By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym
Most PE teachers are constantly looking for new ideas. We look in books, ask our peers, attend trainings, visit websites, and peruse social media platforms. However, have you ever stopped and tapped into the resource right in front of you? That is, have you ever asked your students to create an activity? That’s right, have you ever challenged your students to design and write a lesson plan for a large group activity?
Our students frequently work in groups and use the Engineering Design Process (EDP) in their classrooms. They use the EDP to solve problems and complete projects. The steps of the EDP require the students to ask, imagine, plan, create, and refine.
The original idea for this lesson came from a session we attended at a conference. One day, my colleague and I decided to combine it with the EDP and use it in the gym with our 5th graders. It was a success! We now replicate this activity each year in an attempt to gain new activities as designed by our students. This post will describe the process we use.
Prior to the students arriving, we get out tons of equipment and lay it in the middle of the gym. After completing the fitness portion of class, we all sit around the equipment and begin the process.
Step 1: Ask
I first pose this question to the students: “Can you work with a small group and use the EDP to create an activity that minimizes wait time and maximizes movement?”
I strongly encourage the students to think outside the box and design something new versus slightly modifying an existing activity. If I do not do this, one group will almost always write a lesson plan for basketball on scooters. We then quickly review the 5 steps of the EDP to refresh everyone’s memory. Next, we begin going through each step of the EDP in detail. I also inform the students that I will select a handful of the lesson plans and teach from them during an upcoming PE class. This gets them pretty excited (and motivated)!
Step 2: Imagine
I then invite them to look at the equipment. My hope is the equipment serves as a reminder of all the items we use during PE class. I also pose a small series of questions to stimulate their imagination.
What is your favorite skill (dribbling, striking, tossing/catching, etc.)?
What is your favorite type of activity (relay, dodging/fleeing, team, invasion, etc.)?
What is your favorite type of equipment (bean bag, volleyball, noodle, scooter, etc.)?
I invite them to just sit there and think for 1-2 minutes without any talking.
The students then transition into groups of 4-5 students.
Step 3: Plan
I invite the students to go around their circle so that each one can share their favorite skill, type of activity, and type of equipment. After everyone has shared, the group will begin to decide on a group consensus to those three questions. While they are sharing, I walk around and give each group a lesson plan template and a writing utensil.
Step 4: Create
The group then begins to plan the activity. They use the lesson plan template to guide them through the creation of their activity. As a group, they decide on a name for the activity, the skill focus/purpose, and the equipment that is needed. The group then writes a description of the activity and lists out any rules/safety concerns. All throughout this creation process, the students are encouraged to use and experiment with the equipment from the center of the gym.
We usually run out of time somewhere around here. While that can be frustrating it can also be good. Before the students leave, I encourage them to continue thinking about their activity as they may have an epiphany sometime between now and our next PE class.
When the students return to PE class (for us it is 48 hours later), we quickly review the EDP and the challenge at hand. The students then return to their groups to continue working on their lesson plan. I almost always hear a student exclaim, “I had a great idea of how we can make this better!” As they continue their work, they are accomplishing the final part of the EDP.
Step 5: Refine
During this step, the students try out their activity and make any necessary changes. As each group completes their lesson plan, they are allowed to practice their activity.
At the conclusion of the second day, I collect all of the lesson plans and remind the students that I will select a handful and teach them during the next PE class.
To be honest, very few of the lesson plans are perfect. Most have a great idea that needs a little tweaking to make it work for the entire class. I sometimes combine a couple of the activities. Nonetheless, I do my best to teach from their lesson plans.
When the students return to PE class, I take the time to remind them of the previous task and how I have reviewed the lesson plans and selected a handful of them to teach from. I make sure to make a statement similar to, “Today’s activity is called… which was created by… .” The students appreciate the recognition. We then participate in the activity.
I use a very similar process during our rhythms/dance unit with a slightly different question.
“Can you work with a small group and use the EDP to create a dance that has at least 4 different steps that are repeated 2-3 times?”
During the thinking step, I remind the students of all the different dances they have completed and ask them to select their favorite dance move. I then call on 4 people to tell me their favorite one. I put all 4 of them together into a sequence and show them how simple the actual challenge can be. I then send them to their groups to complete the task. The hardest part of this task is when they have to perform their dance. This challenge is usually completed during a single lesson.
This challenge has become one of my favorites. The next time you are looking for a new activity, look no further than the students in front of you!
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