Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Portfolio Showcase Spring '09 at SUNY Cortland

Photos taken by Dr. Stephen Yang, Christopher Euler, and Andrew Bretsch

On Monday, May 4, 2009, the PE Department at SUNY Cortland hosted its Spring '09 Portfolio Showcase, putting on display the best professional portfolios of all Senior PE Majors. The showcase was at Poolside in Park Center from 3p-4p and guests, including myself, had the opportunity to view all of these outstanding portfolios and ask questions to the Seniors being honored. Because I am taking all of the required PE classes in only 2 semesters, I have only next semester to complete my portfolio. As such, I viewed the Showcase as a great chance to see what I will need to do in the coming months to create an excellent portfolio. I also knew some of the students being honored, so it was great to be able to congratulate them on all of their hard work.

There were approximately 25 portfolios on display, but being that it took me at least 5-10 minutes to view each portfolio and speak with its creator, I only saw about 7 of them. The creators of these 7 outstanding portfolios were Mallory Cogen, Caitlin Gruschow, Jonathan Billings, Kevin Tripp, Richard Rolo, John Fesetch, and Alicia Thomas. All of them were very helpful in answering questions and offering advice regarding the process of putting the portfolio together (I think one of the many great things about the PE Program here at SUNY Cortland is the willingness of students to lend a helping hand). The biggest piece of advice that I heard from almost every student was to save all work you've completed, a hard copy and electronic copy, and then back it up twice. They also said it was helpful to keep your work organized on your computer by semester and by class (which I thankfully already do), and to save all letters you receive from the school regarding achievements such as Dean's List, Honor Societies, etc.

In terms of presentation, I've seen poor quality portfolios in the past that were unorganized with cheap dividers and without plastic protective sheets reinforcing each page. All of the portfolios being showcased on Monday were neat, professional-looking, and well organized. In addition, there was something about each student's portfolio that really stood out when viewing. For example, Kevin Tripp's resume, in addition to being packed with extracurricular activities and related experiences, had a red border and bright Cortland logo on it that was eye-catching. He also had pictures, programs, and his name tag from the 2009 National AAHPERD Conference as an artifact. Caitlin Cruschow color-coordinated the artifacts in each of her NASPE Learning Standards sections that really made it easy to navigate through. Jonathan Billings spent what I imagine to be countless hours editing pictures to make his portfolio stand out amongst his peers. Each of the students did an incredible job and I hope to follow in their footsteps next semester.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Infusing Spanish into PE Workshop

On Tuesday, April 27, 2009, I attended a workshop run by Dr. Columna and several undergraduate PE Majors on the topic of infusing Spanish into PE. Each year, the Spanish-speaking population in America continues to increase. As future physical educators, we should know how to effectively communicate with Spanish-speaking students to ensure that they are receiving the same quality of physical education as English-speaking students.

The workshop lasted for approximately an hour and a half. Dr. Martinez, a Cortland faculty member in the Spanish Department, reviewed the pronunciation of Spanish vowels with the approximately 50 of us who attended the workshop. Dr. Columna and undergraduate PE majors then led us through about seven different activities. In each activity, we learned a few key words and phrases in Spanish that can be used to communicate with Spanish-speaking students.

I thought that the workshop was extremely helpful. Although I took a semester of Spanish here at Cortland, the workshop acted as a good refresher. In addition, I learned some fun and interesting games to incorporate into future planning, as well as ways to infuse Spanish into future classes. I think it is extremely important for PE teachers to learn how to effectively communicate with ALL of their students. I would like to attend future workshops on how to communicate with students with special needs and am excited about taking Adapted PE next semester.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baby Shuffle Performance

Today was the big day. Our class unveiled the Infant Motor Development skits we have all been working so hard on, and I think it's safe to say it was a big success. Everybody did a great job performing and the amount of effort we all put into our presentations was clearly evident. It's unique to have a class where students read a chapter in a textbook and incorporate the content into such a creative form of learning. I've posted the video of Jumping Jack and the Thriving 5's new hit song "The Baby Shuffle," courtesy of Dr. Yang. If you want to watch all of today's performances, which you definitely should, you can find the videos on Dr. Yang's blog, Learning to Teach PE Like a Rockstar. If you've never visited his website before, there is a ton of great information for both future and current physical educators. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Baby Shuffle

