At the start of the day PE teacher A decided to use the whiteboard in the first lesson and I asked why he had decided to do so. He explained that sometimes having a visual aid can help students to understand what is expected of them, and can help them to engage in the task. He had drawn a frying pan full of eggs and bacon, with a tennis racket next to it. This was to explain to the students that a tennis racket is different from a frying pan and so we hold them differently; this example was an effective use of visual aids and implemented some humour to engage with the class. Visual aids is something I aim to incorporate into my project as I have previously looked at essays and journals on the subject that illustrated their potential uses in an educational situation. Hearing this from my PE mentor reassured me about my plans to utilize visual aids during my training sessions to help the students understand and enjoy the tasks I give them. This made me realise that the whiteboard could be a useful resource for me when I come to creating lesson plans, even if it’s just to stick pictures on.
Lesson 1 - Class B
My PE mentor explained that in this lesson the class would be moving on from the previous lesson onto some slightly more difficult skills. He also mentioned two key words in the PE national curriculum: progression and differentiation. He told me that each student should be expressing some form of progress throughout the terms, and that the activities they are challenged with should therefore progressively grow harder and/or more complex. The differentiation element alludes to the fact that every pupil’s needs will be different, and therefore each activity should posses a way of being altered to individual needs. These concepts were not unfamiliar to me as I have practiced similar objectives in my personal training course, and fully appreciate the individualisation of one’s progression and achievements.
The PE teacher reminded the class of what they did last time, and mentioned how impressed he was with their work. He went on to explain that the skills they did in the previous lesson would be too easy for them and that they were now going to progress, which palpably enthused the class before activities even started. The class started the session with the last skill they had learned, which was bouncing the ball off the wall and returning it as many times as they could. The teacher stopped the class at one point to watch one of their fellow students who was doing something particularly well. This student was asked to carry on while the rest of the class stood by trying to identify what they were doing more effectively than others. After a few hints from the teacher they realised it was the students footwork that was proving effective, which was then emphasised in the teacher’s following demo.
The class were then put into pairs to practice rallying together. This seemed like a great test of skill as each student would have to control the ball so that they could have the longest rally. At the end of class the pairs took turns in showing the class how long they could keep their rally as a small competition to finish. All members were motivated by this competitive element and worked well in their pairs, but unfortunately time ran out quickly and each pair had to head to the changing rooms before they could see who held the longest rally. This detriment to the classes expectations is something I will want to avoid in the future and highlighted the importance of time management in a session, particularly in a PE session for children with special needs who need time to change their clothes.
Lesson 2 - Class F
This was a primary group of ASD cases, there were twelve of them with about five teaching assistants. Me and the PE teacher had set up benches in a “V” formation to create a bowling lane with pins at the end of it - there were three lanes. Two lanes were used for practice, but the end lane was used to score points, which was kept in a table on the whiteboard; this could be another example of progression and use of visual aids implementation. Basketballs were used with these students, as they were large and not too heavy, making them easy to roll. Some students were allowed to kick the ball down the lanes instead of rolling them, which could be an example of differentiation.
The difficulties of this class was slightly more severe than most of the others I had seen so far, as none of the class members could articulate sentences well, express themselves or explain emotions appropriately, and struggled to remain on task. I was asked to assist this class and to stick with the same group of students throughout the lesson. I noticed the TA’s I was working with used some Makaton and big gestures, and were extremely enthusiastic when encouraging the students. I asked what the signs were they were using and they told me that when employing Makaton you sign the first letter of the person’s name when addressing them. One of the TA’s explained to me that the children in this class struggled to cognitively process information and often struggled to understand what was being asked of them which is why they required so much assistance, and why Makaton can sometimes be helpful with these students. One pupil in my group, Pupil 3, was incredibly quiet and appeared almost fascinated by anyone they were looking at. When I spoke to her, I spoke clearly and slowly, using big gestures to help them understand what I was saying to them, but unfortunately I don’t think it had much effect. The TA’s in the class had used some physical direction with the students, particularly with this one, so I decided to have a go and prompted them gently along with my hand on their back when they were kicking the ball instead of rolling it. I tried to help this pupil to hold the ball and encouraged them to roll it, but again this appeared to be a futile effort as they failed to even glance at the ball I was giving them, let alone get their fingers to grip it.
Another student got quite distressed during the session, Pupil 2, for reasons unclear, though I did notice him expressing some hypersensitivity to sound as he was covering his ears and isolating himself from the group occasionally. When this happened, a TA stuck with him and tried to get him to perform similar tasks on his own, like rolling a small red ball to her; differentiation. This was another clear demonstration of the remarkable effort put in by the TA’s of this school, and as Pupil 2 seemed quite undisturbed by her presence when in the corner, again it was obvious that this TA often spent time with this student and had formed a close bond with him. This student also struggled to take turns, at one point they knocked over the pins with their hands during a pier’s turn. As the TA’s knew how sensitive Pupil 2 was feeling during this session, they made no effort to discourage him from performing the task inaccurately. Instead they said it was good that he was at least participating in parts of the lesson and actually made effort to encourage him when he did so. When it was Pupil 2’s go, they displayed enormous frustration when failing to knock over all of the pins, which progressively grew throughout the session and resulted in this student having a time-out in the corner by themselves on a bench. It was clear that Pupil 2 was aware that he was having a time-out session as he did not move from the spot in which he had been sat.
This was definitely one of the more challenging classes in terms of behaviour and understanding, but physically most students could potentially perform well if they were able to focus on the tasks given to them.
