Do we talk too much?

blahIf you are a PE Teacher or Sports Coach then I’m sure you’ve heard (or sensed at least) the collective groan from your students when you call for a stoppage in activity.

We make the decision to ‘break’ for a number of reasons. Rest, re-hydrate, modify behaviour, modify rules/ learning conditions, change activity, or to have a discussion about what we are doing, why we are doing it….to name just a few.

While the groan could be perceived as a negative, there is a huge positive to be taken from it. It’s a clear demonstration that students are enjoying what they are doing and don’t want to stop.

That said, I have toiled with the optimum balance between activity time and stoppage time (often “sitting down time”). Is there such a thing as the “optimum balance?” and does it change depending on what activity you are teaching?

When designing learning experiences, I have always focused on how these stoppages and transitions can be best integrated to ensure activity time is maximised, while still checking for knowledge, understanding and allowing for reflection, questions and hopefully even some answers.

When using TGfU as an instructional model in games lessons, I really find that putting the students at the centre of the learning allows for more of this type of problem solving activity time, with only short stoppages for modifications, but other non-games activities may be different.

Most PE teachers I speak to are obsessed with the concept of keeping lessons active.  It seems we, and the students, want to be moving around as much as possible. A noble objective, given it may be the only time some students participate in physical activity in the whole day or week even.

But are we too obsessed with it? And does it negatively affect our ability to capitalize on moments where a stoppage may be essential?  Or on those spontaneous moments where something really interesting happens?

If so, then it shouldn’t.  Remember the purpose of everything we do is to facilitate and enhance student learning.  So if a learning opportunity presents itself, it’s our duty to take it, even if it affects activity time.

In their PHYSedagogy chat, Adam Howell (@thedumbjockmyth) and Andy Vasily (@andyvasily) discuss the importance of using quality discussion time to connect movement to greater understandings and making meaning from movement to reach our goal of fostering a life-long passion for physical activity.

I know I have been guilty in the past of seeing something of real relevance occur but allowing things to continue for the sake of activity time. Perhaps only choosing to hit on it later with less effect. The exception being matters of safety where there is no option but to immediately stop.

A balance is definitely required though and stoppages must be about quality and not quantity.  I have seen firsthand the enthusiasm drained from students by excessive stoppages or breaks that go on too long. In fact I have to admit to being responsible for some of them! Thankfully, not as often these days.

When planning how best to achieve the lesson learning intentions I think of traffic lights;

1. What theory or principles can be gained through moving (Green)

2 What parts or elements could the kids learn via a quick stoppage, question or problem to solve, a “pause” if you like. (Yellow)

3 What areas will need to be established more significantly through discussion? (Red)

When these are considered and laid out you can ascertain how active or passive the lesson is going to be.

This is where I think the activity plays a part. I find I have more ‘reds’ in activities like gymnastics where there’s a lot of layering or scaffolding in tasks, to ensure safety.  It’s also interesting to consider how the use of technology could also play a part in ‘down time’ still being very purposeful and useful in enhancing learning.

I try to ensure these days that any injured or excused students are always given a role in the lesson, and this can vary dramatically. Recently I’ve had them time how long I talk for versus how long the students are active for.  The results have been really interesting and possibly something for a later blog.

I’d love to hear from some of you on this topic as I’m sure there are a number of really creative strategies that can be used to ensure there is a balance that ultimately achieves our aim:

Maximising student learning, while still remembering ultimately we are educating them ‘physically’.


One thought on “Do we talk too much?

  1. Hi Ross,
    Your traffic light analogy provides a great tool for us to reflect on our practice. Many interesting points, definitely worth further investigation.

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