Jumping Jack and the Thriving 5 has been hard at work preparing a skit on Rudimentary Movement Abilities in infants. Collectively, we have put a lot of time and effort into our presentation. We chose to do a parody of "The Cupid Shuffle," calling our song "The Baby Shuffle." On Monday, we put the final touches on the lyrics, planned the choreography, and ran through the skit several times. By Tuesday we had all memorized the lyrics and were able to do a few practice runs, which went very well. Today we made our matching shirts and again, did a few more dry runs at full-speed. Isn't that why they say practice makes perfect? For the most part, I think we are all excited/anxious to perform in front of our classmates tomorrow, and we are definitely interested to watch our classmates' presentations. Hopefully everything will run smoothly. Once we have pictures and video of the skit, I'll be sure to post, so stay tuned. In the meantime, is a copy of our lyrics:

One – control your head and your neck, yeah
Two – now hold that trunk, push your chest, yeah
Three – sit up with help, then alone, yeah
Four – stand up with help, then alone, yeah (x2)

They say I’m a baby and I say no.
I’m growing up strong and learning as I go.
I go from a scoot way up to a walk.
So all the babies can learn to talk, yeah.

We’ve got a brand new dance
To learn to use our muscles
A brand new dance
It’s called the baby shuffle
It don’t matter if you young or you old
(Here we go) We gonna show you how it go

Hold your head and your neck
Yeah your head and your neck
Get that trunk, lift that chest
Get that trunk, lift that chest
Now sit with support, and now by yourself
Now walk it with support, then walk it by yourself

Now it’s time to walk but with support
Keep on walking but hold someone’s hands
Now walk by yourself but with a lead
Keep on walking but all on your own

First you scoot your butt across the floor
Then you crawl; just use your arms, yeah
Now it’s time to creep, get on all fours
Now let’s bear walk it all by yourself.

Scoot it right, scoot it right, scoot it right, scoot it right
Crawl it left, crawl it left, crawl it left, crawl it left.
Now creep, now creep, now creep, now creep
Bear walk it by yourself, bear walk it by yourself

Now you see what I’m talking about
We represent for the babies let’s shout!
Where we known for crawling about
We’re gonna show you what we’re talking about.

First you reach out your hand out for something
Second you grab a hold, hold it tight, yeah
Then you drop it with good release, yeah
Put it all together now all by yourself (x2)

Reach it right, reach it right
To the right, to the right, to the right
Grab it left, grab it left
To the left, to the left, to the left
Now release, release
Now come on and release
Now walk it by yourself, walk it by yourself (x2)

And do the baby shuffle
Now let me see you do the baby shuffle
It’s Jumping Jack and the Thriving Five
Dr. Yang running class got another hit indeed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

St. Mary's Final Reflection

1. Based upon observations and interactions with the St. Mary’s students, describe what you have learned about young children? Provide examples of activities you felt were appropriate. Why? Were there activities that were not appropriate? Why?

I have certainly learned quite a bit about working with young children from my experiences at St. Mary’s. For starters, you need to have excellent classroom management skills to be an effective PE teacher for young children. While this is also true for middle and high school kids, I think classroom management is especially important for pre-K through 4th grade. Young children have much shorter attention spans so you have to be short and to the point when explaining directions, while at the same time making sure to include all pertinent safety directions. It’s hard for young children to sit still and pay attention unless they are really interested in what you have to say. Thus, it’s also important to plan exciting activities with creative themes and catchy hooks. Another reason why classroom management is of great importance for young children is that they are not at the stage of development where they are proficient in all stability, locomotor, and manipulation skills. There is a greater risk for injury because there is a greater risk for falling, tripping, getting hit with something thrown to them, etc. A PE teacher with excellent classroom management skills keeps the gym safe and in-order, decreasing the chances for injury.
From my experience at St. Mary’s, I’ve also learned strategies for interacting with young children. In addition to keeping your instructions short and to the point, you need to use language that they understand. For example, I have a friend who is as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met. Sometimes when he is explaining something to me, I have to stop him because he just goes way above my head. I tell him, “Dave, explain this to me like I’m five years old.” This is exactly what we have to remember when we are working with young children. It’s also important to remember that young children respond to your enthusiasm. If you look bored and uninterested, then they will be bored and uninterested. Even if you are not always full of energy and excitement outside the classroom, it’s important to be this way inside the classroom.
A third thing I learned at St. Mary’s is how to pick activities that are appropriate. To pick appropriate activities, you need to consider the individual, the task, and the environment. Although motor development is not age-dependant, it is age-related. Thus, you should consider the levels of motor development of the students when choosing activities and the skills that will be utilized in the activities. You also need to consider the culture and interests of the students to understand what they will respond to. An appropriate activity that our group observed was Stinky Letter Stew. We found Stinky Letter Stew to be appropriate for 1st graders because the skills emphasized were appropriate (running, hopping, and leaping). It was also appropriate because it was well-organized and included things that kept the kids’ attention, such as rhyming. An appropriate activity that we taught was Endless Bucket with a Superheroes theme. I thought that this was our most successful activity because we chose tasks that were developmentally appropriate, created a theme that engaged the children, structured the activity so that it maximized activity time, and organized ourselves around the gym so that we could be in different places to help the children when they had difficulties.

