, and body at the bottom. That success in life is equated to a career and this in turn is only possible by studying Maths, Science, Engineering and Technology. The study of a subject for enjoyments sake is no longer important. It distracts from the pursuit of grades and even has the potential to corrupt your ability to achieve this, as my academic colleagues insist when they require pupils to no longer attend extra-curricular clubs but join them in ‘interventions’. This gives the impression that work and education is solely of the mind. That a professional life is one that is chiefly a mental and not a physical one. That success is due to the character of the mind and that our bodies contribution to that success is diminished.
A bunch of teachers got involved in the chat to express their opinions about I'm Sporticus' blog post which was good to see. It left me thinking about our subject area and what needs to be done, here and now, to begin to put a huge dent in the negative perceptions that so many people hold about PE.
To continue this story forward, just last night my 9-year old son, Tai, came up to me at home and said, "Hey Pops, what is the name of that PE network that you belong to? ". I asked him why he is asking me this and he said that in the book he is reading Lunch Lady, there are a bunch of really bad PE teachers. He then goes on to say how many of the characters in the book hate PE because of bad experiences they have had. A bit curious and intrigued, I asked my son to show me those parts in the book which he immediately did.
As I read the parts of the book that were hammering PE, I explained to my son that many people have had bad experiences in PE in the past. I then told him that myself and lots of other PE teachers/researchers on Twitter are working really hard to change people's thinking about PE. I told him that one of the main reasons I blog and share my work is that I want people to know how much I love teaching PE and that when I train PE teachers to be better at what they do, it is all about giving students the best experiences possible. It's about helping them to understand that being physically active is not only a joy, but can enhance their learning, increase their confidence, and bring them so many other benefits in their lives.
Have a look at a few of the pages from his book below. Although meant to be humorous in nature, there is a very negative message about PE which is being delivered to young people. If the subject area that we are all so passionate about is being ripped apart in children's books, it is just another sign that we need to continue to step up our games and be the change makers needed to force decision makers to see the great stuff that is happening out there. How are we going to ensure that our quality work in PE is reaching the right people? What else can we do besides blogging and being active on Twitter?
I am so proud to lead workshops and give presentations that show how much I care about physical education and its rightful place in a school's curriculum. One of my favorite things is to work with schools one on one getting to know their PE team and helping them make already good programs better. It is my firm belief that teaching is the greatest job in the world because we impact the future. When I look at all of the amazing practice of teachers in the PE network that I belong to, it is truly inspiring, but I am left wondering how we are going to keep spreading our message in order to have maximum impact.
Twitter has helped to showcase the quality work taking place in physical education. There is no doubt about it. However, we have all seen PE teachers who have no idea what quality learning is about. We have heard stories of these teachers and may even know a few. It's easy to tip toe around these teachers and not address how shit they are, but in tip toeing, we are ultimately doing an injustice to the students under their care.
I have a friend who works at another international school that once told me the PE teacher he works with in elementary essentially plays two different games in class. He either has the kids play dodgeball or when in a good mood, he will bring them out to the field and kick rugby balls non-stop, one after the other, and have them chase and retrieve them. What a thoughtful and caring guy!!
I was seriously shocked when I heard this. I know this is an extreme example of horrendous teaching and am not implying that this happens on a routine basis in schools. However, I am sure that there are similar versions of these types of stories taking place in many schools albeit on a smaller scale. Are there ways to proactively address situations like this in an effort to create long lasting positive change in our subject area?
What ideas do you have? Instead of throwing our hands up in the air and saying there is nothing that can be done, let's hear your ideas. Let's collectively act on these ideas in order to have the greatest impact possible. To any researchers/lecturers reading this blog post, your input is absolutely essential! Please comment! For other teachers reading, your comments have equal importance. As for me, I know I am doing my share, but there is still so much I can be doing and I will.
Continued formative assessment for learning in PE
I have taught the grade 1 Health Related Activities unit in PE at Nanjing International School for the past 4 years. I can honestly say that although the student learning outcomes have remained the same, the learning experiences I have offered the students have changed quite a bit each year. These changes are a result of ongoing reflection in my own practice, but also driven by the learning of the students themselves.
Although learning about the respiratory and muscular systems is part of this unit, going more in-depth with the circulatory system is my main focus with the kids. I want them to be able to understand heart rate zones at varying levels of physical exertion. As well, I expect that they will be able to find their own heartbeat (pulse) and to determine how many times a minute it beats. Using a simple 6-second formula that I explained in my last blog post, I have the students calculate how many times their hearts beat in one minute.
After much practice and lots of mistakes, through inquiry I had them zoom in on the minimum and maximum range that their hearts should beat while at rest and while physically active at various levels of intensity. See the visual below to understand how I addressed patterns in heart rate.
Prior to creating this visual and designing learning activities aimed at understanding heart rate zones, I had the students explore what an active heart might sound like at various levels of physical exertion then had the students begin to make connections to actual heart rate zones. See the visual below to understand what this learning engagement looked like in my classes.
