I have encouraged our students to create their own posters in preparation for the Sports Day. They worked in groups and they were supported by the class teachers when highlighting their understanding of essential sports values that we are emphasizing in our units. These posters were displayed in the gymnasium and around the playing areas during the event. I am really happy with the outcomes of this action, especially with grade 1 students who insisted to have their voice heard and their posters displayed in specific places. How do you encourage students’ agency at your school during the Sports Day?
Physical Education is not the easiest subject to organize boards, but is definitely attainable with dedication and clear purpose in mind.
This year I moved to a new school and thanks to the principal’s vision we have a display policy in place that regulates the way we communicate students’ learning, actions and outcomes. The PE department has allocated a generous corridor with plenty of pin boards where we have the opportunity to showcase and advocate for the quality of our programme. In this post I will share some examples of displays that fit best our learning context.
Grade 3 Health Related Fitness
I want to start with a display where grade 3 students express their suggestions and actions that they will take as a result of their knowledge, understanding and skills acquired in the unit. Inspired by Kath Murdoch’s book – Power of Inquiry – I have deepened the questioning empowering students to communicate their thinking effectively. To be concise, I will just point out what we have displayed, mentioning that some displays are work in progress, as they are part of a learning continuum that we aim to illustrate.
This is a practice that I enforce at the beginning of each year with the cohorts of students that I teach: we discuss together what makes our PE environment safe and enjoyable for learning. We reach consensus, then students write down their group statements and we all sign the poster. We define ourselves as a team of learners and we often go back to our agreements to refresh or highlight their importance.
Approaches to Learning
We post the approaches to learning in both English and Arabic, and we add relevant pictures for each of the five skills categories. We have a similar display with the IB Attitudes .
Play with Purpose
This is the core of our activity and the posters communicate and illustrate snapshots of the Teaching Games for Understanding approach that we employ in our school. I created collages that evidence students’actions and the intended learning outcomes.
On this board I choose students’ reflections, games creation outcomes and learning continuum, that evidence the formative and summative assessments of various units. As other displays exemplified in this post, this is a dynamic one that gets refreshed on unit basis.
Finally, I got to organise the Wonder Wall and give it the attention it requires. I made a poster with each grade and the name of the unit. Our students write their questions on post-its during or after group inquiry, pre-assessments, provocations and exit permits. We answer all the questions and we encourage students’ agency by informing our planned and taught curriculum.
By using the white board we invite students to communicate how they feel about their learning, through Smiley Faces and Traffic Light tools. I find these tools effective at the end of the sessions: some students help organizing the equipment while others communicate their learning. I also encourage social and communication skills by asking them to share their learning with a peer (Think. Pair. Share.) or by letting them justify their reflection.
Ideas and suggestions
I would be happy to hear about your ideas and suggestions, or even more, to see how you advocate for the quality of the PE programme at your school.
In my next post, I will be sharing a personal reflection following Kath Murdoch’s workshop that I attended last month. I intend to share some of the pedagogic approaches, strategies and tools that can enhance our activity in the PE environment.
Have fun and keep it simple!
Encouraging Questioning And Curiosity in PE
“Questions are at the heart of inquiry. Effective learners ask questions” (Murdoch, K. 2015, p.56)
Murdock, K. 2015. The Power of Inquiry. Teaching and learning with curiosity, creativity and purpose in the contemporary classroom. Seastar Education.
I am using Badge Maker to create PE badges that I award when students demonstrate IB attitudes or strive to be one of the IB Learner profiles.
We were impressed about the homework that connected with Alex’s unit of inquiry in grade 3. The central idea is: “Leadership can be exhibited in different settings and scopes”.
Through the key concepts of form, perspective and responsibility, students inquire about the characteristics of leaders, circumstances that shape them, and various opportunities for leadership that they can explore in the community.
Using his thinking skills, researching and communication, Alex shortlisted his grand mother, Khaled Abdul Malak, his mother, Sue, a Stamford educator, and he decided to illustrate Marcus Smith and his leadership skills in the homework. Marcus is the founder of InnerFight, and he is a highly qualified performance coach and an international athlete. Although they have met only a few times in Marcus’ Dubai based gym (once at 5.00 am), Alex is definitely inspired and has a strong understanding of the powerful messages sent through living this lifestyle. His perspective on leadership is exemplified in the homework.
Thanks to Mandala Barab, Alex’s class teacher and the group of educators collaborating on the unit’s strategies, grade 3 students are starting the year equiped with meaningful experiences that empower them to make connections and transfer them into real life.
