Doubled-up Dodgeball anyone?

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Is Dodgeball any good? Well let’s be honest, how many wet-weather PE toss-off activities have a film made about them? You didn’t go to the pictures to watch “Danish Longball; the Motion Picture” did you?

All joking aside, after the great evening of shared teaching & learning in PE at the CLV Teachmeet last week, we came back to work this week faced with rain of biblical proportions. As good as we might think we are as PE teachers, we’ve never really solved the issue of what we do when it pisses it down. For our recent whole-school 2 day review, I’d planned a couple of wet-weather contingency lessons; all singing & dancing. But would they really be practical when faced with the mad rush of 90 kids piling into a sportshall? I think not. And more importantly, would the kids enjoy them?

So is it OK to use Dodgeball as a wet-weather activity, or is it simply sacking it off?

Well we do like our Dodgeball at Cramlington. The activity forms part of the “Games for Understanding” unit in Year 7 and reappears as one of the 18 options available for Year 11 to choose in their core programme. If we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, it started off as a bit of a fun, engaging activity, in which you could pay lip service to a few games principles – but really it was just something the kids loved.

The problem with any “fun” PE activity however is that if there’s no real substance to it, it can get tedious – both for you and the kids. Because of this, we started to come up with a whole variety of dodgeball based games. I’ve tried to outline these below:

1) Elimination: in its most basic form – if you’re hit or caught, you’re out. Keep this quick (2 mins max). Good for decision making like when to try & catch/when to dodge

2) Regeneration: more like the Dodgeball from the film. Make a catch and one player comes back in Good for encouraging players to attempt catches in order to bring back teammates

3) 4 Corners: rather than playing one team against another, split area into quarters. Teams then play opponents adjacent, opposite & diagonally across Good for encouraging spatial awareness & principles of attacking multiple opponents

4) Backboard Team Regeneration: if like us, you have basketball boards on your Sportshall wall, use these as “Regenerator Boards”. When a team is left with “x” number of players the team can attempt to hit to regenerator board to bring back their whole team. Good for; continuity of games, teamwork & more controversial tactics like sacrifice (deliberately “getting out” to enable your best thrower to have a shot at the backboard, bringing back the whole team.

5) Terminators: as in the 80’s classic, Dodgeball terminators are difficult to get rid of. Each team has one Terminator. They cannot be “killed” by being hit with the ball, only by being caught out. I usually give each Terminator a Rugby contact shield for protection (if it’s with the littlies I give them some of the Velcro-on body armour & a cricket helmet as well – they love it). If your Terminator gets caught, they lose their powers – the player can be regenerated but the team no longer have a Termy. Good for team decision making, defensive tactics, positioning skills.

6) Kings/Queens: sounds like it could be a bit camp but disappointingly not. As in chess (highbrow eh?), the King is the key to your team’s success/failure. Bib up a player (or 2) from each team. If they are hit/caught, the whole team is out – this could result in instant win for a team or see no. for an alternative. Good for; team decisions, team defence, attacking strategy

7) Take-over: I usually use this in conjunction with 4 corners. If you allow the game to go on long enough, a team might be completely eliminated. Should this occur, the team that hit/caught the last player out takes possession of the defeated team’s quarter. Good for; adapting tactics to a larger playing area, spreading play, attacking from different angles.

8) 2-in: if you’re not playing “take-over”, this game gives you an option once a team has been eliminated. Two players from the eliminated team remain on court. If they hit a backboard other than their own, all players on their team are regenerated. Good for; decision making, individual target-striking skills

9) Skittles: as a by-product of an experience week project (ask @paulsteanson for more details!) we ended up with about 100 bowling pins. Any kind of object with the capacity to stand up/be knocked down would substitute nicely. Teams get a number of skittles which they must place around their court; they must be free-standing and away from walls etc. If a team has all their skittles knocked down, all players are eliminated. Good for; thinking skills, linking to other games above, group decision making, team defence.

