Today I received feedback on my business plan for Story Games and I am sad to report that it was a failure. I did not win and I was not a runner-up, but I did get some personal feedback. The feedback read that Story Games was a worthy concept, but with no artist to help me produce the final products, I was unlikely to find an investment. I had also had another meeting with my tutor about this, who told me about iBooks Author that she had recently discovered and realised it could be an interesting alternative to a picture book. Though I may have failed from a business point of view, potentially publishing a series of iBooks through iTunes is where I intend to go next with Story Games. (below is an image of one of the heroes I have created - he will teach children to throw.)
Lesson 1 - Class A
The objectives for this lesson were written on the whiteboard, though they were not used with the class so I was unsure of why this was. However PE teacher A was still able to describe the objectives of the lesson which were rolling a ball to someone, rolling a ball to someone from further away, and rolling a ball so that it went past someone.
Pupil 1 as per usual struggled to stay seated throughout the duration of the lesson, and interrupted by asking many questions. Though he never means any disrespect, the TA’s and PE teacher A are always sure to tell him that if he does not sit and wait nicely for people to finish talking there will be consequences. I have noticed that PE teacher A has always been consistent with this method, and though it takes a lot of repetition for this pupil to understand, he eventually gets there.
In this lesson we started promptly by sitting together in a circle. We one by one passed a ball to someone of our choice. I think for most of the class it was nice to sit down together with very little equipment available for any distractions and just get on with a simple task. I thought this as the class seemed very calm and very quiet, listening to PE teacher A and the TA’s when it was there turn with the ball. However Pupil 6 was incredibly distressed this morning for reasons unknown, she tended to be very loud and very wriggly and needed to be controlled by one of the TA’s. All pupils required some assistance with the ball other thank Pupil 1. Pupil 1’s problem was learning to take turns; he would see the ball coming towards somebody next to him and take it before that person had a chance to do so. PE teacher A was firm about taking turns and made Pupil 1 give up the ball by counting down from 3. Interestingly I have never seen a Pupil continue their defiance when a teacher has begun counting down, so I’m unsure of the eventual consequence, but I believe the implication is the person will lose minutes from their break time. The students obviously know what it means and it obviously works well.
As we progressed through the lesson we split into two teams on either side of the sports hall. The students were instructed to sit on a white line of the court, which Pupil 1 failed to do so continuously; he was assured that he would not have a turn with the ball if he did not sit were he was asked, which he would often take time to respond to. Pupils 4 and 5 have a tendency to move about the room, particularly when they’ve accomplished a given task, but i was pleased to see them quietly sat and waiting patiently for their turn.We then moved onto the final objective which was rolling the ball past someone to score a point. This is a concept that none of the pupils showed evidence of understanding. Pupil 1, who is the most vocal of the group, kept asking questions about his teams points such as “do we have a hundred?” “have we won now?” and “how many points do we have?” completely failing to understand that if the ball went past his line they win one point. As Pupil 1 continued to move away from his position his team lost 2-0, despite being encouraged to sit down because his team needed him. Today’s lesson was interesting example of how children with autism struggle with numerical concepts, particularly when it comes to invasion games. However it was nice to see the class playing a simple game together and showing good practice.
Lesson 2 - Class B (my spiderman session)
This was the first lesson to implement my spiderman ideas. Already PE teacher A’s experience was proving helpful to my plans as I had explained I would be using a matted area. When he asked what for I simply told him the students would be crawling back and forth. He countered this by saying in his experience it would be much better to set the mats up in lanes so the it was a visual stimulus for pupils to understand they were meant to be simply moving from A to B. I agreed that this made more sense and was happy to change the matted arrangement.
So when the students arrived I asked them if they knew who Spiderman was and got one of them to talk about who he was and what he did to the rest of the class. I told them there was a skill that Spiderman was a master of, a skill that they could learn and that I was going to be helping them with...crawling. Of course when I told them this there was a collective sigh of disappointment, I think some of them expected to be swinging around and using lots of energy. But I assured them that the things were going to be more difficult than they expected. I asked the TA’s to set the class up into 3 separate groups, of equal ability, in front of the matted lanes. For a warm up I simply asked the students to crawl on their hands and knees forwards and backwards across the lanes. I did a quick demonstration and the pupils were still claiming that this was all to easy for them, but I knew the rest of the lesson was going to be an entirely new challenge so I asked them to warm up properly. Most pupils got on well with it, but all of them looked embarrassed, some even started acting like babies to mock the task. I decided to move on quicker to the skills practice than I had planned as I could see that this class were very physical and more importantly, possessed short attention spans, so I thought I’d give them a challenge. I told the class we’d call their warm up a normal crawl, but it wasn’t a Spiderman crawl. Spiderman crawls without his knees touching the floor, I told the class this is what we were doing. All of a sudden their attitude changed and they looked daunted by the idea, and as I demonstrated a Spiderman crawl I heard some of them say that will be too hard. I responded by reminding them that they had all said this lesson would be easy and now it was time to prove how easy it was. This got them on task, and some of them were clearly concentrating hard on the task. It took a while for them to get the hang of as I was constantly enforcing the main rule: “keep your knees off the ground!”
