Most educators understand the importance of differentiating their instruction and task expectations in order to meet the diverse needs of their learners. As well, most educators understand that voice and choice is an important part of the teaching process. Being explicit and specific about how students can find their own entry point into learning in a unit requires a carefully thought-out plan by teachers.
Teachers must create powerful learning opportunities that match where the students are at and where they need to go next in regards to their learning. Students need to have multiple entry points into learning. Ron Ritchhart from Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education refers to these multiple entry points as low-floor and high ceiling entry points with mid-level entry points embedded in there as well.
Rather than planning lessons that have students only demonstrate content knowledge, it is critical to plan learning opportunities that help them to self-differentiate. This requires a distinct shift away from having all of the students working on developing the exact same skills in the exact same way in a unit. As the students all have different levels of skills and abilities, setting up the teaching and learning environment in a way that encourages students to explore, discover, and self-differentiate gives them much more buy in and ownership of their learning in whatever units are being taught in PE.
It’s worth considering the Meaningful PE framework when designing units in order to maximize engagement and to help all students flourish in regards to their own physical movement journeys. The Meaningful PE framework was developed by researchers in Canada and Ireland and can be accessed here if you wish to read more about it.
The framework itself focuses on 5 specific features:
When designing meaningful movement experiences in a PE unit, these 5 features should be considered during the planning process.
How can we ensure that all students experience joy through movement in PE?
Although some like to refer to this feature as ‘fun’, I think that the word joy better sums it up. Regardless of what the unit is, the students need to be able to find joy in the experience. This requires moving away from a one-size fits all type of experience in PE.
How can we ensure that students are able to develop their motor competence based on where they are at in regards to their level of skill?
All students are at different levels of ability in regards to their skills related to physical activity. It is imperative to meet students where they are at. This means carefully structuring lessons in a way that differentiate learning. Whether it’s a low-floor and high ceiling entry point, the students can all work on developing their motor competence based on where they are at.
How can we ensure that the students feel a sense of belonging and purpose in PE?
All students should feel supported. Lessons should be structured in a way that allow for different types of groupings based on where students are at. It’s not always about being a part of a group as some students might prefer to work alone. However, the common pursuit in the class is one that all students are striving to find flow with their learning and their skill development. There should be multiple opportunities for small and large group discussions to allow students to connect with their peer group to celebrate their successes and next steps needed in their learning journey.
How can we ensure that the students are able to identify the ‘just right’ challenge in regards to their own learning?
This is an important one for us at Gardens Elementary School. We feel that if we get this one right, all the other features fall nicely into place. By helping students to identify their just right entry point into learning, they can focus on the tasks and activities that they need to in order to challenge themselves at the right level. Finding the just right challenge allows them to be more engaged and to find flow with their learning and their skill development. If something is too easy for them or too difficult, they are likely to be disengaged and bored. When we can help kids to find their just right entry point, not only do behavior management problems drastically decrease, students are more focused and on task. Therefore, we like to prioritize the feature of challenge in the units that we teach at Gardens Elementary School.
How can we ensure that the students’ movement experiences are relevant to them based on their needs?
Students should be able to take action in regards to their learning. If learning experiences are relevant to the students and their needs, there is an increased chance that they will find more meaning in regards to physical activity. When students feel that their learning is relevant to them, they will more than likely see the greater purpose behind it and hopefully be inspired to stay physically active when not in school.
We are in the middle of our grade 5 cycling unit at Gardens Elementary School. Our aim is to not only equip students with the skills needed to ride their bicycles safely in our community, but to inspire students to see possibilities beyond just riding their bicycles from point A to point B. We want them to experience different types of riding to help build their motor competence, but to also provide them with a multitude of experiences that they might be able to take action on after school and on weekends.
In the early phase of this unit, we had the student explore different types of riding in a very safe environment. The students rode their bicycles around the basketball court in the playground of the school practicing different types of riding.
We did a review of using proper rode signals as well during this time and had them practice this. Based on teacher reflection, we knew we had to spend extra time on helping the students better develop their ability to use road signals safely and to be able to ride more safely on the roads in our community.
We asked the students to identify what they felt their biggest challenges were in the first part of the unit and created some leveled challenges for them to practice. We were hoping to do more with these challenges before the winter break, but have moved on to different types of challenges out in our community.
As we are well into the unit now, we are taking the students out into the community to practice their riding. Today’s focus was getting the students to experience some off-road riding. The students were able to find their own challenges and to learn how to better ride their bicycles in off road conditions and on hills. Some students chose gentle hills to ride down, others chose steep hills, while some students didn’t feel they were ready for this and chose to ride on concrete paths and roads.
The point is that we are slowly trying to build up their motor competence but in a way that allows them to be the architects of their own learning and to make decisions based on where they feel they are at. It was great to see some risk-takers trying to take on the next greatest challenge, but in saying this, we continually emphasize safety in this unit. See some of the photos below of the students in action.
It has been wonderful to teach this unit with my good friends and colleagues Adam Llevo and Evan Bryceland.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about this unit. Thanks for reading.
The single subjects are a great vehicle for teachers to deliver learning experiences in the arts, maker space/design, world language and in PE that are meaningful and purposeful. Drama, music, visual arts, world languages and PE are often viewed as being secondary in nature and on the fringes of a school’s curriculum, but these disciplines provide essential learning for students that can have a profound impact on their life both inside and outside the walls of their school.
There is so much inspiration that can be found in these disciplines that help to ignite passions that can stay with a young person for the rest of their lives. Whether it be tinkering away in the garage or basement on weekends (Maker Space), finding a joy and love of different movement pursuits (PE), being absorbed in creating art or music, or studying a new language, the single subjects provide a multitude of opportunities for students to find greater purpose and meaning that is specific to them and their needs, as well as their interests.
Single subject teachers teach to the masses. Countless students walk through their doors each week. Having a clearly articulated vision for the units taught in the single subjects is a priority that requires an in-depth look beyond just the ‘activities’ done in each class. During pre-unit planning, rather than a center of attention being on activities, the focus must instead turn to the mapping out of the big ideas that will drive all teaching and learning throughout the course of a unit.
Once the conceptual framework is mapped out, single subject teachers how have a clearly defined vision for where they want to take their students, making it much easier to then focus on the lesson to lesson activities that will drive and support student learning.
I work closely with single subject teachers to help them create a clearly defined vision for their units that is deeply rooted in conceptual understandings and how these concepts connect within the learning of the unit itself. Creating a roadmap or timeline as we call it, gives the teachers the structure that they need to better plan out all teaching and learning over the duration of their units.
