Swimming Year 9, 28 students, 4 non participants. (see bottom of post for linked video and pictures)
A recent swimming lesson of mine will go down as one of the most successful, enjoyable lessons I have taught. The lesson started by dividing the students into 4 groups of 6 based on swimming ability (groupings were pre planned using assessment data from the groups swimming unit last year, group 1 high ability to group 4 low ability). Each non participant was then assigned a specific group to work with throughout the lesson. The non participant was solely responsible for tracking progress (describe/explain level 4, demonstrate/create level 5, analyse/evaluate level 6) within the group and recording any new information the group had learnt. alongside this task, as another group of 4 they had to produce a comic based on the lesson using comic life on the iPad.
I didn’t set learning objectives or outcomes at the start of the lesson as I wanted the students to be independent in their learning and come up with the objectives and outcomes themselves. The first task each group had was to work together for 1 minute and identify anything they knew about the backstroke technique, this was then noted down on a specific group window in the swimming pool area with a whiteboard pen. This would then provide the base from which progress throughout the lesson could be measured against as hopefully information will keep getting added to the window each time they learn something new.
Through initial assessment of the windows the groupings I had pre planned were spot on with regards to ability against work output. The higher ability group identified 3 teaching points and features of the back stroke as opposed to the lower ability who only identified that ” the stroke must be done on your back”. Any further, improved knowledge by the group would now be recorded by the non participant who would note down the initials of the group member suggesting the information.
The first water based task that also provided the literacy links to the lesson was a card sorting relay game. I had pre laminated and attached to specific objects, some weighted and some that would float, some of the correct and incorrect teaching points of the Backstroke. What students had to do was swim out and retrieve the different pieces return to their group and place them in order to make a correct sentence (teaching point), groups 1&2 could only collect the pieces that were on the bottom of the pool and groups 3&4 could only collect the ones floating on top of the pool.
The students did this successfully and upon competition I gave the groups a further 2 minutes to discuss any new knowledge gained and work with the assigned non participant to record their information. Through these exercises and the use of a group window, progress was rapid and clear to see both as a group and as individuals due to comments being Initialled.
The next learning episode focused on peer assessment and analysis of the stroke, each group had to nominate one swimmer to perform a width of backstroke, whilst other group members assessed their technique against the teaching points already identified. This exercise worked really well as the differing abilities and techniques were clear to see. All students were able to identify the stronger techniques of individuals with some students specifically identifying what needed to be done to correct the stroke technique. The use of open ended questioning was crucial here to ensure progress was maintained and encourage more detailed answers, questions such as “WHY is Tom not moving through water as good as Daniel?, HOW can Tom correct his technique to perform better?” Before answering specific questions I got students to use the Think, Pair, Share concept I had learnt about through reading the work of @headguruteacher. The concept was a great success with a hive of discussion taking place between the groups and when I came to ask the questions around 90% of students suggested answers as they felt secure in my opinion and had the opportunity to rehearse what they were going to say with their group.
Students were then responsible for their own learning throughout the main lesson task. Each group had specific teaching points to work with and develop their own technique independently as a small group. Group 1 focused on all aspects of the back stroke whilst also looking at turning, group 2 focused on all aspects of the technique alone, group 3 focused on the correct body position, arm action and leg action during the stroke and group 4 concentrated on just the arm action and leg action of the stroke. By setting up the groups like this it once again facilitated rapid progressions, each group had something they could move onto and focus on next once they had perfected their initial tasks, with Group 1 progressing onto coaching and helping Group 4 out with their basic technique.
Once the students had been working independently for about ten minutes, i called all the students together again next to the progress windows. As a group we then evaluated the progress made during the lesson so far by looking who (through their initials) had achieved what level up to this point. This put an indirect pressure on the students to ensure they then went and hit the criteria to meet each specific level within the lesson, by allowing the students to see each others levels and progress I found that it created a sense of competition between the group with each student wanting to better their friends attainment.
The final task in the pool was to peer asses performance once again but only within their own group. Group 1 members then dispersed and help to asses the other groups attainment.
The lesson finished with me assessing once again the progress each group had made through evaluating the group windows, 26 of the 28 students had achieved a level 5 or above during the lesson and I am convinced that this is down to the unique A4L technique I used that stimulated competition amongst students throughout the lesson. By setting the non participants the task of tracking progress, they were constantly involved in the lesson and developed a solid understanding for the success criteria during it. The progress made by them was clear to see in the comic they produced.