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.