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.

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