Building upon student ideas helps to deepen learning
We are off to a flying start with our grade 4 invasion games unit here at Nanjing International School. I've taken on a bit of a different approach than what I normally do in my units. For those of you who know my teaching style, you know that I post key questions, then give each of my classes a chance to share their answers. I use my journal to record their ideas without judging them as being right or wrong. In some cases I ask further questions to help the students clarify exactly what it is that they are thinking or feeling about the topic. Once all the students have had a chance to share their answers in regards to the key question, I then create a visual that includes the most common responses. The next time the students come around to PE, the visual is up with their answers. This begins the process of unpacking the big ideas and concepts in the unit helping to make essential student learning outcomes explicit. It has always helped to give students a clear and specific direction in the units I teach in PE.
This time around, I am doing it a bit differently. I have three grade 4 classes (4A, 4B, 4C). Instead of giving all three classes the chance to share their answers to the initial key question, this is how I changed it up.
My 4A class was the first to address the key question "What are the skills necessary to succeed in invasion games?". I recorded the answers from the 4A students in my journal then made the visual that you see below as soon as I could after the class.
As you can see, the students came up with some great answers to the key question above. They answered the questions at different points in the class between some initial invasion games that we had played. For the first class, I used no balls or equipment whatsoever. When my 4B class came in the following day for PE, I had the visual up on the gym wall ready to go. We had a look at the visual then I asked the students to do a walk and talk to see if they could come up with any other answers to the key question.
I then had the students take part in similar invasion games that I played with the other grade 4 students the day before using no equipment. However, the 4B students had to take any of the big ideas from the visual above and begin to unpack them. I told my students that it wasn't good enough to just say that we have to be good at defending. What does good defending mean? What does good decision making look like? What does good attacking mean? etc. In between the games. I jotted down student ideas in my journal once again. They were free to choose any of the big ideas to unpack. Through discussion we addressed 4 key areas; Attacking, Defending, Running, and Decision-Making. Once the class finished up, I checked out the most common answers and responses then created the following visuals that you see below. Once again, the students came up with some great points that helped to unpack the big ideas generated from the 4A class the day before.
Up Next Grade 4C,
The following day I had the 2 visuals you see above ready to go as well as the key question visual at the top of this blog post. When the 4C students came in we went through the same process as before. They looked at the key question and had a chance to share their ideas and answers. We then looked at the 4 concepts that had started to be unpacked by grade 4B. The 4C students then had a chance to add ideas to what was already unpacked OR unpack any of the other ideas. We played the same type of invasion games with no equipment (I actually included one simple passing game using small rings) and they shared their answers at different points during the lesson. The 4C class really dug deep sharing loads of new ideas and merging other ideas . For example, they decided that the key ideas of chasing, dodging, and running should be merged and unpacked under the Good Running visual. This was a perfect chance to introduce the concept of 'Agility ' to the students. We renamed the Good Running category Agility.
As well the students added to other existing ideas unpacking good defending and attacking even further. They also came up with the need to play safely and to know and understand rules, so I started a new visual to reflect these thoughts and answers. See how some visuals have changed and new ideas being unpacked have been added. Lots to build on as we move forward in the unit.
The process will repeat itself next week with all three grade 4 classes being able to add their thoughts, ideas, and other things learned to these visuals. A map of their learning will take place throughout this unit. A new direction and a bit of a change with how I usually unpack big ideas, but I'm finding a lot of success with it already. Ball skills will be added in the next phase of this unit.
Could this style of unpacking work for you in your program? Is it applicable in middle and high school PE as well? Could it work in other subject areas? Try it out and let me know how things go!! Thanks for reading.