The day I took my first lesson.
Lesson 1 - Class B
Before this lesson, the PE teacher told me that he was planning to build the session up to a game he called “killer,” which was good for practicing ball control. He said towards the end of the lesson we would set up a bench in the middle of the hall and split the class in half. Each half would line up on either side of the bench and the first person on one side would serve the ball over to the other side; the opponent would return the ball and the pair of them would run to the back of the opposite line while the next players have a go at hitting the ball to the other side. This was a game I had never heard of before and was very excited to see how it would go as it sounded fast-paced and had a competitive edge suitable for this class.
The teacher told the class when they arrived that they would be working up to this game, but they first had to practice some skills. They were put into pair to practice simple squash rallies, bouncing the ball of the wall and allowing their partner to return it. The class worked well in their pairs and the teaching assistants and I made sure to encourage specific pairs. For example I noticed a couple of boys, who would often be tempted to knock the ball around too hard, were controlling the ball well and instead of jumping in each others way the were actually making an effort to take turns in hitting the ball. I picked the moment when their rally accidentally ended to tell them that I was particularly impressed with their effort to take turns and they seemed happy to receive the compliment; they then continued as they were.
After a successful squash practice me and the teacher placed a bench in the middle of the hall and gave the students their “killer” game. The pupils struggled to grasp the concepts at first and were quite excitable, but after a few attempts they seemed to adjust their focus and picked up the rules reasonably well. Moreover they quickly recognised the importance of ball control as many of them were knocking the balls out of the court, which resulted in them being sent out of the game. The teacher had been wise enough to assure the group their first game would be a practice run so they could see how it work, and then they played two more games which resulted in different winners each time. Most students enjoyed the game and were gracious when being sent off.
Although there was one student who was performing recklessly; he served the ball hard, ran over the bench instead of around, and threw his racket on the floor before sending himself off. There was no indication to a level of frustration, which tends to be the cause of bad behaviour within these pupils, and he had been in one of the pairs that I had specifically encouraged during the practices. This behaviour was unprovoked and unexpected, and just came across as a lack of respect for the rules of the game. The PE teacher stopped the game when this happened and responded to full effect: he asked the pupil to pick up his racket and to play properly, the student was also issued with a formal warning. It was a shame as the rest of the class had behaved beautifully all lesson, until this pupil’s reckless nature got the better of him. Although I could see the PE teacher had reacted appropriately, I wondered if anything could have been done to prevent such behaviour in the future. Given that the actions were unprovoked, my initial answer to this question was no. However, this pupil, along with many in this class, clearly have an enormous amount of energy, an energy that they are obviously desperate to unleash. My thoughts on this were that perhaps more of the tasks and warm ups during the beginning and middle of the lessons could be made more of. I theorised that if an exhaustive workout was given as a warm up or mid-lesson task then perhaps the students in this class would become more docile. On the other hand, making the students more exhausted before the lesson is even over could make them more irritable. I think the only way of knowing if this theory holds any use is to simply give it a trail run some time soon.
Lesson 2 - Class F
Prior to this lesson, the PE teacher asked if he could “deputize” me. He said he was going to split the class in half and have them doing separate activities. The reason for this was that the class is of very mixed ability, and he wanted to try something slightly different and more challenging with the more able members of the class. He said he would take the slightly lower levels of ability and practice knocking over skittles as normal. He then asked me to lead the higher achievers to practice throwing the balls in different ways as hard and as fast as they can. I was happy to make his idea happen.
This was an interesting task for me as I knew tasks had to be explained clearly to this group; as a personal trainer and more accustomed to a gym environment I am not so use to explaining the tasks in such a broken down manner. Today I felt more like a teacher, which I think was a very beneficial experience as it offered a deeper perspective of coordinating exercises for children with special needs. I had seen the way the PE teacher had handled himself with this group and I attempted to emulate his approach; I spoke slowly and clearly, I made sure not to give the students a ball until my demonstration was over so they wouldn’t be distracted by anything, and I used the coloured court lines on the hall floor which I had seen the teacher often use as reference points to where the students should be starting from and going to etc. At first I was worried that I was explaining things too much, but I remembered the teachers lessons and how well he had explained them. Furthermore I could see the students I was working with were paying attention well, however they looked deep in thought as if they were really trying to absorb my explanations. Realising these elements reassured me and I continued to explain as I had been and asked the students to explain the task back to me so I could be sure they had understood. They listened well and managed to explain each task back to me with accuracy. Each time this happened I felt more confident that explaining things in detail with this group was indeed an effective approach.
Lesson 3 - Class D (outside)
This lesson was on football skills. As usual, the class were asked to perform their warm up of running around the playground and field, touching particular items such as the basketball hoop and a tree; using markers like these work well with this class so they know exactly where they are supposed to run.
