Getting the kids to use inquiry and having to teach certain skills can prove to be challenging at times. As the very nature of PE itself requires us to teach the kids many different technical skills related to sport, getting the kids to wonder, create, explore, and question about these skills, in my opinion, is the first step in the inquiry process.
We are currently in the third week of our net games unit in grade 4 at Nanjing International School. As we are really beginning to fine tune our skills related to net games, having the kids begin to explore different types of shots was my focus of this week. There are numerous ways in which to achieve this goal such as me modeling the skills for the kids or showing You Tube video clips of good players executing various styles of shots.
Although this way of teaching is effective, I believe that having the kids actually inquire into all the different ways to hit shots in net games would take on more significance in this learning journey. So, bearing this in mind, I challenged them to put their amazing imaginations to work in a fun net games related activity that I called ‘The Changing Walls, Ceiling, Net, and Floor Space Game’.
Resources Needed (the more variation of equipment the better)
Ping Pong Paddles
Ping Pong Balls
Large Plastic Paddles
4 cones per pair
Aim of the Game
Working with a partner, the students had to imagine that they were playing a net game inside of an imaginary room. They had to decide how high the walls and ceiling were, how high the net was, and how much floor space there was. The 4 cones given to them would act as corners of the room and would indicate to them the amount of floor space that they had. For example, they could have very high walls and a high ceiling, but very little floor space or they could have very narrow but long floor space and medium height walls and ceiling (with a low net). Whatever combination they came up with, they had to experiment with different types of equipment and playing the shots required considering the size of the room, height of the walls and ceiling, and height of the net.
They played the game for a few minutes and then would switch all aspects of the room. Once they changed all aspects, they had to discuss and practice which shots were needed. They were allowed to change equipment whenever they wanted.
I can say for certain that the students were fully engaged in this task with imaginations running wild. However, most importantly, as the assessment shows, the students were generally able to identify all sorts of different style shots that they had to play. These were some of their answers; high-long, low, soft, hard, far, close, arching. I made it very clear that it didn’t matter if they could or could not play the shot because what was most important was them showing an understanding of the shots required.
The Assessment Task
I gave them their assessment sheets and they had to draw the rooms that they had created in their imaginations with their partner. They had to describe which shots were easy and which shots were most difficult. As well, some chose to use colored lines to indicate different ball flights.
In next week’s lesson, we will now begin to break down each of the shots they identified and show how these shots are used in actual play. We will do a number of mini-drills aimed at helping them to practice these different types of shots. I believe this to be a strong example of how inquiry can be used to effectively teach skills in PE. Please see example of student assessment below.