I have already blogged about the new approach I am putting to the test in my Athletics unit here and here. As well, I introduced a pre-assessment task that I used this week as a starting point to the unit in a blog post a few days ago. The students in grade 3 and 4 have created their own learning teams that they will work together with throughout the duration of the Athletics unit. There are 9 learning outcomes that the students must be able to know and/or do by the end of the unit.
Maths will play a large part in the unit as one of the outcomes requires student to be able to measure and record time in relation to running and measure distance in relation to throwing and jumping. The learning teams set off to work in measuring both time and distance, but the students, on their teams, decided how they could best show their understanding of of how to measure both time and distance related to running, jumping, and throwing.
Questions, Questions, and More Questions
The students understand that their questions are very significant and that recording these questions plays an important role in their learning journey. As they are busily working away at designing their own learning tasks, they must write down any questions that they have and anything that they are having difficulty with. My goal is to go through all of their assessment sheets and to record all of their questions for my own teaching purposes. I will add to this list of questions as we proceed through the unit and use whole class discussions to address the answers to these questions. All questions will be recorded on large poster sized paper for the students to refer back to during the unit. Some questions generated so far are:
What is the middle button on a stopwatch for?
How do you reset a stopwatch?
When measuring throwing, do we measure where the ball lands or do we measure to where the ball stops rolling?
How should I position my arm to get more distance when I throw?
Is measuring time in running other distances like 30 meters, 50 meters, and 80 meters OK to do?
Is a handball throw and throwing for distance different? How?
As educators, we all know the power of AHA!! moments in our teaching. To see our students have these AHA! moments is great and to immediately highlight this learning to the whole class is critical in order to sustain or increase motivation. I have asked my students to record these AHA!! moments and to immediately let me know when it happens. These AHA!! moments may seem quite simple, but we must keep in mind that the students are only in grade 3 and 4 and that they have made these discoveries on their own. Some of the AHA!! moments that we had this week were:
Although I have allowed for student design of learning in PE in the past, this is the first time that I am putting it the the test for an entire unit. This is a learning experience for me as well as the students and through teacher reflection, I hope to refine my instruction as we progress through the unit. It was very cool to walk around and listen to their conversations and to observe what they were having difficulty with. Some groups were completely stuck and did not know what to do, but after posing some questions to them and giving them some helpful little hints, they were able to get started and made very good strides by the end of class. They also came up with some very innovative ideas in terms of the activities they chose to do in running jumping and throwing. Cool stuff! Will report on it more next week.
Choosing to be a physical education teacher can and should be a very rewarding experience, especially considering how times have changed and it is much easier to connect with like-minded professionals around the globe through blogging, Twitter etc. Making these important connections with other PE practitioners can serve to immediately improve upon one's teaching practice as there are so many opportunities to share and to learn from one another.
I was recently able to connect with Kelly Ann Parry, a doctorate student in physical education from Wollongong University in New South Wales, Australia. She shares her vision of PE and backs her teaching up with sound pedagogical research. Her passion is obvious and her 4th year university students are lucky to have her as their course instructor.
As her students are working on understanding different types of instructional models related to the teaching of Athletics, Kelly asked me if I would be willing to Skype with her and her 4th year students to discuss my own approach to teaching Athletics to elementary students. I was obviously happy to do so as I value any opportunity for healthy discussion related to physical education in general, but in this case I am actually engaged in an Athletics unit at the moment, so the timing was perfect.
Speaking with her students on Skype was an excellent experience and I was reminded about my own days long ago when I was doing my teacher training. Was it ever different then! Kelly's students came up with some great questions that helped carry the discussion forward. Some of the topics discussed were student management, assessment, behavior management, differentiation, safety concerns, ensuring an approach that helps students with disabilities achieve success, and international education in general. Well done to Kelly and her students. I was happy to be a part of the discussion. Kelly Ann Parry can be found on Twitter at @kellyannparry.
In order to tap into prior knowledge in regards to the Athletics unit for my grade 2 class today, I had the students share whatever they could remember from the unit last year. Using the word 'Athletics' , the students had to come up with 9 different words or phrases related to Athletics and also answer the question, "How will we know we are getting better at Athletics? I recorded their answers on the chart paper that you see in the picture below. The poster will stay up for the duration of the unit on the wall in the gym. A good start to the grade 2 Athletics unit at Nanjing International School.
I have recently blogged about a new approach that I am putting into practice in my current Athletics unit at Nanjing International School in China. If you didn't get a chance to read the blog posts, you can do so here and here. I have worked hard to research different types of instructional models over the past few years and this journey has often led me outside the box of physical education. My focus during this unit will be on helping to sustain student motivation by giving them much more control and direction over their own learning.
As I stated in previous blogs, the unit began with me introducing all of the learning outcomes for Athletics, to my students, in a language that they could understand. There are 9 learning outcomes that they need to be able to know and do by the end of the unit. On learning teams, they will design all of their own learning, record their plans, reflect on their successes and failures, and focus on giving feedback to one another. The vision of my own role during this unit is one in which I act as a mentor, a coach, and facilitator helping them whenever the need arises. This will no doubt entail running mini-workshops and activities based on the needs of the students as we progress through the unit.
The students will have iPads and laptops available to them during the course of the unit as well. This whole approach may seem like madness, but I believe that by giving them more ownership and responsibility, they will hopefully feel more empowered to learn.
As a starting point, I am using the pre-assessment sheet that you see below. Essentially, I am highlighting 2 learning outcomes that they are responsible for, the measurement of time and distance as related to throwing, running, and jumping in Athletics. I will provide them with measuring tapes and stopwatches and set them off. They are to record any difficulties and/or questions that they have on the pre-assessment sheets. It is worth noting that they have formed their own learning teams and have selected team members wisely as they know maths will play a big part in this unit.
