Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units

This blog post by Adam Metcalf was a feature on the Gopher P.E. Blog

The best way to learn is to do. The worst way to teach is to talk.” –Paul Halmos

We all know that student-centered, authentic learning experiences are crucial for cultivating the type of learners who will be best prepared for success in the modern world. The incessant battle for weak attention spans has unearthed how incredibly important it is to design learning experiences that allow for student choice. At the same time, we must foster the development of social interdependence in a safe, supportive environment where gaining perspective through a shared journey is the objective. Alas, knowing that something is important and figuring out a practical way to do it is the ongoing challenge of our profession. Taking risks, giving up control, and stepping outside of our comfort zones as teachers can be daunting.

My physical education department has been using a Sport Ed/TGfU hybrid model for nine years in our middle school curriculum (Grades 5-8). Although it may seem intimidating, the shift away from the traditional sport units and instructional methods to a student-centered approach has been more fulfilling than we could have ever predicted! In this approach, the teacher acts as the facilitator for learning rather than the traditional “sage on stage.” We have seen amazing engagement and growth in our students through adapting and combining elements from the Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) instructional models.

While an “event driven” unit can be exciting and memorable, an overcomplicated unit can result in an enormous amount of planning and management; this may lead to teacher burnout and a decrease in student engagement. We have found that adapting some simple elements from the Sport Ed model and using the themes and structure of the TGfU model can help provide a framework for engaging and repeatable units without teacher burnout. We have tried many variations and continue to tweak the unit structure, but have found the most success using the basic guidelines below:

Unit Planning:
Begin your year establishing expectations, building relationships, cooperative skills, etc. Then plan and sequence your units according to the TGfU Game Categories:

Invasion Games (Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Ultimate, Floor Hockey, etc.) will be the most prevalent sport category. Begin with a sport unit that is simple and/or one with which students are familiar. Skills and strategies will transfer from one sport to the next (i.e., maintaining possession and creating space in soccer will also be applicable in basketball). Grouping these sports together will create a deeper understanding and an increased familiarity with how to react to and solve the in-game problems and situations.

Sequencing Net/Wall Games during the winter months work well with the indoor space and equipment available at our school (Volleyball, Badminton, Pickleball, etc.).

As the weather warms up in the Spring, we prefer to finish the school year with Target (Golf, Archery, Bowling, etc.) and Striking/Fielding Games (Kickball, Softball, Cricket, etc.).
Each sport unit (within the TGfU category) is typically eight to twelve 45-minute sessions. Our students have daily P.E. so each unit spans approximately 3 weeks. We usually complete 6-8 sport units per school year:

2-4 sessions of preseason practice
3-4 sessions of regular season games (team records count toward tournament seeding)
3-4 sessions of post season tournament (usually double elimination)

Keep It Simple
Limit the number of roles and responsibilities. In our units, everybody is a player and some people have additional roles. Each team has a coach (who volunteers prior to the start of the unit). Once balanced teams are determined, all members meet to sign the Team Contract/ Fair Play Agreement as well as determine who will take on the additional responsibilities: assistant coach, equipment manager, fitness trainer, publicist. By structuring simplified Sport Ed units, repeating the model will allow several students the opportunity to experience the various roles.

Facilitate Learning
Rather than giving the students skills and drills, we allow them to come up with their own practice plans. We encourage them to take the focus of the day and play a modified game that will allow players to develop an understanding within a dynamic, fun setting. Using the TGfU model structure, we encourage and assist coaches with implementing small-sided games to emphasize the strategies and skills needed to achieve success. When we are focused on offensive strategies, modifying the number of defenders and/or restricting movement will allow for more meaningful practice on the offensive side.

Example: Preseason Learning Outcome: Maintain possession by creating space using pivots, fakes, and jab steps.

Scoring: Offensive players score a point every time they complete 3 consecutive passes within the prescribed boundary. Take turns playing offensive and defensive positions where the defensive team is outnumbered (i.e. 2 vs 1, 3 vs 2, 4 vs 2, etc.)