2. Based upon your interactions with St. Mary’s PRE K program, describe your experience. How was this different from working with the older age students? Did you enjoy working with younger age children? Why or Why not?

I very much enjoyed my interactions with the pre-K students during the two labs our group worked with them. During these two labs, the students were scattered around their classrooms in small groups, usually playing with toys or coloring. There were three of us per pre-K classroom. Basically we just went around independently to play with children informally. I tried to manage my time so that I could spend at least a few minutes with each of the kids in the class. In addition to participating in whatever activity they were engaged in, I tried to learn a little bit about them by asking questions. I was interested in finding out what subjects they enjoyed in school, what they enjoyed doing outside of school, their ages, if they had brothers and sisters, etc. After the students had a snack, we would read stories to them in small groups. I liked this a lot because the children were attentive and interested in the stories because they chose them. I found that it is important to keep the book to your side when reading so that they children can all see the illustrations without climbing on top of your back.
Work with the pre-K children was different from working with the older kids because instead of being in the cafeteria, we were in their classrooms. When children are in the cafeteria, I think that they tend to be a little wilder. In a typical school day, students are in the cafeteria during lunchtime, which is essentially a break from being in their classroom. They can speak louder, converse amongst themselves, and enjoy more freedom. In the classroom, there are more rules and structure. Even though we were there during the afterschool program and not during the day, the classroom is associated with more proper behavior, and thus, I believe this is a reason the pre-K children were better behaved. When we were in the gymnasium, the pre-K students were just as wild and crazy as the kindergarteners and 1st graders. In addition, they were not as skilled in movement concepts. Thus, we had to plan activities that were developmentally appropriate for them to take part in. For example, instead of shooting basketballs on a 10-foot basket, we held hoola hoops with our hands for them to shoot kickballs into. I really did enjoy working with the younger age children, especially in the classroom. They surprised me with their creativity and imagination. I especially enjoyed our time in the classrooms with them because the structured environment allowed us a chance to talk and get to know them (although we also had the opportunity to do this in the cafeteria).

3. During your field experience, each of you worked with children in the cafeteria setting. Describe the fine motor activities you observed. Do you feel that working on fine motor activities is something we should work on in Physical Education.
When in the cafeteria setting, I observed the children participating in a variety of activities and games such as coloring, paper airplanes, legos, puzzles, playing card games, Jenga, Mancala, and Checkers. I even had the opportunity to teach a few of the children Oragami by folding pieces of construction paper into picture frames for them to bring home to their parents. In all of these activities, the children had to manipulate small objects with their fingers and hands. When coloring, they had to pick up crayons with their fingers and manipulate them so that the point rubbed against the paper and inside the lines they were coloring in. When making paper airplanes and Oragami, they had to manipulate pieces of paper in their fingers and fold them carefully with their fingers and hands. During legos and puzzles, they had to pick up very small objects with their fingers and orient them so that they fit together. During card games, they had to (or in some cases tried to) hold their cards using both their palms and fingers simultaneously, fanning the cards out. During Jenga, they had to use their index fingers to push blocks horizontally and then their index fingers and thumbs simultaneously to pick up the blocks and place them on the top of the stack.
I feel that working on fine motor activities is something that we should work on in Physical Education. Although we spend the majority of the time working on more gross motor activities such as stability and locomotor skills, developing more fine manipulative skills will make students more skilled and efficient movers. The goal of PE is to produce physically educated individuals. We want our students to take part in physical activity during their school years and throughout their lifetime. Part of this is teaching them the skills needed to be recreationally competent in a variety of activities and sports, which include fine motor skills.

4. Reflecting on your growth as a future teacher, what have you learned from this experience that has given you insight as to your individual “teaching style”. Has your teaching style emerged based upon your experience and interaction at St. Mary’s. If yes, in what way. If not, how else might this occur?

