Concept based learning,  Dance,  MYP,  pegeeks,  screencasting,  Teacher Reflection,  Technology in PE

Movement Composition – Kung Fu fighting….

Kung Fu Fighting from Just Dance on YouTube – an awesome warm up for your kids!

Where did this year go?  It is already time to begin the final units in PHE and I am excited to get into this Movement Comp unit with my Grade 8’s.  The focus for me is on doing less and having time for more content and I am going to do my best to stick to this plan.

The Key Concept for me here is Creativity – I read Dominique Dalais’s most recent blog post on his Martial Arts unit and I spoke with my colleague, Asako Clark about how she set up a similar unit a few years back and have modified many of these ideas to fit my pedagogical approach and my own students.  I want my students to create a dance and I want to teach them about how to find inspiration and to reflect and offer feedback on their creative ideas.  I hope my students will stretch themselves to take more risks but also that they will learn to be open minded and for some of them to listen before shouting down other ideas and to ask quieter students to contribute their ideas so am mindful of some teaching methods we could use to trial new ways of communicating.

The Related concepts for this units are Refinement – to be looking aesthetically at movements and refining the for performance and also Interaction for the communication and collaborative aspects I touched on above.  This is a group performance and students will need to be very mindful of sharing respectfully with each other and refining other people’s creative ideas.

The way I am hoping this unit will unfold is to have 5 or so teacher driven lessons where we look at different aspects of Martial Arts – there are links to so many areas here, but I am leaning towards the following lesson themes (and this may change as my classes show interest or knowledge in other areas based on their inquiry using this Question Start theme from VisibleThinkingRoutines):

Conceptual questions I am thinking about:

  • What are the Essential elements of Dance?
  • What are the basic elements in Martial Arts?  eg. Capoiera has the elements of Wind, Fire, Earth and Water
  • Is this Martial Arts? or Gymnastics? or Dance?  What makes you say that?
  • What would change if we added more Essential Elements of Dance?

Factual questions:

  • What are are the basic shapes of Capoiera?  Looking at Basic moves/ kick/ defensive moves?
  • How do we roll?  What are the aspects we need to consider and why?
  • How do we put together a good performance?


I am not a martial arts person.  This is the biggest flaw and challenge for me.  But I am a former gymnastics person (well when I was little) and have taught gymnastics for some time.  I have been searching for good videos on YouTube and have created a few Playlists (Capoiera, Aikido, more to come) that I hope to draw from.  If anyone has any other tutorials, please let me know.  I know Ken Forde has some Capoiera video lessons that he is working on and Dominique may also have some good ideas.  I am also hoping that I can engage some of our older HS students who are Aikido specialists to be involved in sharing with my MS students.  I would like for them to learn:

  • Shoulder rolling  (forward) – from kneeling position and from standing position
  • Shoulder rolling (backward) from kneeling position
  • Forward Roll
  • The basic movements in Capoiera, and two offensive movements (with kick) and two defensive moves (low to ground)
  • Basic and more complex blocking and kicking – I have been checking out Dominique’s rubric for Crit C to get more ideas as he clearly has a martial arts background.
  • Yoga poses – Warrior poses as well as Sun salutations for stretching and to consider more aesthetic poses – one hurdle my students will face is the issue of flexibility
  • Transitions and how to move into movements using basic moves from martial arts and rolls or poses as transitions.
  • Discussion around Essential Elements such as: Use of Space, Timing, Synchronisation, Precision, Levels, Style and Flair (especially in this genre), Story your dance is telling, Force and Flow of their work, Transitions and looking at Complexity and Basic movements. Phew.

For assessment I would like to look at the following:

Crit B – Planning for Performance – (Strand 1) Each group will use Wallwisher to Create an Inspiration board that has many different ideas on it for their group to use as part of their planning. I will ask them to set this up and add to it for the first 5 lessons of our unit. They will need to have an appropriate title for each post and 1-2 sentences explaining how this resource is helpful for their group. I have an example here and will share this and add to it for my own planning.  (Strand 2) I will then ask the students to select up to 3 pieces of this board and individually write an evaluation about how these were useful in their planning. I was thinking I would ask them to do this on their school blogs so they can link everything in and this allows for their group to comment on each other’s posts as part of our interpersonal skills.