10) Spies: teams nominate one player who will be the Spy. When in possession of a ball, these players can enter opponents’ area and attempt to tag opponents with ball. If they throw their ball of lose possession of it, they must return to their own area. At any point, the defending team can eliminate the Spy by the usual methods. Good for; sneaky tactics, planning, deception/faking, good teams will realise early that if they are in possession of all the balls, they are pretty much guaranteed to win

Bonus 11) Extreme Dodgeball: god knows why we call it this. Basically we use Gymnastics apparatus for creating barriers, crash mats for landing areas (the older kids get all Matrix when we play this version), springboards for extra height and so on. Good for; allowing teams to plan and position their own barriers/defences, introducing/linking jumping/rolling/diving skills

NEW! 12 – Ghosts: Can be played as 4-corner or (as we’ve recently done) in 6ths of a Sportshall. Teams have a skittle to defend. If this is knocked over, all players in a team are out. One player (the Ghost) remains in the game. The Ghost cannot be killed (he’s a ghost, he’s already dead), the Ghost cannot kill other players (he’s a ghost after all). The Ghost’s job is to hit a target (we’ve used the Basketball backboards again) to regenerate all his team. Nice to ensure continuity & avoid players sitting out for prolonged periods.

New! “The Stuntman”

Best when combined with 4-corner as it makes the playing area smaller. One player on each team becomes “Stuntman”. Give them some sort of protective equipment – we used Rugby contact armour & a cricket helmet. The Stuntman actively tries to take hits from opposition throws. If he/she is hit, the thrower is out. I found this made throwers more selective in terms of where they were throwing – not simply trying to chuck the ball as hard and fast as possible. Also good to encourage defensive play as Stuntmen could help protect weaker players. Ridiculous fun.

So why bother?

There are a ridiculous number of variations, combinations and mash-ups that you can create. The point of this post is simply to make you think about how one simple activity can take on a whole new purpose if you put a bit of thought into it.

Dodgeball has often saved us from the Crammy weather, we repay that debt by trying to use the activity for learning and not just playing.

Hopefully the games briefly outlined above will let you start thinking about how you could use Dodgeball in order to develop skills and attributes other than dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

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A, B, C

Admission

Right, first things first; I pinched the vast majority of this from the excellent post below…

http://physicallyeducated.org/2012/11/04/a-b-c-p-e/

Problem

I have often been left frustrated at the fact that in several lessons, I’ve been unable to get information from the kids without “spoon-feeding” them. This can be painfully apparent when questioning a group and trying to think up challenging, probing questions and being met with flat responses. You often end up giving away cheap answers after panicking that the lesson has lost pace and you need to get a shift on.

Solution?

Some might suggest that the solution to this is to pre-plan structured questions, to pose at specific points in the lesson. This is certainly a good habit to follow and questions to specific groups/pupils should be made explicit in lesson plans, but it doesn’t help when a kid stares at you blankly after exhausting their response-capacity with a 3-word answer. You could then get after the kid and ask “why? How? Can you tell me more about…?” But it’s now up to you to painfully draw out some form of communication from the kids. And if we’re genuinely honest with ourselves, we can get a bit bogged down at this point.

Enter the stolen idea

So, here’s where the idea of using A, B, C comes in. I’ll admit, after reading the article above, I scrapped the idea of using the ball. I’ve often seen or read about throwing the ball/bit of paper/other inanimate object to designate the next speaker – it all comes across as a bit like a cheesy sales rep training course to me, but hey, whatever works for you.

I also changed the meaning of A, B, C to “Apply, Build, Challenge”.

In Practice

I introduced the A, B, C activity with my AS Anatomy & Physiology group a couple of weeks ago. I’d set a 10 mark question at the start of the lesson, then taught the lesson as usual; reviewing at 15 (ish) minute intervals allowing the kids to bullet point more ideas for their answer.

During these mini-reviews, I asked a simple question simple, leading question to a lower TG student like; “identify a positive effect of aerobic exercise on Osteoporosis”. After allowing the student time to respond, I then directed the spotlight on another student, asking them to Apply this idea/concept, Build on it/expand the previous answer or Challenge it – this fitted in nicely as the 10 marker required the kids to “critically analyse”. By moving from student to student, the questioning/conversation was able to keep developing as the kids could pick what they wanted to talk about next. The only times I removed this choice was when I really wanted to bring in an opposing theme/idea; I simply picked a higher ability student and asked them to challenge what had just been said.

Simplicity

The great thing about using A, B, C is that you can adapt the requirement of each letter to suit your goal that lesson; A could be Adjust, B could be Because? C could be Create Hypothesis (for really bright thinkers!). It is simply giving your students focus when being asked to respond.

All I’m after now is a nice display to put next to my board that I can keep pointing to…

Assertive Hinge Questions

It is with some trepidation that I write this blog entry. Not only do I admit to being no expert in this area of teaching & learning, but with all the jargon flying around, I could easily violate my “no bullshit” policy if I don’t tread carefully.

Sceptic

I’d encountered “Hinge Questions” years ago. I always shrugged and passed them off as common sense really. The idea that at key moments in lessons we should judge whether or not the kids “got it” through questioning; well, I just supposed it was something I did automatically.