SAFETY, SAFETY SAFETY
I know that some of you by now may be thinking about safety. If I am to set kids off running, jumping, and throwing surely safety is a major issue. I totally agree with you! In fact, running, jumping and throwing in a safe manner is one of the major student learning outcomes during this unit. Safety has been seriously discussed with the students. I will observe them constantly, but am handing responsibility over to them to show me that they are practicing Athletics in a safe manner. They will be asked to reflect on safety a number of times throughout this unit as well. I am there to step in immediately should any student be in danger of hurting themselves or hurting others.
SUCCESS and FAILURE
I will be blogging about both success and failure during this unit. Trying out a new approach such as this, especially with students so young, will prove to be challenging. Seeing what does not go well is a great form of feedback and documenting these times will be professionally rewarding as I will be able to revise and improve my instruction as the unit moves forward. Would love to hear any comments, questions, or concerns that you have. I appreciate the feedback!
I believe that any type of adventure challenge unit in PE presents great opportunities to deepen both critical thinking and problem solving skills, especially when done so in a manner that allows students as much ownership as possible over their learning journeys. I have recently blogged about a new model of instruction that I am putting to the test in my current Athletics unit. A model that I have been toying with for a number of years, but am finally convinced that it is time to give it a go. You can read about my new approach to teaching Athletics here to get more of an idea about the model that I have been working on developing and putting into practice.
Any of us who have done adventure challenge in the past know how great these units are for promoting communication, teamwork, collaboration, etc. Brain research suggests that excellent learning can take place when we give kids as many genuine and authentic opportunities as possible to design their own learning. As educators, we have a great responsibility to ensure that we provide our students with the best learning environment possible. Anything less than this is completely unacceptable in my opinion. I believe that in order to make this happen, we can and should give our students much greater control over their learning journeys.
I have been fortunate enough to connect with some excellent PE practitioners through the blogs I follow, through Twitter, and through my own blog. When sharing the new model that I am putting to the test in Athletics, I connected with Mark Williams from the Overseas Family School of Singapore and Matthew Pomeroy (Matt blogs here). We began to discuss the idea of students designing their own learning and how this could be applied to adventure challenge. However, designing their own learning is strictly dependent upon them being fully aware of and understanding the student learning outcomes for the unit. Once introduced, these student learning outcomes guide and lead them on the journey of creating their own learning engagements. I believe that this will give the students a great sense of ownership paving the way for authentic learning to take place.
Mark and I came up with a plan that will focus on the students creating three types of adventure challenge activities: games that can be played with no equipment, games that can be played with minimal and basic equipment, and a third type of game that is very much open-ended in the sense that they can choose as much of whatever equipment is needed. This will inevitably lead to the group having to explore, converse, debate about what is best, and ultimately decide upon different activities. Once the games are created, they will be be taught to their peers and feedback will be a big art of this process. Students must play the games and then give feedback in order for the games to be refined and improved upon. They must also decide on which assessment criteria best suits each game or activity, student driven in nature.
During the unit, Mark and I will be sending each other adventure challenge games back and forth to try out with our own students. By the end of the unit, we are hoping to compile a list of student designed adventure challenge games that we can then share with other PE teachers. We will be sharing our experiences during the unit on my blog. Wish us luck!!
My goal during my movement composition unit was to make visual all of the learning that took place. I continually recorded my students' ideas, in poster form, and kept these visuals up for the entire duration of the unit. I blogged about my intent here at a few weeks back. I was not disappointed in the least as we had loads of great discussion by using the visuals that were posted on the 4 walls of the movement composition room.
As a conclusion to the unit, I gathered and posted all of the visuals on one of the walls and sat a few of my classes down to have one final discussion and to essentially sum up what they had learned during the unit. It was an excellent way to bring it all together. I will take down all of the visuals that you see in the picture below and file them away until next year. I plan on creating all new visuals next time around, but will keep the ones created this unit as a potential resource for future movement composition units. I am very pleased with this approach as the goal I had set for myself at the beginning of the unit was achieved.
As you can see by the picture below, some of the areas addressed in the visuals were: student designed assessment criteria, key student questions and answers, important movement composition vocabulary lists, central ideas, student generated rubrics, compare and contrast venn diagram (also student generated).
Maths integration is a huge part of my PE program and has been for years. I believe that there is huge benefits to learning, very much transdisciplinary in nature, when maths is integrated into the daily activities that we do in our physical education classes. Not only are we reinforcing what is being learned in the classroom, we are fostering the continued development of an essential life skill that our students need. The importance of living maths can never be underestimated.
Posing Maths Questions in PE
I am always trying to pose challenging maths questions regardless of grade level. These questions often times require teamwork and discussion, BUT do not in any way take away from kids being active. In my grade 2 class today, each student had to mentally calculate their own points during the activity. Once the activity stopped they had to gather together with their team and mentally figure out their group total. Once both teams had given me their point total, I then asked them an important second question and gave them only one minute to come up with the answer. This question simply was "How do you know that our point totals are correct?"
They immediately went to work to demonstrate that their point totals were correct. The team that you see in the picture agreed that if they were to all show, on their fingers, their point totals, one person could then go around the circle of fingers and count. Seems simplistic, but remember that this is only grade 2. They came up with the idea of visually testing whether or not their mental maths was correct. It took no time at all, but I believe that the maths task itself broken down into 2 components, challenged their thinking, encouraged teamwork, and focused on problem solving without taking away action time in PE. Please see picture below. I was very much an observer and loved the way things developed.
Would love to know how other PE practitioners address maths in their classes. Always looking for new and fresh ideas.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.