Written work in Elementary PE

Written work and Elementary PE are not always the best companions; the number of bits of paper with students work on I have seen blown across the field or having a big dirty footprint in the middle of the work as they have been stood on accidentally when the students were working on the floor, is enough to put you off setting written tasks, without taking into account the fact the students want to being active in their limited PE time. The previous SPELTAC courses have also highlighted how PE can really help ELL students by focussing on the development of their verbal English.

However, there are times when we do written tasks. As mentioned in an earlier post, the PE department decided to help students in reflection tasks by having common reflection questions to act as sentence starters. These are on cards that the students can refer to when planning and on a website.

At the end of the G4 athletics unit, students were asked to reflect on IMG_3678what they had learnt during the unit. The reflection questions were provided as sentence starters, and students used 2-4.
As a teacher I modelled some possible responses, before students used ‘think, pair, share’ to develop their own responses.

Students looking at the reflection sentence starters

Students had to then put their reflection on their blog. Some choose to video record themselves speaking their response which was posted onto their blog; other wrote onto the blog directly, while most wrote on paper and took a photo and uploaded to the blog or typed it up later.

Sample reflection
Sample reflection from an ELL student


Sample reflection
Sample reflection from an ELL student

Where next – These pieces of written could be developed further. At present the first draft is the final draft. Students could be asked to take these drafts home and edit them and redo for homework – but I feel that classwork should be completed in class, and elementary students should not be completing homework.  We could, as Rossbridge and Rushton suggest, become involved in joint construction in order to develop the written language. However, I feel this would impede into the limited time we have for physical activity. Maybe this reflection completed in PE could be used by the class teacher and worked upon during literacy time in class.

Maybe it is just fine to leave it as it is and accept that while we are all ‘Language Teachers’, we all fill different roles in helping students develop their language.

Encouraging talk during Individual Pursuits in Elementary PE

In PYP PE, Individual Pursuits are one the areas that should be offered to the students in a balanced curriculum (IB PYP PSPE Scope and Sequence).In our Elementary PE programme we offer Individual Pursuits through Athletics and Swimming.

Individual Pursuits are defined “activities in which participants work individually with their own equipment and monitor their own behaviour, movements and physical expenditure.” (Playsports, OPHEA). Looking at this definition it might seem that they are not the best activities to encourage talking. Personal experience of teaching these activities over many years have shown that when teaching them it is often easy to fall into the mistake of relying on a command style of teaching to teach everyone the same thing and having too much teacher talk, as highlighted by Fisher, Krey and Rothenburg (2008).  Student talk is used only to check comprehension as opposed to develop thinking.

To encourage talking to help develop thinking in swimming and athletics I have used collaborative tasks. In swimming this has been achieved through reciprocal teaching. Students have worked with a partner and been asked to look at one aspect of a stroke and then provide their partner with feedback highlighting what they were doing well and one thing that needed to be improved. Before this happened students were given a demonstration and we talked through what makes a good stroke, in order to provide them with the language.

This year in athletics for G4 I took this further, using this unit outline. Working in twos and threes, students became experts in one event. In the first couple of lessons they were provided links to websites and short videos to help them develop their understanding, and they spent time practising the event and working out between them how they could teach it. After they had become the expert, they then had to teach it to the rest of the class through leading the rest of the students through the process of how to perform the event and then providing feedback to individuals as they practised the event.

G4 students providing instruction and feedback
G4 students providing instruction and feedback

The result of these approaches was that individual pursuits have become activities where there are lots of opportunities for students to talk and develop their language.




Word Walls in PE

From my reading, creating word walls is often listed as a strategy to help ELL students, which makes sense. However, I have questioned the value of creating a word wall for PE, especially when we often teach a class in a different location each week, and inside the gym, there is no space for displays. We have a shared portable white board which we have used to wheel out to classes and post words and concepts onto it, but this is not the most practical solution for creating even a semi-permeant word wall.

In the last few weeks we now have an Elementary PE notice board, placed outside the gym, next to where many students eat their morning snack. On this board we are creating a word wall. However, as it is not in our teaching environments and short of walking the students over to the board every time we want to point out a word, this particular wall requires the students to independently look at it. I wonder if just a list of words will really help ELL students in this situation?


One solution might be to make the wall more inviting to look at. Rather than just a list of words, for our athletics unit we are experimenting with a more images on the word wall. We are doing this by taking a photo of the equipment or the student performing an event, put the name the picture and underneath one teaching point that we have been using with the students. Hopefully as the students enjoy looking at pictures of themselves performing, they will go over to look at it. The next stage will be try to evaluate if the students are going to and looking at the wall.



Developing Stratagies – Adapting reflection in ES PE

As part of inquiry group this afternoon, we had an active discussion on reflection, based around the concept of having consistent and repeated routines in our lessons, help students gain verbal confidence. In particular we looked at some of the questions we could use based on Kath Murdoch’s examples.
Much of the reflection completed at the end of the lesson with my younger classes (KG/G1) has be ‘thumbs up, in the middle or thumbs down’ in response to questions asked to check for understand and to gauge how the students feel they participated in the lesson activities.

End of unit reflections have a similar approach was employed, but the thumbs became tick boxes. The white board and projector was wheeled out to help students see what to do, and we went through it line by line. For students who needed some extra help they were able to work with a TA.img_3144

The final task was an open question. Students silently thought about answers, before sharing with a partner possible answers, which were then listed on the board to act as sentence starters They then had the choice of writing or drawing their answers.


As part of the inquiry group discussion we have decided to try to develop reflection a little further. In particular we have decided to use some of the questions developed by Kath Murdoch and use this language during lesson reflections and end of unit reflections.

