Breaking down the big ideas (expectations) into smaller components
For those of you who have read my blog in the past, you know that I am a firm believer in the necessity of making learning outcomes explicit in the initial phase of the units I teach in PE. Getting our students to know and understand learning outcomes gives them the guidance and direction that they need to move forward with their learning journey. It provides them with a sense of purpose, but is this enough? I believe that there should be much more involved in the process of making learning outcomes explicit if we are to truly have a greater impact our our students' learning.
I like to try and vary up the ways in which I making learning outcomes explicit at the start of each unit. In my opinion, it doesn't have to happen on the very first class of a unit. We can allow some time to have important discussions related to the big ideas of a unit before moving into what it is that the students need to be specifically working on. The key is that we ask the right questions and always record the students ideas and thoughts as we go.
In the first couple of weeks of my current movement composition unit, my students and I had a number of important discussions related to the big ideas regarding how we can be successful in this unit. I took the time to record their thoughts, making these ideas visual by creating posters. You can see an example below.
As we move into the second half of this unit, the students are going to be able to design their own learning and explore a specific path of their choice. They will need to take the big ideas that we have discussed and to create a final routine focusing on an area of movement composition that interests them the most. At this point of the unit, it was essential for me to ensure that they really do understand the student learning outcomes for the unit. I pushed them to breakdown the big ideas and to describe what success looks like in each of these areas.
Through purposely planned questioning, I challenged the students to be clear and concise about what makes for success in movement composition. Whenever I take this approach, I can say with full certainty that the students are able to identify what the actual learning outcomes are in a unit. If they don't nail one of the big ideas, my questioning pushes them to think about other areas of movement composition which are important to consider. I ask them to describe 'observable' features of success.
Through our discussions this week, my grade 4/5 students were able to identify a number of criteria that are important for success in movement composition.
Teamwork, Planning, Body Control, Safety, Routines Looking Good, and the Importance of Practice
Identifying these outcomes was still not enough as we needed to breakdown considerations for success in these areas. As the students worked on partner balances, we took time every now and then to discuss what good teamwork looks like, why safety is important, how routines look good etc. I was able to use examples from their own routines to model important features of success such a the importance of good flow and rhythm. I didn't expect them to be able to breakdown these learning outcomes completely on their own, but was there the entire time to help guide them through this process.
Inquiry in Action
I believe that the questions that we ask and the learning environment that we set in our classes has great impact on whether or not our students can genuinely put inquiry into action. Allowing them ample opportunity to tune into the important learning outcomes can trigger the inquiry process and is worth a try if you haven't done so. You'll be surprised with the great ideas that they can come up with on their own. Check out our grade 4/5 student learning outcomes in movement composition. Thanks for reading and happy teaching!