Although I’m still quite rough around the edges, there are many aspects of teaching that I observed during this field experience that I have tried to incorporate into my own teaching style when working with young children. I’ve learned that to gain and keep the attention of young children, a PE teacher has to display extreme enthusiasm and energy. Young children are impressionable. If they see that we, as PE teachers, think that an activity is fun and exciting, then they will be more likely to think in the same way. Conversely, if our body language suggests that we don’t want to be there, even if in reality we really do want to be there, then the children won’t want to be there either. I am not always the most cheery in nature and my body language sometimes suggests that I don’t want to be somewhere when this really isn’t the case. I noticed this very early in the field experience and made a conscious effort to be more enthusiastic during lab. I think I did a much better of doing this as time went on, and although I’m no where near the level of Dr. Yang in terms of enthusiasm (you would be hard pressed to find someone who is), it’s something that I will continue to work on in the future by making a conscious effort to do so. I’ve also learned that planning is essential if you want the activities you teach to run smoothly. Furthermore, I’ve learned that it is critical to reflect on previous experiences when planning for the future. As I have talked about in previous lab reflections, our group learned from our experiences in the first two labs and incorporated what we found to work and not work into planning future activities. I believe that our success in teaching the Endless Bucket activity was a direct result of using our previous experiences in planning for the future. I’ve learned that to develop as a teacher, you need to assess your own strengths and weaknesses and figure out ways to continue to accentuate your strengths while improving upon your weaknesses. I hope that my teaching style will continue to be shaped by my experiences in future classes and field experiences such as EDU256 which I will be starting in about a month!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

St. Mary's Lab 5 - The Environment

On March 30, 2009, we had our 5th lab at St. Mary's and were reunited with the pre-K children! For about an hour, we played with a variety of toys with the children in their classrooms. Again, I made my best effort to spend a little time with each of the children, whether it was coloring, drawing pictures, playing with plastic cars, or having a picnic. I found out all sorts of things about the youngsters - the names of their brothers and sisters, their favorite animals, what kinds of pets they have, their favorite games to play, what they like to do in the summer, etc. I really love working with the little ones! After they ate a quick snack, we each spent about a half hour reading stories to them. We ended by going into the gym and designing a game where they had to go from station to station and perform some sort of task. We also tried to incorporate the theme of the environment. For example, we had one station set up where the students had to stand on a polyspot and throw "garbage" (bean bags) into the "trash" (a hula hoop) to help clean up neighborhood.

1. Consider the activities/games that you have utilized so far during the past four labs. Were they appropriate for the students at St. Mary’s? Why or why not?

I think that almost all of the activities and games we have utilized during the past four labs have been appropriate for the students at St. Mary’s. For Lab 2, we led a parachute activity in the gym with the kindergarteners. Now that we are almost done with our time at St. Mary’s, I look back at this as a real turning point in terms of my experience there. Our group, Jumping Jack and Thriving 5 had about 25 to 30 minutes of class time to plan the parachute activity and practice it with our fellow classmates the week prior to leading it at St. Mary’s. Everything ran very smoothly during practice, so we thought that it would be a huge success with the kids. However, it was anything but. It was the kindergarteners first day back to school after February break and they had been sitting in class all day long for the first time in a week. Needless to say, they had a crazy amount of energy to let loose in the gym. In addition to the children not being well behaved, it was our first time teaching the kids a planned activity as a group, and I think that it showed. After this experience, I think that we were all very determined to improve our performance. After Lab 2, we spent a lot of time getting together to plan out fun, developmentally appropriate, well-run activities. We paid a lot of attention to detail in terms of classroom organization. For example, we made sure that only one person would teach the activity and decided ahead of time the roles and responsibilities the rest of us would have. We spent a lot of time debating whether certain activity tasks would be too easy, too hard, unentertaining, unsafe, etc. As a result, I think we utilized activities that were very effective, fun, and appropriate.

2. What might be some limitations to games or activities when using them in the process of assessing motor skills?

Using games and activities in the process of assessing motor skills has both pros and cons. One pro is that you are assessing the kids in a relatively authentic environment. A second pro is that the kids’ performance will not suffer from any type of performance anxiety because they do not know they are being assessed. Theoretically, you would think that this should produce more reliable results. One problem with assessing motor skills during games is that young children will often not perform certain motor skills correctly even though they are capable. When we assessed locomotor skills such as leaping and galloping during games, a large number of the students began running because they were more concerned with getting from point A to point B as fast as possible than correctly performing the skills. We knew that many of the kids could leap and gallop because we saw them do it in non-game situations, but it may have appeared to others that they couldn’t do it. To properly assess motor skills during games and activities, you need to make the environment and task more structured so that you can properly observe activity cues. Thus, you have to put a lot of time and creativity into planning to ensure that the activities are ideal for assessment, while still having a high amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity and still being fun for the kids.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

