December Teacher Feature: Jen Powles
Ophea’s excited to bring to you a series of “Teacher Feature” blogs. Featuring Q&A’s with leading Healthy & Physical Education teachers, the blogs share ideas, insights, and resources straight from the source.
This Teacher Feature brings you practical and inspiring ideas for teaching H&PE and Assessment & Evaluation at the secondary level.
Q&A: Jen Powles
1.What grades do you primarily teach?
I teach Grades 9-12 Health and Physical Education.
2. How long have you been teaching Health& Physical Education (H&PE)?
I’ve been teaching H&PE for 26 out of 27 years!
3. Why were you interested in teaching H&PE?
Every job I had during high school and university was related to teaching sports because they were my passion. I realized at a young age that I loved helping others figure out how to execute a skill better or to gain a better understanding of how to play a game. I was also very lucky to have worked for 15 years at OELC (Ontario Educational Leadership Centre) with such amazing role models and mentors. My work at OELC instilled in me the importance of empowering students and to provide consistent leadership opportunities as a way to enhance the classroom environment and overall student achievement.
4. How do you feel Assessment and Evaluation (A&E) supports students learning skills and developing life habits?
Consistent and transparent assessment and evaluation provides a clear picture about what a student needs to demonstrate in each class. I believe it is my professional responsibility to provide a clear description of what students need to do with respect to demonstrating skills, movement competencies or strategies. By helping students to articulate and achieve individual goals, this allows them to feel a sense of pride and satisfaction about what they can accomplish. Hopefully, one success will lead to another and being physically active becomes ingrained in their lifestyle.
5. By recording their thinking and providing evidence of their learning, how do you feel A&E supports student growth?
Personalized instruction allows for differentiation within a class to be embraced. I’ve started getting my students to use iPads more often so they can record themselves executing a strategy or a skill. The conversations that ensue based on the evidence of their recorded efforts are powerful as it quickly reveals whether or not a student truly understands the learning goals for a particular class. I also have my class brainstorm a list of effective offensive and defensive strategies as a group at the beginning of a TGFU (Teaching Games for Understanding) unit, building on the list as their experiences grows. This is a quick way for me to see what prior knowledge they have so that I can gear my lessons towards their ‘next steps’, rather than assuming where they should start. As classes proceed, students have to be individually accountable for understanding different strategies that can be used in different games categories. This is equally true for the health curriculum. Using an inquiry based approach in particular, allows students to explore concepts and strategies that fit better with the stage they’re at.
6. What are examples of specific H&PE goals students can set to support self-assessment and learning?
When I’m teaching territory games, I challenge students to attempt 3 ‘give and gos’ in one game while keeping track of them. The result is when they’re on offense, they realize they have to keep using the strategies we’ve used in previous classes (e.g. moving into open space, creating open space, etc.) and defensively, they have to keep an appropriate gap so they can limit the chances of their check receiving a pass. It’s really quite exciting to see how quickly the flow of a game can improve when students have a specific goal. I’ve even found that when I proclaim that “the class won’t end until everyone has touched the ball (or disc) 5 times” that the level of engagement goes up exponentially. This also provides an opportunity to assess living skills because in order for everyone to receive a pass, it means that the less engaged student needs to show initiative by communicating with their teammates and to think critically about how they can get into a position to receive a pass. It also prompts the skilful students to show responsibility and pass the ball to their teammates.
7. What are the benefits of A&E for students and educators?
My teaching is much more purposeful. I can observe and have conversations with each student to identify their next steps towards reaching the goal. I no longer ‘hope for the best’. Using co-constructed rubrics holds me accountable to every student to improve their movement competency and their understanding of strategies.
8. What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year that will support your students in building physical literacy?
I’ve created a new assignment where near the beginning of the year (after modeling a number of classes), pairs of my PPL2O students lead an entire class that focuses on fundamental movement skills and key offensive and defensive strategies for a sport of their choice. It’s amazing to see the level of engagement that takes place because they were doing the activities they liked, there’s a tremendous amount of variety of activities and the students have to think critically about what they’re doing to be successful in the sport. This year, I’ve partnered with a grade 5 class to see if these students are fitter than my PLF4M grade 12 students. The PLF class will create fitness circuits as part of their fitness mentoring unit and then they’ll rotate with their grade 5 fitness buddies. They all record the number of reps they can do at each station to compare how they progress over time. The grade 12s have never been more active and the grade 5s love the attention they get from the older students!
I also try to provide my students with authentic experiences where they can use their skills. For example, I take my PPL2O classes into the community for bowling, golf or a trip to our community YMCA. Hopefully, they’ll be more comfortable playing an intramural or community sport after high school because they’ve become familiar with the strategies as well as the places where they can be active.
Additionally, our school has seasonal sport competitions that involve the entire school community (teachers included!) and this is a great motivator for students to improve their skills. Here we reflect on student performance to see if they reached their personal goals after the school competition.
9. Do you have go-to A&E resources or tools that you would recommend?
Whether I’m looking for a pilates lesson or a way to introduce spiking in volleyball, my go-to A&E resources are always Ophea’s H&PE Elementary Resource Lesson Plans. Although the lesson plans are for Grades 1-8, I find they apply to my high school classes given the diverse range in skill at each grade. The lesson plans include meaningful ways to assess students for every activity. The self/peer/teacher rubrics and checklists included provide a great starting point to help a class turn some of the wording into ‘kid speak’ helping it become more personalized. I also like how the lessons reflect a TGFU approach and provide effective teacher prompts that help students make connections between one activity and another.
Growing Success has also had a positive impact on assessment and evaluation of my students. This document has made me continually ask, “Why my students do this activity?” and “Do my students know how they’re going to be assessed and do my lessons provide opportunities to practice what students need to demonstrate and explain?” It’s helped me streamline my teaching and teach in a way that there aren’t any surprises with respect to assessment and evaluation.
Do you have tips or recommendations to share with H&PE teachers? Share them with us @OpheaCanada using the hashtag #OpheaHPEtips.