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.

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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”