Next year our Middle school schedule will change. Our Leadership team has done a very thorough job of research into scheduling; interviewing with other schools about what they do and Why they do it (and How they make it work); forming a working group to look at different angles; surveys to parents, teachers and students and meeting with scheduling guru’s and reading a lot of literature around what is best for kids and how we might make that work at our school.
The knock-on effect for us in PE and Health in the MS is that we have some changes from our current model and we now need to determine what we might like to do and how we might like to do it.
Last Friday we met with our Principal and Director of Learning to discuss what are our Parameters (for example we have a set number of staff; we have specific facilities at different times of the year, we have to work alongside the Elementary and High school, we have 75 minute teaching blocks etc) and we identified possible ways we might Group students into class sets.
We will have four blocks (out of eight in our timetable) where we will have up to 100 students come for PE. We will have four teachers on at that time and our job is to determine how we want to create class groupings for these four blocks. Students will then come to PE/Health in that block for the whole year. Students have been coming in Grade (age) specific groups of 100, but next year we will see combinations of Grade 7 and Grade 8 students come in those blocks. This is new for us. We will now have 12-14-year-olds come to PE together and this gives us pause to consider how we are going to support learning; foster relationship building across grade levels and with the PE teachers and how we will ensure that our Health program remains sequential.
In our Friday Professional Development Day, we discussed our Class-Grouping options listing the Pros and Cons as a group for each one. We discussed dividing by Gender; Ability; Random and by Choice (students choosing Activities that are on offer). We then each sat down and wrote up a list of what was important to us as Educators in our Program. I wrote:
- Challenge is appropriate
- Reporting is relatively easy
- Build Relationships with our students
- Class size is appropriate
- Teacher autonomy
- Easy to schedule/facilities
- Manageable preps for teachers
We shared out lists together and then we decided on 8 things that were important to all of us. We were then given the task to rank our eight criteria from most to least important. We then looked at what each of us had ranked and come up with an agreed ranking of the criteria based on the ranks each of us had listed. You can see the list that we came up with below.
After this process we stopped to think and ask questions that had come up along the way and to consider and reflect on what we could see were the most important things to us as a Department. It was noted that the top four are very student-centered and the last four are very teacher specific. It was so empowering to agree with our team that these criteria were super important to us but to also know that if report writing is difficult because we sacrificed that to ensure that we could have more of our top four focus areas, it would be agreed to by the department.
The next step was to look back at each of the ways we could possibly Group our 100 students into 4 classes. Our job was to look at each of Choice; Gender; Ability and Random and apply our Criteria to them to see if anything came to light. We looked at the way in which each of these Grouping solutions might affect our Criterion and this also gave us pause for thought.
Lastly, we have been paired up (with someone who does not think and rank the criterion exactly as we did) to write a proposal for what we should do to group our classes for next year. Below you can see my first draft.
Proposal – Mel and Mr H
Two years – Blue and White year grouping
Focus areas (based on group Criteria)
- Forming stronger relationships with our students through not changing classes as often (ex. Choice G8 units we currently offer means that we are mixing up 80-100 students every time) and having a more stable start to each lesson (try for some continuity where we can).
- Student Choice – offer students choice and/or voice in aspects of the program
- Ensure that we are offering an appropriate challenge to all students across the MS
To offer Choice units where students are selecting a focus area from a list of options; there must be at least 2 teachers that can take each section. We are finding that students are choosing some sports heavily (ex Badminton is very popular, basketball is not) but this may change from year to year and we may need to look at the ‘Sport’ being offered through the lens of the Type of Sport being offered (ex. Net/Wall we offer Badminton and Tennis one year and Spike Ball and Volleyball the other)
We believe that we should be offering a breadth of experience to every student so that across the 3 years of MS they have tried many things but there is an argument that then we are not offering any depth. Our program should be looking for ways to overcome this.
I believe that we also have some service to keep looking at places that we can support the MS Sports that are offered outside of curricular hours. All PE people coach MS and/or HS teams over the year and we are seeing a decline or difficulty in having full MS teams which feed our HS program. Where we can, we should be talking to students about the potential to join our programs and be more involved at ISB (we know that this is good practice too – being involved in activities outside of school hours but still at ISB).
I would also like to foster greater connections to community clubs and activities so that we can pull in outside assistance for teaching and share with our ISB students more of what is available to them beyond PE at ISB. Having a high-level coach or teacher be involved with our kids would also offer more adults working to improve kids motor competency and in many cases a Chinese speaker in our classes too which is always helpful.
Health – currently we run thematic units (ex. Human Development) but with a change to G7-8 we may need to look at Inquiry units that cover the curriculum – I also wonder with the evaluation of the Mentoring program, if there may be room to offer some of the important G8 topics (Addiction, Sexuality etc) in that space as it is not content that younger G7 students would be ready to cover as part of Blue/White year-long programs.
Flex time (Blog Reader: our school is going to have two 45 min blocks each week which will offer flexible class options to students, this flex time will support curricula core subjects) and may offer a space for a Remedial or Extension PE space if we feel we have students who would benefit from this program (we would need to work with the Occupational Therapist on this and I have talked a little with her about this last year).
Proposal: Ability grouping with room for Choice
Two semesters x 4 over 2 years of Grade 7 and 8.
