Monday, February 16, 2009

Paul Alexander Lecture

On Thursday night head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Alexander, came to SUNY Cortland to give his lecture titled, "Coaching is Teaching." He attended Cortland as a Physical Education major and then went on to Penn State to get his masters in Exercise Physiology. He talked about his life and all of the schools he went to (from elementary to college) and told us about the teachers and coaches who positively influenced his life. He told great stories about his life and what he has learned from his football experiences. Alexander emphasized that because of his knowledge in Exercise Physiology, he was able to become a better coach and teach his players how to move for the best results. He showed us his invention of the "Lev Sled" and explained how his educational background helped him create a very effective and popular football product. Alexander talked about how musicians are also athletes who "perform under pressure," as they have to play thousands of notes at a precise time. He talked about his pianist friend, Albert Muhlbock, and told us to attend his concert if we wanted to see a real "athlete." It was a very nice presentation with a lot of lessons in teaching and coaching and I really enjoyed his stories and jokes about defensive line-men :)
Willie Anderson with his hands in right spot!!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

St. Mary's Lab #1

          Our first visit to St. Mary's was an enjoyable one but also a learning experience. My group was assigned to the cafeteria first with the older kids (mostly 4th and 5th graders). We went downstairs and waited until they finished their snacks and then proceeded to interact with them as they colored, played with lego's, checkers, Jenga, and cards. At this point in the afternoon they were all pretty relaxed and talking to them was easy. They answered my questions and even asked me things, while including me in their games. It was nice to start the experience off with a calm, sit-down session of games and fine motor activities. 
           Next, we went upstairs to the gymnasium where the environment drastically changed. As soon as we entered, the kids went "wild" and released all their built up energy. It was hard to get their attention and to get them to listen. We finally got the whole group to agree to play blob-tag, which was successful until it ended. We were unprepared because we didn't have many other games to play and after blob-tag the kids wanted to play other games. It was hard to get a consensus on what the best game to play was, so we split into two groups and gave two options of games (either knockout or red-rover). After a few minutes on the red-rover side it became apparent that the kids were bored and I noticed that some just wanted to chat with their friends. The goal for next time is to come with really appealing games for everyone to participate in and have fun. I really enjoyed my first experience at St. Mary's and look forward to making it a great experience for both myself and the kids.

Task A: Gross and Fine Motor Observation
1. Motor behavior wise, I noticed that the older children (third and fourth graders) could do things like shoot a basketball into a hoop, dribble a soccer ball with their feet, and put small lego pieces together all with a high amount of skill. Most of the kids got along, but when deciding what activities to do in the gymnasium, there was a lot of arguing and talking out of turn. When the younger children (pre-k to first grade) came to the gym I noticed that they listened more attentively to the college students and they really wanted to play and have fun with us. The older kids wanted to do things on their own and some sat out for a little while saying that they were tired or injured. Many of the girls played with the hoola hoops, jump ropes, and gym mats, while many of the boys played basketball, soccer, and ran around. The girls tended to play with other girls and the boys played with other boys. 
Grade level definitely has an influence on motor behavior because as kids get older their muscles develop and their hand-eye coordination improves, so they are able to be more proficient in their motor skills. While first graders might only be able to bounce a basketball 4-5 times, a fifth grader will be able to bounce it correctly, change directions while maintaining the dribble and continue dribbling until they decide to stop. Natural ability can influence motor behavior but I didn't notice much of a difference between the skill levels of kids of the same age at St. Mary's. The only difference I noticed was gender related and that had more to do with interest than ability. 

2. A fine-motor activity that I noticed at St. Mary's was when the kids were playing with lego's and they had to put small pieces together. The older kids that I was with had very little trouble putting lego pieces together to make structures and hardly any trouble taking things apart. They could carry on a conversation with me and still put the pieces together. I did not notice a difference between gender and fine motor skill. If I had the chance to observe younger children playing with lego's, I would notice that they had more trouble putting small lego pieces together because their fine motor skills are not as developed/practiced. As we played with lego's, I looked around the room a few times and saw kids playing cards, coloring, playing Jenga, and eating their snacks, all with great hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Verdict is in... Dodgeball is out

        Dodgeball is a classic game that everyone associates "gym class" with. My dad played it (and got his face smashed in) and his dad played it (and smashed the germans faces in). I have had the opportunity to play classic dodgeball, as well as modified versions of the game and have come to some conclusions...
        As the argument goes, the reasons why we shouldn't incorporate dodgeball in the classroom are that we would be using humans as targets, weaker players get hit first and sit the longest, and the more athletic kids get to flex their muscles (i.e. bullying). Not only that, but the rubber ball that was initially used stings like a bee.
        In theory, dodgeball can help improve skills like throwing, catching, running, agility, and jumping. That is great for motor development, but what does that do for kids who haven't developed those skills in the first place? Are they really going to get better at certain skills if they get hit in the first minute of the game? No. They will sit on the sideline and begin to resent physical education. There are plenty of other games that don't cause psychological or physical harm that can teach these important skills. I think at the elementary level there are plenty of other games and activities that have a much better effect and help every student perfect their skills.
        I do think that dodgeball is fun and that modified versions can eliminate the formerly listed problems. In class we talked about using a cone as a target to eliminate the use of human targets. Also, using gator skin balls (or any soft, throwable ball) takes away the pain factor. But with those changes, we can't really call it dodgeball anymore, can we?

P.S. I found this great website with a whole list of dodgeball alternatives as well as literature on why not to play dodgeball in physical education.