Ask Lots of Questions
Kids playing volleyballThe authentic nature of this format can heighten the potential for group dynamics to get messy. It is important for the teacher to make sure that a safe classroom culture is paramount. Giving up control to the students is undoubtedly difficult, but this is the best way for them to learn. Your students need to know that you are there to support them and need you to remain firm and consistent with what is expected from every member of the class. If a practice or game isn’t going or didn’t go well, ask questions of the coaches that will advance a more reflective, open mindset. Allow students to express themselves in daily class discussions, or in private as needed. Be willing to make adjustments based on the feedback and needs of the class.

The engagement and enthusiasm fostered through this model is unparalleled. We have also found that once students have experienced autonomy and authenticity of this type of unit (i.e., peer-lead activities and the use of teams that stay together through a preseason, regular season, and postseason), they overwhelmingly prefer a “Sport Ed” unit to a traditional unit. I highly recommend giving it a try and seeing for yourself!

For a more extensive look into TGfU and Sport Education hybrid units, check out a recording of my webinar, Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units.

Streamline Standards Based Progress Reporting: SHAPE America Template + Google Apps

The first thing that went through my mind when I saw the new SHAPE America Standards Based Progress Report Template was “This is awesome.” The second thing that went through my mind is that I have to put this into a Google Doc and create an accompanying Google Sheet so that these can reports be sent to my students and parents as a supplemental report using the Autocrat merge add-on.  The great thing about this template is that it gives P.E. teachers a clean template that is relatively easy to customize.  Whether your school uses Standards Based reporting or not, this template and Google Apps merge system will allow teachers to communicate progress aligned with teacher-selected Grade Level Outcomes.

Here is a video tutorial that will show teachers how to use the Google Doc & Google Sheet to run an Autocrat merge that will create and email the Student Progress Report document.

Here is the SHAPE America Standards Based Student Progress Report created by
Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 9.03.58 PM

Here is a link to the  Google Drive Folder that includes the Google Doc Template, Google Sheet Template, and some samples.

SHAPE America Grade Level Outcomes PDF

SHAPE America Grade Level Outcomes Crowd Sourced for Google Sheets (ThePhysicalEducator.com)

 

 

Opportunities, Mentors, And A Growth Mindset: A Personal Story About The Journey Towards Finding One’s Passion

I have the best job in the world! Having the opportunity to earn a living doing what I love is something that I certainly do not take for granted. It’s always interesting to think back and reflect upon all the opportunities, mentors, and setbacks that have shaped me into the person and teacher that I am today. Undoubtedly, the support and generosity of my parents and siblings have shaped my outlook more than I could ever possibly repay. No matter the situation or obstacle, my mom always helps me keep things in perspective. “Think positive thoughts! Everything happens for a reason.” She often tells me.

This blog post is a bit different than my normal “teacher-centered” posts… this is a personal throwback.  The following essay is an “Autosnap Midterm” paper about a personal mentor that I wrote during my first semester in my teacher education program at Northern Illinois University. My professor gave me some flattering, positive feedback; and even told me that I should try to get it published! I never attempted to publish, however, I figured that it may be a nice blog post to inspire children and adults to be growth minded, recognize opportunities, and do what makes you happy.

Adam Metcalf
EPFE 521.1
October 4, 2004
Autosnap Midterm

I look back over my shoulder to check the scoreboard displayed behind me in left field and then take a couple steps in to make sure that I can still make a play at the plate if the hitter drops a single in front of me. With two outs and runners on first and second, we are barely hanging on to a one-run lead. The pitch is fired inside and the right-handed batter gets around on it to send a high line drive in my direction. I turn to my right in a full sprint as I try to focus on the ball over my left shoulder. I leap up and reach with my left hand to snag the ball out of the air. As the ball hits my glove’s pocket, my face and body collide with the chain link fence. The fence gives way just enough to sling shot my somersaulting body back on to the warning track. My legs and feet tumble over my head as I try to find my balance enough to stand up in one fluid motion. Turning back toward the infield, I raise my glove to signal that I had hung onto the ball and secured the victory.

After the game ended, I gathered my bag and was walking out to my parents’ car when a middle-aged man with a scruffy red beard approached me. He said, “Son, I think you have just made the best catch I have ever seen.” I genuinely thanked the man and continued on my way home.

