Today was originally intended as my last day of the project. However I had spent much more time observing the students and getting involved in a school routine to better understand the children and their needs. As a result I have not felt able to implement as many lesson plans as I had hoped to do. But is is with delight that I can now tell you that the staff have welcomed me to stay longer on my placement project for as long as I like. The head of the primary department said to me "it's a great idea to stay longer because that gives you the chance to really develop a relationship with the kids and that's when you can really make a difference."
I spent this day with the two supply teachers, A and B, I had been with in the past.
I spent this day with the two supply teachers, A and B, I had been with in the past.
Lesson 1 - Class B
Supply teacher A had planned to practice some basketball skills with this group, which I agreed may be a nice change for them. Supply teacher A started by getting the students to use the basketball to perform some simple dynamic stretches, including moving the ball around the body to warm up hips and core, tricep stretches, and moving the ball under the leg; I enjoyed seeing this creative form of a warm up, as I’ve been taught to use some basic dynamic stretches when training for my diploma, but using the equipment in this way seemed to be a clever and relevant way of warming up.
Supply teacher A then put the groups into pairs, including myself, which were set up in two lines across the hall, facing each other. We began by simply bouncing the ball to one another; most students in this class coped well with this and many of them actually appeared frustrated due to the lack of activity involved. We then moved on to a chest pass, a throw without the use of a bounce. Again I couldn’t help but realise that the students in this class are very able, and although I thought this was fine as an activity in itself, I did wonder if the teacher was planning to make the task harder; for example, increasing the distance between out partners each time we caught the ball, or passing the ball then immediately stepping down the line to change partners.
The main activity of this lesson was based on practicing hoop shots, which the supply teacher knew these students would enjoy. Each line of students was allocated a hoop and they took it in turns to shoot from a certain line in the court. Some students were better than others with only a few of them actually scoring at all. Supply teacher A did notice this and said to the class that “you can have a maximum of three tries when it’s your turn to shoot.” This increased the likelihood of each student scoring, and worked well. However I found myself wondering if the task could be differentiated or progressed in anyway.
Lesson 2 - Class F
This class had been practicing knocking over skittles with a basket ball so me and Supply teacher A set up lanes using benches with skittles at the end of them. We also wrote names on the board as usual so we could keep track of the scores. Pupil 2 unfortunately was not interested as usual and ran to the corner of the hall, a TA closely following. Supply teacher B and I agreed that we would split the class into two groups and we’d each help to manage one, which I had done before with PE teacher A and knew could work smoothly with this class. At any opportunity I could I made my way over to Pupil 2 and the TA to make sure everything was ok. The TA reassured me they were both doing okay but she didn’t think it would be likely that Pupil 2 would be joining the group for skittle practice. At this moment I grabbed a few different play things that I thought may help to keep Pupil 2 calm and to keep him working in PE. I presented a few different coloured soft play equipment which it was obvious the pupil became interested in. He and the TA began playing with it, gently rolling it to each other; I made sure the TA knew I was always on hand to help out with anything else or if Pupil 2 wanted to play with some other equipment I would be happy to fetch it for him.
The class as a whole worked well in the tasks, with some decent guidance from the TA’s as always. The TA with Pupil 2 attempted to get him involved in the task at one point but he quickly backed down and as thought we all decided it would be best to leave him working in his corner. I tried to implement as much makaton as I could in this lesson, using “good boy” and “good girl” followed by the first letter of the persons name, and I also managed to use phrases like “look this way” and “roll the ball” which I was reassured by the TA’s I was using correctly.
Before lesson 3 started, I took the opportunity to locate the office of the physiotherapists to ask them if I could help them one day. I politely offered to spend a day with them the next time I was in and they seem glad to accept, suggesting that I come in for a hydrotherapy session so I can get a different perspective on some of the students I’m working with. I was delighted to do so and it was sorted that I would spend my next wednesday with the physiotherapists.
Lesson 3 - Class D
Football skills was the focus of this lesson. But first the usual warm-up was performed and one pupil needed particular encouragement and so I ran alongside them, persuading them to persevere when they grew tired, which they did. I realised at this point that I was developing a clear bond with some of the children, as my influence was becoming more palpable in times of student exhaustion. This emphasised for me, the real benefit of having someone at your side when performing strenuous physical activity, and that helping each other makes the tasks much more enjoyable.