Lesson 3 - Class D (outside)
Before lesson 3 began I was introduced to another PE teacher whom I was going to be spending that session outside on the playground with. This occurred every week with Class D so I knew it would be interesting to see one of the same classes in a different setting. On arrival to the playground I was greeted by a friendly TA who kindly delivered a brief overview of the needs of the class, stating most of them were behavioural, some were slightly autistic, and a couple of students had forms of cerebral palsy. This instantly aroused my curiosity as I have no experience with children with cerebral palsy but I had read about it during research for this project. I knew PE must be particularly challenging for them so I was going to pay close attention to the attitudes of the teacher and TA’s when it came to helping these individuals, Pupil 1 and Pupil 2.
PE teacher B started off in a chatty way and took the time to ask the students how their christmas breaks had been, which the children were delighted to respond to. This seemed like a great way of engaging the class before activities as it was a lovely effort to get to know the children on a friendly basis and helped the children to feel calmer in their environment before PE. This PE teacher also challenged the class to remember what their usual warm up was. Some students raised their hands and had a go at remembering the warm up, between them they eventually recalled the whole task. PE teacher B had clearly stated that he would be “so impressed if they can remember everything” and when they did he gave positive enforcement and gave his overview of the warm up task to clarify.
The warm up was for the pupils to run around the playground, jumping and touching a basketball hoop as they went, run around the field to the wooden chimes by where they started, and touch them before returning - they did this as fast as they could but some students needed lots encouragement, particularly when heading back.
The next chunk of the lesson was throwing and catching tennis balls, using coloured cones to indicate where each pupil should be standing. The teacher chose a pair of students to help give a demonstration of the task who were happy to do so. As an easier option PE teacher B said the students could bounce the ball to each other so it is easier for their partner to catch, or as a more difficult option he said they could try catching the ball with one hand; it was their choice to differentiate the given task. PE teacher B also gave students the privilege of choosing their own partners to work with as a demonstration of trust he has in the group. As the task went on, PE teacher B encouraged students to increase the complexity of their performance, so if they had not had a go at catching with one hand they should do so. Students responded well to this and each pair made an effort to perform at the next level of the catching task. Then the PE teacher B asked pairs to show the rest of the class how they had been performing and emphasised encouraging and applauding each other when performing. This helped to give a very friendly and wholesome atmosphere amongst the class and helped to reduce the amount of pressure on the pair performing; this was particularly important for Pupil 1 and Pupil 2 as they struggled to catch, pick up, and throw the ball, but the teacher and the rest of the class remained very patient and were very enthusiastic when these pupils did manage. The kind response from the rest of the class I assumed was a result of the emphasis PE teacher B and the TA’s had placed on encouraging each other and being mindful of individual abilities in the past, and was lovely to see.
Lesson 4 - Class E
Two wheelchair uses were in this class, Pupil 2 and Pupil 3, along with one hemiplegic student, Pupil 1. PE teacher A wrote down the lesson on the whiteboard for this lesson, completed with a couple of diagrams demonstrating what they were doing. The teacher wanted them working up to a sport called goal-ball, and today they were going to be doing some target practice, much like bowling. PE teacher A had got the students excited by this by saying he was going to teach them a game they had never done before, and that most other people haven’t even heard of it. When he explained the rules the class gasped and expressed enthusiasm to get going. This palpable urge to try a new task made me think about my project ideas, as I knew I was striving for something creative, innovative, and fun. The simple fact that my ideas would be new to these students made me believe that they would get just as excited by the lessons I want to give them as this one.
First of all the students were put into partners and they had to roll the ball through each others legs. After each time they managed to roll the ball through their partners legs they would both move back two steps to progressively increase the distance between them. I was partnered with one of the students who, like the rest of the class, seemed excited by the activity and concentrated reasonably well. My partner missed my legs occasionally as we started to get further apart and I noticed this was because he was letting go of the ball too early and the ball was bouncing rather than rolling. I reassured him his power was good but told him to get lower when launching the ball to ensure he rolled rather than bounced. A couple of times he managed to take on my advice, but he still seemed quite excitable and distracted by the other activity in the room. I continued to feed instructions and encouragement in the attempt to reacquire his attention. It was slightly difficult and occasionally I had to stop what I was doing and using the students name to grab their attention before instructing. This method worked better.
A bowling lane was then set up for the whole class to take turns to knock over skittles. The wheelchairs users had the assistance of ramps. The teacher gave individual feedback throughout the target practice, such as good speed, good aim but more power, and once all students had their turn he decided that the class would take their shot from further away; progression. It was clear as this progression took place the students were becoming more daunted by the task as they were more reluctant to try than they were in their previous attempts. Nonetheless each student tried and still received individual feedback from PE teacher a before heading back to the changing rooms.
Lesson 5 - Class G
This was one of the youngest classes I have been with and they played on the climbing frame for a treat. A bench was set as a slide which some students needed help to go down. One student particularly enjoyed this session, showing a huge amount of enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. Every challenge set by the teacher, i.e. climb to the top, slide down by yourself, now bounce on the trampoline by yourself, the student did without hesitation and proved that he was very able by completing these challenges.
Now that my observation period has begun, and I intend to continue it for yet another week, I was reassured by a meeting with my tutor to talk and discuss more ideas with my PE mentor; I should ask him more about the observations I’m making and how that affects my plans. I plan to note down some questions before meeting with the PE teacher so that I can plan more effectively for the training period where I will be coordinating lessons and activities.
Live life to the full.