Today I described another of my lesson plans to PE teacher A. It was a lesson that was going to be very different from the last few of my lessons, the Spiderman sessions, and he seemed very interested by the idea. He said it sounded good and we planned to implement it on my next placement day. It was based on ninjas.
Lesson 1 - Class B
For this lesson PE teacher A told me that the focus was going to be on hitting into a space on the court. This was interesting to me as it was a very specific concept rather than a physical skill, though I had faith that the class would come to appreciate it. The first game was a version of “Killer,” but today instead of using a tennis ball and racket, the teacher wanted them to practice some kicking so they could come to understand that hitting a ball into a space can apply to all kinds of sports. To both of our surprises, the students seemed to struggle with this warm up game. I generally think of this group as a very able one, and today they seemed to be getting off to a bad start so I was interested to see how PE teacher A would encourage them. He was very good at slowing the pupils down, telling them that “there was no need to rush” and that they just needed to “kick the ball gently.” I thought this was an excellent observation as these students have a tendency to try to hit balls as hard as they can, they clearly have a lot of energy and sometimes I think they just want to get certain tasks over with because they don’t like being watched by the rest of the class. Some of the group are good listeners, and when PE teacher A delivered his simple advice it was clear that the students were trying to use it and to good effect. PE teacher A was great at picking up on when the pupils were trying to hit into space and he gave them a positive response every time they did, even if the ball didn’t travel far which was likely to put the students off trying again.
After this the group had a quick talk about hitting into space. PE teacher said “even if you were the world’s best player at something, if someone hits a ball in the space where you’re not they have made it very difficult for you to get the ball. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if somebody hits the ball away from you then that’s going to be very hard to hit back.” He explained this slowly and clearly and students seemed to understand. I liked that he emphasised it was not always about talent or how hard you can hit the ball, he was describing strategy, something this group tends to forget but could potentially be good at.
We then moved onto the tennis game with cricket rules and PE teacher A was clear when reinforcing the idea of hitting into space to make it harder for the fielders. Before he bowled he gave each student some advice about aiming where a fielder was not, and I could see each of them looking around the hall to see where they could hit the ball before they did so. The game was incredibly entertaining to watch, some students really start to get the hang of hitting into space which they demonstrated by playing devious shots like hitting the ball behind them where there were no fielders at all. Another interesting moment was when one of the most able boys hit the ball beautifully. The class have always recognised this students sporting talent and had often shown their fear of them in a competitive games in previous lessons. Today the class had done the same, and although it was a lovely shot by the pupil, the reason this person scored so many was because the fielders panicked. This class have a large tendency to panic and lose their technique, cooperative efforts, and strategies. Many members of the class had managed to pick up the ball but when they could see the pupil’s score rising higher and higher they failed to return it to PE teacher A numerous times.
PE teacher A spoke to them about this and how they must try to stay calm and remember what they’ve learned. As I had been keeping the scores on the whiteboard, I showed the class that the able boy managed to get an amazing 55 points with that one hit when they panicked. They could see by the scores that this made an enormous difference as his total score was more than double some of the students. I think this was a good experience for them to go through as they now had hard evidence from the scores, showing them that crumbling under pressure is their weakest attribute.
Lesson 2 - Class F
This lesson was on athletics. At the lesson’s introduction the PE teacher told the class that the three components of athletics were running, jumping, and throwing. Today they were going to focus on different types of running. PE teacher A explained that for athletics they needed to be trying their absolute best in all the activities and so they were going to need a vigorous warm up. PE teacher A put on some party music for the class to run around the hall to. When the music was played loudly, the students had to run fast, but when PE teacher A turned the music down to be quieter, the students had to slow down. As soon as the music started all students were up and running; I was delighted to see them so willing to get involved, they clearly enjoyed music and I suspected they had done this warm up before. The TA’s helped the pupils with their reactions to the music, which they got the hang of. It was lovely to see them all very excited, even Pupil 3 was hopping around enthusiastically to degree I had never seen her.
The lesson then moved on to all different kinds of running. The students tried sprinting, and I managed to pick up some more makaton at this stage, including “slow,” “fast” and “music.” (below is a helpful makaton video I found) All students sprinted well, including Pupil 1 and Pupil 3 who required being hand led, though they still appeared excitable and energetic. The pupils also had a go at hurdles. PE teacher A set up small coloured cones as he knew that some of them may not be able to jump very high, but if they had a go at each cone then he’d be happy. The use of colours seemed like a very good idea for this group as well, as PE teacher A was able to reference each cone individually by pointing out it’s colour and guide the students around the small track he had created. This worked wonderfully well as the pupils were clearly able to identify each coloured cone and went on to have a go at jumping at the right moment. This was also done as a relay race in two teams and I joined as well. We all had great fun and it was nice to see that the students weren’t put off by my joining their teams, as I know this class likes routine and structure I wondered if they’d be sensitive to me switching passive and active roles. But they were ok with it so they must be getting used to having me around.
