Sunday, March 29, 2009

Food Lab

Today was food lab day, where we made up games that had a central theme of throwing and catching with food involved. My group decided to do a pizza chef/cook game where one side of the gym was full of pizza topping that the kids had to throw over the "oven" to the cook to put on a big pizza. In order to be able to throw, the kids had to answer a question about healthy eating and exercise. Halfway through the game we switched the throwers and catchers. I thought it was very successful as a way to evaluate the stage at which the children are at for throwing and catching, as well as a cognitive game with questions about physical education. We used small rubber chickens, tennis balls, hockey pucks, and fish to represent the toppings. This offered a chance to evaluate the ability to throw and catch objects of different size and weight.

Task A:
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.
One difficulty that I have faced is getting the undivided attention of all of the kids. At some points, most of the kids are looking at me and listening but the 2 or 3 that aren’t become very disruptive and attract the attention of the kids who were listening. Giving clear directions is hard when you have to say “listen up,” or “eyes of me, please,” after every couple of words. Another difficulty is coming up with a fun, engaging, and beneficial activity. Sometimes the games we have do not keep the interest of the kids and we can tell that they are bored or not enjoying it. Lastly, a difficulty I have noticed is finding gym space when we have all the kids in the gym at the same time. I was playing basketball this week with a 1st grader and we had to use a hoola hoop as a basketball that I had to hold up high in the air. Eventually, a basket opened up but we ran the risk of accidentally hitting the surrounding kids with our ball.

2. What ideas/suggestions do you have to resolve the difficulties or challenges that you wrote about in #1?
One way to resolve the attention issue is to use a whistle or have a loud enough voice to get everybody’s attention. Once we have their attention, we have to speak clearly and have important things to say so that the kid’s stay engaged and focused. Having one speaker/leader at a time has proven to be very effective as well as using a clear, loud voice while making eye contact. When it comes to activities, we have to make sure we have age appropriate games that everyone can get something out of. The games have to be well thought out, we have to be prepared and bring the right equipment, as well as have a plan if we need to change something or offer a variation. Lastly, I think that the gym space issue can be resolved only by making due with what we have. Adapting to the environment is part of being an effective educator and is a great quality to have if there is little money in the budget for equipment or a large group of students with a small gym or field.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Superhero Lab #3

This lab was really fun. The group that ran the Superhero endless bucket did a really nice job with it and you could tell they put a lot of effort in with all the capes and symbols everywhere. The activity was well thought out and executed brilliantly, as you could see how much fun the kids were having with it. Our group played a car game where you had to stay on the lines in the gym and when Emmie called out a command, we had to do the corresponding activity. The kids (and I) seemed to enjoy it, especially the tagging portion. After that, we went downstairs for snacks with the 1st and 2nd graders. I played "mancala" with a few of the girls and they talked my ear off about animals. One girl exaggerated everything she said, claiming that her cousin owned 8 lions, 3 elephants, and 16 panda bears. I'm pretty sure she was trying to impress me but I was skeptical because she had cheated while playing mancala with another girl. Anyhow, after snack and games we went upstairs and played unorganized games of jump rope, basketball, and football. This seemed to work because we had so few kids and so many teachers. I played basketball with a 1st grade future MJ who was extremely good at dribbling and shooting and I was surprised at how fast he was. I'll be sure to get his autograph for when he becomes famous :) We ended with the electric slide and I have come to the conclusion that everyone should dance at least one time during the day. Until next time...

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.

We observed kindergardeners and 1st graders participating in the Superhero endless bucket activity. I noticed that when told to leap, most of the kids just ran really fast. The girl that I was observing, Rowan, went at a slower pace and correctly leaped, but only after being shown how to do so. The boy I was observing, Anthony, had the basic concept of the leap down but could not distinguish the leap from running, as he didn't get both feet off the ground at the same time at any point. For the horizontal jump, Anthony was successful and showed proper form with his preparatory movements, he correctly forced his arms upward, took off and landing on both feet simultaneously, and brought his arms down during the landing. Rowan was successful in everything but extending her arms forward and upward over her head. Sliding came easy to almost every child, but I did notice that some had trouble turning completely sideways. Rowan was an example of this, as she was somewhat sideways but also somewhat turned to see what was in front of her. Anthony performed sliding very well. Another thing I observed was that many of the boys were faster with their movements than the girls, who tended to move slower but more gracefully. I also noticed a girl who could hoola-hoop for days and a boy who couldn't hoola-hoop at all, so most of my observations were of the majority, not on an individual basis. Generally, the kids were of the same ability except that the boys tended to move faster.