Three years later, I was a sophomore at Columbus High School. The sophomore team was struggling, and I was not getting any playing time. One day after practice, my sophomore coach said that varsity coach Tom O’Leary wanted to see me. I immediately felt confused and wondered if I had done something wrong. I stayed after practice and waited for the varsity coaches to arrive. I had never spoken to the coaches before (or at least that is what I thought at the time). I walked up to Coach O’Leary and introduced myself. He said, “Son, I’ve been following you since you were in seventh grade. How would you like to dress for tonight’s game with the big boys?” I then realized where I had seen that scruffy red beard before. I was ecstatic, nervous, and confused all at the same time as I accepted his offer. I could not understand why he wanted me to join varsity when I was not getting playing time on the sophomore team.

I was extremely nervous throughout the game as I only knew a couple of the varsity players. After we had secured a comfortable 9-1 lead, I ended up getting a pinch-hit single in my first varsity at bat. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders as I rounded first and returned to an extended handshake from Coach O’Leary. “See!” he said, “this is where you’ve belonged all along.”

From that day on, I was a full time starter on the sophomore and junior varsity teams. I participated in two practices a day, which was difficult as I was only fifteen years of age and did not have a driver’s license. Coach O’Leary took me under his wing and told me that I was going to be his project for the next three years. He said, “If you do what I tell you, you’re gonna love this game as much as I do.”

For the first week of practice, he focused on changing my arm throwing motion from a three-quarter side arm to directly over the top. He took me aside and taught me about the physics of the ball’s spin and how I would have much more control and power if I threw it this way. I worked hard every second of every practice that entire season and did exactly what Coach O’Leary told me to do. If he told me to loosen up my grip at the plate during batting practice, I did it. If he told me to focus on my footwork while fielding a ground ball in the outfield, I did it. Without fail, the results spoke for themselves.

I was named the starting varsity center fielder as a junior. Coach O’Leary confidently defended my center field positioning even though I was not the fastest outfielder. He always preached to me about center field being the captain of the defense as well as the best fielder on the grass. I loved the grass. I loved center field. I loved the game of baseball. Coach O’Leary had given me so much confidence that every time I stepped on the baseball field I knew that I had the tools in place to get the job done.

I was unanimously voted team captain my senior year and led the team to a successful season. I went on to play baseball at Loras College and lead by example every time I strapped on the cleats. I graduated from Loras College with a business marketing degree and worked a couple jobs in sales for a few years in the Chicago area. I knew I could not spend the rest of my life doing a job that did not make me happy. I was badly in need of some guidance.

In the summer of 2003, I returned to my hometown in Iowa for the wedding of Coach O’Leary’s niece, a good friend of my sister.   Upon walking into the church, the first face I saw was the red-bearded one of Coach O’Leary. We made eye contact immediately, and he gave me the silent underhanded fist pump I had seen so many times before. That night at the reception, he told me about how he still tells his players stories about me. My eyes began to well up as he went on about how I wasn’t the fastest or most talented athlete but that I played the game with heart. His wife even came up to me and told me how much he loved coaching me. She kept going on and on about how those were his happiest times as a coach. I’ll never forget that night’s conversation with him. I had always known how much he had affected my life, but I never thought about how I fulfilled his.

Four months after our conversation at the reception, I resigned from my sales position and applied to Northern Illinois University in my pursuit to become a teacher and a coach. I always wonder how different my life would be right now if it weren’t for Coach O’Leary. He took a chance on me and is a major reason I am who I am today. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason; I can’t wait to be a reason for my students and athletes someday.

Creating a Sustainable System for Sport Education Units

The Sport Education instructional model (Sport Ed, SEPEP) is a fantastic way to enhance motivation, engagement, and overall experience of students in physical education. The dynamics of the teacher facilitating the learning experiences, if done correctly, can also be a phenomenal way to address the 4C’s (21st Century Learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity) and Common Core Standards and provide enriching experiences for students of all skill levels.sport ed - flag football

I’ve been using the main ideas from this instructional model in a modified capacity for six years for my middle school classes.  I have found that once students have experienced this type of unit (ie: peer-lead activities and the use of teams that stay together through a preseason, regular season, and post season) they overwhelmingly prefer a “Sport Ed” unit over a traditional unit.