St. Mary's Lab 4 - Healthy Eating

Today March 23, 2009, we had our 4th lab at St. Mary's and the theme was healthy eating! Our group, Jumping Jack & The Thriving 5 came up with an activity to play with the Kindergarteners that allowed our peers to assess the children on throwing and catching using the TGMD-2. We had previously assessed while another group was presenting. We split the children up into 5 groups of about 5 and each group started at a designated hula hoop. All over the gym floor were pictures of junkfood, polyspots and tennis balls. We also positioned 3 large hula hoops to hang vertcailly from 3 basketball hoops. We told the children that they were junkfood police and their mission was to rid their school of unhealthy food. To assess throwing, one student per team went at a time while the other students cheered their teammate on. Their objective was to pick up a tennis ball, stand on a polyspot next to a picture of junkfood, and throw it through one of the hula hoops. When they succeeded, they brought the picture back to their team's designated hula hoop and the next child went. We then modified the game to assess catching. This time, 2 students per team went at a time. To start, one student ran to a polyspot. Then the second student threw them a tennis ball. Next, the first student caught the tennis ball and threw it through one of the large hula hoops. When the games were over, each of us talked to the kids about why it is important to have a healthy diet and had each student tell us what some of their favorite healthy foods were. Then, we went downstairs to the cafeteria with the kindergarteners and colored, played board games, legos, card games, etc.

1. Reflecting on your experience so far at St Mary’s, what do you think have been some difficulties or challenges you have faced? Consider all areas – environment, children, etc.

I would say that the biggest difficulties I have faced so far at St. Mary’s have been getting and keeping the attention of all of the kids at the same time. I feel like it might impossible to have the complete attention of every child simultaneously. No matter what activity you lead, there is always going to be at least one kid that is not interested and does not want to participate. Even when our group leads an activity that almost all of the kids are interested in, there are always a few kids that talk loudly amongst themselves, hit each other, scream at each other, etc., thereby disrupting the attention of other students around them. That leads me to another major difficulty that I have faced and not been very successful in overcoming – responding to disruptive and inappropriate behavior. When kids decide to blatantly not follow directions and disrupt other students around them, I have not had success in getting them to act appropriately. The first lab this happened in, I tried to be very polite and asked the kids to stop repeatedly. This did not work, however, as the students pretty much ignored me and continued to be disruptive. The next lab this happened in, I tried to be polite at first. When that didn’t work, I tried to be more stern, but again failed. Another challenge we have faced is maintaining a safe environment in such a small amount of gym space. At the end of lab when all of the students are in the gym, it gets very crowded and quite hectic. Many different activities are going on, students are running around all over the place, balls are bouncing every which way, etc. It is not a surprise that I have witnessed a few instances of kids getting hit with balls, beanbags, and hoola hoops.

2. What ideas/suggestions do you have to resolve the difficulties or challenges that you wrote about in #1?

To get the attention of all of the kids, shouting “Criss-Cross Apple Sauce” works pretty well because it is what their teachers say to them during the day. To keep the attention of all of the kids, our group found early on that having one person teach allows the kids to focus better on what is being said. When multiple people are trying to teach and explain an activity, it can be rather confusing. In addition to having one person teach, the instructions need to be simple and to the point. These kids have been cooped up all day long and have what appears to be an infinite amount of energy to expend. If it takes a long time to explain instructions, the kids get restless, start moving around, and stop paying attention. Furthermore, the games have to be developmentally appropriate and fun so that the kids remain interested. To make the gym less crowded, there isn’t much we can do. I understand that the gym is sectioned off with cones, but this doesn’t do much to keep kids from running all over the place or keep balls from bouncing everywhere. The only thing that I can really think of to improve safety is if all of the groups were to coordinate with each other and plan out space before hand. This wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but it might be a start.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

St. Mary's Superheroes

1. Observe the St. Mary’s student(s) as they participate in the activities. Describe the variability of the movement patterns you observed. Be sure to note with whom you worked, what grade they were in, and any differences in age, gender, or ability.

During the endless bucket activity, our group worked with kindergarteners and I was able to make some generalized observations about their movement patterns. I noticed that when told to leap, it was difficult to distinguish much of a difference between leaping and running/jogging. I think this was more of a result of wanting to get from point A to point B as fast as possible rather than the children not being able to correctly perform the leap. When told to jump horizontally, I noticed that most of the students did not extend their arms behind their body initially. Also, they did not extend their arms forcefully forward and upward, reaching full extension above the head. When told to slide, I noticed that some of the students did not fully turn their bodies sideways toward their direction of travel. In terms of differences in gender, the only real difference I noticed was that in general, most of the girls moved a little bit more slowly than did the boys.
After the endless bucket activity, we went downstairs with the kindergarteners where Matt had two 6-year-olds, A & R, perform the locomotor skills of leaping, horizontal jumping, and sliding for closer observation. When told to leap, both A & R took off on one foot and landed on the opposite foot, had a brief period where both feet were off the ground, and reached forward with their arm opposite their lead foot. When told to jump horizontally, A & R both took off and landed on both feet simultaneously and brought their arms downward during landing. While they both performed a preparatory movement of flexing both arms and knees, they did not extend their arms behind their bodies. Also, while they extended their arms forcefully forward and slightly upward, they did not reach full extension above their heads. When told to slide, both children took a step sideways followed by a slide of the trailing foot to a point next to the lead foot and showed the ability to slide to the left and to the right. However, neither had a period where both feet were off the floor. Furthermore, while Anthony turned his body completely sideways toward his direction of travel, Rowan only turned her body slightly sideways toward her direction of travel.

