Thursday, 19 January 2017

Gamification of Catching and Throwing Practise

In preparation for an invasion game unit with Grade 1 students we have been practising throwing and catching skills - basic fundamental skills. I had a look through some of my resources and they all have some pretty dry catching and throwing activities, that are not the most motivating, but they involve students doing lots of throwing and catching which is what I want the students to do. With older grades I do lots of 'Games for Understanding' activities, but here I wanted lots of skill practise without the added pressure of a game.

So I decided to do a bit of gamification of this basic skills. "The gamification techniques are intended to leverage people's natural desires for socialising, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure"1. It should also involve some kind of reward - points; badges; or levels. 

In the catching and throwing challenge students worked in pairs. They started at one end of the gym with one of them sat on a trolly board holding a large foam ball. The other person pushed their partner to the throwing zone. Once there they had to complete one of two throwing and catching challenges. If they dropped the ball they had to start the throwing again. When they completed this they jump back onto the trolly board and went back to the start and switched over. When they had both completed level one, they could then progress to the next level, with a smaller ball. There were a set of levels to work through, each progressively harder, with the final level involving the students creating their own catching challenge. 

My observations from this activity, was that the use of levels to work through really motivated the students to work hard and the use of the trolly boards to get between the levels was also big hit! My aim was to get the students participating in lots of throwing and catching in an enjoyable way, which was certainly achieved. I feel that the use of levels also really encouraged the students to push themselves. In previous lessons, I felt that some students, despite the same choice of balls being available, were not really challenging themselves and were staying with what they knew they could achieve. This was definitely not the case in this lesson, where they wanted to work through the levels. 



Friday, 16 December 2016

From my reading, creating word walls is often listed as a strategy to help ELL students, which makes sense. However, I have questioned the value of creating a word wall for PE, especially when we often teach a class in a different location each week, and inside the gym, there is no space for displays. We have a shared portable white board which we have used to wheel out to classes and post words and concepts onto it, but this is not the most practical solution for creating even a semi-permeant word wall.

In the last few weeks we now have an Elementary PE notice board, placed outside the gym, next to where many students eat their morning snack. On this board we are creating a word wall. However, as it is not in our teaching environments and short of walking the students over to the board every time we want to point out a word, this particular wall requires the students to independently look at it. I wonder if just a list of words will really help ELL students in this situation?
One solution might be to make the wall more inviting to look at. Rather than just a list of words, for our athletics unit we are experimenting with a more images on the word wall. We are doing this by taking a photo of the equipment or the student performing an event, put the name the picture and underneath one teaching point that we have been using with the students. Hopefully as the students enjoy looking at pictures of themselves performing, they will go over to look at it. The next stage will be try to evaluate if the students are going to and looking at the wall.

Encouraging talking to help understanding in Individual Pursiuts

In PYP PE, Individual Pursuits are one the areas that should be offered to the students in a balanced curriculum (IB PYP PSPE Scope and Sequence).In our Elementary PE programme we offer Individual Pursuits through Athletics and Swimming.
Individual Pursuits are defined "activities in which participants work individually with their own equipment and monitor their own behaviour, movements and physical expenditure." (Playsports, OPHEA). Looking at this definition it might seem that they are not the best activities to encourage talking. Personal experience of teaching these activities over many years have shown that when teaching them it is often easy to fall into the mistake of relying on a command style of teaching to teach everyone the same thing and having too much teacher talk, as highlighted by Fisher, Krey and Rothenburg (2008).  Student talk is used only to check comprehension as opposed to develop thinking.
To encourage talking to help develop thinking in swimming and athletics I have used collaborative tasks. In swimming this has been achieved through reciprocal teaching. Students have worked with a partner and been asked to look at one aspect of a stroke and then provide their partner with feedback highlighting what they were doing well and one thing that needed to be improved. Before this happened students were given a demonstration and we talked through what makes a good stroke, in order to provide them with the language.
This year in athletics for G4 I took this further, using this unit outline. Working in twos and threes, students became experts in one event. In the first couple of lessons they were provided links to websites and short videos to help them develop their understanding, and they spent time practising the event and working out between them how they could teach it. After they had become the expert, they then had to teach it to the rest of the class through leading the rest of the students through the process of how to perform the event and then providing feedback to individuals as they practised the event.
G4 students providing instruction and feedback
The result of these approaches was that individual pursuits have become activities where there are lots of opportunities for students to talk and develop their language.

