Unpacking the Challenges Grade 5 Students Face in Being Physical Active?
As we dive a little deeper into our 'Connections To Community' unit, it is very important to examine the challenges that students face in taking action to be physically active at recess, after school, and on weekends. It is worth the time and energy to begin to unpack these challenges with the students and co-construct solutions that may help them take more action on being physically active outside of their regularly scheduled PE time.
To set the tone for this unit, we used a powerful provocation that I wrote about in blog post #2. It was an excellent provocation that got the students tuned in to the big ideas of 'taking action' and 'identifying challenges'.
In taking it one step further, we revisited the provocation from the first class. We shared our big takeaways and what resonated the most in regards to the Julius Yego Story. This took a couple of minutes, then I had the students think about their own lives and identify challenges that they faced that were similar to Julius Yego. Using yellow sticky circles, the students identified which challenges that they had in common with Julius. They wrote their name on the yellow circles as well, so I can follow up individually with them (see photo below).
As a quick follow up, I had the students then write down other challenges that they face in taking action to be physically active on a separate visual using sticky notes. It was important to provide the opportunity for them to share as many challenges as they could think of, so that we could begin to think about solutions.
In the visual below, you can see what this visual looked like.
When class was over, I went through their responses and created a visual that would be used to begin the unpacking process in regards to brainstorming potential solutions to the challenges that the students face. We will co-construct these solutions across the grade level and get input from different teachers and students across the school. In identifying challenges so early in the unit and beginning to unpack potential solutions, we are in a great position to get the students to hopefully take more action in being physically active when outside of the regularly scheduled PE classes. Please see visual below that includes their very honest answers.
Now that we have identified a number of different challenges that the students face in taking action to be physically active, it is a great time to bring in the 'Solutions Grid' strategy that I've used in the past to brainstorm and document solutions to different problems that students face. Over the next couple of weeks, we will look at each challenge and record as many solutions as we can. My hope is that by the midway point in this unit, when taking action becomes critically important, the students will have a number of different strategies that they could use to overcome the challenges that they have identified as holding them back from taking action to be more physically active in their lives outside of PE time.
Please see the 'Solutions Grid' below. As this grid fills up with ideas, I will do another blog post to share our learning. How might you use the solutions grid in your program or your classes? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.
Setting the Tone: The Power of Provocation
A good provocation can stir up lots of different feelings in our students and really tune them in to the big ideas in the unit. When starting off any unit, finding the right provocation is critical because it allows the students to identify and begin to unpack success criteria from the very first lesson.
Deciding on the best provocation is no easy task and takes time, but is well worth the effort. We need to be absolutely sure that we pitch the provocations in a way that draws attention to the big ideas that we have identified as being most important in the unit.
As our 'Connections to Community' unit is primarily focused on the importance of taking 'ACTION' in our lives to be physically active, the provocation we chose to kick start this unit with is the story of the amazing, Kenyan world champion javelin thrower, Julius Yego.
Julius epitomizes what it means to take action and to overcome obstacles and challenges in order to be the very best that we can be. Although the video is about 7 minutes long, it really helps to reinforce the idea that we can all take action in our own lives. A perfect message to start this unit off.
I will be including a number of strategies in this blog post series on the 'Connections to Community' unit. I included two different strategies in the first blog post.
A key strategy to ensure students make strong connections to the big idea in the unit is to create the best driving questions possible when delivering the initial provocation in the unit. Bearing this in mind, the two driving questions we used with our students were:
As the students came into the first lesson of this unit, they already knew what the unit was going to be about because I had interviewed them last week. We got to the learning straight away. I introduced the Julius Yego story to the students and explained what the two driving questions were that I wanted them to think about as they watched the video. Once the video was done, the students did a walk and talk with their classmates, discussing and sharing ideas that they had related to the two driving questions.
Walk and Talk! This strategy is all about getting young people moving and talking rather than sitting. You can read about it in a blog post that I wrote a few years back by clicking this link. My good friend, Joey Feith, also recently discussed the walk and talk strategy on his new podcast here. If you have time, you must check out Joey's podcast and his website. His work is truly wonderful and insightful.
The students came up with some great ideas in the walk and talk and shared these ideas in a thinking routine that we did. As you can see from the photo below, they shared their ideas on sticky notes attaching them to either of the questions that they were brainstorming answers to.
