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Smells like team spirit

Teaching PE can be more exciting if you make pupils responsible for planning and managing their lessons. Amy Harrison explains

After receiving some negative comments such as: "What, more netball?" from my Year 9s a couple of years ago as they started their second block of netball and hockey just after Christmas, I decided to change my approach to the lesson. Having read in physical education journals about sport education, I decided to give it a try.

Sport education is an alternative approach to delivering the PE curriculum, where pupils are responsible for planning, managing and running their own sports season. This creates a learning environment where the teacher's role gradually becomes supportive rather than as director of activity. Sport education supports the development of thinking skills, encouraging pupils to learn meaningfully, think flexibly and make judgments. Most sports teams have a manager, a coach, a captain, someone who analyses game play, someone who writes a match report for the newspapers and an umpire. I created the same roles in my netball group. I separated the coach role into two, having a warm up coach and a skills coach. With some groups I also had a vice-captain and other extra roles.

Having discussed what was required for each role, pupils decided which of the responsibilities they would like to have within the netball lessons. I looked at their requests and split the class into four teams.

Within the sport education lessons, pupils were given the chance to gain points for their teams. I awarded points for: punctuality, encouraging them to get changed quickly and on to the courts; kit, checking that they had their full correct PE kit on, including hair tied up and no jewellery; co-operation and their teamwork; the amount of effort they put in; level of skill and fitness, and finally their game success three points for a win and one point for a draw for every game played.

Pupils recorded the points at the end of each lesson, totalled them weekly and then overall at the end of the unit.

The girls were keen to record their points and it was amazing how well they took to checking each other's kit within their own team, as well as checking other teams for jewellery. There's also the chance for exceptional players to gain "power points" for the team, and a personal certificate.

In each lesson during the netball unit, pupils collected their own equipment, warmed up their team correctly and got themselves into playing positions. I then gave a skill to develop, demonstrating a practice on a whiteboard to the skills coach, who then went back to their team and led that practice. Towards the end of week five or six, I asked the teams what skill they thought they needed to work on. The skills coach had the task to develop a drill ready for the next lesson.

Anyone off games during the unit worked with their team ensuring all was being carried out correctly, recording any points they were awarded and umpiring the games. At the end of each lesson, the groups analysed their play and set targets ready for the next lesson.

The pupils were more responsible for their own learning than in previous lessons. There was greater pupil involvement in the lessons and they gained a better knowledge of playing abilities, and could therefore work on tactics within the games according to their strengths and weaknesses.

I began this approach with just higher-ability pupils, but this year I am trying it out with mixed-ability groups. Whether the pupils will enjoy this as much remains to be seen, but I think it could be useful as the higher abililty pupils can guide the weaker ones

Amy Harrison is PE teacher at Northgate High School in Dereham, Norfolk

Keep on jumping

For more on sports education, Amy recommends Complete Guide to Sport Education by Daryl Siedentop, Peter Hastie and Hans van der Mars (Human Kinetics Europe, pound;20). It has tips and ideas on how to organise your "seasons" as well as other resources on a CD-Rom.

The Youth Sports Trust offers a Sport Education training course with accompanying teacher guide via its Step into Sport programme. For more information visit pagestep-into-sport


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