Sunday, 26 April 2015

The 'A' Team - Inquiry Group 1: Year 8 female athletes

This term I will be working specifically with 4 groups of students on a weekly basis. On Friday, it was the first time that I met with Group 1: The 'A' Team.

There are only 2 students in this group: both females in Year 8 (12 years old), who are working below the national standards in reading, writing and maths.  I chose one of them (Alice - not her real name) because I was her first teacher when she started school at the age of 5, who right from the start had the ability to play all sports - she is considered to be our best rugby, touch and league player, and has represented us at competitions in other sports such as netball, softball, cricket, swimming, volleyball, shot put and discus - apart from the need to work on her fitness, she has 'the skills'.  

I chose the second student (Abby - not her real name) because I have also coached her in rugby union and league since Year 5 (9 years old) - she too, is an all round athlete, also playing netball, basketball, cricket, touch, tag football, volleyball and winning titles at our school and inter-school long distance cross country and short distance sprint events.  I enjoy coaching these 2 students because they are teachable, they are competitive, they're team players and they're confident enough to share their thoughts on how we can improve as a team - I'm sure they could coach and manage a team themselves.

Anyway, the reality is, these lovely girls are not at the academic level that they should be working at, for their age group. They are conscious of it, even anxious and have a strong desire to become 'brainier' and to have a good school report, to meet their parents expectations.

Y7 & 8 Girls Cricket Team at the Avondale Racecourse, March 2015
I'm not sure whether to reveal their names because they are sensitive about their learning needs and the public domain that I'm sharing their progress on - so at this stage, I will just give them European names.  They both have beautiful Pacific Island names that start with the letter 'A', hence why they decided to call themselves the 'A' team so for now, I'm just calling them 'Alice' and 'Abby'.

Throughout the week, Alice in particular was really looking forward to our time on Friday morning (10.00am-11.00am).  I noticed over the last term, that she had become 'quieter', almost sad at times.  When I ran a trial for tag football, I noticed that she didn't turn up, which was strange because this is one sport she could outplay anyone else in.  For someone who used to visit my office often, over the past 4-5 years, wanting to chat about upcoming practises and games, she wasn't around and I began to wonder what had changed.

So the opportunity came about, when we were on the Year 8 Leadership Camp (3 weeks ago) to ask her about how everything was going for her.  She was basically anxious about her grades.  So when I asked her, if she would like me to help her with her school work, her face lit up - I think this could be the weight on her mind lately - but I guess, time will tell.

First session objectives: To find out where we're at and to create some goals.

This was an interesting exercise.  We shared a google document and created a table, where the girls had to put in their latest work from their reading, writing and maths tasks for the week.  They could easily find their work, they knew what groups they were in but they couldn't tell me what level they were on and what level they should be working towards.  One thing they did know however, was their reading age (of an 11 year old), and they remembered that from their results from last year.

Their main concern was to get a good mid-year report that they need for high school enrolment applications.  Their long term goal was that by the end of this year, they wanted to be able to read, write and have the numeracy knowledge and skills of a 13 year old or higher.

This is our 'homework' for the week:
 Ms Va’afusuaga
  1. Find out what level you’re working at in reading, writing, maths.
  2. Find out the next level you’ll be aiming for, with exemplars.
  3. Analyse your current work and talk to your literacy and numeracy teachers.
  4. Record & document the sporting activities you're involved in during the week to use for session 2's literacy lesson (i.e netball training on Tuesday & rugby 7's on Wednesday)
  5. Find the vocabulary, content knowledge and SOLO thinking strategies for literacy lesson 2.

Alice & Abby
  1. Complete all classroom work, ask your teachers for help if you don't understand - share your work with me too.
  2. Ask your teachers what level you're on and the next level you should be aiming for.
  3. Write reflections (using a PMI Positive-Minus-Interesting evaluation tool) about your netball training and the rugby 7's tournament.
  4. Write some personal goals.
  5. Make a list of what groups you are in, outside of school e.g youth group and also a list of the duties and responsibilities you may have at home.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Who says this: If you exercise, your brain is fitter & works better?

Part 3 of the research report conducted by Dr Karen Martin, University of Western Australia: Brain boost: Sport and physical activity enhance children's learning.

A number of people have studied the correlation between exercise and the brain.  So below are journals where we can find more information about this.  I'll just refer to any studies when the need arises i.e to support informed decisions on the programmes I hope to implement next term. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Did you know that exercise can lead to better grades? Plus more...

This is Part 2 from the research report:  Brain boost: Sport and physical activity enhance children's learning published by the Department of Sport and Recreation from the Government of Western Australia.

The evidence shown from the research reveals, the many benefits that children acquire from exercising.  So if the proof is there, how can we be more intentional to ensure that children receive the amount of time that can make a difference?  How and what do we measure if it's making a difference?  

Should this just be left up to teachers for children to learn at school - or how about after school hours?  Where do parents or caregivers fit in this picture?  Or local sports clubs or organisations?  I don't believe that schools should be the only place responsible to provide opportunities for children to exercise - it will take a community.

In the meantime, check this out:

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Research proves that active kids are smarter!

I found a research report on the website of the Department of Sport and Recreation from the Government of Western Australia, called Brain boost: Sport and physical activity enhance children's learning by Dr Karen Martin, University of Western Australia.  I saw the link that was shared on the Sport NZ website.  As us Kiwis know, the Aussies love their sport and always have a bit of a competitive edge over us.

So basically this report provides an update of evidence from Australian and international research that proves that increased participation in sport and in other forms of physical activities enhances learning and better grades.  And I say, amen!

Exercise improves cognitive functioning, memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement for children.  However the report also highlighted, that in reality with an increasing pressure on schools to achieve academic success, physical education and sport is likely to be 'pushed down the curriculum' and could even look like less than 10 minutes a day in schools.  

I'm going to post 3 parts to the research that I've copied from this link which I think will sum up what they have discovered.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Focus groups for Term 2

So out of the 20 or so groups of children that I work with, I would like to focus specifically on four groups this term so I can evaluate what is required for them to improve and to track their progress.
Focus Groups for Term 2, 2015
I think I may be ambitious and could be taking on more than I can handle, but I will do my best.  Over the school holidays, it will be a time to plan how to put together 4 different programmes, who to contact and work with, what resources are needed, my timetable and schedule for the term etc - it's a matter of prioritising my time.  I'm looking forward to working with the groups of students and the journey we'll take together.