Reflecting on a #SportEd Season: The Mustang Cup

A large part of my job as a #PhysEd teacher within an IB PYP (Primary Years Program) school is to provide opportunities for my students to demonstrate Learner Profile traits such as being open minded, balanced and risk takers.
This year I decided that I was also going to be a risk taker and introduce the concept of a #SportEd unit to my Grade 4 students. The reason I say I was being a risk taker is that while I have known about the SEPEP (Sport Education in Physical Education Program) Model I have always been to afraid to give up the control that is required for this to be a truly student led approach to Physical Education.

The SEPEP model as described by Siedentorp (1994) is a model which links the activities taught in physical education to the wider sporting culture.  He suggests it is a more authentic way of connecting students with organised sport . He compares SEPEP units with “normal” units within physical education where units rarely last longer than thee weeks, team selection is changed daily, and very little (if any) of the particular sport’s culture and ritual  is transmitted through the experience.

Pre-planning: Getting all MY ducks in a row

So with that in mind this year I decided to introduce the idea of “The Mustang Cup: Grade 4 Hockey Championship” (the Mustang is our school mascot) to my two Grade 4 classes instead of a “normal” Invasion Games unit.  I knew that if this unit was going to work at a Grade 4 level then my vision & pre-planning would be essential for success. A key aspects of the SEPEP model is that students participate in roles which exist in the sport environment. These can include coach, referee/umpire, media crew, advertising, etc. This allows students to experience roles outside of the traditional “player” which they experience in most “traditional” units.
A SEPEP unit is further defined by 6 features that create the sport context in physical education:

1. Seasons. Sport is played in seasons that contain both practice and competition.
2. Affiliation. Sport is played in teams and players connect with and usually belong to  the one team for the season.
3. Formal competition. Sports seasons include a schedule of competitions between teams.
4. Record keeping. Records of individual and team participation are kept to provide feedback and enable goal setting by participants and the teacher.
5. Festivity. Individual and team performances are recognised and celebrated throughout the season and during a culminating end of season event.
6. Culminating event. Sport seasons typically come to a conclusion with a defining event. The seasons therefore conclude with a festival type of event that celebrates the success of all students who participated.

With this in mind I began creating the vision for how I saw the unit both on a large scale and a lesson to lesson basis. Before I go any further I should probably give you some background on my situation. Both Grade 4 classes have 19 students and I currently see each class 2x45mins every week. Due to timetabling there was no real opportunity to have cross class competition. I knew that running an authentic formal competition would be difficult with the number of students I had so I decided instead to focus on one large culminating event, Superbowl style.
In terms of record keeping I knew that I wanted technology to play a big part in this so I began thinking about ways the students could utilise the technology available to enhance the documentation of this unit. (Don’t worry there is a whole other post coming on this one!)

Invitation: Obtaining Student Support & Creating Excitement

I knew for the unit to be a success I would need the students to really get behind the concept and take ownership over it.
I needed them to WANT to do it. To introduce the Mustang Cup and invite the students to begin thinking about it I showed the students a period of an NHL match between the mighty Vancouver Canucks & the scum of the Calgary Flames using my NHL Gamecenter Live subscriptions (not just handy of the weekends!).
While they were watching I asked them to work with their peers to consider all the different people who made an event like this possible. Using a large piece of paper as the game took place they scribbled notes and made lists of things like: cameraman, commentator, security, ticket seller, players, coaches, spectators etc. Using their lists we then discussed which of those jobs we thought we could possibly need to stage our own hockey event at school.

You’re Hired: Deciding on Roles

Taking our final list of the students potential jobs I created a Google Form job application which I had the students fill in using our iPads. It was a simple for which asked them to choose a first choice & second choice for a potential job/role that they thought they would like to fill and suggest why they thought they were the best person for that job.
I explained the the students that my job throughout all of this would be that of “Supervisor” so I took the responses and made final decisions on job allocation making sure where possible students got their first choice of job.
I published the final job list on our PE Blog and began drawing up basic contracts & job descriptions for each role. This would serve as an agreement as well as a guide between the student, myself & their peers as to what they needed to do in the coming weeks and how they would go about fulfilling their job description. In our next lesson the students signed their contracts and then the real fun began!

Getting Down to Business: Relinquishing Control

It would be fair to say that the first lesson of student working in their roles came & went and not much actual preparation occurred. With the student perception of “being off the leash” firmly taking hold it took all of my willpower to refrain from trying to bring the students back on task, rather I used this first lesson as a learning experience.

At the beginning & end of every 45 minute session I requested a very short  (usually about 2 minutes) “staff meeting” with all students. I used this time to give basic information, suggestions or a forum for students to share their thoughts, requests, questions and feedback with the whole group. This routine enabled me to focus the students and allow them to reflect on what it was that they were trying to achieve and how they could go about. This worked well and as we progressed through the unit some groups of students began to call their own impromptu meetings to discuss matters that concerned the whole group.

A usual Mustang Cup preparation lesson included the players practicing drills & match scenarios with their coach, media crew interviewing other members of the teams & workforce using the iPads. The advertising & website manager creating posters and updating our Mustang Cup blog. Cheerleaders creating & practicing cheers and the referees brushing up on the rules and creating hand signals. All of this took place independently of myself as the teacher.
My role was simply to plant seeds into the students heads and support them in any way that they needed. They knew that my role of supervisor entailed me being available to assist them with whatever they needed.
To their credit the students did a fantastic job of independently working on their job tasks and managing their time. Because of this independence it allowed me to step back and observe and assess them on their engagement and ability to collaborate.

Because It’s The Cup: A Culmination of Collaboration

11am on Tuesday November 5th 2013 will be a moment that lives in ISS International School folklore. With much excitement and fanfare our culminating event was upon us. With our ES Principal and PYP Coordinator seating in their court side VIP seats, parents on the sidelines and other classes in attendance the ball (no pucks or ice in Singapore!) was dropped and we were underway. The competition was intense as you can see below. Without giving too much away I suggest you watch until the very end….

Looking Back, Looking Forward: Reflecting on our Journey

Immediately following our match we had a celebration with both classes to honour the incredible job that they had done in making this match a success. We watched some of the interviews and videos and awarded certificates to every student congratulating them for their hard work. Finally the Mustang Cup trophy was presented to the winning coach and captain.
In the final lesson of this unit I had the students fill in another Google Form which allowed them to give feedback on their experience during the Mustang Cup unit. This data will help me in both planning future #SportEd units and also in assessing the students engagement.

Final Thoughts: A Risk Rewarded

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
                                                                                       – Tony Robbins

At the beginning of this process I talked about taking a risk as a teacher and opening my teaching practice up to a new approach. What I took away from the whole experience was that your students are capable of great things if you allow them to express themselves in new and different ways. While there were moments of stress and uncertainty for both myself and the students the journey that we went on as a group was incredible. It opened all of our eyes to the possibilities that exist within both the Physical Education domain and outside. Students who previously lacked confidence were able to control a highly emotional and competitive game as referees, leaders emerged and the creative talents of some students blossomed through graphic and web design. I saw my students in a whole new light and they saw themselves as important stakeholders in their own learning. A truly incredible experience and while it had the potential to fail, by taking a risk and trying something new and different we were all able to get something that previously we never knew was possible.
Interested in finding out how we used technology to document learning & achievement in the Mustang Cup? Click here to find out how we did it.

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