PE teacher B set up sets of cones in squares and got four students to perform a demonstration of passing; as always the students picked in this demo were responsive. PE teacher B coaxed the class to stress that trapping the ball before passing was important by getting involved in the demonstration and drawing their attention to what he was doing with his feet. The class correctly identified the trapping technique and said that it was important to help a footballer to control the ball. PE teacher B was most impressed by the beautiful answer given and reiterated the point to the class before placing them into groups of four. PE teacher B reassured them that this was a practice and not a race to encourage good technique and skill. Afterward the PE teacher stated how impressed he was and then got the class to see how many passes they could make in 30 seconds. When asking each team for their score at the end, as usual he was overtly enthusiastic in response and imbued vicarious encouragement therefore. PE teacher B then challenged students to do the same task again but this time they needed to beat their previous score; all teams either matched and beat their previous score and the teacher expressed that these results proved that the class were making steady progression in football skills.
The next exercise was a dribbling task, with the class split into two lines in front of a row of cones to dribble the ball around. This was performed a couple of times to see which line of people would finish first. To prevent a huge loss, the teacher had organised the groups in terms of ability so the that it would be a fair challenge. This is something that I know I would need to keep in mind when I split the class during my own lessons, in case members are sensitive to losing. This group though, have a clear respect for one another and display patience when a member of the class is struggling, and applaud each others achievements; they are obviously being taught well and are hard-working.
Lesson 4 - Class E (my rolling lesson)
This was the first lesson I had been able to lead on my own. I had prepared a lesson full of rolling skills that I hoped would help the class’s aim of playing a game of goal-ball one day. I started the class with some simple dribble practice and gave a demonstration. I have to admit at this point I felt particularly nervous as it was the first time I had spoken to the class as whole, but I knew whether my lesson turned out to be amazing or a disaster I would learn something from it. I delivered specific teaching points such as “the ball must bounce up to hip level” and “you can only use one hand.” I also asked random individuals questions like: “is this bouncing the ball at hip level?” while purposefully bouncing the ball high above my head, making the students laugh.
We then moved on to the main tasks which i had written on the whiteboard along with the students names, already set into pairs; this was supposed to save time during the lesson but a couple of students were missing today and I had to rearrange some pupils. With a bit of help from the teachers we established even paris in the room and I challenged the class to dribble the ball up and down the width of the hall before passing it to their partner in two minutes. The pairs worked well but some seemed to count inconsistently, me and the TA’s went around the room to help but some students just couldn’t apply this simple numerical element. Some TA’s stuck with particular pairs to count for them which helped a lot. After receiving the scores and writing on the whiteboard I then challenged the class to another two minutes to beat their own score. However most pupils were tired from this task and seemed intimidated by the challenge; I knew this second round would be much harder but I encouraged them to try and the students had a go anyway. Again the numerical element was an issue and it ended up difficult to tell if some pairs had met their previous score, however some pairs had counted effectively and had even improved. By this time it was clearly visible to everyone in the room that the class was tired, and I highlighted this to the students by drawing their attention to each others rosy cheeks and heavy breathing, and stating that “this is a sign that you’ve been working hard so well done.” When highlighting this the students seemed more motivated and looked pleased with themselves when I stressed how hard they were obviously working. The intensity of this activity was high, and it was aimed to be high so that these students would be burning calories in a short space of time which will illicit a fat burning response. Though I almost felt bad for wearing the students out very quickly, I knew that it was good for their health, and remembering the statistical data I drew up in my portfolio about links between obesity and special needs children, I knew that this what I was here to do...to get kids moving and enjoy moving!
PE teacher A had given me a sheet of aims for this class the week before, and one of their aims was to understand and implement interception. So the next task was a game I created called interceptors where a member of the class was an interceptor who had to pick up the basketball while it was being passed by the rest of the class; in other words it was closely related to piggy in the middle. PE teacher A specifically complemented me on my method of introducing literacy during a demonstration and then reinforcing its meaning by giving the class a game to play based on that literary concept. Although I felt the basic aims of my lesson were met i.e. getting the kids to perform intensely in a short space of time, helping them understand a literary concept, and working on skills to help them build to a game of goal-ball, I wondered if my methods were creative enough; I had researched different therapies, particularly visual, that I had intended to include in lessons and hadn’t done during this one, so what made it so different from any other PE lesson? Well I had enjoyed my first lesson and I felt it was a good start to my learning curve, however I would like to attempt more innovative ways of teaching. Furthermore, I have taken lots more time observing and getting to know the classes more than planned; while this is not a problem, merely an adaption to my project, it does mean that I am considering staying a few weeks longer.
Lesson 5 - Class G
This was a simple and pleasant end to the day with Class G. We were in the small hall and PE teacher B brought a basket of different types of bouncy balls for them to play with. He, the TA’s, myself and the children spent the session picking balls out of the basket and just bouncing the balls around the room. Me and the teachers made an effort to encourage pupils to catch, throw, and bounce different kinds of balls. The students were fascinated by the array of colour, the size and shapes of balls, and watching different balls bounce in different ways. The lesson was clearly an enjoyable one for the class, with everyone joining in and enjoying themselves. At the end PE teacher B made the clearing up part into a game for everyone by challenging us to see if we can pick up a ball and bounce it the basket from where we were standing. Eventually all the balls were put away and finished day 8 off nicely.
Live life to the full.