2. Describe “teaching strategies” that YOU used today towards connecting with the children. What were they? How did YOU use them? What was the effect? Were there any strategies that were more effective than others? If so, why?

Our group, Jumping Jack and the Thriving Five, was not satisfied with how our lab went last week so for this lab, we decided to meet the day before to better prepare. We made an effort to pay more attention to detail in terms of planning the activity by reflecting on our experiences from the previous week. Knowing that we were going to lead the endless bucket activity and that the theme would be superheroes, we tried to figure out exactly how to incorporate the theme into the activity. We decided that the best way to grab the kids’ attention and get them excited would be to design superhero costumes for ourselves. Next, we brainstormed different ideas of which activities we wanted to put on the endless bucket cards. We knew that the activities would have to be fun and creative if we wanted the students to enjoy themselves and actively participate. Thus, we incorporated the superhero theme into a lot of them, such as the batcave crawl and building slide.
Our first teaching strategy of implementing a theme and wearing costumes was a great way to connect with the children. By showing them that we were excited to be there and participate, I think it made them more excited to participate. Jack explained to them that all of their favorite superheroes were going on vacation for a week and that we were there to train them so that they could take the place of their favorite superheroes while they were away. By planning ahead of time, we were able to come up with something creative and the kids really responded. With the exception of a few, the kids were really engaged and that was a big accomplishment for us. The second teaching strategy our group employed was having only person, Jack, explain the activity and having one person, Ashley, demonstrate. I think this was much more affective than having each of us explain different aspects of the activity. As a result, it seemed that the kids were better at listening and following directions. The third teaching strategy our group employed was breaking up into different roles. While the activity was going on, two of us stationed ourselves at the buckets to help read the cards to the kids while the other four were roamed around to help the kids with each of the activities. Again, this was something we planned to do beforehand, and I think it was very effective. By having us scattered around the gym to help with the activities, everything flowed quite well and none of the kids were stagnant. We knew that most of the kids wouldn’t be able to read and by planning to have a couple of us help them, this wasn’t an issue.
An additional strategy that I decided to use was to either bend down, squat down, or get down on one knee when interacting with the kids. I think that by getting down to their eye level, it helped me to better connect than if I had been soaring above them. I think it made me seem more personable and for the most part, the kids responded by following my instructions. A second strategy that I decided to employ was to be more enthusiastic. I felt that I could have been much more enthusiastic in the previous lab, so I made a conscious effort to really break out of my shell in this lab. In addition to wearing the superhero costume, I tried to keep a smile on my face, was more passionate, tried to encourage the kids whenever I could, and really kept in my role of being a superhero. As a result, I think that the kids connected with me better. I noticed that after giving instructions, the kids themselves also showed more enthusiasm and followed directions better.

3. After being at St. Mary’s for these past weeks and observing and working with the students, can you briefly describe an effective strategy (or strategies that you used to capture the children’s attention and keep them on task for your activity.

After leading activities and observing other groups lead activities over the past few weeks, there are several strategies I have noticed to be very effective in capturing the children's attention and keeping them on task. The best thing a group can do is to put time and effort into planning the activity beforehand. By effectively planning ahead of time, you can pay more attention to detail, ensure that everyone is on the same page, brainstorm and toss around different ideas, design costumes, choose music, and iron out any kinks before actually getting to St. Mary’s. While teaching, shouting “criss-cross applesauce” is a great way to get the attention of the kids because they have already been conditioned to respond to this signal for attention by being quiet and sitting with their legs crossed. Playing music during an activity is very useful in promoting participation because it adds to the atmosphere in the gym. In addition, it is easier to get their attention when you want to give further directions by stopping the music. Having only one or two designated teachers per activity is more affective than having everyone in the group try to lead. When only one person explains an activity, the kids can focus their attention on this one person instead of having to focus their attention on six different people. As a result, they are more likely to listen to, understand, and follow directions better.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

St. Mary's Lab 2


Observe the interaction between St. Mary’s students and Cortland students.