I’ll be sharing some of our planning in the single subjects over the next few months on my blog in order to help educators who visit my website see what’s possible in regards to unit planning and to see some of the great work being done at The KAUST School in Saudi Arabia. I’d like to share our current grade 5 music unit being taught by my colleague Peter Diglin. You can connect with Peter on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/PDiglin
Grade 5 Personal Inquiry Unit
When beginning the pre-unit planning process, the first question that needs to be asked and answered is:
What is it that the teacher is hoping students will walk away from the unit being able to understand/do?
This should be answered in no more than one sentence in order to ensure a clearly articulated vision for the unit. In Peter’s case, he is hoping that his grade 5 students walk away from the unit having made a personal connection to an instrument and that they develop a sense of self-belief in themselves as musicians.
Once the clear vision for the unit is established, we then begin to identify what concepts need to be focused on in order to support the vision of the unit and the learning that will take place. We do this in a very loose manner, just brainstorming possible big ideas and how these big ideas might fit into the learning in the unit.
In the grade 5 Personal Inquiry unit, some of the big ideas identified were:
Inspiration, Skill Acquisition, Instrumentation, Rhythm, Tempo, Melody, Personal Connection, Performance, Organization, Social Support, and Personal Responsibility
Once the big ideas were identified, we then began to look at how they fit together in a logical way. Peter was able to begin thinking his way through the unit, identifying what he felt was the best way to unpack the big understandings of the unit from the first week to the last week.
When doing pre-unit planning, each teacher might look at their units differently, which is fine. However, the most important thing is that each teacher who timelines out their units, is able to clearly articulate the roadmap that they have in mind for teaching the unit. That requires some deep thinking and takes time, but this process helps to set the teacher and their students up for success in this unit.
The timeline for Peter’s grade 5 Personal Inquiry unit can be seen below.
As you can see from the timeline, the concepts are spread out over the 6 weeks of the unit. Once the big ideas have been unpacked, they continue to be an underlying focus for the rest of the unit. For example, the concept of skill acquisition was unpacked in weeks 1 and 2 of the unit, but students needed to demonstrate an understanding of the importance of skill acquisition for the rest of the unit. This is the same with all of the concepts chosen to be unpacked in the unit.
We decided that the concept of ‘inspiration’ would be a major focus or overarching theme of the unit. We wanted students to understand that music can inspire us to create our own work. In order to emphasize this, it was decided to use the Zach Sobiech story to help create a strong emotional connection in this unit. We wanted the students to understand the different ways that music can inspire people. If you haven’t heard about Zach’s story, you should check it out, it’s well worth your time.
In the first class of the unit, Peter showed a moving video that was a tribute to Zach and his work as a musician. Unfortunately, Zach passed away from cancer, but he left a powerful legacy behind that has inspired countless musicians around the world including well-known artists such as Jason Mraz.
Here is the video that Peter used in the first lesson.
The question that was immediately unpacked after the students watched the video was:
Why does music inspire us to create?
The students had discussions with each other and came up with responses such as: it makes us want to create our own music, it makes us want learn an instrument, and music makes us feel good. The Zach Sobiech video helped to kickstart the unit off in a great way that then led into an exploration of different instruments for the first couple of weeks. The students were really moved by Zach's video. It was the emotional hook that we were hoping to create to make the students more receptive to learning in this unit.
This led into a specific focus on rhythm, tempo, and melody in the middle of the unit which then led to the concept of personal connection. Through the initial exploration of instruments, the hope was that the students would be able to develop a personal connection with one instrument that they would like to focus on the rest of the unit.
From there they began the journey of creating their own performance. In order to do this, they needed to understand that musicians support one another by providing ideas and feedback. They also needed to understand that each student is responsible for their own learning and needs to stay on track with developing their own work. As well, creating their own music requires organization and time management skills. These skills definitely support the bigger concepts in the unit.
Once the timeline was mapped out and Peter could clearly talk his way through the unit, we then set out to create specific steps for learning that would be unpacked in order to support the conceptual understandings.
The ‘steps for learning’ breakdown the timeline further, giving a clear direction for all students. The wording on each step for learning is very important as it must allow for a ‘low entry point’ but also a 'high ceiling', meaning that all learners have an entry point into the learning in the unit. The steps for learning are made explicit and visual in Peter’s teaching space in order to keep students on track and to give them opportunities to identify where they are at in the unit. Students progress through these steps at a pace that suits them and their learning and whatever they are focusing on at the time.
If a high flying students gets through all the steps for learning, they just swing back to the start and find a more difficult challenge to focus on based on their own ability and understanding. The steps for learning definitely keep students on track and are a perfect way for the teacher to identify where each student is at in regards to their own learning. As well, the students can do mini-reflections after each step before moving on to the next step for learning in the unit. A great assessment opportunity for teachers.
Steps for Learning
See Peter’s steps for learning above. As part of the exploration at the beginning of the unit, Peter felt it was necessary to introduce horn instruments to his students, but this needed direct teacher instruction. Peter placed students into smaller groups for this direct instruction in order to teach them specific techniques related to horns. As he worked with smaller groups, the other students continued on with their personal inquiries. The direct instruction with horns was done in a pull out, small group manner which was executed very well on Peter's part.
We are now in the second half of this unit. Peter and I have been constantly reflecting on how the unit is progressing, what has been working well, and what he needs to refine in order to improve the overall learning experiences of the students.
I’ll be writing another blog post at the end of the unit to share Peter’ successes and his final teacher reflections in this unit. If you are a PYP Coordinator or music teacher, please connect with Peter, he's got lots of great ideas to share.
How do you map out your units in the single subjects?
How do you ensure that your planning helps to differentiate learning experiences to meet the needs of all of your students?
How do you make learning intentions and expectations explicit and visual in order to keep students on track with their learning?
Would love to hear your ideas. Thanks for reading. And thanks to Peter Diglin for his permission to share the details of his unit and his teaching!
Setting the Scene
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you are either deeply immersed in the start of another school year or about to be. Just this week, our new school director, reminded us that the beginning of the school year is truly a fresh start. A new beginning that allows us to reframe, reorganize, and recalibrate. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but more so a time to reflect and refine what we do in order to impact student learning on a deeper level. When we find ourselves thinking about these things, we tap into new levels of inspiration, purpose and hope. How can this not help to make us better educators?
I want to share some of the things that I’ve been working on that I hope will allow me to be more impactful and influential in my own leadership role and my ways of working with the teachers that I am so fortunate enough to be able to coach on a daily basis.
In order for me to have the impact that I desire, I can never lose sight of what it is like to be in the trenches of teaching and to remember what it was like to have to be on my game every single day when I was teaching full-time. The day-to-day demands on teachers can be overwhelming and very hard to navigate. It takes a very special focus and a relentless level of effort to remain on the top of our teaching games. As a leader, I never want to lose sight of this, so I consider it my responsibility to ensure that I provide the very best support possible for the teachers that I coach.
