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.