G5 Individual Pursuits

This week we wrapped up the athletics unit in grade 5.

At the beginning of the unit, students received an email with the overview of the unit and how it will unfold week after week. A copy can be found here

They were asked to try different track and field events on their own first, then work with a partner.

Partners will be the same for the entire unit. Learners knew that they had to work together and be knowledgeable so they could coach each other.

During the unit, they were exposed to different events and had to step out of their confidence zone while performing some of those events. They realized that they were being risk-takers.

Apart from practicing different techniques and reflecting on their own learning through the unit, learners filmed each other as they performed a couple of chosen events they wanted to improve. In order to make learning meaningful and visible, we used an app called Hudl Technique that provides video review and performance analysis tools for athletes at different levels.

After recording each other, students analyzed the videos by watching them in slow mode and giving constructive feedback to help their partners improve their individual techniques.


During the whole unit, students reflected on own improvement, sharing small wins with partners or the whole group, or just having a minute to think independently about own practice and effort.

They were given a single point rubric at the beginning of the unit and they got the very same one at the end. Students could see how they improved throughout the unit or not and think why was that.

At the end of the unit, students wrote a thoughtful reflection and posted it on their individual learning blogs. In addition, they embedded into the blog their athletics videos with the coaching points from their partners.

This unit was student-centered. Since the beginning of the unit, students were in charge of their own learning, challenging themselves and their partners and becoming more knowledgeable and reflective about their practice and use of their time.

This unit also helped students to get ready for the YAPP ( Young Athletes of Phnom Penh) Athletics Sports Day as well as for the G2-5 Sports Day.


G3 Individual Pursuits. What is a Good Running Technique?

Grade 3 learners have started a unit of inquiry called Individual Pursuits, Athletics.

They have begun to inquire in different skills, such as running, throwing, and jumping.

During this lesson, athletes partnered up with a peer to observe each other’s runner technique and give feedback.

I created a small “running lab” for learners to understand the importance of using a good running technique.

First, learners started to run with their shoulders up to their ears, and they understood the importance of running with relaxed shoulders.

Then, they ran, using the whole sole of their feet and they felt like if they were penguins. They understood the importance of running on the balls of their feet.

Finally, little athletes ran holding on their pants, so they couldn’t really move their arms. Right away they realized that swinging their arms was essential in the running form.

Athletes did a little sprinting game, where 4 students would run at the time while their partners would look at their running form.

Below you can see the form learners used to give feedback to each other and some photos of learners in action.

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Inquiring in Individual Pursuits

This week we started a new unit of inquiry in grade 5.

Our central idea is quite simple but really easy for students to understand.

“We use our bodies to run, jump, and throw further.”

I decided to make the unit as student centered and relevant as possible for the learners.

Before I met with students, I sent them an email with the overview of the unit and how it was going to be outlined every week.

The first week, learners will be able to try out different events on their own, with a partner, or with a small group. They could choose to spend as much time as they wanted on a single event and try only one, or several ones in the same session.

Below you can see a table of the different events learners could choose from: 

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After the warm up I sent learners off to explore and inquire on what skills they wanted to improve.

It was really interesting as well as hard for me just to observe what they were doing and how they were using their time. Since I teach three different grade 5 classes, I repeated the same lesson and observed quite similar behaviors amongst learners.

Some students were very enthusiastic and eager to get better. They were quite competitive as well, in a healthy way. They created a game and started throwing foam rockets far, further, and further, learning from each other and getting in a total level of engagement. It was wonderful to see that happening, those students had ownership of their learning.

On another hand, some learners were spending their time chatting, throwing a foam rocket or a rubber chicken here and there, quite bored and without any sort of motivation.

There were students who chose to do long jump and again were measuring their marks and trying to beat each other or themselves. Some other learners choose to go over the small hurdles as fast as they could, and practice some sprints.

Since we live in Cambodia, the weather is quite hot all year round and now is the best time to be outside, although it can be a little hot too. Learners do quite some water breaks and again, as I was observing them, I noticed students going to have a drink and spending more than 5 minutes there.

At the end of the lesson I shared my thoughts with them and told them:

“ Today I decided not to teach you anything in the same direct way I many times do. Instead I let you explore and just wander around asking you questions of how could you throw or jump further to get you thinking and acting. Some of you created your own games, challenged yourselves and had fun. Some of you chose to be lazy and pretended to do something when I looked at you.

Hopefully you are starting to learn that you own your learning, is not what I ask you to do, is what you want to achieve that will make you get better by failing, trying again and not giving up.”

I am looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully seeing learners engaging each other and trying new events out.

Old Habits Die Hard

Making Good Humans

I haven’t always been the type of teacher I am today. When I think back to my first few years in education, I can admit that I was a super ‘teachery teacher’. Behaviour charts, staying in at recess, rewards&punishments, worksheets, tests… you name it, I did. If you walked by my class you would have seen students silent and on-task – not because they were engaged, because I used me authority and control to illicit compliance.