1. Observe the St. Mary’s student(s) as they participate in the activities. Describe the variability of the movement patterns you observed in your students. Be sure to note with whom you worked, what grade they were in, and any differences in age, gender, or ability.
During lab at St. Mary’s, we specifically observed Casey, a 5-year old, female kindergartener and Shamus, a 6-year-old, male kindergartner. My observations of Casey and Shamus’ running, galloping, and hopping are documented in the chart on the following page. While running, I noticed that Shamus exhibited all of the performance criteria, but Casey ran a little flat-footed. While galloping, Casey exhibited all of the performance criteria while Shamus did not bend his arms and lift them to waist level (Note: they were not instructed to lead with both feet so I’m not sure if they had the ability to do this). While hopping, Casey exhibited all of the performance criteria while Shamus’ nonsupport leg did not swing in pendulum fashion to produce force. In summary, Casey was slightly better in performing the gallop and hop, while Shamus was slightly better in performing the run.
Aside from working with the kindergarteners, we also had the opportunity to work with and observe the 1st graders for a period of time. I did not notice any difference in movement pattern variability based on gender. Both the boys and girls seemed to run, gallop, and hop similarly. However, I did notice a difference between children of different ages. In general, the 1st graders exhibited better control and overall performance in the locomotor skills of running, galloping, and hopping. For kids who struggled with running, I noticed that their biggest deficiency was not placing their feet near or on a line. Instead, they appeared to be running flat-footed. For kids who struggled galloping, I noticed that their biggest deficiency was not bending their arms and lifting them to waist level. Instead, their arms kind of looked like they were flailing in front of them or out to their sides. For kids who struggled hopping, I noticed that their biggest deficiency was swinging their nonsupport leg in pendulum fashion to produce force. Instead, their nonsupport leg remained rather stationary and thus, they didn’t hop with as much power. Another observation that I made was that many of the children sacrificed quality for speed. Instead of performing the locomotor skills to the best of their ability, they just tried to move as fast as possible. This was especially evident during a tag game we played with the 1st graders. To avoid being tagged, many of the children started running when they were supposed to be galloping or hopping because they realized that they could move faster by running.

2. Describe the effective “teaching strategies” that you observed. What were they and on whom did you use them? How were they used? What was the effect? Were there any strategies that were more effective than others? If so, why?
One effective teaching strategy I observed during lab was bending down while interacting with the kindergarteners and 1st graders so that you are at the same eye level as them. This was much more effective that standing at normal height while talking to them. When you bend down, you are putting forth more effort and the kids feel that they can relate with you better. It just seems to make teaching more personal. A second effective teaching strategy I observed was smiling and teaching with enthusiasm. I think that smiling is contagious. When someone smiles at you, it’s hard not to smile back. When you smile, the kids see that you are friendly and are there to have fun. In addition, when you teach and play with enthusiasm, they can physically see that you are enjoying yourself and as a result, they become more enthusiastic as well. If your body language says that you are taking part in a fun activity, then they will perceive the activity to be fun and it will make everyone’s time more enjoyable. A third effective teaching strategy that I observed was compromise. After one group was finished playing Chinese Temple Tag with 1st graders, they were trying to decide on another game to play. About half of the kids wanted to play one game and the other half wanted to play another. To ensure that all of the kids would participate, the group was able to get the kids to agree to play one game for a while and then switch to the other game.

Additional Observations:
I noticed a huge behavioral difference between the kindergarteners and 1st graders. It was almost painful trying to get the kindergarteners to pay attention and follow directions. During our activity, many of the kindergarteners were going under or jumping on top of the parachute when they weren’t supposed to. When one of us tried to reason with them, they just continued to do it throughout the activity. When I tried to be friendly in asking them to stop, it didn’t work. When I tried to be more serious in talking to them, that didn’t seem to work either. On the other hand, the 1st graders had much longer attention spans and were much better at following directions. They listened when instructions were explained and followed directions throughout the activity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


On February 19, 2009, our Motor Development class had the privilege of having Aaron Hart, a physical educator and founder of the MyStationPE website, as a guest lecturer.  Aaron completed his undergraduate work at Penn State and taught PE at a public school in Brooklyn following graduation.  After a few years of teaching, he earned his Master's Degree from SUNY Cortland and founded the MyStationPE website.  During our 50 minute class, Aaron shared many of his past experiences, offered advice to use in the future, and gave us a tour of his website.