To assess where my students were at with the understanding of heart rates zones and to determine whether or not they are able to take their own heart rate, I designed a lesson that would put these important expectations to the test in a fun way. At this point, I know that some students are still struggling with these expectations, but today's class was an important step in narrowing down the focus to ensure that I can help all students be successful in this unit.
The goal of today's class was to get the students to record their own heart rate (beats per minute) 4 different times; A) when they first came into class, B) after an initial tag game, C) after doing some simple tennis activities and lastly D) after sprinting around jumping over tennis rackets and balls left on gym floor from previous activity.
Each activity lasted about 3-4 minutes with about 2 minutes transition time in between activities to record their beats per minute and the corresponding sound of their heart beats while in action.
They were super active today, definitely had some fun, and hopefully made further connections between physical activity and heart rate. Moving forward I will be able to ensure that all students are able to accurately take their own heart rate and to understand the range of heart rate zones while exercising and playing in PE. My ultimate aim is to get them to understand that there are so many different ways that we can stay active both in and out of PE class. The last part of the unit, we will dig deeper and hopefully address why exercise is good for us from a learning point of view and a fitness point of view.
Check out 3 examples of student work below.
Getting young ones to understand different heart rate zones in PE
We are now in the third week of our Health Related Activities unit in grade 1. The students have been engaged in a number of different types of physical activity with the aim being to be able to describe how their bodies change while exercising and playing. They know and understand the big changes that take place, but over the past 2 weeks, I have narrowed things down so that they are focusing exclusively on heart rate. In order to get them to understand the different heart rate zones, we came up with words to describe what the heart might sound like while being physically active at different levels of intensity. Check out the visual below.
To break things down further, I have had them busy at work being super active, but every few minutes I get them to stop, find their heart beat by placing their fingers on the carotid artery on the side of the windpipe, and count the number of heart beats in 6 seconds. I use a stop watch to time this by saying "Ready, Steady, Count" and after 6 seconds "Stop Counting". I have shown them that they must include a zero at the end of the number giving them the number of heart beats in one minute. For example, if the student counts 14 beats in 6 seconds then add the zero to the end of this, they come up with the number 140. It took some practice, but most are able to understand this math place value concept.
I have explained to them what doctors want to know is how many times their patients hearts beat in one minute, so my young ones now know that this is what I want them to know in regards to their own heart rates. But, instead of giving them the answers, over the past couple of classes, I decided to create another visual that would allow me to plot their heart beats on a chart. See this visual below.
My goal was to continually plot their heart rates over 2 classes in order to establish a pattern for them to see. As the classes progressed the chart got more and more filled up in the proper areas. If students said a number that was way too high, instead of saying "You've made a mistake", I still plotted it into the plus 240 BPM section at the far right. Over time, the students began to see a trend and were able to understand that perhaps they had been counting wrong and needed help.
At the end of today's PE class, I added in the heart rate zones according to the sound visual that we created a few classes ago (the visual you see at the top of this blog post (Dub Dub, Thud Thud, Thump Thump, and Boom Boom). I drew an an image of the heart on fire in today's class in the visual below to represent heart rates that are higher than the zones that we want them to be in.
The students walked away from today's class hopefully knowing that the zone that they should be in when they are active in PE is between 140-200 beats per minute. Most students seemed to grasp this, so for the one's that are still struggling I can work more specifically with them over the next couple of classes.
Choosing our words carefully
As we end the school week, my thought of the day is devoted to thinking about the language that we use with our students. The messages that we send our students about learning are critical. Carol Dweck, a prominent professor of psychology from Stanford University, sums it up nicely in this quote below:
Every word and action can send a message. It tells children or students how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I am judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development. It is remarkable how sensitive children are to these messages.
When I read this quote this morning, I immediately reflected on how I speak with my students. Although I know I do a relatively good job and instilling a growth-mindset type environment in my classes, there is definite room for improvement in the way I send important messages about learning to my students. Today I will devote myself to being very aware of my teacher talk and the interactions that I have with my learners. What are your thoughts related to this topic?
Three valuable commodities within our control as teachers and learners
My blog post today is devoted to sharing 3 strategies that I try to put into my practice as an educator and a lifelong learner. I must admit that these strategies are much easier said than done, but making them a part of who I am and what I do is essential in my life. There are times I make loads of progress and other moments when I feel like I am back at square one, but for the most part, I can say that over the long haul, I continue to make steady improvements in these areas over time which has had only positive effects on both my personal and professional life.
As an educator, sharing these strategies with my students is a must as I believe that they are essential life skills that can and will lead to success when consciously worked on. From a PE and sport perspective these three strategies can also have a profound impact on our performance if we learn to employ them properly. By no means am I claiming to have invented these strategies as they have been around for centuries and the focus of thousands of books. However, reading about them is one thing, consciously putting them into action is another thing. I choose to put them into action in my personal and professional life. I have good friends who also embrace these skills and have practiced them with great success over the years.
I can honestly say that they have helped me overcome some very difficult challenges that I have encountered in my life. I totally expect to face failure and setbacks along the way, but slow and steady progress over time is all that I can ask for. I hope you find use in this blog post.