I plan to use them as questions that students are asked at the end of lessons and get them to ‘think pair share’ the answers. They have also been added to a website I have where the students scan a QR code to get a reflection prompts to help them write reflective blog posts. Hopefully having gain confidence answering these reflection question in lesson, they should be more confident in writing more detailed end of unit reflections





Implementing Gibbons Intellectual Practices during Invasion Games

The older students in Elementary PE have been participating in an Invasion Game Unit, which involves many of Gibbons (2009) intellectual practises being implemented.

One of our culminating activities involved the students taking the knowledge that they  have already developed, regarding moving into space to receive the ball, built up in previous sessions through different types of games and use it to develop a simple attacking strategy that their team could use in a game of half court basketball. The students were undertaking a planning task, just like a coach would, rather than just being a player.

img_3422Students were asked to complete this task in small groups. This creates a situation where students are having to engage with each other in a substantive conversations. They would make a suggestion and have to justify it to others in the group. They also asked questions of one another. From the noise level in the gym, it was apparent that this task creates a great deal of discussion between the students.

img_3467Planning a strategy and communicating it to others, is not always easy. To assist the students in this process we use the coachnote app on ipads – which is not too dissimilar to the technology you see TV analysts using to talk about professional sports! This app allows students to make their thinking visible by being able to draw out the game and move players and ball around on the court, record the moves and then play them back.
An area to improve for future units will be to try to encourage the students to use the correct terminology, when explaining their strategies. The app, does let them become a little over reliant on just using simple language of “this goes here, this one here and that one goes here”. Watching img_3466back the animated moves that I had produced earlier in the unit to demonstrate some simple games they also fell into this category! Having said this, it was evident that the coachnote app really allowed many of the emerging language learners in the class fully demonstrate their ideas and not be restricted by their lack of language.








Gibbons, P. (2009) English Learners, Academic Literacy and Thinking cited in Speltac Course Material

PE, ELL students and SPELTAC

It seems that there has been discussions outside of the PE department about how PE should be engaging in SPELTAC. It seems these views are pretty polar and range from ‘PE has nothing to do with literacy’ to ‘PE should be doing lots more written work and helping the students in the writing process’.

When we as a PE department created our inquiry question, it was focussing on how we could develop strategies that would enable English Language Learners (ELL) students to access our unique curriculum and associated physical outcomes.

Physical Education classes are according Clancy and Hruska (2005), in a great position to help ELL students to develop as they potentially they can support ELL students in their language development. Some of these characteristics include:
– Lots of interaction with other students – our students are and playing with others most of the time and talking in class is actively encouraged.
– There are many ways in which information is presented – we talk, physical demonstrate, as well as offering visual reminders.
– Students physical interact with language
-ELL students can succeed in our class independent of their ability to speak English
-Students can physical demonstrate their language comprehension
-Play situations often create lower stress environments for ELL students to practise their emerging language
Our goal as a department is keep looking for and developing strategies to help ELL students reach success in PE.

Clancy, M. & Hruska, B. (2005). Developing Language Objectives for English Language Learners in Physical Education Lessons. Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance, 76(4), 30-35.  – See more at: http://www.supportrealteachers.org/strategies-for-english-language-learners.html#sthash.iySKulnZ.dpuf (http://www.supportrealteachers.org/)


Inquiry Group

I’m think the focus of my inquiry group should be try to develop strategies to increase access to our PE and Swimming curriculum for all ELL students.

Over the years, I have noticed that for many ELL students PE and Swimming lessons are often a release for them. They can leave the classroom behind and run around having fun with their peers. It often feels like IMG_2225they are free from the frustrations of more classroom based activities, where they might be struggling to succeed. In PE they can reach success just like their friends, and even be the class expert / leader.

Taking off the ‘rose-tinted glasses’, there are also plenty of ELL students who come to PE and don’t understand the language of instruction and are worried about what to do. In some cases they will withdraw from the PE lesson and sit and watch until they are comfortable enough in the environment to participate. For some this waiting and watch time can be measured in minutes, but unfortunately for others it can be much longer. Hopefully joining this inquiry group will help develop strategies to help reduce this waiting time.

Once ELL students are participating, there is still the case of employing strategies to help the students access the curriculum to a deeper level. While playing tag games is great way to make friends, have fun and increase the endorphins in our brains there is the Elementary PE curriculum is trying to achieve!IMG_2466

Our Inquiry Group group specifics are:

Inquiry group topic: Strategies

Statement of inquiry: Language deficiency should not affect success in PE
Inquiry questions:
What strategies for the ELL student can be used or adapted within the concept of PE?
How do we engage the ELL student in the instructive language of PE?
How will we know if it is successful for ELL students?

Learning is Social – first thoughts

Learning is social and in our Elementary PE lessons it certainly is.IMG_2249

For many emerging bilingual students PE is an area that they can fully participate and succeed in. Instructions are visibly
modelled and with the often intrinsic motivation to participate in the activity combined with having fun, the barriers are lowered and students feel comfortable to join in.

IMG_2242How does this apply to SPELTAC. I feel fortunate to work with a team that shares a space and ideas comfortably with each other. Already we have had discussions about out approach with ELL in our PE classes and been sharing readings. IMG_2254

Hopefully this course will promote further discussions. The work of Susan Caine regarding introvert personalities, points out that we shouldn’t assume that posting online isn’t necessarily easier than speaking out in a group setting, as there is still the fear of being judged.

IMG_2266As teachers we work to recognise the different needs of the different learners and act accordingly. I am wondering how this course will also work recognising different learning styles.