Teacher Reflection

Searching for Student Choice – Individual Pursuits

In our Middle School PE program, we have always tried to offer our G7-8 students the opportunity to make some choices around what they might like to do as part of the curriculum.  We know that choice gives some ownership and some opportunity to either try something new or to add on to something they already feel confident in.  We also know that students at this age are very invested in their friends/peers and that this may help them to create a group or team that they can collaborate with that they have chosen across PE classes.  

We have talked a lot about Learner Agency at ISB, (see pic below) and as a PE department, we wanted to offer Choice to students but still ensure that our assessment tasks and standards were very similar so that it wouldn’t matter which unit a student chose, the teachers are still looking for the same learning and assessment pieces and evidence of learning within them.  

ISB’s Learner Agency Panel

This year, we have offered Individual Pursuit choice options.  Teachers offered up to five different options (we have between 3-4 classes that run on the same class block, this allows 3- 4 teachers to offer an option each, giving us 3-4 choices that can run) – students chose: Rock Climbing, Running, Dance and Gymnastics.  Each of these units gave students a chance to grow individually in something and work alongside others for coaching and support.  


ISB uses the Ontario PE standards from Canada.  We selected the following standards across each of these units:

  1. Active Living – we chose three from here, A1.1 (active participation) A3.1 (safety) and A2.4 (plan, revise and reflect on short-term goals)
  2. Movement Competency – B1.2 (locomotor movements)

We have our own Student as a Learner strands, and worked with:

Attitude, Responsibility and Collaboration.  (See rubrics at the end of this blog post)

Meaningful PE – lenses for consideration when planning

I find that I use the Meaningful PE framework and thinking to guide my own thinking when creating units, to ensure that the learning that we are trying to offer is considered through different lenses.    I found myself teaching 3x sections of Running and 1x section of Rock Climbing.  I wanted to create lesson content and flow for both of these units that ensured that we were following a similar set of lesson progressions.   Here are some of the questions that came up/ come up as I consider what we want to try and get out of units/lessons: 

Personal Relevance – how are we connecting this work to students previous experiences or what they could do next?  (Ex. Previous work; outside sport or activities; things we offer at school or in our community; how are we helping students to find relevance if they have not done this activity before?) How do we know what the students are interested in exploring as part of this unit? Lesson?  Who is teaching this, how might we bring relevance to this? Is this a unit that may have had some past trauma that we need to pre-address with students?

Challenge – how are we pushing students to really challenge themselves?  How are we polling or finding out what is challenging?  (Motor skills? Social situations? Being organized? New apparatus? New teacher? Injury?) etc.  What does “challenge” look like or feel like in this unit?  How could we nudge students further?   How can we get feedback on this?

Social – are they choosing a unit based on their mates being in that class? Or not? How do we keep things social but also have high expectations of this class and them in it?  How do we group students?  Do they decide? Does it change over time?  Do we have a teacher chosen group and then let it evolve over lessons?  How do we support students with fewer social connections? How might we help group them? How do we support students who chose a Choice unit to be with friends, but has no interest in this activity?

Fun/Delight – how do we gauge fun?  If we discuss Challenge/s and fun with students, where do they see themselves and how do we find the balance of this? How do we make this fun knowing that most of our student population are so over-scheduled, they need to ‘play’ more?

Motor Competency – we want students to learn about movement and themselves moving – how do we do this in this unit?  What feedback tools?  What resources do we need?  What do the students want to learn about? How do we do this with lots of different levels or experiences and how do we support injured students?

Unit progressions 

So, with 6-8 lessons of in-person teaching, this is what I did with my students.  I would have liked to have had more time as we put a lot of time into this unit.  As a department, we set up an excel book that had all of our classes in it so that we could input grades/comments and then allow us to copy/paste in our colleague’s grades/comments for our students in Power School.  It was super important to be organized to get this done in a timely way.

Choice Unit: Running ( I will share the Climbing unit as a separate post)

Each lesson had a Theory part/ Running part and a Reflective part.  

Lesson 1: Getting Started!  

Theory work: Checking out some Essential questions, and what expectations we should have… equipment etc.  And me surveying what experience they had and how active they had been in recent weeks to gauge some fitness.

We watched this YouTube video and then we talked about What are we bringing to this class (experience, skills, questions) and what we wanted to get out of the class.  

