We must always be willing to share why we do what we do as an educator. Reflecting on the 'why' is an important component to improving our instructional practice. I have recently been blogging about a grade 5 fitness unit that I am running at Nanjing International School in China. Rick Baldock, a project coordinator and current president of ACHPER Active and Healthy Magazine posted a question to me on Twitter today regarding my fitness unit. Rick is an experienced practitioner who brings a lot to our #PhysEd community on Twitter. Here is Rick's profile on Twitter. He can be followed at https://twitter.com/baldyr55
I had my grade 5 students take part in an active brainstorming session in today's class geared at getting them thinking about all of the possible activities that they can do to improve upon their chosen areas of fitness. We are looking at 3 different types of fitness; muscular endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance in this unit. I have changed things up with my unit this year by allowing my students to select which area(s) of fitness that they want to improve upon. I will act as a coach and a facilitator during the action phase of this unit helping them to set goals and to create a plan aimed at improving upon their desired areas of fitness.
Rick sent out a tweet today (see below) asking me a question and why I have set product outcomes (fitness) seeing as only 10-20% of the population can improve in these areas. It's a fair question and it got me thinking about my unit and why I am doing what I do. In the back of my mind, I have always questioned how much of an impact we can make during a 6-week unit. We can try our best to produce the best learning moments possible, but the reality is that we have limited time with our students. We must maximize every opportunity possible by focusing on the big ideas of sport that are transferrable in my opinion. Yes, I absolutely want my students to become more physically literate in my program. However, I also want them to grasp the big ideas and to help build upon necessary skills that will allow them to be successful in all areas of life, especially as they mature.
I have chosen to run my fitness unit the way I have for special reasons that are rooted in the reality that we all own the decisions that we make regarding our level of fitness. It is a reality that level of fitness is a very personal choice. I have had this discussion already with my students. The research out there clearly shows that autonomy and engagement are the keys to success in learning. Bearing this in mind, I am allowing my students to freedom of choice in regards to the fitness area(s) that they would like improve upon.
Is it critical that they actually improve in these areas? Absolutely not! What is more important to me is that my students understand that setting goals is a good thing and that recording progress is crucial when we have goals. Reflection plays a pivotal role in this process as well. Regardless of which area(s) of fitness my students choose to improve upon, the heart and essence of this unit lies in getting them to be the very best that they can be. If they walk away from this unit learning that there are different types of fitness and that there are specific ways to measure improvement, I think valuable learning has taken place. If I can get them to intrinsically value setting goals and working hard to improve their level of fitness, I'd be more than pleased.
Students taking action away from class is a great indicator as to whether or not they are placing intrinsic value on improving their level of fitness. I have sent a letter home asking the parents to observe their child to see of they are doing any extra fitness work on after school and on weekends. This is valuable feedback to have in this unit. I believe that we must always change up the way we do things and that end of unit teacher reflection always helps to deliver a better unit next time around. We'll see how this unit goes. Thanks for the question Rick!