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Play Time

After three days in Limerick, Ireland as one of a gathering of renowned, emerging and/or aspiring physical education and sport pedagogy researchers from more than thirty countries I have used the flight home to reflect upon my initial (and personal) take-home messages:

The predominant message was one of engagement. Everybody has the inherent right and a need for opportunities to play. Some create these for themselves while others are either discouraged (both intentionally or unintentionally) from enjoying these same opportunities due to a physical or a learning disability or because they simply do not know how to create or take advantage of them. For some they are put off by the rigid practices they encounter in their lessons, while others lack the necessary support structures or the innate desire to play. The physically disabled, the learning disabled and the play disabled (those who make little or no connection to the potential joys of movement and play) all need our support. Therefore, as educators, we must model excessive happiness and enjoyment in our work so that the learners in our care become apprentices of master playmakers rather than the recipients of a 'physical' education. To do this we need to engage in new ways of knowing and acting that prepares them from an ever decreasing world where technology has created new opportunities for collaborative play. This requires realistic and sustained teacher professional learning opportunities where teachers can engage in the practice of engagement.

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On Saturday 25 June at 12:31 Brendan Jones said
I think I encountered this very issue in my class the other day. I had a "Bootcamp" lesson planned, which is a regular lesson based on fitness activities. I had the class begin the activity and it was the most lethargic the group had ever been. On pulling the class back together to give them a rocket for being so slack, one kid said "but this is no fun. We'd rather play footy". We abandoned the "Bootcamp" for later and played. The current paradigm for programming and unitising education builds inflexibility into the way our work is done. Programs and units are usually for "other people" - supervisors, inspectors or other accountability agents. While structure and direction is important for planning, micro management of what we do isn't. To soldier on regardless with explicit criteria in programs "because it has to be done - it's in the program" is a recipe for disengagement. I'd wager that programs (and the teachers that teach them) like this change little over time. My solution is to use focus questions, not unlike Project Based Learning, and the concepts of Games Sense and Teaching Games for Understanding to drive your teaching. This way concepts can be covered in engaging real world ways that cater for class and individual differences. For instance instead of "Cricket" perhaps a unit on "is throwing straight an important skill?" Straight away the options and approaches for teaching and student engagement open up, and can be based on local needs as well.
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About me
On Saturday 25 June at 12:32 Brendan Jones said
I think I encountered this very issue in my class the other day. I had a "Bootcamp" lesson planned, which is a regular lesson based on fitness activities. I had the class begin the activity and it was the most lethargic the group had ever been. On pulling the class back together to give them a rocket for being so slack, one kid said "but this is no fun. We'd rather play footy". We abandoned the "Bootcamp" for later and played. The current paradigm for programming and unitising education builds inflexibility into the way our work is done. Programs and units are usually for "other people" - supervisors, inspectors or other accountability agents. While structure and direction is important for planning, micro management of what we do isn't. To soldier on regardless with explicit criteria in programs "because it has to be done - it's in the program" is a recipe for disengagement. I'd wager that programs (and the teachers that teach them) like this change little over time. My solution is to use focus questions, not unlike Project Based Learning, and the concepts of Games Sense and Teaching Games for Understanding to drive your teaching. This way concepts can be covered in engaging real world ways that cater for class and individual differences. For instance instead of "Cricket" perhaps a unit on "is throwing straight an important skill?" Straight away the options and approaches for teaching and student engagement open up, and can be based on local needs as well.
comment avatar
About me
On Saturday 25 June at 12:32 Brendan Jones said
I think I encountered this very issue in my class the other day. I had a "Bootcamp" lesson planned, which is a regular lesson based on fitness activities. I had the class begin the activity and it was the most lethargic the group had ever been. On pulling the class back together to give them a rocket for being so slack, one kid said "but this is no fun. We'd rather play footy". We abandoned the "Bootcamp" for later and played. The current paradigm for programming and unitising education builds inflexibility into the way our work is done. Programs and units are usually for "other people" - supervisors, inspectors or other accountability agents. While structure and direction is important for planning, micro management of what we do isn't. To soldier on regardless with explicit criteria in programs "because it has to be done - it's in the program" is a recipe for disengagement. I'd wager that programs (and the teachers that teach them) like this change little over time. My solution is to use focus questions, not unlike Project Based Learning, and the concepts of Games Sense and Teaching Games for Understanding to drive your teaching. This way concepts can be covered in engaging real world ways that cater for class and individual differences. For instance instead of "Cricket" perhaps a unit on "is throwing straight an important skill?" Straight away the options and approaches for teaching and student engagement open up, and can be based on local needs as well.