Lesson 3 - Class D
This lesson as always was outside and PE teacher B challenged the group to remember their usual warm up. A pupil who had raised her hand to answer did so correctly, so she was asked to lead the group when running around the field. The pupil lead reasonably well as she remembered the route correctly but did so quite slowly so the TA’s had to remind her to encourage the whole group to be running. One pupil lagged at the back and despite the TA’s telling her to get a move on she did not. I have run with this pupil in the past during this warm up to encourage her which always worked well, however today I wanted to see if she could motivate herself and unfortunately failed to do so.
The class then played a game of cricket, however the fielders were located in a certain area of the playground to give the batter a better chance of batting practice. If a student hit the ball in the are of the fielders they only had to run to and fro twice, but if they hit it elsewhere they had to run four. For some reason the class failed to remember this on numerous occasions, resulting in students running the wrong number of times and being caught out when they shouldn’t have been. PE teacher B had reminded the students several times about the way in which they had to score runs, but eventually he found himself pausing the game so that he could address the class as a whole to re-explain the rules. From this point on the class seemed to get it, but it was unfortunately that it was close to the end of the lesson. I found it surprising that these students didn’t seem to grasp the concept as they are usually extremely good listeners who are generally very well behaved and physically quite able. Today just didn’t seem like they were concentrating and I couldn’t figure out why. Despite this though, the physical performance of some students was tremendous. One student struggled to hit the ball when batting so his class mate generously produced a cone for the ball to stand on instead without him even being asked. There was also some of the best catching I have ever seen from this class and every member of staff gave an ecstatic response to those students who performed well today.
Lesson 4 - Class E
PE teacher A decided to give me a very interesting task today. He asked me if I would like to focus on Pupils 2 and 3, the two wheelchair users of the group, on my own while he conducted the rest of the class. He said this would be really helpful for him to slit the class in this way so he could deliver quite a tough lesson for the more able members of the group while I would be working with Pupil 2 and 3 on timing at a pace that better suits them. I was delighted by the idea and agreed that it may well be a very effective method of teaching for this session. It made me even more pleased when these two students were so happy to be with me on our own today when PE teacher A told them what was going on. These two students are lovely and hard working people and I knew I would have no problems with them.
We then made our way into a corner of the sports hall while PE teacher A taught the rest of the group some tennis shots using a fast reactions game. I had been asked by PE teacher a to give Pupil 2 an Pupil 3 some simple hitting practice that we would then work up to good timing with. Both pupils took turns to hit a tennis ball with a rocket of the top of a tall cone. I gave each of them specific teaching points like “look at the ball all the time,” “keep your thumb on this part of the racket,” and a simple “take your time, there’s no need to rush.” Each student listened to my instructions beautifully as I could see them trying to implement them. I also asked them questions about their technique before each of their turns to constantly reassure myself that they understood exactly how I wanted them to perform. When my instructions were implemented well, the balls travelled slightly further and I continued to be overtly encouraging whenever this happened. We moved on to using two other cones which got smaller each time, making it harder for the pupils to hit the ball. I kept them engaged by asking “what’s different about this now? What’s harder?” which they gave sensible answers to.
Eventually we got to the main aim of or session together which was timing. I took away the cones and gently bounced a ball to them for them to hit. I knew this would be much harder for them so I gave them a few goes each turn. I tried to make their practice relevant by referring back to how we used the cones and talking about the height of the cones to help us predict when to hit the ball. I could see this helped but the students still struggled to get a decent hit like the ones the were performing earlier in the lesson. Overall I was pleased with how this lesson went and it was great practice for me to help teach a simple skill really slowly. I relayed the results back to PE teacher A at the end and he too seemed very happy.
Lesson 5 - Class G
This was a fun lesson as we were outside playing with different balls. There were basket balls and foot balls and PE teacher B was trying to show the children the difference between them using colour and saying that you can only use your feet for a football. There was not much structure to this lesson, and I wondered how that affected the children’s learning; was it better this way or not? These students are incredibly young and maybe don’t appreciate structure the way other autistic students do, which could be evinced by the clear excitement they get by the numerous balls bouncing around them. As always I believe that anyone should have fun when indulging in physical activity, otherwise it’s very difficult to get motivated. This class is always an enjoyable one, so perhaps a structure is not necessary of the students are still excited by their PE lessons.
Live life to the full.