While an “event driven” unit can be exciting and memorable, an overcomplicated unit can result in an enormous amount of planning and management; this may lead to teacher burnout and a decrease in student engagement. I have found that adapting some simple ideas from the Sport Ed model can help provide a framework for engaging and repeatable units without an extravagant “dog and pony show.” I have tried several different ways of doing this type of unit, and have found the most success with the basic format below:

Unit Planning:
I usually do 8-12, 30-minute sessions per unit (My school has daily P.E. Each unit spans approximately 3 weeks. We usually do 8 sport units per school year… this can be modified according to your school’s schedule).

  • 2-4 sessions of preseason practices
  • 3-4 sessions of regular season games (games count toward tournament seeding)
  • 3-4 of post season tournament 

Middle School Resources:

  • Team contract (including fair play agreement)
  • Sport specific skill/strategy cards for captains/coaches (Teaching Games for Understanding concepts)Sport Ed Student Roles
  • Posted schedule of jobs/roles for the unit (details below)
  • Cognitive assessment (be mindful of the “need to know”
    Badminton Rubricand the “nice to know” concepts)
  • Assessment rubrics for self, peer, and strategy assessment

 

Routines & Duties:

Students volunteer to be Captain/Coach before the start of the unit. The vast majority
sport ed - flag football coachof volunteers at my school prefer to participate as captains (mainly because they want to participate in the games). Whether or not the student plays games as a captain or coaches from the sidelines, it still allows for an extremely enriching leadership experience.

Team Draft: I use the Team Shake app to “oppose” the captains/coaches and shake up teams (equal ability team configuration). If unfamiliar with Team Shake, I would recommend the teacher creating balanced-ability teams. I usually do 4-5 teams per sport unit. If 2 games are being played, the odd team out will practice off to the side.

Captains/Coaches select an assistant coach who will act as a normal player, but also fill in for the captain/coach if absent. Assistant coach is also the in-game referee (while playing). Assistant coaches must be objective and honest when making any questionable calls in gameplay (rock, paper, scissors is a quick way to solve any disagreements).

Schedule Role Rotation: Rather than having students remain in “non-participant” roles, I have found it more engaging to rotate the roles/jobs throughout the unit to allow maximum participation.

Create and post a spreadsheet with the number of sessions you plan on doing for the unit. Leave the top column of the schedule blank and fill in the date with a pencil on the day of each class.

IMG_3075 Students must check the posted schedule of jobs/roles for each day of the unit to see if they have a job to do that day. This step is extremely important to hold students accountable. If students do not check his/her responsibility for that day, the unit will not run as smoothly.

P=Publicist
Last 2 minutes of class, the publicists (one from each team) write 2-3 sentences about what happened today with his/her team (skills/strategies learned, special performances, etc.). Publicists may also snap a few photos if technology is easily available.

F=Fitness Trainer
Lead team through a fitness-based warm-up at the start of class (fitness warm-up task cards optional)

E=Equipment Manager
Sets up and puts away any equipment needed or used that day

C=Coach/Captain
Meets with teacher at the start of class (while fitness trainer is warming up team). Teacher communicates and provides resources for the focus/objectives of the day IMG_3067(provide guidance to students for how to teach and/or communicate). I use TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding) concepts and strategies for better transfer of knowledge and a deeper understanding of gameplay. Encourage the use of small-sided modified games in order to teach and practice skills and strategic concepts. Coaches/Captains will almost always have a difficult time on the first day. It is extremely important to let them work through set-backs and failures to figure out their own leadership style. I always debrief with the Coaches/Captains at the end of each class to get their feedback and provide support to help them improve.

Putting together this type of unit can be a daunting task many reasons: worries about giving up control, creating new resources, lack of confidence in student engagement, etc. IMG_3068The most important bit of advice, in my opinion, is to keep it as simple as possible, especially if you are new to the Sport Ed model. Too often, I see teachers trying to create Sport Ed units with too many jobs/roles and trying to incorporate technology where it may not be needed. Once the teacher and students are comfortable with this type of unit, it becomes much easier to add new enhancements.

Please let me know if you have any questions or additional feedback regarding modified variations of Sport Ed that may enhance student learning experiences in physical education.

Here is a link to my #PhysEdSummit3.0 webinar session for more details:

Here are some examples of resources that I’ve created for various Sport Ed units:
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B0WEidJoxUyKNHlwbzRQQmdqeDA&usp=sharing

 

Feedback from my students about this Sport Ed unit model:
Pros:
“It enhances cooperative skills. We know each other better and can individualize and assist more directly.”