My job is to ensure that they are in the position to do their best work possible. To me this means that I need to be thoughtful about the ways in which I support them in their own planning and their own professional development.
A Framework for the Planning Process
Bearing this in mind, the planning process needs to be streamlined and made much more efficient for teachers in order to allow them to find greater purpose and meaning in the work that they do day in and day out with their students.
What I want to share with you in this blog post is a pre-unit planning framework that I have developed over the past few years that is continually being refined each year. It’s essentially a roadmap to unit planning that helps to break down not only the ‘why’ of our teaching, but to think our way through the how and the what of our teaching as well.
As a Primary Years Programme (PYP) school, we have a certain framework that we adhere to in our planning process. As a reminder of the essential elements of the PYP, I have created a planning prompts document, kind of like a cheat sheet in a way, of the big ideas that we need to think our way through when planning our units. This cheat sheet outlines the key concepts, the Learner Profile, the Approaches to Learning Skills, and both discipline specific concepts and related concepts that transcend subject specific boundary lines.
Using this cheat sheet, we can sit down to not only plan new units, but also revisit units taught from the year before in order to promote a deeper discussion about how these units might be refined. Again, this is not about reinventing the wheel, but instead about promoting more meaningful discussions related to teaching and learning. It’s about being more intentional and focused on the ‘why’ behind our teaching. See the planning prompts sheet below:
Pre-Unit Planning Outline Document
Whether we are planning a completely new unit or working to refine a unit taught from the year before, we use an additional planning document that allows us to define what we want the enduring understanding to be in the unit. It’s this enduring understanding that will be crafted into a ‘central idea’. Once we determine what the enduring understanding of the unit is, we identify what the essential student learning outcomes are that we want to focus on. Once we determine what these outcomes are, we are then in a great position to decide on a conceptual lens. An overarching concept that will support the enduring understanding of the unit. We then look at the key concepts, related concepts, the Learner Profile attributes, and Approaches to Learning Skills that will best support the conceptual lens and the enduring understanding of the unit. As you can see from the document below, everything must fit on one page. This whole process is deeply rooted in refining the number of outcomes, concepts, attributes and skills to be taught. LESS is MORE!!!
Once the teachers identify what the big ideas of the unit are, we then create a mini-timeline on the same planning sheet. We think deeply about how the unit will be laid out in a way that reflects in what order we feel is best to teach the unit itself. Creating this timeline essentially provides the teachers with a roadmap to the unit from the first week to the last week of the unit. This allows for more meaningful discussions about formative assessment and how timely feedback can be provided to our learners with regularity.
Once the planning sheet is complete, it’s my job to then take it away and create a large poster-sized timeline for each teacher I that coach. This poster-sized timeline is a constant go to throughout our unit in order to have authentic conversations and reflections around how the unit is going. We look specifically at how each of these big ideas will be unpacked within the unit itself and the guiding questions that will promote deeper inquiry into the big ideas and understandings.
As part of this planning process, I decided to number code each of the ATL skills in the five areas of (see example below):
Thinking Skills, Research Skills, Communication Skills, Social Skills, and Self-Management Skills
The reason for doing this is to be able to better navigate our way through the newly enhanced ATLs provided by the IB PYP. In number coding the indicators within each of the five skill areas, teachers can dive more deeply into the skills themselves and and hopefully be able to think their way through which of these skills authentically and meaningfully support the enduring understanding of the the unit.
You can see on the planning prompts cheat sheet that there is a section on the far right that is devoted to the ATLs and has a breakdown of the sub skills in each of the five areas. Included in each of these areas are the number codes that correspond with each sub-skill. Teachers can then refer directly to our ATL handbook to look specifically at which indicators they would like to target as part of the their teaching in the unit. I’ve attached a PDF of the coded ATLs at the bottom of this post. Feel free to print off and use.
Have a look at some of the example poster-sized timelines below that I create for each of the teachers that I coach. These posters serve as a great guide post to the unit. I’ll write a separate blog post devoted to how we use these timelines to reflect on the unit and to document the guiding questions that drive all teaching and learning in the unit. But for now, just a quick glimpse into what the poster-sized timeline looks like.
I’ve attached the planning prompts cheat sheet that I created for visual arts and PE below. As well, I’ve also attached the pre-unit planning outline documents for visual arts and PE. I’ll be creating one specifically for music next week that I will also share.
Single Subject Inspiration
It is my firm belief that the single subjects provide wonderful opportunities for all students to flourish through the arts and through movement. Single subject teachers can have such an impact on a student’s life by helping them discover what’s possible within themselves. If we can hook our students into the amazing possibilities that exist through the arts and through movement, we can change their lives by inspiring them to discover unknown possibilities and potential that exists within them.
Being more purposeful and intentional in our planning helps to create wonderful learning opportunities and engagements with our students. This, without question, is the most important step in the teaching and learning process.
Thanks for reading. Hope this post has sparked some ideas for you in regards to your teaching process.
Over the past few years, I have tried to understand, on a much deeper level, the Meaningful PE framework in order to make more sense of each of the 5 features that this framework is structured on.
Truth be told, I’ve developed a strong interest in unpacking this framework on a deeper level in order to better understand how it can be applied in the teaching and learning taking place in PE. It has led me down multiple paths and has sparked some great discussions with Dr. Tim Fletcher, Dr. Doug Gleddie, and other educators that I know who strongly believe in this framework and the positive impact it can have on inspiring young people to embrace physical activity and sport in their lives.
As I dig more deeply into the Meaningful PE framework, I can’t help but to reflect on my own experiences with physical activity and sport while growing up and how I found meaning in movement at a young age. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family environment, physical activity and sport provided me with an escape from the darkness that often defined my surroundings. As the youngest of 5 children, I had to make my own way through this darkness and, without question, I found purpose and hope through physical activity and sport.
It’s physical activity and sport that got me out the door each day with friends, but also many days on my own. From about the age of 9, I had fallen in love with football (American football) and would work endlessly at developing motor competence in the areas of throwing, punting, and catching a football. Growing up in Canada, we had very harsh winters, but the cold and the snow did not hold me back. I always found a way to get out and work on developing my skills and to enjoy the game that meant so much to me.
There were times I would drag a snow shovel outside to clear and 2 meter by 2 meter patch in the snow, so that I could have a flat surface that was wide enough to take 2-3 steps in order to be able to punt or throw the football. Often times I had a friend on the receiving end of these punts and passes, but even when alone, I was inspired to throw and punt the football for hours and loved every second of it. I had truly found states of flow in many of those moments while growing up.