We then practiced a sideways Spiderman crawl; I explained that Spiderman never just goes forwards and backwards, he has to move in all kinds of directions to avoid his enemies. The same rule applied: “no knees on the ground.” Most seemed to find this practice easier than the first for some reason, perhaps they were warming up a lot by this stage.
After the practices we went onto to play some Spiderman games. I remembered what PE teacher a had told me about this group losing technique under pressure, but it was good to introduce some every once in a while so they can get used to performing in competitive circumstances; this is why I decided that first of all we’d start by having some simple relay races backwards and forwards. By this stage the students were well practiced in the skill and we’re very eager to bring a competitive element to their lesson. Most pupils performed well but I could see that some were losing technique as they were trying to go to fast. I gave some Gold coins for the winners and a quick lecture on how they need to practice hard on technique so that they can get somewhere quickly, rather than panicking and flailing their bodies. Then we moved onto Spiderman tag, were all pupils were crawling in a multidirectional way to move away from a tagger. The tagger could only tag somebody’s ankle so that if the tagger was faster than that person I could encourage them to change direction to outmaneuver them - this also required technique, I told them. The pupils played the game reasonably well to start with but many of them were exhausted by this stage. Some I caught hovering at the peripheries of the hall to keep away from the action and have a rest. At this moment I decided to join in as the tagger to round up the pupils and get them all moving. I had said they weren’t putting in the effort I expect from them and so I will chase them. The students were surprised and excited by my chasing, and we quickly tired each other out. As mentioned in previous entries, I believe it’s crucial that a practitioner like myself need not only be a figure of authority but of fun. If the pupils don’t enjoy what I give them to do then they won’t be motivated to do it. Sometimes I think the best way to motivate people is to do the activities with them and show that you’re up for a laugh. This certainly worked today.
Lesson 3 - Class C
This lessons focus was on getting the pupils walking and moving around as much as possible. On entry Pupil 1 appeared distressed, making a lot of noise and not responding much to the TA’s. PE teacher A told me that he would be working with her today. The pupils in this class are always well looked after so I am quite able to have a selective choice with whom I work with; sometimes I go to the pupil who I feel could be doing more or need help, or sometimes I’ll pick a student that I simply worked with in a while to give equal support. Pupil 4 was being lifted in the hoist to practice some walking so I decided I would spend time with Pupil 2 today. One of the TA’s had given him his ball with bells in it to play with as usual, but I knew this was not part of the lesson objectives. I played with them both with the ball for a few minutes to establish Pupil 2’s level of calmness for today. I investigated a bit as well, moving around Pupil 2 and rolling the ball to him from new directions constantly to get hime really engaged with his hearing. Not only is this important for a blind person’s communication and understanding, but ears play a significant roll in the vestibular system which helps with balance.
Pupil 2 seemed very happy today so I wanted to see how far I could push him. He was very willing to try standing and we did lots of exercises together, including squats and rows. Pupil 2 loved doing these exercises and I made sure to use my voice as much as possible, providing encouragement and singing to him like Supply Teacher A had done to keep Pupil 2 happy and comfortable. We then moved onto walking, and I managed to get Pupil 2 working up to walking forwards with only the help of my little finger, and walking backwards. I tried a few exploratory exercises as well including swaying Pupil 2 from side to side which I knew would be great for the adductors and abductors in his legs which a helpful stabilisation muscles, and again his balance. I also grabbed his hands and lifted him high into the air before plonking him back to the ground into a squat; this action would add weight to the negative phase of a squat which is notorious for providing extra tension and therein muscle growth. More to the point, Pupil 2 loved me doing this, laughing loudly as I did it. PE teacher A said he was very impressed with the work I had done with Pupil 2 this lesson.
Lesson 4 - Class D (my spiderman session)
The lesson plan was the same as this mornings for this session, and I was interested to see how this group would get on with it. PE teacher A had also managed to acquire a school iPad as he knew my lessons were heavily based on the use of different stimuli, and particular visual. He had a wonderful thought that would be very suitable for this group which was to film the students performing their Spiderman crawls and show them the camera on it’s side so they can watch themselves crawling vertically, just like Spiderman. I loved the sound of it and he agreed to set it up in a corner while I coordinated the lesson, this also meant the students would have more to think about when waiting their turn.