“The competitive atmosphere is more realistic.”

“Each unit has a purpose and it helps everyone put forth their best effort to improve and help the team.”

“If you don’t know much about the sport, coaching is a great way to learn!”

Cons:
“At times it can become too competitive.  For those who are lower skilled, the pressure from certain teammates can become off-putting.”

“Team balance is really important.  Mostly the teams are good, but at times gender and ability imbalance can make it difficult”

What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 3 of 3)

This is the third of three blog posts in my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore. This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter. During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain. What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 8: Monday March 31, 2014
Teacher: Mike Gilmour (Twitter @Gilmour_Mike)
Overseas Family School (Singapore)
http://www.ofs.edu.sg/

The streets of Singapore are lined with enormous shopping centers, multiplexes, and skyscrapers. New construction and renovations are ongoing in nearly every part of the city. Public transportation systems (trains, cabs, and buses and buses) are exceptionally affordable and easy to use. My first full day in Singapore begins with a 10-minute cab ride to Overseas Family School to visit Mike Gilmour. Having arrived a bit early, I take advantage of my free time to walk around the surrounding neighborhood as well as observe the morning traffic.

What I Saw:
The school buses arriving at OFS would be what Americans would call charter buses. Buses and cars entered the manned security gates while traffic was directed by a large number of yellow vested individuals to help coordinate the morning drop off.
Overseas Family School is a for-profit IMG_1980K-12 International Baccalaureate Curriculum (Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programs: enrollment is approximately 3600 students from 73 countries).

Mike Gilmour (Primary Physical Education) and his wife (2nd grade) have been teachers at OFS for 4.5 years. Mike is originally from South Africa and absolutely loves the international school circuit. The facilities and logistics of all of Physical Education were fascinating to see in action. With only outdoor facilities, I was able to witness 6+ P.E. classes (of various grades and areas of campus) going on at the same time. I was astounded at the level of focus and maturity of the students, who were able to follow instructions and remain engaged in a myriad of activities while numerous potential distractions were so close (noise from other classes, construction equipment, etc.).

Mike’s personality and teaching style makes for a very exciting learning environment. During his grade 4 adventure education lessons, his instructions were clear and concise:
IMG_2009students transitioned quickly through 4-5 team challenges with very little down time. With the consistently hot and humid weather (95 F, 35 C), the students took frequent water breaks throughout the course of the hour-long P.E. class.

In addition to seeing many adventure challenge activities, I was also able to see how the P.E. teachers implemented their first Sport Education (SEPEP) unit through the Swiss sport of tchoukball. Teams were lead by student-player/coaches through a round robin regular season. The teams that won their respective class seasons competed in the “Exhibition” games during lunch/recess (where hundreds of students could watch as they ate lunch in and near the canteen).

What I Learned:
I had never had much exposure to International Schools and had many questions about how the various schools were funded, teacher contracts, student contracts, etc. Mike and his teaching colleagues were extremely helpful in explaining how the various types of international school systems operate (for profit, nonprofit, etc.). As far as what I’ve gained as a teacher, I could not have been more impressed with Mike Gilmour (as well as his teaching colleagues). The best way to truly get an appreciation for how tal
IMG_2012ented and passionate certain people are is to see them in their element. I was absolutely blown away by the efficiency with which Mike was able to deliver immensely dynamic lessons in a variety of settings. I have a new appreciation for what students can handle when the teachers plan units and lessons to maximize content and activity within all available spaces.

Day 9: Tuesday April 1, 2014
Teachers: Josh Symes (Twitter @JSymes77) & Anne Wenstrom (Twitter @AWenstrom)
Singapore American School (Singapore)
http://www.sas.edu.sg/

A 30-minute cab ride out to Woodlands (suburban setting) to Singapore American School to spend the day with Josh Symes (Australia) and Anne Wentrome (Minnesota, U.S.A.). The
transition from city to suburb was definitely a shift in the amount of space available. TheSAS courts campus of Singapore American School is progressive, beautiful, and vast. A student- SAS cricketcentered design is extremely apparent with the amount of integrated outdoor social courtyards,
open-air walkways, and areas available for play. This nonprofit international school is built to support up to 3900 students with a college campus type feel with primary, intermediate, middle, and high schools.

