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.

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