As always this well-behaved class were willing to give the Spiderman session a go and were obviously much more excited about it than this mornings class. Perhaps the idea was more suitable for this age bracket (around 12 years old). The students got on with the crawling warm up beautifully but when I asked them to keep their knees off the ground to create a Spiderman crawl, they clearly needed to use more concentration. Some pupils struggled very much, crawling very slowly and many had a tendency to either fall over or stick their behind high into the air. I went around the hall helping the students to maintain technique, so for those who had their glutes in the air I told them to bend their knees a bit more to make their backs parallel with the floor. Students listened well and tried hard but they took much more time to get the hang of it. It was an incredible contrast to the class this morning. Nonetheless I think these students actually enjoyed the idea of pretending to be Spiderman much more than those this morning, and Pupil 2 who I was very anxious about this lesson surprised me and was one of the best performers of the group despite his cerebral palsy. As I suspected though, Pupil 1 definitely struggled the most; he was able to lift his knees off the ground but only in a stance, he could not move like this. I made sure to pay great attention to him, taking the time to help and encourage him. I was not upset he could not do it immediately, I didn’t expect him to, I was just happy he was trying and I hoped he was enjoying it as much as the rest of the class. I kept him moving into the Spiderman crawling stance as I knew it was still hard work for him even though he couldn’t move. Eventually he made his way across the mats and he was awarded a gold coin for his efforts. This calls took so long to perform the tasks that less than half the plan was completed. This is no problem, it gives them something to look forward to next time, though the most beneficial aspect of this lesson is that I now have a better idea of how much time these students need to practice new skills.
Lesson 5 - Class E (my spiderman session)
There are usually two wheelchair users in this class, but sometimes they are able to go elsewhere for extra physiotherapy or for hydrotherapy. Pupil 2 was elsewhere today but Pupil 3 joined us. PE teacher A offered to work with this pupil individually so that they could take the time to get her out of her chair and practice at her own pace. I was delighted that PE teacher A was so eager to get Pupil 3 practicing the same Spiderman skills as the rest of the class, and I agreed that she may be better off in her own space of the hall to practice at her own comfortable speed. We set up a few extra mats for her in a corner of the sports hall where she could practice her own Spiderman crawling with PE teacher A while instructed the rest of the class.
When I told this class what they were doing with me today there were some mixed reactions. Some students looked incredibly eager to get going and try this new idea that I had, but two students were immediately reluctant and I feared I would have trouble with them. I tried to assure them that the tasks were deceptively difficult and I had other classes to vouch for that notion. Still they refused, claiming that crawling would be too easy and they’d look stupid. After a short attempt to get them to join in I decided they could sit and watch if they wanted but they were welcome to join in at any point, which I suspected they may want to later.
When the normal crawling began most students listened and behaved well, but I could still hear the other two students complaining about the silliness of the lesson. When we got to the Spiderman crawling and I challenged everyone to crawl without their knees touching the floor, one of the reluctant pupils suddenly became more interested as he could clearly see that this was knew to everyone and that they were finding it challenging. I welcomed him to the group and he practiced with the rest of the class, however he was very eager to introduce competition as he is aware that he is obviously more able than some. I used this as motivation for practicing his technique before we got to more fast-paced games which worked for a while, but he quickly grew restless. To my surprise everyone else was getting on diligently, regardless of some of the negative comments. Pupil 1 consistently put in an enormous amount of effort and was laughing start to finish. It was a remarkable thing to see and I let her know how impressed I was with her.
The group performed physically very well and we reached the main games unlike the previous class. We played some relay races which everyone enjoyed, but the reluctant pupil who had joined later hadn’t been listening to my instructions properly and even though I was delighted to see him enjoying the games, it cost him and his team the victory. One of his team mates was very disappointed and I was disappointed for him as he had been working himself the hardest out of the whole group through the entire lesson. When we moved onto Spiderman tag I got the chance to motivate him by telling him I was thoroughly impressed with his effort, especially in spite of his reluctant team mate, and I told him if he continued he would be guaranteed a gold coin. As before the group were exhausted by this stage and I decided that again I would join in this game. The class loved me joining, laughing hysterically as I chased them around the hall; it definitely got them moving faster. By the end we were all extremely tired and as promised I gave the hard-working student his gold coin. I directed people’s attention to the colour of everyone’s faces which were bright red, and I told them this was proof they had worked brilliantly.
Today has been an amazing day for me. It was lovely to see everyone enjoying the lessons I had come up with revolving around Spiderman, but I am more delighted by the inspiration some of the students filled me with through their enormous efforts.
Live life to the full.