 

What I Saw:
I spent the first part of the morning with middle school Physical Education teacher, Josh Symes (friend of Andy Hair who I had visited in Geelong, Australia the week IMG_2025prior). Josh’s inquiry-based teaching approach is the perfect fit for the P.E. department philosophy of exposure to sport. As part of the core curriculum, P.E. classes meet for either 70 or 90 minutes every other day! Throughout the course of the school year, 18 different sport units are covered within 3-day allotments. I witnessed a “day 2” volleyball lesson where students were recording and viewing video of setting and forearm passing through the use of iPads (Bam Video IMG_2030Delay and Coach’s Eye apps). Small groups worked productively to perform practice tasks and reflect upon improvements that they could make based on what they just observed. Josh was able to visit the groups and provide additional feedback to the students.

As a teacher, Josh is extremely reflective and well read. His laid back demeanor (teacher/learner equality) could be misinterpreted by a “traditional” (direct instruction style) teacher as aloof. Through an afternoon and evening of conversation, it was apparent that his teaching approach is exceptionally calculated. Allowing students to experiment and discover the best way to approach sport skills and strategies provides a
IMG_2061richer, more meaningful transfer of knowledge. Josh explained how his entire middle school P.E. department (9 teachers) has or is transitioning to more student centered. The basic model is to have the student start each sport with a personal goal, then explore how to reach it. The traditional focus on skill (grip, positioning of feet, hands, etc.) is thrown out the window, students learn by doing.

I spent the late morning through the midafternoon with Apple Distinguished primary (K-2) P.E. teacher, Anne Wenstrome. The primary P.E. area(s) of the school was a technology dream come true. Cart-mounted flat screen TVs (equipped with AppleTVs and Microsoft Kinect consoles) and iPads were plentiful.
IMG_2038The gym for Anne’s classes was set up into floor hockey game and skill stations to maximize student activity.   Two stations incorporated gameplay tasks, one station allowed for partner passing, and one station was dedicated to visual feedback. A tripod-mounted iPad on Bam Video Delay allowed students to practice, then view their own grip and shot execution. After a few attempts each student would then reflect on his/her skill development by filling out and submitting a Google Form (which included images of correct hand position/follow through to reference).

What I Learned:
Witnessing Josh’s inquiry-based teaching style and Anne’s organization and creativity was a delight to see in person. Seeing how both teachers were able to
IMG_2053purposefully integrate technology for student-directed feedback produced a stream of ideas for ways in which I could replicate these routines into my own classes.

 

 

 

Day 10: Wednesday April 2, 2014
Teacher: Nathan Horne (Twitter @PENathan)
ISS International School (Singapore)
http://www.iss.edu.sg/

My final school visit began with a 10-minute cab ride to ISS International School to visit Nathan Horne (Tasmania, Australia). Meeting Nathan Horne was one of the primary IMG_2072 objectives of my trip to Singapore. Having followed his work on Twitter and the #PhysEd Podcast for over a year, I treasured the opportunity to see him teach and have professional conversations about best practices in Physical Education.

ISS is a for-profit International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) that has students from over 50 nationalities. The aims of PYP schools are to connect the curriculum content to a series of desired attributes and attitudes that characterize successful students (Inquirers, Thinkers, Communicators, Risk-takers, Knowledgeable, Principled, Caring, Open-minded, Well-balanced, Reflective).

What I Saw:
Nathan’s P.E. classes were beginning of a 6-week swimming unit where each class was bussed to the public pool. Normal P.E. classes are scheduled twice per week for 45 IMG_2075minutes, however, during the swimming unit, scheduling is adjusted to allow for one 90
minute session per week (due to the 10-minute bus ride at the beginning and end of class). P.E. teachers and swim coaches work with groups of 5-7 students at a time to progress through various levels of swimming challenges and tasks. Younger students focus on introductory swim concepts (breathing, kicks, arm strokes), while the more experienced students (up to grade 5) worked on advanced techniques in the 50M lap pool. Nathan’s inquiry-based teaching style helps the students discover how to improve their level of comfort in the water. Throughout the course of the swim unit, student motivation to IMG_2088improve upon personal goals of lap-time in the various swim strokes was to culminate in the all-school swim carnival.