In total, watching the provocation and completing the thinking routine took roughly 15 minutes. To some, this might be taking too much time away from being physically active in PE, but I completely disagree. Setting the tone for the unit by using a powerful provocation is critical in order to inspire and motivate our students. The time needed to complete this activity allowed the students to really connect with the importance of taking 'ACTION'. We had a quick discussion that allowed the students to share their big takeaways from the Julius Yego story then moved into the exploration phase of the lesson. The students had identified a number of different activities as being among their favorites in the interviews last week, so we started off with an exploration of a couple of their choices (tennis and frisbee).
When the lesson finished, I took all of their ideas and created two separate visuals with their ideas posted. These visuals will be very important as they will be used at the start of the next lesson to do a quick review of the Julius Yego story and the big ideas we identified as being most important. As you can see, the students came up with some great ideas related to identifying challenges he faced and how he took action to be the best he could be.
A power provocation can go a long way in helping students unpack important success criteria in a unit. It can also serve to inspire and motivate them to want to be their best by creating the emotion hooks needed to get them to want to take action.
To conclude this blog post, I'd like you to watch the Julius Yego story yourself. How would you answer the two driving questions after watching the video? What inspires you the most about Julius' story? How might this video be used in any of the units you teach in PE? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading this post and for checking out the video below.
It's been a while, but I'm super pleased to be back in the gym teaching PE over the next several weeks. Although much of the work that I now do with teachers at Gardens Elementary School is helping them to plan teaching, learning, and assessment in their subject areas, it has been quite some time since I planned and taught my own unit. My current job role, as Pedagogical Coordinator, has taken me away from teaching, but it is still very important for me to stay in the trenches of teaching, so that I never lose sight of how incredibly demanding it can be. As well, it's important for me to continue to work on refining my teaching skills.
My goal over the next few weeks is to blog about the unit that I am teaching, with my colleague, Bill Kelly, and the journey that we hope to take our students on. The overarching theme throughout this unit is to create the conditions for students to want to take action to be more physically active when not in PE class.
The first step of the process was to interview all the grade 5 classes before the unit began to see their favorite ways of being active in PE class, at recess time, after school, and on weekends. Most of the classes came up with similar ideas, but they also had different ideas to share. Using this information as a starting point, the unit will be structured around providing students with an opportunity to explore and develop skills specific to their areas of interest.
In planning forward in this unit, it was important to refine the number of outcomes and concepts that we felt were most important to address in their learning in this unit. In order to emphasize just how critical taking 'action' is, we decided to make this the overarching theme or idea to be addressed. So, with 'ACTION' as the big concept being focused on, the supporting concepts we came up with for this unit were; Organization, Social Connection, and Skill Competence.
A strategy that we put into practice at our school is to combine two big concepts together to create a driving statement or conceptual question to be unpacked with the students. This allows them to identify and co-construct success criteria in order to deepen their learning and push their thinking forward. Please see conceptual visual below to better understand what this looks like.
We must make sure that all of the concepts that we have chosen support and reinforce everything that we are striving to get our students to know, understand, and be able to do. Therefore, during the planning process, we must be able to articulate exactly why it is we have chosen the outcomes, concepts, and important dispositions that we have. My teaching partner, Billy Kelly, and I have taken a lot of time to do this. When looking at the dispositions below, you will see the strong connection to the big concepts in this unit.
The last part of the initial planning process was to focus on what specific skills we wanted the students to develop in order to allow them to take action on being physically active with others at recess, after school, and on weekends. The specific skills I am referring to here have nothing to do with the physical literacy skills they will need to develop and strengthen in this unit. These skills will come out a bit later as students zero in on specific interest groups that they would like to join as the unit progresses (to be explained in later blog post).
In order to kick start this unit off on the right foot, it was necessary to ensure that my teaching partner and I had a sound structure in place in regards to concepts, skills, dispositions and driving questions that we hope to unpack with our students.
The visuals above show all of the big ideas that we hope to focus on and develop a deeper understanding of as the 'Connection to Community' unit progresses.
Now that you have seen the basic structure of this unit, blog post #2 will delve into the provocation that we used to get the students tuned into the big ideas of 'taking action' and 'social connection'. Thanks for reading!