Little did I know, but I would go on to play 13 years of competitive American football as a quarterback and a punter that concluded with 5 seasons as a quarterback and punter for my university team in Windsor, Ontario. Many lifelong friendships were formed through football and I appreciate everything the sport gave back to me.
Although football was my main sport while growing up, I had also embraced many other forms of movement such as cycling, climbing, golfing, and running.
The reason that I’m sharing this part of my life with you is to emphasize the point that I was inspired to move at a young age and that I had found purpose and hope through movement given the circumstances of my life at that time.
Looking back on my life of movement, I cannot help but be drawn to the Meaningful PE framework as it makes so much sense to me when I reflect back on my own experiences with physical activity and sport while growing up. It is so very easy to see how the 5 features of the Meaningful PE framework (Fun, Personal Relevance, Motor Competence, Social Interaction, and Challenge) were all interwoven within my movement experiences, helping me to find so much meaning and purpose in the physical pursuits that I was engaged in at the time.
It is through this lens that I look when trying to provide students with purposeful physical education experiences. I want them to be inspired, to be curious, to be filled with joy and wonder, and to ultimately know that they can find a capacity within themselves to move and to fall in love with physical activity and sport. I want them to know that it can change their lives forever, just as it did for me.
Fast forward to my current role as a pedagogical coordinator and teacher coach, my job provides me with daily opportunities to work closely with teachers during the planning and reflection process in order to provide the most meaningful learning experiences possible in physical education, music, and visual arts.
Although I strongly feel that the 5 features apply just as well in music and visual arts, in this blog post, I want to share my current understanding of the Meaningful PE framework, not only based on my work with PE teachers helping them to plan their units, but also in the work that I do co-teaching alongside them.
The 5 features of the Meaningful PE framework are meant to be guideposts that help teachers to think more deeply about how they are going to design teaching and learning in a way that ensures that students have as many opportunities as possible for meaningful movement experiences in PE.
In order to bring the 5 features of Meaningful PE alive in our program here at Gardens Elementary School in Saudi Arabia, we have experimented with different ways to create an environment that gets our students emotionally invested in their own learning at the start of the unit. We believe it is necessary to create these emotional hooks at the outset of the unit in order to tap into their curiosity, wonder, and to provide them with opportunities to co-construct what success might look like for them in the specific unit they are about to dive into.
Once we can co-construct what success might look like in differentiated ways, the students can embark on their own learning journeys that honor where they are at and what it is that they would like to work on.
For us, this is usually done by unpacking what students find most challenging about a chosen area of physical activity that we will focus on in a unit. For example, if we are about to embark on a cycling unit, we will have the students identify what their biggest challenges are. This is primarily done through an exploration of the physical activity (in this case cycling) for the first couple of classes in the unit.
By prioritizing the feature of challenge, our aim is to help our students understand that each of us have specific things that are challenging and that finding the right challenge to work on is a great entry point to their learning. Here is an example of what the class list of challenges might look like in a cycling unit:
What challenges you the most in cycling?
Riding my bike in narrow places
Riding my bike on different surfaces (grass, gravel, paved surfaces, etc.)
Switching speeds from slow, to medium speed, to fast
Doing rode signals when I am riding
Riding closely to others
Once the students have identified, through the exploration, what their challenges are, the process of co-constructing success criteria begins. To keep learning on track, we use a simple self-assessment strategy that involves students using red, green, and yellow sticky dots to assess where they are at with different challenges. They write their names on these sticky dots, placing the dots on the challenge that they are working on. Red=impossible at this point, Yellow=can sometimes do, Green=fully capable of doing. The students do regular check ins to self-assess their progress in the unit.
By prioritizing the feature of challenge, we feel that the other 4 features fall into place quite nicely. As the students have lots of autonomy during this process, we feel the choices they make are personally relevant to them. We have seen an increased level of engagement and most students making lots of progress in regards to their skills in the unit. Therefore, motor competence is also taking care of itself, but the teachers still check in on the students to offer support when need be and to provide timely feedback to them based on their needs in the moment.
We also feel that the feature of social interaction is also taking care of itself as the lessons are set up in a way that allow students opportunities to work individually, in small groups or in larger groups. As well, we constantly observe that the students seem to be deeply engaged and having fun as part of this process.
As we think about our PE program for next year, we are thinking about how we can embed, more deeply, the 5 features of the Meaningful PE framework and how we can better unpack these features to provide more authentic movement experiences for our students. The questions we are currently reflecting on are:
What do we need to get rid of?
What do we need to explore further?
What are we unaware of?
How do we know that what we are doing is having the impact that we want?
Although we have seen lots of success and genuinely feel that what we are doing is working well, we must remain open to new ideas and different ways of applying the Meaningful PE framework in our program. We have interpreted the framework in a way that makes sense to us, but there are so many pieces to the teaching and learning puzzle. At this point, we have a few of the pieces in our hand and these pieces fit together nicely for us. They make sense to us.
We have been able to draw meaning from the pieces that we have put together. However, there is a long way to go in continuing to build this puzzle in order to create a more comprehensive understanding and a more complete picture of what we can do to plant the seeds for young people to be inspired to find greater purpose and joy in physical activity and sport. We definitely on the right track, but there is so much more that we need to learn in order to better apply this framework. Thanks for reading.
As I reflect back on a recent podcast that I recorded with Dr. Scott Kretchmar, I’m constantly drawn back to the reference he made in the episode to ‘keeping our playgrounds alive as long as possible’. Scott spoke in-depth about his aging body and how he has to continually reframe and rewrite his own ongoing story of physical activity and movement. His own narrative has shifted, but his commitment to helping physical educators understand what meaningful movement experiences are in PE still burns brightly for Scott.
When working with PE teachers and students, I’m inspired, on a daily basis, to try and figure out what is most important in regards to planting the seeds necessary for intrinsic motivation to flourish in our PE programs. I’m a long, long way from figuring out the answers, but the greatest joy lies directly in the challenge of testing out and modifying ideas and really involving students in helping to figure out whether or not the approaches we are using in our PE program are actually working.
Although Kretchmar is an aging kinesiologist who strives to be as active as possible despite the constraints that his body has placed on him, the wider and more meaningful message he hopes to help physical education and health teachers understand is that keeping our playgrounds alive means that we must do everything possible to engage students in physical activity and movement from an early age.
I want to share the recent work we have done in our grade 3 Individual Pursuits unit that has been focused on skateboarding and how we are genuinely hoping to inspire our students to find joy in movement.
To give you more insight into the unit, I must provide a bit more detail so that you can have a clearer understanding of the constraints that we are up against in this unit. Our school year is divided up into 3 cycles. The students have PE lessons twice a week in cycles 1 and 2, but in cycle 3 they have swimming which means that one PE lesson a week is devoted to swimming whereas the other lesson is for skateboarding. This means that the students have only 6 PE lessons, 40 minutes in length, devoted to skateboarding.