The technology integration at ISS is remarkable (Apple Macbooks, iPads, and Google Apps for Education). Nathan shared several examples of student projects, digital portfolios, and even K-2 students video explanations of their work (much more efficient that having the students type). Nathan and I spent a good portion of the afternoon discussing sharing the various types of workflow data collection systems that we use. I was especially impressed with his use of Google forms to track behavior and skill development (“Ages & Stages” motor development by age). We talked at length about successes and challenges we’ve had in Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding instructional models.

We continued our conversation throughout the course of the evening as we went out for dinner and were joined by Mike Gilmour. The three of us spoke about how powerful
IMG_2095collaborating with like-minded educators on Twitter can be. It was incredibly refreshing to discuss and welcome different perspectives in order to further enrich our own teaching practice.

What I Learned:
There are certain moments in life that feel profoundly different, and the day I spent with Nathan certainly one of them. Meeting and establishing a friendship with Nathan is the start of what I believe will be something special for years to come. Having the conversations (both personal and professional) throughout the day and evening with Nathan have me feeling truly inspired to do more and share more of all of the good we are doing as educators.

I had an extremely rare opportunity (provided by The Avery Coonley School’s Lucia Burton Morse Grant) to build real professional relationships with some of the most reflective and progressive teachers on the other side of the world. I feel an enormous obligation to take what I’ve learned from this experience, and figure out how I can pay it forward. I am eager to share my newly shaped perspectives to improve my own teaching as well as inspire other teachers to step outside of their comfort zone, think big, and never stop learning.

What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 2 of 3)

This is the second of three blog posts in my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore.  This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter.  During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain.  What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 4: Thursday March 27, 2014
Teacher: Andy Hair (Twitter @MrHairPhysEd)
Leopold Primary School (Leopold, Victoria)
http://www.leopold.vic.edu.au/

IMG_1796I checked out of my accommodations in Melbourne and walked with my luggage in a light rain to Southern Cross station (1000m).  Hopped aboard V-Line train to
Geelong (a little over an hour ride) where a smiling Andy Hair picked me up.  Andy was wearing my school’s T-shirt (which we swapped last school year through the #PEshirtswap) and his knees and ankles were wrapped in ace bandages as he was still recovering from the Ironman competition from the past weekend.  Having skyped with Andy on two occasions, it was fantastic to meet him in person.  We spoke as if we were old friends as he took me on a brief drive from the train station to his school.

What I Saw:
Leopold Primary School is an extremely charming Prep-Grade 6 public school about 15 minutes outside of the historic port city of Geelong, Victoria.  The gym is absolutely IMG_1748gorgeous!  I was especially fond of the wood floors and the garage-style doors, which were kept open throughout the school day to allow fresh air to flow through.  The gym is owned by the local parks and recreation service and is used in the evenings for clubs, sport leagues, taekwondo, dance, etc.  The outdoor facilities include playgrounds, basketball/downball courts (similar to “4 square” played with a tennis ball), a footy oval (field), and a large soccer field.

Andy is the head of a two-person Physical Education department (with Gemmah Gill).  The two teachers share and office just outside the gym and often team teach together.  Andy begins each school day wheeling his robust technology cart into the gym (complete with iPads, projector, AppleTV, and speakers).  Near the back wall of the stage hangs an enormous projector screen that Andy helped to build.

Grades 5 & 6 P.E. classes for the day consisted of a guest instructor from Lacrosse Victoria, a company that conducts clinics at schools and park districts throughout the IMG_1760area.  Students hadn’t seen Andy since the week before the Ironman, so they were extremely excited to see and hear about his experience.  It was evident that his students had a genuine affinity for Andy, whose upbeat demeanor and aura of respect is infectious.  Andy spoke colorfully about his experience in the Ironman to his students as jaws hung open with the details of how excruciating the eleven-hour event was on his body and mind.  Andy’s personification of a healthy lifestyle, along with his family balance, is inspiring for both students and his colleagues.

Both P.E. teachers are comfortable and efficient with technology.  I was extremely impressed by one of Andy’s Excel spreadsheets that is used when entering student sport data.  The spreadsheet was created with auto-calculating/VLookup functions to sort by age and student scores automatically by the simple entry of each student’s assigned IMG_1761number.  This type of data entry tool is great for students in that they can quickly find out how they scored within their age group (without having the teachers spending several hours entering names and scores).