MyStationPE is a valuable tool for any Physical Educator.  The website has a number of developmentally-appropriate games and activities that PE teachers can bring into the learning environment.  Each game includes a diagram and demonstration video, instructional aids that can be printed out, assessments in pdf, visual cues, skill extensions, instructional hints, modifications for large classes and students of different abilities, and much more.  I think it's safe to say that our teaching group will be bringing many of the games from the website to St. Mary's.  

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Day at St. Mary's

On Monday, February 9, 2009, I had my first learning experience at St. Mary's after school program with my lab group, Jumping Jack and the Jive Five. Walking into the building, I was anxious and unsure of what to expect. Participating in the after school program are students ranging from pre-K to 4th grade. Although I love interacting with young children, I've never had the opportunity to do so in a professional setting before.

Soon after we arrived, we were introduced to our group's Lab TA, Matt. He informed us that we would be spending the entire two hours with the pre-K children - the first hour and a half in their classrooms and the last half hour in the gymnasium. Since there were two pre-K classrooms, we broke up into groups of three and spent about 45 minutes in each. As I was walking through the door with what was probably a deer in headlights expression on my face, I scanned the classroom and noticed the two through five year olds scattered about. I did the best I could to meet and talk to each of the kids and participate in whatever activity they felt like playing. During the first hour and a half, I found myself playing with legos and dinosaurs, eating make-believe food at a picnic, drawing and coloring, and reading aloud children's books. In terms of social behavior, I noticed that there were some gender differences between the boys and girls. Most of the children had a tendency to socialize with others of the same gender. In addition, while coloring and reading were popular with both genders, playing with legos and dinosaurs were more attractive to the boys, whereas playing with dolls and kitchen toys were more attractive to the girls. Inside the classroom, I observed the pre-K children perform fine motor activities such as coloring and handling small objects. In doing so, I noticed that the older children were significantly more skilled in these activities than were the younger ones.

Being that we're in the midst of Cortland's cold, snowy winter season, the children don't spend recess outside on the playground. Thus, they had a tremendous amount of bottled up energy that seemed to be unleashed as soon as we step foot in the gymnasium. Because our class didn't have any formal games or activities planned, our group just sort of made things up as we went along, and the kids really loved it. I spent some time dribbling and passing kickballs with a few of the kids and also held up a hoola hoop for them to shoot the balls through. Our group set up a small obstacle course with the hoola hoops that the children also seemed to enjoy. However, I think the biggest hit was a tag game in which anywhere from 1 to 4 kids ran around the gym while inside of a hoola hoop one of us were holding. They imagined that hoola hoops were cars, so we made car noises as they "drove" around each other. While inside the gym, I noticed a large difference in motor behavior between kids of different ages, but relatively no difference between the two genders. The older children were more advanced in terms of maintaing static and dynamic balance, as well as performing locomotor activities such as running.

All-in-all, I think that our first lab was a success. We were afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with the pre-K kids in both the classroom and gym settings. I am really looking forward to our next lab so we can meet some of the older kids and actually plan games for them to play ahead of time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Should Dodgeball Be a Part of a Physical Education Curriculum?

In our last Motor Development class, we had a discussion on different games and activities that were integrated into our PE classes growing up that are nowadays not part of a typical PE curriculum. Dodgeball in particular was a very hot button topic. Just about every student in the class, myself included, agreed that playing dodgeball was an enjoyable experience growing up. However, we also agreed that we were all very good at dodgeball whereas our former classmates who weren't as skilled in throwing, catching, and dodging probably did not have nearly as an enjoyable experience as we did.

As a future physical educator, I look at the game of Dodgeball much differently than I did when I played the game in elementary school. After 4th grade, my school district did not allow dodgeball to be played in PE classes and I remember being upset because of how much I loved playing. Now, I find myself defending the stance that Dodgeball should not be part of a Physical Education curriculum. Proponents of Dodgeball argue that it helps develop motor skills such as agility, throwing, and catching, but aren't there a hundred other games that can be played that do the same exact thing without making students human targets? I am lucky that I had the necessary motor development skills to allow me to succeed in Dodgeball back when I played in class because I can't imagine that being pelted with rubber balls is a positive experience. Bullying definitely exists in Dodgeball and since one of the goals of Physical Education is to get all students to enjoy physical activity, I don't see how Dodgeball is a good fit.

Generally speaking, the kids who don't like Dodgeball are usually less skilled movers and often, these are the students who don't participate in regular physical activity as they grow older into adulthood. Instead of forcing them to play an elimination game with questionable motives, why not integrate games that a larger percentage of students enjoy that maximize activity time and assist in developing motor skills equally as effective as Dodgeball?

Friday, January 30, 2009