Considering the fact that the students had a skateboarding unit in grade 2, many of the students have already been introduced to it. However, there are still some new students that have had no experience at all with skateboarding.
So, when planning this unit, we were very aware that we would have only 6 lessons that are 40 minutes each. Not very much time to dive deeply into skateboarding technique in this unit. So, what was the best way forward?
As we are heavily invested in the Meaningful PE framework, we definitely try to consider all 5 features of this framework when trying to map our units out. Although all 5 features hold a lot of importance to us (Fun, Relevance, Motor Competence, Social Integration and Challenge), we feel that our work this year has heavily focused on the feature of ‘Challenge’.
Throughout the year, our teaching and our reflections have constantly led us back to the feature of ‘Challenge’ as being prioritized in units. However, in saying this, we have found that the 4 other features are not neglected, but connect deeply to the feature of ‘Challenge’. We have found that when students can find the ‘just right’ challenge, everything else falls into place. By finding the ‘just right’ challenge, it is very relevant to them as it is an entry point to their learning that they have autonomy over.
Motor competence then becomes the focus as they are engaged in developing their skills related to skateboarding. Social integration falls nicely into place as they are generally inclined to take on different challenges with their peers and to show their progress and learning with each other. The feature of ‘fun’ is obvious as the students are genuinely engaged and experiencing joy because they are able to find some element of success in the activities. As every student is engaged, we find very little behavior management problems at all in class.
We have spoken about and unpacked the feature of challenge with our students in grades 1-5. They understand the language of challenge and the importance of finding the ‘just right’ challenge in helping them to not only experience more joy but to also develop their skills (motor competence).
Considering we had limited time, to kickstart this unit the teacher, I was co-teaching with (Bill Kelly) and I got the kids right into things by letting them explore movement on a skateboard and to identify what they felt their biggest challenges were. Using sticky notes, the students wrote down what they felt their biggest challenges were in the initial exploration of skateboarding.
As you can see from the visual above, they had shared a number of different challenges that they had experienced. Using this as a launch point, I created a visual of leveled ‘challenges’ that the PE department had created for the skateboarding unit.
Level 1 challenges are quite basic but fundamentally important for the students to develop competence in. Level 2 challenges are more in-depth and definitely require more technical skills and motor competence.
Red, Yellow, Green Dot Self-Assessment Strategy
At the beginning of the second class of skateboarding, the students put on their gear and headed to the outdoor basketball court. I was able to explain the colored dot self-assessment strategy to the students and quickly describe each of the Level 1 challenges. When using this strategy, Red= Impossible at this point, Yellow= Can sometimes do it, Green= Can consistently do it.
The main idea behind this assessment is that it provides students with the opportunity to self-assess where they are at in regards to the different challenges. The bigger goal here is for the students to show their progress and the way that they do this is by layering the colored dot stickers.
For example, if a challenge is impossible to the student, they simply take a red sticky dot and write their name on it and place it on the chart paper assessment. This often leads to the student practicing this particular skill either independently or with the help of a peer or teacher. Once the student has made progress and perform the skill some of the time, they go back to assessment chart and use a yellow dot to self-assess themselves at this point. They write their name on the dot and place it on top of the previous red dot they had put down. They repeat the process until they are confident and competent in the skill and then self-assess themselves with a green dot which then goes on top of the previous yellow dot. What we now have is a progression of learning that is visible through the layering of the dots. You can see the layering of dots below.
This is a fantastic assessment strategy because it provides so much insight for the teacher. When the teacher sees reds and yellow dots, they know who they need to provide immediate feedback to, in order to help these students move forward with their learning.
Level 2 Challenges
In order to move on to the level 2 challenges, the students need to haver self-assessed themselves in most or all of the challenges identified in the Level 1 challenge chart. There is a lot of different challenges in both 1 and 2, therefore the students have multiple opportunities to find the ‘just right’ entry point into their own learning.
All students are able to start where they feel is best and to progress forward from there which means that each student experiences success. We are able to also celebrate the success of each student regardless of where they are at in relation to their level of skill.
As researchers of our own practice, we can think that this approach is working with our students, but our biggest question is, “How do we know whether or not it is working?”. In an effort to find this out, our greatest resource is the students themselves. I set out to do quick interviews with a number of the students and they could all share that the dot check in helped them by showing their progress. As well, the students were able to share some of their big successes. In the video below, you can see one of our students going down a hill on her skateboard. This was something she was afraid of, but was able to overcome the fear and become competent in this task.
In moving forward, we will keep exploring ways that help to intrinsically motivate our students to be more engaged in their physical education experience by helping them to find their 'just right' entry point to learning, regardless of the unit in PE. We have had some major success in units such as racket sports, cycling, and skateboarding this year and look forward to refining our approach the rest of this school year and into next school year. Thanks for reading and hope you found some value in this post.
Using stories as a provocation to better engage young learners in PE
Creating meaningful and relevant movement opportunities for our young students is directly dependent on our ability to spark curiosity, wonder, imagination, and joy in their learning on a daily basis.
Inspiring movement and physical activity can be purposefully planned for through the use of specific provocations that help to capture our young learner’s imaginations as early as possible in the units that we teach.
I’m lucky to work very closely with Zack Smith, who is a fantastic early year’s physical education teacher in the kindergarten section of The KAUST School here in Saudi Arabia. Zack and I have closely collaborated over the past three years in regards to developing the most meaningful PE experiences possible for our young learners. Zack has many great ideas and deep insight into the developmental needs of kindergarten students which helps to springboard some really good discussions around unit design in PE. The work that Zack and I are doing is an attempt to better understand how the Meaningful PE framework can be applied to 3-year olds. The big questions that we have are:
How can we create meaningful movement experiences for our youngest learners?
How can we make their learning in PE relevant to who they are?
How can we help them connect with their classmates in order to develop the social skills of working together?
How can we ensure they are challenged in order to build their motor competence?
How can we infuse joy and delight every step of the way in their learning journey in physical education?
Over the past few months, Zack and I have been planning more specifically in relation to how he might engage his students on a much deeper level in order to not only develop their motor competence, but to also ensure that all learning is relevant and accessible to them in a way that brings delight and joy.
At the beginning of the school year, Zack created his own professional inquiry that explored how he could better use verbal and symbolic language with his students in order to better engage them in their learning and to create more agency. Through close observation and data collection in Zack’s PE classes, I was able to share some important data with him that led to us discussing his use of voice and visuals in his teaching.
Although Zack has always used his voice and visuals in ways to capture his students’ attention, we created a plan that would take this to what we felt was the next level.
