So another week of teaching primary PE has left me with lots to ponder…
As I sat drinking my morning coffee I began reflecting on my teaching practice, and what has changed for the better (or worse) over the past 5 years. Sure, if I was to be asked I would wholeheartedly acknowledge that I have improved immensely as a practitioner during that time. My own experiences, acting on my failures and superb mentors have shaped me as a teacher, in particular Simon Blower (@simonpobble) of the amazing team Pobble who guided me with expert knowledge through my NQT year and without whom I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today.
There was one piece of advice I do remember receiving from other practitioners during my NQT year with regards to PE, and to this day I am not entirely convinced it was correct, but I will let you judge for yourselves.
“Maximise the time your class are active and keep sitting around to a minimum, Ofsted don’t like that”
Of course during my NQT year I was very much a ‘yes’ man and petrified of the ferocious ‘beast’ that I thought was Ofsted, thus that was the approach I took in almost all of my PE lessons. I kept them active as much as humanly possible. Every lesson. This didn’t last too long. Sure, I understand that children need to be kept active and there was (and still is) the whole debate about childhood obesity, but this wasn’t going to be solved in my 2 hours of PE lessons a week (1 hour and 40 minutes if I factor in changing time).
I had always been a fan of cooperative learning structures in class as it allowed the children to work together to complete tasks and improve their learning. I soon followed my heart and applied these back to my PE lessons too. After all, I knew MY children better than any Ofsted inspector and in MY opinion it improved their learning in PE. Research has proven that:
Social Interaction = Brain engagement
Brain engagement = Learning
Certainly, to this day I continue to use co-operative learning structures in every PE lesson I teach if I think it will benefit the children. Many of you will be happy to know that it does not significantly impact on the amount of time spent ‘active’, and if this time for ‘collaboration’ is in fact helping them understand the fundamentals better, then surely it is far more beneficial.
My two favourite structures to use are commonplace and by no means an ‘Aha’ moment for many of you, but regardless of this I find them very useful and have explained them below.
Think Pair Share
- Teacher announces a topic and states how long each pupil will have to share, and provided think time (e.g. What does a good hockey push pass look like?)
- In pairs, partner A shares; Partner B listens
- Partner B responds with a positive comment
- Partners switch roles
I often group children in mixed ability pairings for this activity and instead of giving them a label A or B, I often lighten the mood by saying things such as:
‘The person with the longest/shortest hair will go first’
‘The tallest/shortest will go first’
Rally Robin – In pairs, students take turns responding orally
- Teacher poses a problem to which there are multiple possible responses or solutions, and provided think time (e.g. What attributes do you need to be a successful netball player?)
- Pupils take turns stating responses or solutions.
I often find this a useful co-operative learning structure for the start of a unit of work but I have used it effectively in peer assessment. Children were split into groups of three (one player performing a skill and the other two observing). At the end of allotted time the two observers rally robin about good points and areas for improvement before feeding back.
So there you have it. Something that I aim to include in EVERY lesson I deliver if there is going to be a positive and beneficial outcome for the children.
I would love to hear from anybody else who uses co-operative learning structures of any sort and equally from those who stick to maximum time spent physically active (with less talk time). I personally think this addition early on in my career to my PE teaching has improved the quality of sessions that I deliver in terms of learning and camaraderie (feel good factor) amongst the children.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time ‘Under the Umbrella’.