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.