Story-Telling as a Provocation
Zack has always told stories to his young learners in the past, but what we decided to do differently was to specifically create stories that were more purposefully structured in ways that inspire an imaginative journey that embeds movement and physical activity as part of the storyline.
Planning these stories from scratch takes an open-mind, some deeply creative thinking, and carefully planning the types of visuals to be used in the story. Each lesson is essentially a short chapter with each chapter building in complexity in order to set up different challenges that the students will need to explore and take part in.
As Zack’s pedagogical/instructional coach, one of my roles is to help him to create teaching resources based on our planning discussions. Our goal has always been to deepen levels of engagement which can often be measured through further observations. As Zack uses the resources as part of his teaching, my job is to then observe the students to see whether or not they are more engaged in the lesson. This can easily be done by literally counting the number of times Zack has to re-direct his students to get them back on track. I can also observe his students as Zack tells the stories to see how closely they are paying attention.
Through the use of voice and specific visuals in his story-telling, we have found that the students have definitely been paying more attention. We have also found that the number of re-directs on Zack’s part has gone down considerably as the students are really engaged in his lessons. This provides us with valuable data to show that the use of story-telling with visuals has helped to not only keep students on track with their learning, but to better engage them in the lessons.
I’d like to share the story we created so far in Zack’s current unit and what we are hoping to accomplish through this story.
STRIKE FORCE HEROES
Zack is currently doing a unit that focuses the students on developing striking skills using their hand and other striking implements such as soft paddles, rackets, bats and also their feet. These manipulative skills help children to strengthen the muscles in their hands, develop eye-everything coordination, increase physical control, and explore cognitive concepts like cause and effect.
Have a look below to see the visuals that we are using in Zack’s Strike Force Heroes story and a summary of each part of the story so far. The goal is to get the kids engaged in movement through the themes of the story. Each student can be a part of the Strike Force team in order to defeat the evil villain. Exciting stuff!
Reflections after the first two lessons?
Both Zack and I have noticed full engagement, less need for re-directing students, and some really happy and excited kids. We have noticed that they were actually making efforts to touch the targets with the paddle as they navigated their way through the obstacle course. We also noticed less behavior problems as the students had options. They didn't have to go through the course exactly as laid out in the story visual (#15). They could drop in and out of different areas of the obstacle course journey in order to tap into their curiosity more.
Zack and I met (today) at the end of the day to pre-plan next week's chapter. There are some adjustments that we will make to re-emphasize certain parts of the story in order to draw out the learning intentions that we have for this unit. Planning for meaningful experiences in physical education with young children takes careful planning that goes well beyond just letting them run around for 30 minutes with no specific purpose. It is easy to think that 3 -year olds just need to play and explore with no purpose. Although this is true at times, Zack and I are carefully planning how they play and explore in order to create meaningful movement experiences that connect them with their classmates, challenge them to learn new ways to move their bodies, and to use their imagination in ways that bring them joy and delight.
Looking forward to sharing another blog post showing the progression of learning. In the meantime, check out the photos of the students working hard in their role as Strike Force Heroes. Thanks for reading.
Creating meaningful learning experiences in physical education must begin with engaging our students as quickly as possible in the unit. Regardless of the unit being taught, beginning with a rich and powerful provocation can help to create the emotional hooks necessary to inspire movement at a level that is just right for each of our students.
This is something we take very seriously in our physical education program at Gardens Elementary School. Taking the necessary time and energy to pre-plan is an essential part of the design process when it comes to the units that we teach. See the photo below of our poster-sized timeline for our unit.
Our ultimate aim is to help our young learners make powerful connections not only between the important concepts and skills in the unit itself, but also to understand that each person has their own entry point to learning that must be accessed as soon as possible in the unit.
We have been working very hard to unpack the 5 features of meaningful PE experiences with our students this year in order to help them know and understand how these features authentically apply in their own life and learning related to physical activity and movement.
To quickly summarize, the Learning About Meaningful Physical Education research team has done a tremendous amount of work related to better understanding how educators can inspire young people to find joy and delight through movement and to engage in physical activity as part of their every day life both in school and out of school.
The PE teachers at Gardens Elementary School and myself are making sense of the Meaningful PE framework in our own way, tweaking and adjusting our approaches, testing out different pedagogical strategies, and most importantly, reflecting on our teaching and student learning every step of the way in order to refine the way we deliver our program.
Today’s blog post will be the first in a series of blog posts dedicated to how we are unpacking the 5 features of the Meaningful PE framework (Fun, Motor Competence, Relevance, Challenge, and Social Integration) in our current Individual Pursuits unit that is focused on inspiring kids to be active through racket sports.
So, let’s get right into how we specifically kickstarted this unit in a way that zeroed in on the big ideas that we were hoping the students would grasp on to in the very first class of their individual pursuits unit.
The Power of Provocation
All learning must begin with a powerful provocation that creates the emotional hooks necessary to draw out the big ideas of the unit. Bearing this in mind, we started the unit off straight away by using an inspirational video of a world champion javelin thrower from Kenya. Our hope was simple — to get the kids to identify the important concepts of perseverance, social connection, challenge, and self-improvement.
You might ask yourself ‘Why would they use a video about a javelin thrower in a racket sports unit?’. The short answer to this question is that conceptual understanding is not subject or unit specific but transcends discipline/unit specific boundary lines. When drawing out the importance of the 4 concepts mentioned above, we wanted a powerful hook in order to do this, therefore we felt it wasn’t necessary to specifically use a racket sports video to do this, but instead to find the most powerful video we could to draw these ideas out.
All learning not only begins with a powerful provocation but also a driving question or questions to begin the unpacking process. The driving questions we introduced in the first 5 minutes of this unit related to the video that they were going to watch can be seen below.
Why was Julius Yego successful?
What challenges did Julius Yego face?
What did you like most about the Julius Yego story?
As the students watched the video, we asked them to think about the above three questions and to be ready to share some of their thoughts with their classmates and also be ready to write down their ideas on yellow sticky notes.
Investing of Time!
Many PE teachers say that they don’t have time to do things like this in PE because their job is to get students as physically active as possible during their PE lessons. I couldn’t agree more, however, getting the students to do some heavy cognitive lifting early in the unit helps to unpack the big ideas and identify what the overarching learning outcomes are in the unit. Being clear and explicit about these outcomes is the key to great teaching and, without question, reinforces and deepens their learning, therefore is hugely worth the investment of time.
A teacher directed approach that involves the teacher standing up in front of the class delivering a long monologue about what the unit is about, what they will learn, what they will need to do, and how they will be assessed not only disengages them, but also does not involve them in the co-constructing of learning.
