There has been lots of discussion on PYP blogs such as Threads debating whether or not central ideas and lines of inquiry should be introduced at the beginning of a unit. I have read varying viewpoints from a number of experienced PYP teachers who have shared their opinions on the topic. I must admit that I was very hesitant to even consider not posting central ideas and lines of inquiry at the beginning of a unit. I felt that having a discussion about the central idea and lines of inquiry and posting them for all students to see kind of set the stage for the journey that they were about to embark on.
As I read other teachers points of view on this debate, as hesitant I was to change my mind, I did begin to see the value in the giving students time to explore, conceptualize, grapple with uncertainties, contemplate, discuss, and share at the beginning of a unit. Was it really necessary to post the central ideas and lines of inquiry from the start of a unit? I was now much more open to the idea of not doing so. My grade 4 students began an ‘Invasion Games’ unit today in PE and I decided the time had come to try something new in my teaching, so I did not post or discuss the central idea and lines of inquiry for the unit.
When I set out to create central ideas and lines of inquiry for the units that I teach in PE, I like to have a general brainstorming session about what is important to know. I then use these brainstorming notes to formulate the central idea and lines of inquiry that I will put into action during the unit. Please see picture above of how I created the central idea for the invasion games unit. It usually takes me a while to come up with, what I feel, is a genuine and authentic central idea that is worth exploring. Even though I did not post this central idea and the lines of inquiry for the invasion games unit, this is what they are:
Central Idea: Successfully attacking and defending space depends upon having a coordinated plan, managing space effectively, and working together as a team.
Lines of Inquiry
An inquiry into determining which skills are most important to learn and practice in invasion games
An inquiry into creating plans that best suit our team and its members
An inquiry into how best to attack and defend space
Introductory Lesson to Invasion Games Unit (Pre-Assessment)
To set the stage for the unit, I had the students take part in a number of very modified invasion type activities increasing with difficulty in each game. I had posted 4 questions, on separate posters, around the gym to be answered, in groups, after participating in the various games played in class. I think that after giving the students to get a sense of what invasion games were, they were in a better position to analyze the requirements of each of the games played today. I could then use their answers to determine what they already know which can help with my planning of the unit. The 4 questions were:
Off We Go!!
To start the class I divided the class into two teams with one team wearing bibs. The students took part in the following 4 games.
Game A (Invade and Touch Wall)
Students must invade other team’s space (teams separated by center line running width of gym) by crossing center line and trying to make it to back wall without being touched. If they are touched in the other team’s half, they must return to their own half immediately. If they are not touched and reach the back wall, they earn a point by touching the wall. At this point, as long as they are touching the wall, they are safe. BUT, they must wait for a team member to make it to the back wall in the same fashion. Once another team member has made it to the back wall, together the two of them, holding hands or linked together can return safely to their own half collecting a point each for their team. They only way to return and collect points is joined together with another teammate, not on your own!Once in their own half, they can then attack the other team’s space trying to do the same.
Object of game: Collect as many points as possible while trying to stop other team from gaining points.
Exactly the same as game A, but they only difference is that they now must make it back to their own half, on their own and not joined to a partner. If they can make it to the back wall, touch the wall, and run back to their own half, they have earned one point for their team.
Exactly as game A, however, each team now has 5 dodgeballs. To gain a point, the players must carry a ball over center line and into the other team’s half, make it to the back wall, throw the ball off of wall and catch it on the rebound (with no bounce) without being touched by any member of the opposing team. If they are successful in doing this, they must wait for a team member to do the same. Once a team member has done the same, they can the join hands and are safe to walk or run back to their own half. If they are touched, before reaching the wall or while in the process of throwing ball off of wall and catching on the rebound, they must return to their own half, with the ball. Every single time they come back to their own half, regardless of gaining a point or not, they must hand ball over to another teammate, so that they can have a go of it as well.
Similar to game C with the only exception being that opposing players can either tag you by hand or throw the dodgeball at you when you are in their half. Throwing the dodgeball adds another element to the invasion game.
Creating a Team Strategy
The students were allowed to meet several times to discuss, modify, evaluate and revise team strategies that they had created. They tried to employ a number of different tactics during the 4 games played and were asked to evaluate these tactics on an ongoing basis. I want them to understand that they need an organized plan in order to be successful. It will be something that I focus my lessons on heavily during this unit.
After the 4 games described above were played, I quickly put the students into 4 groups to quickly rotate through the posters and answer the questions. It was interesting to see their answers. I can see that they are already on track to discovering the central idea for themselves. I will take a few more classes before unveiling the central idea to the students.
Some student answers
Poster#1: Describe how teams can be successful when playing invasion games. Also describe how individuals can help their team.
Must put people into positions
Must guard space better
Communicate how to work better as team
Put speedy people as attackers
Poster#2: Describe what you think invasion games are.
Getting points and guarding
Putting people in different spots to help get points and guard
Attacking and defending
Poster#3: Which PYP attitudes do you think are most important when playing invasion games?
‘Cooperation’ because through group work and helping each other we can get points more easily
‘Confidence’ because you need to be confident to share your ideas with your team
Poster#4: Which Learner Profile attributes do you think are most important when playing invasion games?
‘Risk-Taker’ because you have to enter the other team’s half even if you are stopped
‘Thinker’ because you have to be smart when thinking of a plan for your team. Putting people in spots makes us think about who is best for the spot.
Teacher Reflection (should central ideas be posted at start of unit???)
I think that the class went very well, was organized, and challenged the students to work together on a team. They took part in valuable discussion at the end of the class and seemed to all have a general understanding of what invasion games were. I can see firsthand that not introducing the central idea at the beginning of the unit is worth much more of an exploration on my part. I am not use to it, but will give it more consideration as today's first attempt when very well in demonstrating that students can still be extremely engaged without being introduced to central idea.