An overview of student learning in the net games unit
The grade 4 net games unit that I taught over the past several weeks has come to a conclusion this week. Although there were many disruptions over the 7 weeks due to my students missing a few classes because of having to rehearse for the school's elementary production and the unit being interrupted during the Christmas holiday break, I must say that it was very rewarding seeing how the students progressed. I had blogged about some of the things happening during this unit just before the holidays, but I'll give a brief overview of the structure of this unit before closing with examples of some excellent reflections written by my students over the past couple of days in PE.
The Immersion Phase
During the first 3 classes of this unit, I allowed the students to explore a different net game each class (badminton, tennis, and ping pong). During this exploration phase, I gave the students specific challenges to try out and allowed them to create their own challenges. The key question that I had them think about during the immersion phase was 'What do you find most difficult about each of the net games being played?'. We began with tennis during the immersion phase and these were some of the answers they came up with to this question. Many of their answers prompted lots of important discussions about what they thought and how they felt. A perfect launch point for addressing specific learning outcomes in this unit.
I repeated a similar process for ping pong and badminton and the students generally agreed that they faced challenges and difficulties similar to what they had experienced with tennis. It was at this point in the unit, after our third class, that I made the student learning outcomes explicit to them. I genuinely believe that by giving them this immersion experience, I was able to draw out what they felt was important to know and do in this unit. The visual below was introduced to them next.
It was at this point that I presented the biggest challenge in the unit to date. I told them that I wanted them to select one net game that they felt that they wanted to work on the most for the rest of the unit. We had very important discussions about perseverance and the distinct possibility that they would experience failure. Once they selected their net game, they chose their personal goal related to this sport and were set off on their personal learning journeys the rest of the unit.
Does this mean I simply washed my hands of responsibility, sat in the corner and did nothing? That I left them to their own devices to figure out how to play the net game on their own? Far from it! I was actively involved in their learning the rest of the unit. I had mini-coaching sessions with all of the kids at numerous times during the following 6 weeks. During this time, the students created their own activities and games, asked lots of questions, and helped each other out. I let kids struggle to that point that they were frustrated. I did so because I felt it was necessary for them to overcome obstacles in order to truly learn.
Learning with the Heart, the Head, and the Hands
Once the students had chosen which net game they would work on and had some time to further explore, learn, and discover, I then went into the next phase of the unit which was to break down the specific learning outcomes into 3 categories. I wanted them to understand the importance of learning with the heart (affective: thoughts and feelings), the head (thinking: rules, strategies and safety), and the hands (the actual physical skills necessary to develop). This was one of the most interesting parts of the unit to teach and I had to ensure the students understood these ideas, but also to get them to identify which category could pose the biggest challenge to them.
The Next Few Weeks
I've got to be completely honest here and say that the next few weeks were not all happy, glowing, warm and fuzzy moments. We experienced tears, frustrations, some kids refusing to work with others, boredom, and outright non-stop bickering. However, I was able to address each of these situations and help to push each student forward with their learning. A couple of the kids complained about being bored. This was a direct result of not pushing themselves enough or me not challenging them hard enough. I was able to get these kids back on track all of the time. Despite these tougher moments, the students, for the most part, showed lots of perseverance during this unit.
I could observe longer and stronger rallies taking place over the 6 weeks. As the kids deepened their skills and were able to sustain longer rallies, I could see their confidence grow. Teaching the students about the importance of a positive mindset plays a critical role in my PE program. Many kids felt as though their mindsets had improved and that they were able to better accept mistakes and failure which was critical to their learning.
Their Final Reflections
I usually just show a few assessment examples when I blog, but I've decided to include a few more this time. So many great reflections that I want to share with you. I'm very proud of how this unit went, but can still see room for improvement in the way I delivered it. For now, check out the reflections below. There were 2 sides to the assessment sheet, so I have included both front and back for each student.
I asked the students how they felt about being able to choose one net game to work on for most of the unit and the vast majority said that they really liked it. There were a couple of students who said that they would have preferred to play different games rather than sticking to just one game. We listened to their reasons which made perfect sense. Those who really enjoyed picking the one net game to focus on also explained their reasons.
I'm very happy with the way that this unit turned out and even more pleased with the progress that the students seemed to make. Check out a short video of my students explaining their thoughts below.