If we have four classes at the same time, we could split up into 2 groups. We could split by ability (teacher conversations, PE Grade check, and student survey decided) and then have 2 teachers working with each set of classes (ex A/B and C/D) – a more experienced skill set and a less experienced skill set with the middle range making up most of the classes for each. Teachers would then have 40-45 students that they are working with as we make our way through the first Semester for each year.
We offer A/B classes Unit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Health and then class C/D would do 5, 6, 3,4,1,2 and Health or such so that we can equally use spaces/equipment but report on the same units and standards etc as each other. We offer one health class this semester. We run Regional Challenges 2 x in the Semester and 1 x Fitness Assessment.
It would be great to also see if we could offer an Optional Sports Exchange (this could be like a mini-Olympic day where students play some of the activities we have done in the Semester)
- Name our units around theme or standard (not sports label) which allows us to be flexible and teach across standards – Send and Receive or Invasion and then work on transferable skills and then choose an area for further focus based on class experience, ability, facilities?
Ex. Ms C and Mel have 50 students (2 classes) and in Semester 1 we offer Adventure Challenges/ Fitness; Invasion Games; Health 1; Locomotor (individual pursuits), Net/Wall, S&F games
We have 50 students of moderate to weak experience in our group. We offer Invasion send/receive and tactical focus initially and then move to focus towards Basketball or Ultimate based on what students would like to do (choice).
- Could break by Grade level if we need to and can be based on numbers.
- Could be random (with a check by LS, EAL, and behavior to check)Health – we break up the 50 students in our class into two sections.
- Consider: we could use Gender if we could here to help kids if we are doing something (ex. swimming or life-saving skills, could do gender divide if that is important for learning in that space).
- Locomotor – we offer two units (Swimming/ Gymnastics or Sports Acrobatics / Climbing) and each group goes through each one of those. (this depends on the pool use and facility use for the group too).
I would love to offer Choice units here. I am balking at having all 4 classes choose from a list – I would like to see us still working with the same 50 students if possible.
Year Blue: Two Choice units back-to-back – Invasion x 2 choices (Hockey/Touch Rugby) for A/B classes and C/D run Net/Wall x 2 choices (Badminton/Volleyball) then we swap over.
Year White: Two Choice units back-to-back: Individual Pursuit for A/B classes (Swimming/Rock climbing/ Dance) and C/D run Invasion x 2 choices (Soccer/Basketball)
(* We may be able to have the Aquatics staff run the Swim unit, we would need to talk to Nic about this, depending on numbers, this would free up a PE teacher to run another option for students)
- Everyone completes a Fitness Unit – this would include an introduction to the Fitness Room in the dome, different fitness classes, and Fitness specific learning as well as the summative Fitness Assessment piece. This would go with the initial work done in Semester ONE. (we would need to talk about how we split this Fitness up into Blue/White years).
- Everyone completes Track and Field unit – scale this back so that we offer specific learning on three disciplines each year and then some lessons for practice of other apparatus (or offer Flex time as a time for the practice of certain skills/ events and relay practices).
- Olympic Day preparation and Half Day
- Regional Challenge x 2 if we can fit it in
- Health Class (see Semester ONE information)
If we group by ability then we can challenge our learners but not have as much differentiation – still having stronger students that can be example students.
If we have 50 students to two teachers, we can get to know those students and work on relationships with them and allows us to group in different ways. We would have to talk about having Base classes and also how Andy could come it to support students where we want different grouping. We would still have our base class of 25 that then come together with the same other class of 25 for units that require that. We would not be working in big groups all the time.
By having a 2 class split A/B and C/D we can share facilities more easily and be clearer about where we are/ need to teach and set up some routines with students about where to meet them.
Right-sized grouping is achievable here.
If we have the same students, we can easily report through PowerTeacher and not need an external reporting system (as we currently do)
We can mix up who is teaching what (ex. If Mel/Ms C have a more able group then they might work together with another 7-8 group but have the not-as-able group on that side).
We are offering student choice and voice in terms of ability but also in what they want to study in Semester TWO.
Questions we still have:
Will any of our current Health units move to Mentoring?
Do we all need to swim? Can we put two classes in the pool at one time? What might that look like? (ex. could Jen/Mel have their 50 students swim at the same time? Can our change rooms handle that? can our swim teacher/coaching team deal with that?)
Do we have to offer T&F Day every year? Could we alternate Olympic Day and T&F Days?
Research that I have used so far:
https://www.nap.edu/read/18314/chapter/7#252 Approaches to Physical Education in Schools.
Baker, et al. “Nurturing Sport Expertise: Factors Influencing the Development of Elite Athlete.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Mar. 2003, doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.
Fletcher, Tim. “Teachers’ Attitudes to Ability Grouping.” Ability Grouping in Education, Jan. 2008, pp. 106–126., doi:10.4135/9781446221020.n5.
Vaeyens, Roel, et al. “Talent Identification and Development Programmes in Sport.” Sports Medicine, vol. 38, no. 9, Sept. 2008, pp. 703–714., doi:10.2165/00007256-200838090-00001.
Justen O’Connor’s Blog post https://healthphysicaleducation.blogspot.com/2019/03/forming-groups-in-pe.html