In gamification elements of computer gaming are applied to non-game context with the purpose to increase motivation and engagement of students. “Gamification tends to take the use of game outside of a defined space and apply the concepts to items like walking up steps, tracking the number of miles run, or making a sales call” (Kapp, 2012).
From Kapp’s point of view, gamification is not the same as games. We tend to associate it with badges and leaderboards, but it should be more about fun and play into the experiences we create. Zombies, Run for example is a game that motivates runners to train harder and do more miles. Experienced educators introduce games and play into their strategies, and digital gamification is an extension of this practice.
Gamification provides a context where students can apply their knowledge and skills which focus on a learning objective. In this context, games should have a clear goal for the players, as well as a learning outcome.
On the other hand, as an educator, you really have to take time and plan the lessons introducing gamification very throughly, because you don’t want your students to take it as an invitation to play video games, but to understand that they need to withdraw strategies from them and apply them in real life, trying to free themselves from conventional ideas and find that special feeling that any idea can be possible with the right twist. As an educator, you always have to have in mind both sides of a story and take in consideration also those who see the downside of a subject, like Selwyn (2014). Selwyn has a more critical view over gamification, mentioning that there is a risk of promoting short-term engagement in tasks, with an increased risk of longer-term disengagement.
With this in mind, this year I have built a website for my grade 5 students that was intended to maximize their physical activity throughout the two sessions a week we spent together. As an element that motivated their actions I have included Sworkit, a fitness app that influenced their behaviour in an active way. They encouraged each other based on their results, they built on the skills they were practicing during the unit and they acquired knowledge. All these outcomes were highlighted in the Slack chat they performed, showcasing the drive of innovation they have faced. These outcomes were closely linked to the central idea of the unit: “We can develop and maintain physical fitness by applying basic training principles”.
After this experience, I am thinking that we can use various insights and creative ideas to design our own, interactive learning experiences. Games and gamification are everywhere nowdays, and games are created much easier than before. Google Glasses or Nike+ are products that became common, therefore the need to build on adding gamification to our learning environments.
Looking back, children were learning through simple play, whereas, with the present mobile technology, they have the world at their fingertips.
Turning game based into knowledge is challenging, but not impossible. Gamification brings the consequences of not reaching the next level and puts the learners into an emotional state where they have to take action, to reach a certain number of points or a different level, and this drives in them a behavioural change. When thinking about the most effective learning moment in our lives we remember the frustration and hardness of the tasks and then the “Aha!” moment. In these cases, over time, gamification reinforces learning and changes behaviours.
Kapp (2012) evidences three core elements of gamification:
First, a visual notification of the progress is visible, and learners like to see progress. Students interact with each other, asking about a tough question or a task. There is an excitement of knowing something from the whole topic, and this is the second element. Third, students are learning at their own pace, so a personalisation of learning is allowed and amplified by the feedback that keeps motivation at high levels.
Before we develop gamification to better foster learning, I believe that is important to ask ourselves these questions:
What are the three reasons driving this game or gamification?
Is the emphasis placed too much on fun aspects of the game and not enough on the learning?
Does the game play include an opportunity for reflection of the learning?
Having these aspects in mind may enhance the quality of the learning experiences we create.
How do you enhance your students’ learning through gamification? Many of us are already integrating it in the experiences we design, but do we always keep the educational purpose beyond the positive effects that gamification offers?
I enjoyed watching this two videos that highlight Kapp’s vision over gamification:
Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Case-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.
Selwyn, N. (2014) Chapter 5 of Distrusting educational technology : critical questions for changing times.
At the beginning of the year I have found this representation and I spent some time reading about the subject.
A few weeks ago I was covering a few lessons for one of my colleagues. I was curious to find out what is the students’ understanding about their presents units. I decided to experiment with SOLO Taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) in order to find more about these groups. The task took around five minutes to complete.
First graders proved some interesting factual knowledge about the topic. Maybe it wasn’t a good call to try it with such young students, but I have realized that I need to practice more when assigning the task. Choosing the verbs that reflect the level of understanding on each level of competence can make the difference on the next attempts.
With the students from grade 3 and 4 it got better. Some were able to express their knowledge mostly at the multi-structural level. On the other hand I was surprised how easy is to identify the ones that prefer to share their ideas orally. Using the unit’s questions helped a lot in this case. This was an interesting way to give them choices when reflecting. I will definitely use it more often with this age group.
Grade 8 students were able to make connections beyond the subject area. I enjoyed reading various perspectives about the same subject. My only regret here is that I teach in the PYP at the moment. I consider this strategy very appropriate for this group if is well planned ahead.
You can find more about John Biggs’ work right here.
Have you tried SOLO taxonomy? What did you find out and what tips can you share on using it better?