We then looked at the two different workouts that I had written.  I asked ‘new’ runners to choose one and I asked more experienced runners to edit the workout to meet their current fitness – and they had to show me that workout before we went out.

We looked at the Rate of Perceived Exertion as part of our check-in for this unit.

Practical work: We then changed/ put our computers away/ filled water bottles and met outside in a designated spot.

I went through a Dynamic warm-up with them and asked them to then work in small groups (of their choice) to continue their warm-up and then when they were done, they were invited to start their workout. I provided stopwatches, advice and support as they ran.  I was modelling constructive advice, moral support and check-ins to make sure they were okay and watching their RPE.

Reflection: Padlet reflection: How/What did you feel when you were running (beginning, middle, and end) of your workout? What is something you want to try when running the next class? What do you want to find out about in this unit?


L1 Reflection example

Lessons 2 and 3 – Technique Focus

Content Objective: (what are we learning?)

Today and L3 we will take a look at what experts suggest is a good technique for different types of running. We will then take some videos of us running during our workouts and see what we look like!

Language Objective: (How are we learning?)

We will be listening (to videos and peers), speaking (sharing our ideas) and then writing down things we notice/observe.

Culture Objective (Why are we learning this?)

We are trying to better understand what our bodies do while we are running to be more aware of ourselves and how we might like to grow as runners to be safe and run with more awareness.

Theory: we looked at two different videos and some pdf and an article on running techniques.  These were looking at longer distances and sprinters (as the students had indicated a range of interest in L1) and some common factors between the two.  We made some notes about what we noticed.  

Practical: students again had the choice of two different set-workouts or their own amendments (with my permission to check their edits) and I set up two iPads on tripods to film them for 30 minutes as they went around our track or inside track.  They were then able to see these films and they then watched them as part of the Theory of Lesson 3 and 4.  

Practical: students had L2 and L3 to run either similar workouts (ex. Long-distance focus) or one from sprint and one from long distance and see their video to watch their technique.  The workouts included warm-ups (same as L1) and then running using a small group or friend or on their own – their choice.  I modelled support, RPE check-ins and pushed them not to rest too much!

Reflection: On Padlet, we posted a Comparison between your running and professional runners. (See my example for students below).  I commented on each athlete’s post if they posted them in a timely way. 

Lesson 4: Cadence and Arm Swing

Content Objective: (what are we learning?)

Today we will take a look at what experts suggest is the best cadence to work with and we will try some different cadence to see what it feels like. 

Language Objective: (How are we learning?)

We will be listening (to videos and peers), speaking (sharing our ideas) and then writing down things we notice/observe.

Culture Objective (Why are we learning this?)

We are trying to better understand what our bodies do while we are running to be more aware of ourselves and how we might like to grow as runners to be safe and run with more awareness.

Theory: we looked at what Cadence is and why it is important to consider.  

Running Cadence – The Takeaways Author:  Thomas Watson 2021, The Marathon Handbook

  • Despite what running coaches used to tell us, the 180 strides rate/cadence is not necessarily the optimal running cadence for all of us.
  • In general, a faster running cadence and shorter stride can improve the running economy and lessen our risk of injury.
  • Different types of runs have different cadences. When in marathon training, for example, your speed work will have a different cadence to your long runs.
  • Rather than using your cadence to dictate your run performance, focus instead on things like RPE, Heart Rate Zone Training,  and speed.

I then set our students up on the class set of stationary bikes (we have stationary bikes – I know we are super lucky, and our Air Quality was poor, there are other ways to do this!) and we did a Cadence workout using different music that dictates that beat.  We warmed up, then we looked at 140bpm then 170 bpm then 190 bpm and used standing and sitting to look at how we felt.  We talked about 170-185 being optimal in running and faster for sprinters!  We discussed music as important to helping with cadence as we get tired too.

Practical: Bike workout for 15 mins (plus set up etc) and then a 10 min run off the bike!  Working at a higher cadence, me playing music for the students to run too.  

Reflection: On Padlet – Share something that you (specifically) noticed today. Add some detail. How does this add to your running experience/thinking? What might this mean for the next lesson?

Homework: to bring music/phone/headphones to our next class.

Lesson 5-6 

Motivation and Grit

Content Objectives

To run by yourself using motivation (internal/external) to not stop.