Crit C – Applying and Performing – Students will work on their group compositions, we will complete some formative work every other week and I am going to trial using Vidalyze as a screencast feedback tool for one class to see how this works for sharing our video feedback.   For my other classes I am going to use Coach’s Eye and Snag It as part of the screencast (not sure about screencasting? Check out an older post here) sharing process.  I like to do at least two formative assessment videos for groups with feedback for improvement using the Crit C rubric as it generates good conversations about how they are being assessed and creates a supportive space for discussion of grades.  It leaves little room for error in the final assessments as I have used the rubrics and the students know them too so when they self assess and I assess the grades are usually super close.

Crit D – Each group will need to write a team philosophy so that they can work out strategies to meet their own statement. I am also giving them some suggested goals to work on as at this point in the year, I think I know them pretty well and we have been completing SMART goals all year. They can take my suggestions or not. We will do small evaluations over 4 lessons of work while they are creating their dance to see how they are going and they will need to use feedback loops on screencasts and write on each other’s blog posts for more involvement.  I am hoping to explicitly teach/refresh some communication ideas including:

  • Feedback Sandwich – Positive point/ Problem posed as a question (not necessarily with an answer) / Positive point or conversation from here – this feedback is offered with no emotion attached or a personal attack on the person they are feedbacking with.  An example might be:  Your shoulder roll was well executed with your hands in the correct support locations; You have ended up facing a new direction – why was that? Conversation about technique or use of space.
  • Leaders don’t have all the answers – look at how leaders in the group can facilitate conversation
  • Posing Questions and having everyone write their answer first and then share (to ensure everyone has an opinion and to save time in conversation)
  • Think, Pair and Share Thinking routine
  • Use of Question starters to drive our inquiry in lessons
  • How to use Screencasts to offer constructive feedback
  • Writing Philosophy – why this will help them when they are working as a group as they can discuss possible problems around philosophy rather than personal attack. Eg. We agreed that each of us would add to the Inquiry wallwisher, only two of us have, can we please keep to our team agreement? When offering feedback we agreed that we would….
  • Focus on Student Learning as the centre of our work, not behaviour or rewarding kids who are on task but aren’t necessarily working towards learning and taking risks with their work.

I am excited about this unit but can see that there is a steep learning curve for me and my students.  My hope is to engage in creative work with students and to inquire into Martial Arts and how to create and refine a performance as well as interact with a team along the way.

If you have any suggestions, I would really like to hear them, specifically around Martial Arts and tutorials as I have limited access to coaches.



  • Dave Kelly

    I enjoyed the post – I tasked my grade 7’s to create their own kung fu form and while I gave the grade 10’s the chance to create their own kung fu choreography as a fight, dance or story.

  • mhamada

    Thanks for sharing Blake, I have some people we could use to help me out and ‘hook’ my kids in but the issue is I have no cash fun 🙁 but this isn’t going to stop me trying. I had a ‘warm up’ type lesson today using some different ideas and I have mixed feelings. I always struggle to get them ‘in’ first as many of them would love to be outside doing non-dance lessons, but once we get into the meat of the unit we end up with buy in and some great work. It just takes a bit of time. I look forward to sharing more as we get going and reflecting on where it goes and takes me in the end.

  • mrkampen

    Hi Mel,
    It’s seems you have planned thoroughly for this unit for your year 8’s. I have limited experience in teaching any dance or martial arts so I can’t offer too much advice.
    We do get outside facilitators to run martial arts fitness sessions occasionally, have you someone local that you could use as a hook to begin with?
    The Australian curriculum (to begin 2017) has some elements of performing a routine, and I was thinking of running something similar to what you are planning, so I’ll be interested to see how you go. Did you mention the time frame you will be working with these students?
    Good luck 🙂


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