This year, my professional goal has stemmed around trying to unpack the Challenge for my students in my learning opportunities and to consider whether I am challenging all of my students as they start wherever they are and (hopefully) move forward along a continuum of learning that is relevant to them and includes Movement Competence and Social Interaction.
I have not set up my year with very robust scientific research… I have used surveys from Tripod to measure where I was initially (through the eyes of my students) and also in May 2019 to see if there was any growth. I shared the results of the survey with my students and worked to clarify for them what I was trying to achieve and asked them for feedback through 1:1 or 2:1 interview periodically at the end of my lessons.
Tripod results: You can see below the two tripod reports from this year. It was interesting to me to see the slight differences – and for me to consider these as I move forward. For me, I felt that the units we had offered towards the second survey were much more individual in nature (Track and Fieldwork and Health prior to that) and I had worked very hard to incorporate Group challenges and Fun warm ups or brain boosts so that we could be more active and more social in more individual focus units. I knew these students much better after a year (or for some of them, two years and multi-coaching seasons) and I was interested to see that they felt I was Clarifying better and had strong Classroom management and continued to Care about them. The Challenge score did not change. I feel that perhaps the questions that the students are asked are not as relevant to PE as classroom teachers – but I was sad to see that the students did not feel I was as interested in their Thinking as this is something that I value so very much.
I have listed some of the things that I have tried this year in a previous blog post. Today I would like to write to a few more ideas in detail with some student-specific examples.
Lesson plans: I created a new template for my lesson planning sheets that included space to jot down my ideas/ aims and how I might challenge specific students who I felt would benefit from a slightly different approach in some units.
Add-ons: I made note of students who I felt would benefit from joining our Seasonal Sports teams or activities and took time to speak with them in person, emailed them (and their parents) and cc’d the Activities Office to try and form an easy way to move forward. This has been a mixed bag for me. I don’t see our seasonal sport teams as an extension of PE and nor should it be – the philosophy and focus is very different – but it does give students who are clearly delighted in playing a sport, or who show some talent and ability or who are really invested in playing (or all of these) a place to come and just be involved in that sport. I had one student who I identified early as a very able athlete and who I really wanted to encourage to come out and be involved – both because they are new and I thought it would give the opportunity to have more social interaction and build a community of friends, but also because this student is very very able and moves so well in a number of different games. But it was clear this student didn’t like the sports they tried. I had to really think – maybe this was not the right challenge for this person, and it was difficult to try and find a fit. This student is now very involved in Rock Climbing and I can see this is the right activity, right sub-culture (language, the way people support each other, the individual but also team nature, the mental involvement and challenge they need and the pace of the sport we offer here) for this person. I am so pleased that this has been discovered, but it came from trying things that they did not like and for us (student, me and parents) to acknowledge and accept where there were joy and challenge that was right.
Routines: I like to have specific routines in my classroom. Ron Ritchhart in his book Cultures of Thinking outlines different routines to use in our learning spaces.
- Management – that help our classrooms or spaces to run smoothly
- Instructional – that capture the style, approach, or are tools or practices for carrying out the instruction
- Interactional Routines – Think-Pair-Share; eye contact, thumb held to the chest, hands up (or no hands up), book clubs, Socratic seminars, leaderless discussions. Ritchhart notes that these are important for Social-Emotional learning
- Thinking Routines – cognitive strategies that become patterns of behaviour – I have found some of the Making Thinking Visible routines to be very valuable in PE.
I have tried to consider which Routines I use in my classroom – I work to use specific Thinking Routines that I hope are useful for delving into deeper learning in PE. I routinely use Think/Pair/Share and Claim/support/Question routines. I also like to use a Shout-out or reflective circle to try and support my learners and remind students of what we covered in our lesson and the learning outcomes and they tend to then give shout-outs around those themes.
Challenge by itself is difficult to plan for in a unit. Tim Fletcher et al in their work around Meaningful PE talk about the importance of pairing up the pillars that have come out of Scott Kretchmar’s work around the Joy of Meaning. We must consider these five pillars but not in isolation:
- Social Interaction
- Motor Competence
- Relevant to the Learner -What are you doing? Why? And How is this relevant to me as a learner?
I have found that if you specifically focus on growing the community (class, through social interaction and challenges to work on and problem solve together) then it is easier to plan for Motor Competence and then the Fun can begin. Students will take greater risks if they feel supported by others. And if we can just be ourselves and not be so concerned with what others think of us, then we can make mistakes (as we all do) and feel okay with that. Likewise we can also celebrate with you when you do something outstanding or take a risk or challenge yourself.
Gameplay: I have worked hard to try and coach my most able athletes by offering them opportunities to play higher level gameplay and to use wider understandings to try and make them think more deeply about the game. I have coached MS girls basketball this year alongside a very experienced coach and player and have had my knowledge about the game, and how to coach it really blown open. I love watching the student’s problem solving – what do I do if a right-handed player is aggressively dribbling down the court? Discussion about our options and then trial and error and then taking the best solution and having this former elite-player show them how they can make it more effective. Now our girls are super invested, they identified and worked on the problem and got expert examples – and they step up and use them! A great challenging situation.
Next steps: I would like to work more closely next year with looking at what we Value as a Department and working with the Meaningful PE pillars to identify what we can do with our students – to challenge them, to grow them as stronger and more responsible community members and to make our routines, opportunities and our space more visible to our Values and goals. If you look at our Gym you would think that we value Competition and not a lot more. Actually we don’t value competition – there are other things we believe in and it is these messages that I want to convey to my students. I would also like to work closely to identify ways we can improve our learning opportunities to ensure that we can plan and create in ways that are not affected when we have to make a different plan. If the air is poor or it is raining we need to have an alternative plan, this can happen in the matter of a few minutes or hours, and can greatly affect the continuity of our program. I want to try and be a more effective teacher with the chaos that we have been dealt (schedule, facilities) as well as the chaos that comes up on us. I feel that this will help us to be kinder to ourselves and to be the professionals that we are as we navigate stronger challenges and opportuntities for our students.