To choose a very challenging workout.

To reflect (share/write) how your run went/how it felt and what motivation was useful for you today.


Plan your run carefully so that it challenges you.

To use different motivations to keep you running – self manage your run/rest to follow your plan.

Reflect on your run – what motivated you? How did you feel beginning/middle/end? Was your RPE accurate?

Theory: we looked at different ways we can be motivated to stick to something when it isn’t easy – music, podcast, little phrases we tell ourselves, smiling, high-5s and we wrote up a list together.  We discussed what we would try internally and try to give externally to others.   

Students had to write their own challenging workouts – I gave them many examples, and they could choose one of mine or amend their own.  I asked them to run by themselves so no one to bounce off today. 

Practical – students warmed up together and then ran their own workout.  I helped to keep them on task, and tried to separate students as they gravitated together. 

Reflection: On Padlet: Share the workout that you did today. What did you draw on to motivate you? (internal/external) How does this add to your running experience/thinking? What might this mean for the next lesson’s timed runs?

Homework: Come prepared for a timed run in our final lesson.

Lesson 7 – Timed Run 

In this class, students came prepared for a Timed run.  I talked with other coaches and students and we decided on 2 x 1 minute as an out and back – how far can you run in 1 minute and then with a minute rest can you run the same again?  This would mean students had to really be thoughtful about their RPE and about how to run out and back with limited rest.  Then 10 minutes of rest before a 10 minute period where they had to try and set a goal for distance.  

Theory: We discussed Race ideas – how they might internally/externally motivate themselves, what their goal was over 1 minute and 10 minutes and I had them write this down, as well as the RPE they were shooting for.   We discussed how they might feel at the beginning/middle and end and how to overcome the 2/3 3/4 mark of feeling tired/sore/wanting to stop. 

Practical: students did their own warm-ups, I had a big clock set up to give the lesson more gravity.  This was a good lesson for many students.

Pre-Event safety and expectations

1 minute on/ 1 min off/ 1 minute off

10 minutes rest – on the clock

10 minutes of running time around our 400m track 

As part of this lesson page, I shared some examples of Running Training calendars that people use and that if students wanted to engage further in running, how they might do that.  We also talked about how running is a great base for upcoming ISB seasonal sports offerings and how they could join our ISB Cross Country team and Track and Field teams in coming seasons. 

End of unit reflection questions (for students):

Planning and Reflecting

You chose this unit. I hope that you both enjoyed and found this unit challenging at the same time. I also hope you have added to your toolkit of experience, knowledge, skills and ability to engage in running.

Unit Content objectives:

  • To develop, implement and revise a personal plan to meet a goal/s in your lesson. This goal may have been about skills or technique and/or about you as a learner/athlete/coach.
  • To actively participate, safely.
  • To consider what motivates you as you participate in class.
  • To perform a wide variety of locomotor movements – using different skills/techniques and strategies in different locations/spaces.
  • To learn more about yourselves as Athletes and Learners and how this can impact you individually and in community groups.

During this unit, you have been asked to complete Padlets that demonstrate your ability to:

1. make a Practice Plan (for that lesson) that uses the learning that we have discussed or tried

2. Run the plan

3. Reflect on your plan/run and next steps for the following lesson.

What do you need to do for this task?

If you HAVE DONE ALL the padlets, your task is to copy/paste in each of your responses from the padlets. Then complete a self-reflection for A2.4 (Plan, revise, reflect) and B1.2 Locomotor movements (this is about your running, trying different types of running during the unit).

Then submit the task. Celebrate, you are finished!


If you HAVE NOT DONE ALL THE PADLETS, then you are in a little bit of difficulty as you haven’t yet demonstrated this standard. Please copy and paste any padlet that you have completed, and then complete the following final reflection for the unit.

Then complete a self-reflection for A2.4 (Plan, revise, reflect) and B1.2 Locomotor movements (this is about your running, trying different types of running during the unit).

Then submit the task. Celebrate, you are finished!

Discussion Topic to write about:

Share the race plan that you planned for today. Be specific.

How did that plan go while you were running? What did you draw on to motivate you? What did this experience teach you about yourself and running a race? Be Specific. Add details.

