Supporting Learner Agency in G3

Last week we started a dance unit in G3.

As soon as I told learners that what was going to be our next UOI, I saw some happy, excited, disappointed, and worried faces.

I heard myself saying, you don’t have to love everything we are learning in PE but you have to give it a try. Then I thought, “how could I engage the disappointed, worried and scared students?”

So together, we looked at the central idea: “Performances with a message can influence thinking”

Then, I asked learners what they thought their performance could look like. What was something they wanted to learn and do?

Right away, everyone was engaged in conversations, sharing ideas and happy to have choices.

The next day, I used this video as a provocation. Looking at student’s faces amazed me. They were really hooked into the performances they were watching. At the end of the video, I asked them if they were able to understand what was the message of the performers and if they could use some of those strategies for their performances. Some could, others needed some support.

In addition, we used a question from a third-grade student to provoke student’s thinking:

                                 “How is Dance Important in Our Lifes”

Together, we started to shape our unit.

These are our lines of inquiry:

  • The choreographic concepts of time, force, flow, levels, and space. (Form)
  • Creating movement sequences in response to a narrative. (Perspective)

Learners are starting to think what kind of performance/dance they want to work on.

Letting Students Lead:

One way of thinking of learner agency is when learners have the ‘power to act’. When learners move from being passive recipients to being much more active in the learning process and actively involved in the decisions about the learning, then they have greater agency.
~ Derek Wenmoth, CORE Education 10 Trends


G5 Overnight Trip

Last week, G5 learners spent a couple of days in the VKirirom Pine Resort, in the Kirirom National Park.

For many students, it was the first time to be out, camping and spending a couple of days with their friends in a campsite so everything was new to them.

The campsite was beautiful, surrounded by pine trees. There was a field by the campsite that we used to do most of our activities.

After having a quick lunch and sorting out the tents, learners spent a couple of hours working with their groups on their PYPX activities led by their homeroom teachers.

Their very last task was to find pine cones, branches and another sort of stuff they could find in nature to make “WHO WE ARE” so we could read it.

For dinner, we cooked veggies and sausages on the BBQ and everyone enjoyed eating outside, with their friends, sitting on the grass and breathing the pure air of the mountains.

Before it got dark, learners participated in different activities, such as a strategic tag game and storytelling in small groups.

As soon as the sun set, we turned off our flashlights and some other bigger lights that were lightening the campsite and focused on the sky. It was amazing to just lay down on the ground with our eyes wide open and quietly enjoy the number of stars we could see. It felt like looking at a huge blanket of glittering, sparkly and shiny dots that kept twinkling at us.

One of the highlights of the evening apart from stargazing was to sit around the campfire, singing songs, roasting marshmallows and enjoying smores.

Learners slept in their tents and woke up early the day after. Breakfast was served in the early morning, and students got the energy they needed it to run with their teams in the orienteering activity.

Other activities, such as hiking, playing active and calmer games were given as a choice to students during that day.

We left promptly after lunch and were able to get back to school while everyone else was getting ready to go home.

G1 Ball Skills Inquiry

Grade 1 learners have been inquiring in the skills required to send and receive a ball.

We started “unpacking” what they knew about “ball skills” so far.

To guide their inquiry I started asking them questions such as:

  • What do you need to do to throw the ball to a partner?
  • How far should you get from each other?
  • How can I make sure the ball gets to my partner?

Students are developing a range of fine and gross motor skills, interacting and playing with their peers.

During the unit, learners are practicing different ball skills, individually or in small groups, working in different activities and also playing small games.

Having a variety of materials helps learners to be more engaged, develops curiosity and all sorts of skills.

Below you can see some pictures playing and developing different skills.

Please ask your child what ball skills they’ve learned so far.

Expressing Ourselves Through Dance

G1 learners have been inquiring about how sound and light help them express their ideas through dance.

They moved their body listening to different sounds. Sometimes, the sound was calmer, such as the sound of waves on the beach or the heavy rain

Other sounds made students express themselves in different ways, such as listening to the sound of a police siren, a baby crying, or robotic sound effects.

How do you feel when listening to all these sounds? How would you express yourself in these situations?

Music is the sound we ended using to create our dances making sure we knew our success criteria for this unit.

                                                   Dance Success Criteria

I can collaborate with my team to create a dance

I can make a movement sequences to music

I can teach my peers a movement sequence

I can use the space dance creating different shapes

I can make a dance that has a beginning, medium part and an end

I can use levels ( low, medium, high) in my dance

Learners got together in small groups and had two days to create their dances.

Communication, team effort, and creativity were key for this unit.

We had students practicing their dances by the field and filmed them using the grass as a green screen. Dancers had fun, were happy and also, some felt a little embarrassed to perform in front of their peers, however, they were able to cope with it and did a fantastic job.

You should have seen the performances as we shared them with parents through an app called Seesaw.

Below you can see some of the performances students created. We used an app called @Doink for the backgrounds with the green screen.

Dance- Bubbles




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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.13.44 PM


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.