Ashley Casey
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On Sunday 26 June at 09:37 Ashley Casey said
Thanks Brendan I agree. A lesson planning is a bad term for what we engage in. Lesson intent might be better. The US Military have moved away from battle plans and now look at commander's intent. I think that overall intent of my lessons is engagement. Engagement in the task fior the sake and enjoyment and meaning of the task (be it a modified game, a lecture, or a presentation). If I take the time and make the effort to engage my 'audience' then surely they are more likely to learning and to question what I am saying. The speaker at AIESEP was talking about pupils being 'play disabled' and suggested that those kids who just don't engage in play, don't enjoy playing, and perhaps lack the innate interest in play. I can think of students like this and I now wonder what I did to enthuse them to be involved. I used different approaches like TGfU, Cooperative Learning and Sport Ed and then had them make their own games...I am interested in what others have done.
Vicky Goodyear
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On Sunday 26 June at 18:26 Vicky Goodyear said
In regards to play and engagement I was involved in a symposium this week that focussed on game concepts. A part of this seminar focussed on play practice. It was suggested that when teacher's plan and teach lessons they should consider three processes 1. Shaping (designing the lesson to be meaningful e.g. conditions for games) 2. Focussing (Direct and Indirect focus of the game e.g. through questioning 3. Enhancement (student engagement). In relation to this discussion the process of enhancement plays a key role in play and student engagement. The speaker suggested that through the process of enhancement educators need to consider ways to make sure all students are motivated to play. By designing games we cannot assume that every student will be engaged by the structure, design and focus of the game. This process pertains that we consider; how do I enhance the play so that all learners are engaged and interested. She gave examples of how to do this: personal challenge, time, differentiation, accountability, fantasy games or cameos. For me this is a vital process with any lesson or activity. If we specifically focus our attention on the process of enhancement when planning and teaching lessons through the suggested examples it will increase our ability to maintain engagement, interest and student participation in physical education.
Ashley Casey
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On Sunday 26 June at 19:04 Ashley Casey said
I wonder, when we talk about engagement, if we are too shortsighted? When we aspire towards engagement it should be a long term aim not a lesson objective (not for many kids anyway). For example, I recall taking a less than engaged rugby group for two terms a year five years. Now they were completely disengaged at the start of that process and slowly but surely through fun modifications some of them went on to take up school but almost to a participant they came to enjoy the game. Rome wasn't built in a day and we need to look further to their future. We are in it for the long haul afterall.
Vicky Goodyear
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On Monday 27 June at 10:27 Vicky Goodyear said
I agree Ash and sustainability was a key message I also got from the AIESEP conference. I also had a disengaged class as some of you may know from previous blogs. I used cooperative learning as an attempt to re-engage them in PE. Again this was not an instant solution but through a sustained student centred approach to teaching and learning my class became engaged and participated fully in PE for the rest of that academic year (I left the school at the end of the year). From my work in a secondary school recently, a teacher commented that using advanced tactics and incorporating the tactical games approach re-engaged a disruptive class. She said student misbehaviour may be because they are bored learning the same things again and again. Has anyone had any other experiences of disengagement and strategies they have used the engage students in physical education?
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On Tuesday 28 June at 12:53 chris tamborra said
Great blog here and discussion. I am from the states (thanks Vicky for inviting me ;) 4 Great Physical Education (my consultant company) believes in spending the 1st month to 6 weeks of school developing a "TEAM" where all children feel a sense of belonging, significance and fun. 3 basic drives that motivates us. We include the children in the rules making process and each class makes up a set of rules or guidelines (yes I have 30 plus sets of rules) we talk to the children about their goals for the year which helps drive the rules creation process, we start with a lot of cooperative group games. Advice from the state side Include the children in the development of the climate in the class and you are on your way to student engagement. Get to know your children and listen to them.

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