Hinge Festival

But when I learned a bit more about hinge questions, I realised a didn’t really understand the concept fully. We recently took part in the Cramlington Autumn Staff Conference, run over the two INSET days before October half term. Tricia Wright from CLV delivered a session on Assessment for Learning (or was it Formative Assessment?!) which highlighted the need for quality hinge questioning during lessons.

Tricia’s key messages were simple yet thought provoking; the question posed should be difficult, the question format should be simple (multiple choice works best) and teachers should be able to gauge instantly how many/which kids do or don’t answer correctly. Perhaps the key to the whole concept is that teachers should plan for what happens next depending on possible responses to the question.

Whole-class

I had also been doing a bit of reading about whole-class Assertive Questioning. After INSET led by Geoff Barton (@RealGeoffBarton), I realised I was asking far too many “what” questions in lessons and nowhere near enough “how” and “why”‘s. Assertive questioning involves posing a tough whole-class question; asking students for their responses, listening to and thanking students for their responses and reasoning – but being careful not to give away the answer. After giving students opportunity to identify and discuss similar/contrasting answers, the teacher then asks the class to formulate a whole-group answer upon which they agree. It’s a consensus you’re after as it’ll not always be easy for all the kids to agree with one another. Only when the whole-class answer is agreed do you reveal the answer you were after. The master at this is Ken Brechin at our place. If you’ve ever been in CPD led by him, you’ll know what I mean.

In practice

I tried combining these two concepts during a GCSE theory lesson to start with. It felt like the safe route as one of my groups only has 15 kids in it (puts feet up & smokes cigar); it is relatively easy to do whole class discussion with them simply due to numbers – and the fact they’re good kids.

The lesson was on exercise methods (from the OCR syllabus – not to be confused with the less wishy-washy training methods later on) for encouraging active, healthy lifestyles. After a Connect activity, new info (video input) and a carousel of activities including mix/match, “blag-it”, and a mistake spotting exercise; I decided on the hinge question below:

Which of the following is not a method a SEDENTARY person might use to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle?

a. Going swimming regularly

b. Attending a Spinning class
c. Doing a sprinting session
d. Pilates sessions
Pupils firstly answered this on mini-whiteboards enabling a “show-me” situation. Once they had decided on their own answer however, I asked them to write underneath WHY they had come to that conclusion. As anticipated, some of the kids had simply taken a guess. Others came up with a whole host of interesting theories. I questioned a cross-section of the group as to why they had made their choices and noted down some responses on the whiteboard. These notes then provided the platform for others to challenge or build upon their peers’ responses. Whilst still in “Ken Brechin” character, I just listened to the kids arguing/debating and thanked them for their thoughts. Once they’d all blow-out, I agreed with one pupil on their suggestion that “not”, “Sedentary” and “healthy, active lifestyle” were key words in the question. This then opened up another class discussion, during which I again let the kids hold court.
Hunger Games
Once the discussions had dies down again, I asked the kids to nominate a spokes person – a bit like a “tribute” from the popular, ultra-violent Suzanne Collins kiddies novel “The Hunger Games”. This spokesperson would provide me with the correct answer – but also with an agreed, reasoned justification as to how they got to the correct answer. They chose Jake as the sacrificial lamb, bless him. Two further minutes were allocated for agreeing upon a final answer and the justification.
Although the group did indeed pick “C” as the right answer, their justification was a little shaky. They hadn’t really understood what Sedentary meant or that sprinting was really a specialist type of running suitable for sport-specific training. This meant that although they’d “got it right”, they hadn’t done it through the right methods.
Back to the Drawing Board
I’d got a fall-back slide in my lesson PowerPoint with the definition/example of the word Sedentary and also some pictures of “normal” people at exercise classes/spinning/aerobics etc. I’d also got a few images of Usain Bolt training. This was the first real bit of teacher-led stuff in the lesson as I pointed out who would be most likely to use the exercise methods we had been learning about and pointing out the differences between athletic training and exercise for healthy lifestyle. Through further Q&A, I was satisfied that the kids now “got-it” and moved on.
The process might seem long-winded but to be fair, the whole process took around 15 minutes max and covered the crux of what the lesson was about. Also worth pointing out was the one thing I hadn’t really expected (ish); that the kids would agree on the right answer, but not know why.
Worth trying again? Definitely. As I get better at the questioning techniques, I’m sure it’ll develop into a common feature of my lessons.