Over the years I have learned, unlearned and re-learned and as a result transformed into a teacher who now values student agency above all else.

… but every now and then, the old me creeps back in.

Yeaterday was a perfect example:

We are smack dab in the middle of a Unit of Inquiry about how scientific thinking can help us understand humans. At this stage in the unit we were using an “unconference”…

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Showing Understanding of Concepts in Invasion Games

Learners in Grade 5 have been exposed to new concepts in invasion games.

They played small basketball games where they learned that in order to keep the possession of the ball, they had to:

 Run into space

– Create space

– Use safe pass lanes

– Use the correct pass

In addition to playing the games, G5 students showed their understanding of the new concepts by recording their thoughts using a free app called CoachNote (basketball) on the iPads.

Below you can see an example of a couple of students sharing their thoughts on passing and creating spaces.

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Creating Success Criteria in Grade 1

Students in Grade 1 have started a Cooperation Games unit this week.

Together we developed a “Success Criteria” for students to know the learning targets for the lesson.

We came up with many I can statements:

 Success Criteria

  • I can help my friends to unfold the parachute
  • I can use my hands to hold and shake the parachute
  • I can work with my friends to make a tent
  • I can listen to others while playing a parachute game
  • I can collaborate with my friends to have the balls “pop up” on the parachute

Learners went through an inquiry process by unfolding the parachute and realizing that it was upside down.

After a few minutes, and after trying out different ideas, Grade 1 learners were able to flip the parachute, unfold it completely, and start playing with it. They learned that in order to play with the parachute, they had to work together.


Invasion Games in Grade 5

This week we started an Invasion Games unit in Grade 5.

We played a couple of tag games to get learners thinking the best strategies to really support their partners in the games. As they played, they realized what worked well and what didn’t. That made them think of new strategies to be successful.

As you know, invasion games are games where teams score when they move an implement into the opposing team zone and successfully attack that team’s goal or target area. Examples of invasion games include soccer, basketball, football, hockey, etc.

Today’s learning intention was:

To Create Space in Invasion Games by Using Fundamental Movements

We played several modified games where students, playing 3vs 3 or 4vs 4, had to keep the possession of the ball by moving into open spaces.

These games can be as simple as “Pass the ball five times to get a point”

Learners had to come up with the best tactics to keep the possession of the ball and they scored by passing the ball five times. As soon as the other team intercepted the ball the had to start again from zero.

In addition, as the games went on, we started to add challenges to some teams, such as no passing back to back, pass ten times, these student has to be receiving the last past, and so on.

We recorded some of the games, so students can get feedback of how they are creating space in order to keep the possession of the ball.



Scanning and Noticing


“when you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises – and its important to allow yourself to be surprised.”

One stand out moment in my career to date is when I was looking at some promotional pictures an outside company had come in and taken to use for a new school website. Each department had set up exciting lessons so that the photographer could take some action photos. Chemistry decided on explosions, drama had designed a pupil led play, history acting out a famous Roman battle. We just got down to teaching rugby as we usually do. When the pictures came back we were given the chance to pick the best ones to use. As I was looking through them I saw something I hadn’t seen at the time of teaching,  there wasn’t one smile on either the children’s or the teachers faces…

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A Models Based Approach to PE: Cooperative Learning


A Models Based Approach to PE: Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning within PE is a models based approach that focuses on students working together in small groups to master subject matter content. This essentially gives the students the joint responsibility of both learning the content and also ensuring that their peers learn it as well, moving the role of the teacher towards a more facilitatory role. Dyson and Casey in their recent book Cooperative Learning in Physical Education and Physical Activity put forward five key elements of the model as guidelines for successful implementation within the curriculum. They are:

Positive independence Success is only achieved when students work together in teams and rely on each other to complete the task. One students cannot succeed unless all students do.
Face-to-face promotive interaction There is time within lessons for students to talk to each other, working out common problems, coming up with solutions, identifying…

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Adventure Challenges in Grade Three

Grade three learners, in their unit of inquiry, “How We Organize Ourselves,” are studying the importance of making decisions together to cooperate and get organized.

In Physical Education they are learning new ways to communicate as well as organize themselves while having to solve a problem or to complete a challenge.

Learners had to guide a peer who was blindfolded and couldn’t see, by coming into an agreement of sounds that would help their partner to be aware of the space and where he could or could not go to.

Most of them chose to clap or click their fingers to have their partners moving and use some key words to have them stop moving. Safety was a big deal while doing this activity and students did a great job helping their partners to feel safe while moving into different spaces in the gym.

Their last challenge of the lesson was to lay down on the floor, put the blindfolds on and together create a human square. It required lots of communication and wasn’t an easy task. After the lesson, we quickly reflected on the importance of listening to others as well as being a risk taker and trying their best to help their team to achieve their goals.