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?

I only got to teach for a few minutes until we had to move downstairs but what seemed to work was having the kids sit down in front of me while I gave them clear, concise directions. At one point I gave them a choice to pick their team name and that was a bad idea because they all disagreed. It is better to tell them what they are going to do and give them clear-cut directions instead of options because at that age, none of them will agree. During the car game, I participated in the activity with the kids and noticed that when they weren't sure which movement to do, they looked towards me or the other teachers doing the activity. This helped because instead of a bunch of kids verbally asking a question, all they had to do was look around quickly and find their answer. The Superhero group did a really great job with their activity as they had one designated speaker and one designated demonstrator. The other group members were there to make sure the kids were paying attention and to break up side conversations. We had a similar set up, as Emmie lead in the car game directions and the other teachers demonstrated the movements.

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.

Having the kids sit in "criss-cross applesauce" is a good way to make sure they are all sitting and paying attention. Also, having a signal (hand raised high in the air) or clapping in a rhythm really gets their attention. Music can help too, as it is really fun to have in the background during an activity, and when it is stopped, the kids know too look and listen for directions. Having one designated leader clears up confusion about who to focus attention on. To keep kids on task, my group has found that by having a smaller difference in the ratio of teacher to student is beneficial. By having 6 teachers at each cone or area, we can make sure the kids are doing the activity right and be there to resolve conflicts or answer questions.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

St. Mary's Lab #2

Our second lab day was very hectic. It was the monday back from vacation and the kids were off the walls. There was trouble getting them to listen and follow directions. Although the Cortland students had troubling getting their attention, we all eventually got to our planned activities and were somewhat successful. Today was the first time I got to interact with the pre-k kids and it was wonderful. They were all coloring or playing dress-up quietly and they were so cute. I was chatting with a few of them and found that they really liked telling me things even though they barely knew me. After play time we went and had snacks and they all were quiet and respectful while nibbling on their maple cookies and drinking milk. It was a nice change of pace. We then took the pre-k to the gym for an obstacle course that Emmie and I set up and they seemed it enjoy it but some of them had trouble sitting on the scooters and pushing themselves. Follow the leader and a lilly pad tag game proved to be more fun for them than the obstacle course. Oh well, we tried. We ended with the chicken dance and I had to practically sit on the floor to swing with my pre-k partner named Nik. Everyone loved this game and you could see that the kids really enjoyed us being there.

Task A:
1. We worked with kindergarten and 1st graders who ranged from age 5-6. There was an equal divide between girls and boys, as well as ability. At my cone during Zany Zoo, the kids had trouble doing a snake army crawl, probably because the have little upper body strength. Most of the students at my cone could gallop, hop and run effectively but not correctly. Galloping seemed new to a few of them and they were dragging their back foot with their arms swinging everywhere (maybe they were being lazy?). They were using their dominant foot to lead and if they had to use their non-dominant, I am sure they would have trouble with the concept. Running was easy for all of them but they were not perfect. The nonsupport leg was barely at 90 degrees for all of them, but I did notice a brief period when both feet were off the ground and opposition was present. When I observed hopping, the kids were using all leg power but no arm swinging. It sort of looked like they were going to fall but no one did. All in all, the kids had all of the locomotor skill fundamentals but they still need to develop them. My cone really enjoyed the idea of acting like animals and some even wanted to do more after we were done. The "race" was not very emphasized which was beneficial because then the students focused on the movements they were supposed to do instead of hurrying to finish the activity.

2. Effective teaching strategies were hard to come by because the kids were so riled up, but I did notice my lab instructor was able to get all of the kids quiet at one point by talking very softly. He brought the kindergarteners and 1st graders in to sit in a big group and spoke with a loud voice and then got softer and softer until every kid was listening intently. During the Barnyard activity, I noticed it was hard for the kids to focus when they were by the parachute. An effective way to deal with that would be to keep the parachute away until the game was explained and then put it out. That way, the kids can focus on the directions without the distraction of the amazingly fun parachute. With the chicken dance, Emmie kept everyone's attention by making herself the center of the circle and attention. She was loud so we all could hear her and she was clear and concise with her directions.