Wednesday, April 15, 2009

St. Mary's Labs!


Working with students in kindergarten and first grade really forces you to learn on the spot. The students have very basic locomotor and movement patterns, mostly in the initial and elementary stages. They are more concerned with having fun and completing the activity than using the correct form while running, galloping, and hopping. The girls in this group seemed to have a better grasp on these movement abilities. Many students hopped without swinging their non-supporting leg or kept their arms down to their sides. The gallopers also tended to keep their arms down and did not exactly understand what we meant by ‘gallop.’ Still, this age group clearly loved to run, whether it was in good form or with their arms and legs flailing about. 

Today, Barn Yard Chase started off as a disaster. The students were very hyper and excited to play with the parachute on their first day back from a long break from school. We made many mistakes (that we learned from!) at the very beginning. First of all, we never should have let the students get near the parachute before we explained the rules. We told the students to look at the baby animals underneath but they assumed this meant go under the parachute to actually see the animals and then we could not get them out from under there! As well, they began shaking the parachute wildly and we were unable to give good instructions. The other groups of Zany Zoo and especially Stinky Letter Stew did a great job of giving small amounts of instruction with a demonstration before allowing the students to play. In the after school setting it is important to allow for plenty of playing time without as much instruction, so the children can wind down from the day of classes. 


Today, we worked mostly with the first grade students. This time the children showed much more enthusiasm and direction in their activities. They clearly wanted to play the games because when they did not understand something they asked questions to find out where to go, instead of simply making it up themselves or sitting out. The main movement patters we examined were the leap, horizontal jump, and slide, but we also incorporated throwing, balancing, crawling, running, vertical jumping, and even socializing into the Endless Bucket game. Again, during the game the students were so full of energy and excitement to play that they did not concentrate entirely on their skills. 

We used an explanation and demonstration strategy to show the children how to play Endless Bucket. It worked great! Even though they could not read their cards, we helped them get to the correct station and therefore perform all the different activities. We gave consistent feedback and also had to demonstrate often the movement we expected from the students while we played. By getting them excited at the very beginning (saying they were training to be superheroes!) we shot the level of enthusiasm up through the roof! 

In the after school setting, it was important for us to have a way to get the children’s attention when we needed too. Although it is sometimes unnecessary to use a whistle in order to make the students respond, it came in handy when the children were being too loud for us to be heard. As well, I enjoyed being able to use the whistle to take a break in play so we could stop and explain the next progression we wanted the children to work on.


Many new challenges come about every week at St. Mary’s. First of all, with each new task or game, we must remember to give directions and instructions in a way that the specific age group will understand. As well, we must remain in control of the students at all times. Sometimes I forget that I am in a position of power and I enjoy seeing the students engaging in their own fun activities, but if they are given freedom, they usually run too far. Another challenge we faced was getting ALL students to participate. When we focused too much on the assessment of the particular skills, it took away from our ideal learning AND fun environment. I will continuously be learning what activities are developmentally appropriate as well as how to give directions to certain age groups.

PRACTICE! I am a firm believer that experience is the number one way to learn from mistakes, setbacks, and/or adversity. In order to learn what I can and cannot or what particular methods work best, I must first try and then reflect upon the experience. For example, every time I went to St. Mary’s I found myself surprised at the ability of the students. Sometimes they were able to do activities that I did not know they were capable of such as group jump rope or even throwing a ball across the gym. Other times I assumed the students knew how to perform tasks such as hopping, spelling their name, or catching a ball with something other than their face.


In the labs so far, I feel that we have learned a great deal about the appropriate games to play with the different levels and abilities of students. Since all students are at different levels even when they are the same age, we must make games that students can all play together at their different levels. One game the students played called for them to throw a beanbag across a gap and the student on the other side had to catch it. Some students were able to perform this drill perfectly, while others could not make the throw across the gap or were throwing it underhand. The game then had to be adapted so that if they dropped the beanbag it was okay and they could continue the game. Numerous times the students were saying that they were bored or did not want to play the game because they were standing around. We had to adapt the game to keep the students from becoming bored by, for instance, allowing two people at a time to go in a relay. The best games we played were simple, highly active, had great class participation, and FUN because of the themes such the endless bucket game during super heros week!

In lab, each group had the opportunity to create a game that incorporated the motor skill of the day. Most of the time we were able to assess the student accurately during his/her play time while comparing them to the other student. Occasionally, the student did not have enough time or even a chance at performing the skill so we had to step them aside to evaluate. Games that involve “racing” or a team “winning” as an outcome may affect the process of assessing motor skills. In this way, students may be rushed and NOT perform the skill in the correct manner. Also, they will not use the non-dominant body part when playing these games unless we ask them to do so. For example, in Lab 2 we had to evaluate the use of right and left foot while hopping, but the child never attempted to hop on the left foot so our results are inaccurate (we did make him hop on the left afterall!). The students enjoyed playing the games and had no idea we were assessing their skills!


PED 201 gave me a great amount of experience with an age group that I never worked with previously. During the past few weeks, I learned that young children have plenty of energy and enthusiasm for activity, they are eager to learn (such as spelling, or how to juggle), they are still figuring out listening, sharing, and personal space qualities, and they have creative minds that quickly adapt to and discover new experiences if we, as teachers, give them the opportunity. Activities that involved ALL children moving and participating seemed to work the best. My favorite game was Endless Bucket because all students actively participated while they did various activities. We quickly learned from the first day at lab that KEY words such as cues or directions are essential to the success of an activity. For example we told the students to find a place next to the parachute, without mentioning “when I say go” or “hands off” and from then on it made the activity a disaster. So, teaching must be done to the appropriate level of the students and we should know ahead of time what the students already know so we can build upon their learning.

IMAGINATION! If I had to describe this group of students in one word, imagination is the first thing that comes to mind. They have a unique, creative world, which boosted my excitement level because it has been so long since I “played” in that fashion. We took trips to outer space to visit the aliens then brought them back to earth for a family dinner, we played house, engaged ourselves in books and coloring, and actively raced our make believe cars around the gym. I enjoyed the amount of enthusiasm and creativity that this group of students brought to the plate, but I would rather work with students a little older. I often felt as though I were towering over the students and that my creative mind could not keep up with theirs. However, being more creative with my cues such as “hop like a bunny” or “jump up like superman,” is one of the many significant attributes of an effective Physical Education teacher that I need to improve upon.

Fine motor activities in the cafeteria included: coloring, writing, or drawing, playing games, putting together puzzles or blocks, I feel that fine motor activities can be incorporated into the Physical Education setting and are exceedingly important for the younger students. Having a grasp of fine motor activities will help the child developmentally such as finding a dominant hand or working on hand-eye coordination, which are both important as the child progresses to the more advanced sports skills. Pre-K through 2nd or 3rd grade do a great deal of fine motor skills in the classroom as well, so the focus should not be entirely on fine motor skills in Physical Education because they can use this time to work on the gross motor skills that they may not get as much exposure to in the classroom setting. As well, ability perform gross motor skills such as simply sitting up straight or coordination factors, may effect a find motor skill such as writing.

I have merely broken the surface into my personal “teaching style” and abilities. On the positive side, I realized that I love working with the elementary school age group! I enjoy meeting their level of enthusiasm and I really love seeing them able to do something or try something knew that I encouraged them to try or helped them with. As a teacher, I am energetic, yet I do not know exactly how to get or keep the students on task. For example, it took me awhile to get the students attention when I was trying to describe a game and I definitely need to work on my Gym voice. With more experience teaching games, I believe I will discover a lot more about myself and definitely grow as a future teacher.