Planning for a New School Year
written by Tom
Winiecki, Mott Road Elementary School, Fayetteville, NY
you ever thought this? "Planning for next year already!?
What! Are you kidding? I just had the last day of school not
too long ago!"
Planning, so that the next school
year starts out well is important. That way, all of your students
understand what is expected from them, and they get to see
how your class works. Everyone is on "the same page"
right from the beginning. Planning doesn't take that much
work. Here are some ideas:
"I Can't" vs. "I
One of the worst things that a student can say in class is
"I can't." When a student makes that statement,
they have already given up. The solution - don't allow it
to be said at all! Instead of banning those words, give them
an alternative that works better. Posting signs (like the
one below) in your gym conveys the message to your students
that you don't want to hear the words "I can't!"
but they can make the statement "I can't yet!"
as often as they need to.
Once students understand that you
are not interested in them performing perfectly each and every
time something is tried, but simply want them learning to
pursue perfection, they will be willing to try new
things and be more willing to make mistakes. Students will
understand that you are there to help them improve, and are
not simply looking for faults.
students who continue to say "I can't" - tell them
that they are right! They can't do it, and you can not help
them if they are not willing to continue trying (I can't yet!).
Students will (learn to) understand your intentions. They
want your attention, so show them the right way to get your
When students switch to the statement
"I can't yet!" they are enabling you to help them.
When you ask them to 'show me what you've got so far,' they
will be more receptive to your feedback and instruction. When
a student says "I can't yet," throw that statement
right back at him/her. Teach him/her to be active in finding
Have students tell you what part of
the task they're having problems with, and insist that they
be as specific as possible. Instead of letting a student say
"I can't hit the target when I throw the ball yet,"
have the student focus in on what you've taught them so far.
Ask him/her, "What part of throwing is holding you up?"
Lead the student to self-conclude that maybe they are not
following through to their target when they release the ball.
Creating this type of atmosphere makes it 'okay' to occassionally
'mess up," and also allows students to figure things
out on their own. In the long run, trial and error, self-determinations,
and continuing to pursue perfection is what we want
them to do.
Give Them A "Sneak Preview"
In the Fall, clearly review what you
will be teaching throughout the coming year. Tell students
that some things will be easy and some things will be challenging.
Get them excited about what they'll be doing in your class.
Prepare students to offer their own "expertise."
Many of them have previously participated in some of the "units"
you've offered. Invite those students to be your "resident
experts" when you go over a particular skill. Just watch
their enthusiasm soar!
Spice It Up A Bit With Your
Primary Aged Students.
A the beginning of the school year,
tell students that there will be days that 'some of you will
"touch the ceiling."' (Perhaps don't tell them that
you're talking about climbing a rope, or cargo net.). Touch
on the "I Can't" vs. "I Can't Yet" concept
with them again. Tell your group that if some of them are
looking up at the ceiling and thinking "That's too high
for me. I'll be too scared to go that high," then maybe
they are right. They may not get there.
Go on to say that 'If you are looking
up at the ceiling and are thinking, "I wonder what it
looks like from up there. There must be a way up there,"'
you could be someone who goes all the way up!" Use your
storytelling skills to motivate students to get strong enough
to strive for the ceiling.
'Story tell' students that some day
someone will fly right over your head (That really works well
with the younger kids if you are tall. I'm 6'4" and they
get really excited at that mental image). (Perhaps) don't
tell them right away that you are talking about gymnastics,
and that you will be holding onto them the entire time. Tell
them that one day they'll come into the gym and it will be
"raining a rainbow of colors." Don't tell them that
you are planning classes to cover throwing and catching!
Again, tie everything together with
the "I Can't" and "I Can't Yet"
signs. Remind students that if they think they can't do the
things that you talk about, then maybe they won't. If they
ponder, and determine that "Gee, there has to be a way
to figure that out and do it," then they have a good
chance to achieve what they try for. There is nothing like
them getting pumped up right on the first day!
Plan To Link Everything Together
For Your Students
We all work hard to teach our content
each year. When all is said and done, have we done this in
the best and most complete way as possible? Have we enabled
our kids to leave each spring knowing how to be fit and stay
fit, all while enjoying themselves? If you waiver at this
question at all, consider this: Take a good look at connecting
all of those various units you teach through some central
theme. We all have students who start off with "I don't
like this!" or "I don't like __________. Why should
I have to learn it?" As long as your answer isn't "because
I said so," there is a way to proceed.
At first glance you may not see any
links between, say football skills and volleyball skills.
If you look closely at how you teach, you will see that an
overhand throw in football is the same as an overhand serve
in volleyball. You line up sideways to your target, step with
your front foot, make an "L" with your back hand
to throw/strike the ball, and follow through to your target.
You can make this same connection between a soccer kick and
a football place kick/punt. Teach to follow the same steps
(stand sideways, step with front foot, throw/strike with back
hand, follow through to the target). Now add a "1-2 step."
Tell them to line up behind the ball, so they have a "curved
pathway to the ball." Have them take two steps toward
the ball, so their 2nd step is with their front foot and it
lands next to the ball.
See how often you can make these connections.
This same 4-step rubric and "1-2 step" can be applied
to a bowling release, hockey shot, basketball lay-up, and
paddle strike. Now, when you carry forward assessment information
from unit to unit, reinforce these connections with your students.
They don't have to stop learning one thing at the end of one
unit, and start learning from scratch when you begin another
one. They are re-applying similar concepts within different
Your comments to a student may go
"When we practiced an underhand serve with
volleyballs, my notes say that you did a pretty good job of
stepping toward your target but your follow through seemed
to always go to the left. Now that we are using bowling balls
and pins, let's concentrate on that follow through so your
shot goes right to the pocket. Keep up the good work with
your stepping, and concentrate on your follow through for
After spending time with this student, tell him/her that
you will be back to see how (s)he is doing with their follow
through. When you do come back and check up on him/her, you
are showing that you're there to help with improvement, and
not simply to point out mistakes and move on. You'll be surprised
how many of students eventually seek you out just to show
you their improvements!
Don't forget to tie in fitness everywhere! Make every unit
a fitness unit. Teach students where to find their pulse.
Teach your younger students to know when their heart is beating
fast or slow. Teach in a way so that everything you do each
day is tied together. Teach your older kids to know when their
heart hits a target zone and what that means for them. Teach
them that if their heart goes fast today, they will have a
stronger heart tomorrow. It doesn't matter whether what they're
doing today is their favorite task or not. Make comments such
as, "If you hit the target zone today, you played the
game the right way." Take the emphasis off winning with
more points than someone else, and put the emphasis on winning
by making yourself a little better each day.
When you connect different muscles to specific exercises,
go a little further and teach what those stronger muscles
let them do. Connect triceps to push-ups and to throwing a
ball, or doing something on a piece of gymnastics equipment.
Now a potentially boring exercise like push-ups has a new
dimension to them to keep students trying; especially the
kids that want to throw a ball farther, or do more feats on
a set of bars in gymnastics.
When students make the old "I don't like this game"
comment, use the fitness angle to redirect their thinking.
If you know what they DO like, let them know that their hard
work TODAY will pay off when they get to their favorite (hockey?)
unit later. Continue 'connecting the dots' with different
skills. Teach students that "the control you are working
on now with a soccer ball will pay off when you use a hockey
stick later." Inform your 'resident experts' that they
can also offer their expertise to others when the hockey sticks
are brought out. Simply put, 'connect' for them how what they
do today will help them with what's done later.
All the ideas in this article help set the tone for a positive
experience for you and your students. Everyone knows what
to expect, and everyone works individually and/or together
to get a little bit better each day!
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