Final Student Reflection

Answer this question (from a Student as a Learner perspective):

Text Response: What did you learn about yourself as a learner in this unit? What did you ‘bring’ to the unit (skills, experience/knowledge etc) and what did you learn about yourself through this unit? (ex. Motivation, challenge, coaching, planning, reflection, type of communication style, etc).

Be specific. Add details.

AND Choose ONE of the following to write about:

  • If you were to choose this unit again, what would you do differently? Do the same? Why? Be specific. Add details.
  • What learning will you take from this unit to other classes/units/life? (ex. Coaching, communication style, self-management, attitude, motivation, challenge etc). Be specific. Add details.
  • What are you most proud of? Be specific. Add details.
  • What is the next step for you in your learning? (Ex. skills, strategies or student-as-a-learner) Be specific. Add details.
  • We did a lot of planning and reflecting. Why did we do this? What was useful for you? What didn’t work for you? Be specific. Add details.

Self-assessment on Student as a Learner and Active Participation and Safety.

Optional sentence starters…

I learned…

Now I know…

I am proud of…

I have changed my thinking about… because…

I am still wondering about…

Something I can do better now is…

This was good for my learning because…

I wish I had more time to learn… because…

I could learn more about this if/by…

When I think about this unit and what I have learned, I feel… because…

Something I can do now, that I couldn’t before is…

Something I would love to do again is…

It would be to learn more about… because…

Ms Hamada’s example:

What learning will you take from this unit to other classes/units/life?

I came into Running with some experience and a little training but I had a lot of questions about what we would do in this unit. I found that I liked knowing more about running and training and about how to manage myself to stay with the practice, even as it got more challenging. It was good to see myself running and thinking about using a stronger technique. Something I can do now, that I couldn’t before is to be more mindful when planning a practice session as I consider the Rate of Exertion and how to use time/distance. I didn’t know about the importance of rest as part of the planning and practice. I also got a lot from reflecting on my runs and setting some new goals or challenges for each lesson. I would like to be more mindful in setting goals and then being involved in the process – not just taking a goal from a teacher/coach or online – but tailor that goal or practice to my own needs and learning and then reflect on where I am up to and what I am doing to reach that. I think by practising this, I will be able to set meaningful goals that are within reach but that will require work for me to reach them.

Assessment Rubrics:

In this unit, each teacher used the SAME rubrics for any option offered to students. We discussed what this might look like in each unit – Dance, Gymnastics, Rock Climbing and Running so that we were ready to ensure that whatever students chose, the assessment and expectation was as close as we could align it. Then individual teachers took the time to create lessons, content and tasks based on the assessment outcomes we were working towards.


I thoroughly enjoyed this unit. The feedback from students was mostly positive – with those who had come with previous experience, really happy to have had a chance to delve into running more deeply and to have a chance to connect with content and practical experiences with more awareness. In Lesson 1 I asked students what they wanted to know, and so in doing this, I was aware of what they needed from lesson content to tick their boxes of interest. This lesson series hit everyone’s list of questions. I also added to our learning from the padlet reflections that were shared and questions that came up in practice. New-to-running students could learn about the basics of running and the rate of exertion and were able to take greater ownership and be more responsible for their time and could warm-up/ practice with a specific plan and reflect on this without much teacher interference in the end. Students tested different motivational ideas – internal and external – and shared feedback and we discussed our preferences which was a great way to demonstrate how much we can get motivation from different sources. I am already thinking about ways to do this unit next year, and hope to extend it out to 8-10 lessons and place it during Cross Country season to try and promote that as a space for our interested runners to join outside of class too.

One Comment

  • Tim F

    Thank you for sharing this Mel. There is a lot of depth and detail in what you’ve developed and I really appreciate the attention to giving students choice across a number of aspects. I think implicitly you might have also been giving them some choice too by providing such a wide array of issues/content within the topic (e.g. race tactics, motivation strategies, warm up options); in this way they can identify things that are relevant to them and that allow them to focus an area to prioritize.
    One thing we are discussing a lot at the moment is how to scaffold choice according to the groups you are working with. So one thing I wonder (and well beyond the scope of this post) is how you might scale choice up or down depending on the grade level of students. And this might also be related to the ways in which they have been offered choice previously in their schooling experience (as it is quite new for a lot of students who are used to being told what to do). Is this the first time these students have been exposed to this level of choice?
    Thanks again Mel. Loved reading and engaging with this.

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