Friday, 14 October 2016

PE, ELL students and SPELTAC

It seems that there has been discussions outside of the PE department about how PE should be engaging in SPELTAC. It seems these views are pretty polar and range from ‘PE has nothing to do with literacy’ to ‘PE should be doing lots more written work and helping the students in the writing process’.
When we as a PE department created our inquiry question, it was focussing on how we could develop strategies that would enable English Language Learners (ELL) students to access our unique curriculum and associated physical outcomes.
Physical Education classes are according Clancy and Hruska (2005), in a great position to help ELL students to develop as they potentially they can support ELL students in their language development. Some of these characteristics include:

– Lots of interaction with other students – our students are and playing with others most of the time and talking in class is actively encouraged.
– There are many ways in which information is presented – we talk, physical demonstrate, as well as offering visual reminders.
– Students physical interact with language
-ELL students can succeed in our class independent of their ability to speak English
-Students can physical demonstrate their language comprehension
-Play situations often create lower stress environments for ELL students to practise their emerging language

Our goal as a department is keep looking for and developing strategies to help ELL students reach success in PE.

Clancy, M. & Hruska, B. (2005). Developing Language Objectives for English Language Learners in Physical Education Lessons. Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance, 76(4), 30-35.  – See more at: (

Implementing Gibbons Intellectual Practices during Invasion Games

The older students in Elementary PE have been participating in an Invasion Game Unit, which involves many of Gibbons (2009) intellectual practises being implemented.
One of our culminating activities involved the students taking the knowledge that they  have already developed, regarding moving into space to receive the ball, built up in previous sessions through different types of games and use it to develop a simple attacking strategy that their team could use in a game of half court basketball. The students were undertaking a planning task, just like a coach would, rather than just being a player.

Students were asked to complete this task in small groups. This creates a situation where students are having to engage with each other in a substantive conversations. They would make a suggestion and have to justify it to others in the group. They also asked questions of one another. From the noise level in the gym, it was apparent that this task creates a great deal of discussion between the students.

Planning a strategy and communicating it to others, is not always easy. To assist the students in this process we use the coachnote app on ipads – which is not too dissimilar to the technology you see TV analysts using to talk about professional sports! This app allows students to make their thinking visible by being able to draw out the game and move players and ball around on the court, record the moves and then play them back.
An area to improve for future units will be to try to encourage the students to use the correct terminology, when explaining their strategies. The app, does let them become a little over reliant on just using simple language of “this goes here, this one here and that one goes here”. Watching back the animated moves that I had produced earlier in the unit to demonstrate some simple games they also fell into this category! Having said this, it was evident that the coachnote app really allowed many of the emerging language learners in the class fully demonstrate their ideas and not be restricted by their lack of language.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Video Feedback

One of the more challenging aspects of teaching high jump to Grade 4-5 students is helping some of the students work out which is their take-off foot. This year, we set up the High Jump in the gym and next to one of the high jump beds was an ipad on a tripod, connected to a projector. The ipad was using BAM app, which videos the action and then plays it back with a time delay chosen by the user.

Students performed their jump, got of the back of the mats and went to watch their jump. One of the students who had a broken arm, was there to help them work out if they were jumping off the correct leg, leaving me to work and provide feedback to other students.

This simple method dramatically increased the amount of feedback students received in a lesson!

Friday, 6 November 2015

My perfect class register with a Random Team Maker

Here is the link to the class register that I use everyday with my classes. It is a Google Sheet that I access on my macbook or iPad. It acts as my register for attendance, recording who forgot PE kit, recording assessment details and uses to create random teams. The original idea, which I have adapted came from

Please feel free to make a copy of this register to use.

The attendance section has used conditional formatting to create coloured responses, so I can easily spot patterns of no attendance, or forgetting kit.

I have used data validation to create a quick basic pull down of criteria to record how students are doing on different criteria / standards.

The exciting part of the register, is that it uses as a random name or team maker.
To do this I copy the students' first names into the penultimate sheet (tabs at the bottom of the google sheet). 

The next stage is to publish to the web, from the file menu.

Then copy the link, when published

The link is then pasted into the last sheet (tabs at the bottom of google sheets), where it tells you to. 
 Then it a case of clicking on link in blue, which opens up a new tab, giving you lots of choices - ie in pairs or into 4 teams and much more.