Technology is also incorporated throughout the school with the integration of Google Apps for Education.  Student technology emersion is evident through the use iPads and laptops (1-to-1 from grades 4-6). The school just implemented a learning management system, called School Turf, which is run by two men who customize the LMS as needed for the teaching/administrative staff.  Formative feedback, grading, digital portfolios and digital documents are seamlessly shared between the teachers and students.   School Turf also includes a “learning network” (similar to a social network) where student can blog, leave comments, and “like” certain posts.

What I Learned:
As a teacher in the field of Physical Education, I could not have been more impressed with how Andy Hair personifies IMG_1770everything that is right about our profession.  He practices what he preaches with such humility that it is no surprise that his students and his colleagues respect him so genuinely.  Andy is the type of teacher (and the type of person) that students are inspired by and aspire to be like.


Day 5: Friday March 28, 2014
Teacher: Ashley Mills (Twitter @AshleaMills)
Firbank Grammar School (Brighton, Victoria)
http://www.firbank.vic.edu.au/

After spending the night in a rental apartment in Geelong, I walked with my luggage about a half mile to the V-Line train station to take a 7am train from Geelong towards Southern Cross Station.  I transferred at the Footscray stop to Werribee line towards Flinders St. Station.  Then transferred at Flinders St. Station to the Sandringham Line to North Brighton.  I then walked about a half mile to Firbank Grammar School where I met Ashlea Mills.

What I Saw:
Firbank Grammar is an elite, all girls, private PYP school (Primary Years Programme).  Themes of inquiry provide a scope and sequence for which all subjects and content areas use to guide units and instruction.  Enrollment is around 310 with class sizes of approximately 23.  Ashlea Mills is the main PE teacher for Years 2-6 and is accompanied by 2 part time PMP teachers (Perceptual Motor Programme movement/skills in stations).

Physical Education classes begin in the sport room which has a mounted TV (with a protective enclosure) where Ashlea displays visual aids though AppleTV.  The sport room IMG_1819has a glass wall with sliding door that opens to the outdoor facilities, which include several tennis courts, netball/basketball courts, playgrounds, and a large oval (grass field).  Ashlea was teaching her final lesson of her cross-country unit to her grade 4 students.  Students bring their own Ipad to class (purchased by the family, required by school).

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Ashlea’s lessons for the day were based on collecting each girl’s 12-minute run data through the use of an app called Run Lap Tap.  Students were partnered up where one girl would run around the 200 meter track (which had been painted by maintenance staff) while the other would start the timer
and double-tap each time a IMG_1837lap was completed. Upon completing the run, results were emailed to Ashlea as well as the runner.  Information included how many laps were completed and how long each lap took (which allowed for speed: meters/second).

Ashlea is an incredibly efficient teacher in both her planning and her instruction time.  She seamlessly multitasks and transitions from student meetings to classes throughout the day.  Efficiency is crucial for Ashlea, as she organizes team sport as well as adventure camps throughout the school year.  Although Ashlea has only been a teacher for 3 years, she is an extremely proficient and reflective teacher.  She stays informed about best teaching practices by attending (and presenting) at Teach Meet sessions, is active in the #PhysEd Twitter community, reads educational blogs, and writes her own blog (www.healthybodies-happyminds.com)

The school day concluded (as does every Friday) with an all school assembly lead by the Year 6 students (each week, a different year presents).  The school demonstrates the importance of community through the presentation of awards, poetry, musical performances, and other various recognitions.

What I Learned:
It was extremely beneficial for me to see how the themes of inquiry function in a primary school.  The mission and values of the school (learning, initiative, endeavor, achievement, responsibility, integrity, respect, creativity, spirituality, flexibility, diversity) are integrated
applied throughout all of the content areas.  It was eye opening for me to see how this type of curriculum worked, not only in a P.E. setting, IMG_1849but throughout the various classroom environments as well.  Ashlea’s relationships with her students, as well as her time management techniques, were incredible to witness (for teachers of any age or content area).  Her purposeful and efficient integration of iPad applications in P.E. was exciting to see, and has me inspired to find ways to bring some of her ideas to my school.