Involving students in the co-construction of learning and involving them in the unpacking of the big ideas/outcomes gives them ownership and autonomy over the learning process which creates an environment that places them front and center in the units being taught.
As you can see from the photos below, the students not only shared their ideas about the Julius Yego video, they also recorded their thinking straight away in the unit.
The above process took less than 15 minutes and was time well invested. After they finished recording their ideas on yellow sticky notes, they immediately dove into an exploration of racket sports for the next 20-25 minutes of the lesson.
Simply sending them off to explore was not enough though. We had a 4th question that we wanted them to think about as they explored lots of different skills related to racket sports.
What challenges did you face today when exploring racket sports?
As you can see, our intention is to unpack the key feature of ‘Challenge’ in the Meaningful PE framework. To us, it is not enough to just think about the feature of ‘Challenge’ when planning PE experiences in the different units we teach. We our setting out to intentionally unpack what this means to students in order to allow them to ultimately find their own entry point to learning in each unit.
If we can get our students to understand that self-improvement in rackets sports is about finding ‘just right’ challenges that suit their level of skill, we are definitely starting the unit off on a winning foot.
At the end of the exploration, as an exit ticket, the students wrote down a few challenges that they had experienced while they were practicing different skills in this first class. We used their ideas about the challenges they faced to design further learning in this unit that is very much differentiated to suit each of our student's individual needs.
Prep Time Poster Creation
Evan Bryceland (the PE teacher I’m co-teaching this unit with) and I, used these yellow sticky notes to analyze and categorize the big ideas that the students came up with.
I then created a very large sized display that included many of their ideas while drawing out and emphasizing the 4 big ideas that we are focusing on in this unit (perseverance, social connection, challenge, and self-improvement).
We used this display at the beginning of the second class to get our students focused in on these big ideas in order to spark their learning further in this unit. We feel that the Julius Yego video was a perfect provocation to start the unit off and getting the students to do the heavy cognitive lifting early on was a great way to involve them in the unpacking process very early in this unit. I’ve included the inspiring video below for you to watch.
I’ll be doing another blog post soon to take you deeper into this unit and how we are working very hard to help every single one of our students find success at their own level. Thanks for reading folks.
Creating Meaningful Experiences on the Bike
Over the past 9 weeks, the grade 5 students at Gardens Elementary School took part in an intensive cycling unit that began with the students identifying how challenging different types of riding can be for them.
We felt that starting the unit off with getting the students to reflect on their own level of skill was a great place to begin as it would ultimately set in motion a path of self-directed learning that is based on students finding their own entry point into the unit itself.
Some of the challenges that they came up with can be seen in the photo below. Using various types of assessment strategies, we had the students practice the skills that they felt they needed to work on to become more competent cyclists in our community.
Once we had a good feel for what each student’s entry point to learning was in this unit, we purposely introduced a self-assessment strategy called the ‘challenge scale’. Using a 1-10 rating, the students would self-assess themselves each class in relation to how challenging a particular task (of their choice) was for them. The aim here was to help them understand that finding the ‘just right’ challenge zone (a 6-8 on the challenge scale) would give them the greatest opportunity to not only develop their skills, but to also create opportunities for them to set their own challenges based on knowing themselves as learners and their skill ability.
See the photo below of different ways that we used this self-assessment strategy throughout our unit.
The last few weeks of this unit, we felt the students were ready to go riding out into our community and wanted to show them what was possible for them in regards to different types of cycling challenges.
As we are situated in the middle of a desert area, we decided to access different sand and dirt areas for adventure riding. We had all the students try this out for one class, but during this class, if they felt that riding in sand and dirt was too challenging for them, we would differentiate accordingly by giving them the opportunity to ride on paved roads and in parking lots and create different challenges for themselves. Those that chose to ride on paved roads or in parking lots did so with an intentional purpose –– practicing road signals, practicing tight turns while maintaining balance etc.
As the unit progressed, we introduced the students to more and more challenges in order to offer more options to them. As we have some different types of small dirt and sand hills of varying steepness, we showed them these areas which are about 5 minutes from our school. The students seemed to really enjoy riding on these hills. This was not based on a hunch, but through interviewing them, they expressed, on multiple occasions, how much they enjoyed cycling in these areas. However, there were still some students that preferred riding on paved roads and in parking lots.
As we approached the last class, we handed ownership over to the students to create a journey of their choice that they wanted to embark on. The classroom teacher was great in offering up extra time for the students to use for this final class. In total we had roughly 2 hours. The students were responsible for forming their own groups and deciding what it was that they wanted to do the most. We knew that we would need extra adult supervision, so lined up a few teachers to join us on this day.
The types of adventures selected were:
Riding to a local restaurant, getting takeaway then going on a long bike ride and having a picnic lunch.
Getting takeaway and then riding to the sand and dirt area to have races and make a small ramp to jump.
Going for a long ride through different parks and have a picnic.
Going to the skate park and doing some simple and easy stunt riding on bicycles then have a picnic.
Each group of students were responsible for time management and organizing costs associated with ordering takeaway and logistics involved in ordering lunch and picking it up. They used math time to look at distances that they would ride and the timing involved in getting back to school before the end of the day.
See the photos and videos below of some of the adventures the students chose to design and take part in.
As a final assessment, we felt that it was important to get them to reflect on their biggest learning in the unit, their proudest moment, how the challenge scale impacted them, and how they took action in regards to cycling when they were not in school or in PE.
You can see some of their reflections below.
In moving forward, we are starting a team games unit this week. Our plan is to begin this unit at school, but then get the students back on their bikes to ride to different parks in our community where they can play team games of their choice. We feel that we can continue cycling with a particular focus on riding for safety in the community when they go out to different parks to play team games. Hopefully the learning will continue in regards to cycling despite the shift over to team games.
Some of you reading may think that it’s impossible to have a cycling unit in PE as there is no access to parks and other types of adventure riding outside of your school. However, instead of looking at it like this, what if you were to think of what was possible with a cycling unit at your own school? Are there possibilities to design race courses and to create obstacle courses on the school grounds? What might be possible?
It is our fundamental belief that cycling is a lifelong skill and has a very important part in a PE program. Providing the opportunities for students to develop their competence and find a joy of cycling is our ultimate aim. Although there are many logistics involved in setting up a unit such as this, it is well worth the effort. If you are interested in knowing more, send me a message and I’m happy to share how we set up this unit.
Thanks for reading!
“FOOPO, Fear Of Other People’s Opinions”
There are people in the world who care about everybody’s opinion of them, both personally and professionally. On the flip side, there are people who have a “I don’t give a shit attitude about what anyone thinks”.
In both cases, this is extreme thinking because on one hand, being overly consumed with what everyone thinks about us or our work crushes any hope we have of living authentically and truly being ourselves. When we do not live authentically, it’s impossible to produce our best work and to make the difference that we are meant to make in the world.