After the warm-up, PE teacher B asked for a group of four students to stand on the square he had created using cones and asked them to demonstrate good passing technique. Each student performed passes with accuracy, while the rest of the class watched quietly. PE teacher B asked what was good about their technique, as there was clearly an element of their performance he wanted to highlight. After a few guesses, a student noticed the demonstrators trapping the ball with their feet before passing, to keep control. The identifier received applause from his peers and PE teacher B reiterated how useful it was to trap the ball to maintain control. The class were then placed into groups of four, myself included in one group, and were each placed at a set of cones to practice passing. The group I was working with behaved admirably, not just performing with accuracy, but giving positive feedback to each other; I also noticed members in other groups being incredibly patient with those who were struggling slightly and were encouraged to take their time. The groups were then challenged to see how many passes they could perform in thirty seconds, and were challenged afterwards to do the same again but to beat their score; a focus on progression is critical in building skills and repeating an exercise like this enables the class with that knowledge. Both time the whole class were warm towards each others technique and were obviously more excited with the new element of pressure. All groups beat their score the second time.
Lesson 4 - Class E
This lesson I spent with Supply teacher B. She asked me what the class had been doing and I told her that I had been coordinating lessons with this group recently and was happy to take the next one. Supply teacher B said that, with it being the last PE lesson of term for this class, it would be nice to make sure they have fun and therefore maybe an easier lesson; I told her about my version of goal-ball, or goasket-ball, that I got the class working up to at the end of the previous lesson and suggested that we just enjoy playing that. Supply teacher B was enthusiastic to see exactly what the games was and was happy to let the class do it for the whole lesson.
I introduced the class to the lesson, explaining that to progress and practice our skills that we were going to play the game we played at the end of our previous lesson. The students appeared enthusiastic about this and I asked them if they could remember the rules, which they did. Encouraged by this I initiated the game promptly after the lesson’s introduction and the students quickly got into the game. However I was slightly disappointed to see that the class were forgetting to cooperate in their teams and many members of the class were not actually getting hold of the ball. Me and the teacher decided to enforce a new rule that every player on a team must have touched the ball before that team can attempt to score. Though this worked well to induce team cooperation, the class’s game was not particularly fast-paced, and didn’t exert the students very much.
Towards the end of the lesson, Supply teacher B said the class were not working quickly enough as a team and threatened them with a game of children versus adults. This made the class work harder, but myself, Supply teacher B and the two TA’s all agreed they could still be working harder and for the last ten minutes the adults formed a team to play against the rest of the class. The students were hugely excited by this and moved around much more quickly and cooperated more as a team now that they could see the adults playing vigorously, and also because they were desperate to beat us. Me and the teachers worked the students hard and we all had a good time for this final PE lesson of the term.
Lesson 5 - Class G
PE teacher B had set up an indoors rounders game, using different coloured hoops as posts, in the small hall for Class G today. I was interested to see if this class would fully understand the concepts of this sport, but nonetheless I figured they’d have fun doing it. Pupil 1 entered the room stressed, and expressed very little interest in this lesson by hovering at the entrance. PE teacher B had the class sit on the chairs at the corner of the room to explain the lesson, without making a fuss over Pupil 1’s apprehension. Whilst the lesson was being explained however, Pupil 1 managed to get through the door and began running from the class, a TA followed quickly to fetch him back and volunteered to stay closely with him thereafter.
First of all PE teacher B demonstrated some batting the ball practice with a plastic cricket bat, which the students took turns to try and run around the course afterwards. Most pupils didn’t understand that they had to put the bat down and ran after they had hit the ball, but PE teacher B’s enthusiasm and reference to the coloured hoops caught their attention and they did as instructed, enjoying their run in the process. Making reference to coloured items often helps with teaching young autistic children as it is thought they are generally attracted to colours and pay attention to these details that we would usually perceive as insignificant; I could see PE teacher B was clearly familiar with this notion and had obviously thought ahead when setting up, as I could see he used different coloured hoops to avoid confusion when directing the children to run. Perhaps he had preempted their lack of grasping the concept and had planned to include this use of colour to help them comprehend the order in which posts they had to run to.
After the practice, the rest of the class were instructed to attempt fielding while one member batted; again the use of the coloured hoops was highlighted to help the students understand their places on the pitch. The assistance of the TA’s was required during this time to maintain the student’s attention and encourage them to catch the moving ball. Meanwhile, Pupil 1 was gradually edging further into the small hall and was clearly more interested by the activity, though he refused to try batting when PE teaching B had a go at selling the task to him. It was also this point were I picked up some more maktaon from one of the TA’s when she apologized to one of the students as she had told him to run at the wrong time. Though I hoped I would never have to use this particular symbol, I knew it would be useful to learn, and the more I see makaton being implemented the more help I will be to autistic classes as it’s great for helping children understand.
(below is the makaton symbol for sorry - apologies for the small size)
Live life to the full.