Not caring about what anyone thinks is the opposite and negates the fact that, neuro-biologically, we are indeed programmed to care about what people think. It's built deeply within us. So, having the attitude that “I don’t care about what anyone thinks”, removes any possibility of deep human connection with those that truly do matter to us.
We need others to make us better at what we do, there is no doubt about this, but finding that delicate balance between caring about what people think and not caring about what people think is an important strategy to be at our best, both personally and professionally.
I recently listened to a great Finding Mastery podcast where the host of the show, Dr. Michael Gervais interviews well-known author and speaker, Dr. Brene Brown. Brene’s work has been influential to me both personally and professionally. In this episode, Brene shares her one inch by one inch strategy which is meant to challenge people to genuinely think about people in their lives whose opinions truly matter to us. People who challenge us to be our best and whose opinions/feedback we need in order to continue to grow and learn.
Now, the hard part is to truly filter and distill your list down to a handful of people. Using a one inch by inch square shaped piece of paper, your job is to write down the names of those people within this square inch of space. As Brene says, you will not be able to fit too many people’s names on this card, so be specific.
It is a very interesting strategy that has me thinking about who I would write down on this list. I think that it is OK to have two cards, one for our personal lives and one for our professional lives. Perhaps, there will be some overlap, who knows.
When I think of my own personal and professional pursuits, there are people who I turn to for advice and to seek their opinions and feedback about my work and my life. It's these people who genuinely matter to me. However, it can be easy to be consumed, at times, with worry about what other people think of me or my work. I think that the act of trying to distill our lists down to a handful of people whose opinions and feedback truly matter is worthy of exploration. It's one thing to create this list, but an entirely different ball game trying to put it into action in our lives. This certainly has me reflecting and thinking about my list.
So………if you had a one-inch square piece of paper, whose names would you write down? It’s not as easy as it sounds!
Good luck to you if you are going to give this strategy a go!
Last week I blogged about how our grade 3 Adventure Challenge unit in PE is focused on better understanding how conflict can be resolved in group settings. You can find last week's blog post here. We chose the Approaches to Learning social skill of 'Resolving Conflict' because it connects perfectly with what the students are working on in their classroom unit (Landforms).
In the classroom, they will be doing a lot of group work in this unit, so it is necessary to understand that when conflict arises, it is each group member's responsibility to try their best to resolve it on their own before going to the teacher for help.
We cannot expect that the students will magically understand how to resolve conflict and leave them to their own devices to solve problems and issues as they arise in group settings. Strategies and solutions must be explicitly unpacked in a way that allows students to voice their own ideas about how conflict can be resolved or lessened and how it can be avoided in the future by consciously choosing to act and behave in specific ways.
As an Adventure Challenge unit and a Landforms unit seem miles apart and that there is little or no connection between the units, we believe that the glue that holds these units together in regards to meaningful integration is to reinforce and to help deepen student understanding in relation to 'Resolving Conflict', so this is the focus of our collaborative planning process between PE and the classroom.
PE began to unpack 'resolving conflict' first through a number of different learning engagements in the adventure challenge unit. We asked the students to identify why conflict was occurring in their groups and with other groups when they were taking part in different challenges. The students identified 9 different reasons why conflict had occurred.
The above visual was created to reflect student voice and the reasons why they felt conflict was occurring in their groups. This visual was shared with their classroom teacher so that they could use it to generate more discussion about conflict resolution. Now that the bulk of work related to getting students to understand why conflict arises was done, we could have chosen to leave it at that and move forward in the unit. However, our thinking is that we are only halfway to where we want to be.
As teachers, we have to be explicit and very clear when teaching concepts and skills to our students. It's not good enough to bring up key points but not unpack them further through different learning engagements. To deepen student understanding related to resolving conflict, we needed to create more learning opportunities that got the students thinking not only about why conflict occurs, but also to identify strategies that they can put into action to resolve conflict or even avoid conflict in the future by choosing responsible ways to behave and act when interacting in their groups.
The Next Steps in the Process
It was now necessary to look at each of the reasons why conflict occurs and give the students opportunities to identify strategies that they could put into action when working in groups in order to lessen or avoid conflict in the future.
When the students came into the gym for their PE lesson, Billy Kelly and I had 9 individual A3 sized sheets of paper up on the wall with each one focused on one of the reasons why conflict occurs.
The students were divided up into roughly 4 groups of 4-5 students in each group. For this class we decided on only two stations with each station presenting a specific challenge. The students had roughly 15 minutes at each station to work together with their group members. We knew that conflict was going to arise, so we asked the students that as they took part in the challenge, that they think not only about why conflict arose, but also to think about potential strategies and solutions that would work to lessen or avoid this specific conflict in the future. When the students switched stations, they had a chance to go over to the display and to briefly write down their thoughts on sticky notes and add them to which area of conflict was the one that presented itself the most in the group challenge.
They completed the same task after the second station. The writing part of this lesson took roughly 2-3 minutes each time so at most 6 minutes total. Some teachers would argue that they don't want to use up any time that takes away from being physically active, but I want to emphasize that there is strong pedagogical rationale for providing time to unpack important skills and concepts, especially when these skills and concepts transcend discipline specific boundary lines. This type of learning is SO important for students to develop. Especially in this case as the strategies/solutions that the students come up with will be used in both the PE and classroom space.
Resolving Conflict Rubric
Now that the heavy cognitive lifting has been done by the students in regards to unpacking why conflict arises and what can be done to lessen or avoid it, it is now time to create a common assessment that can be used in both PE and in the classroom. Using student generated strategies and solutions based on their experiences in PE, Bill and I took all of the yellow sticky notes and identified that most of the conflict arises because of 4 specific reasons. It's these 4 areas that will be the focus on the self and peer assessment rubric.
Using student ideas, this is what the initial first draft of the self and peer assessment rubric looks like. I'll be sharing it with the classroom teacher who will present it to her students. The students will help to either add ideas or modify what's there in order to give them complete ownership over this process. The purpose of doing this is so that they are completely familiar with the rubric and understand it.
Once we go through this process, we will create a final version that will be used the last 3 weeks of the Landforms unit and the Adventure Challenge unit. The students will use the exact same rubric in both the PE space and the classroom space.
Here is the first draft of this rubric:
We now feel confident that we've provided the students with plenty of opportunity to be involved in this process and that they are genuinely ready to use this rubric. Teacher observations can also be included in order to give the students timely feedback related to each of the 4 areas identified above in the rubric. Looking forward to the rest of the unit and seeing whether or not the students can use what we've unpacked in a way that helps them better deal with conflict as it arises. Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.