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Supporting H&PE with Virtual Schools

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 14:10

This school year has brought many unforeseen challenges, and how we teach and learn has been flipped upside down. Educators on the remote learning platform have been required to shift their way of thinking when delivering the curriculum; learning new and innovative ways to create compelling, engaging, and inclusive content to a class of students who happen to all fit on the size of a computer screen! 

Ophea had the opportunity to join one of the Elementary Virtual Schools (EVS) in the York Region District School Board for a virtual professional learning session with the Primary Division educators. Lorne Boyle and Ken Leang are two Administrators in the Primary Division. There are 70 educators and over 1,700 students in the Primary Division (grades 1-3).  And like any other administrator, they are working with educators and families to ensure that each student has access to the best possible educational experience. 

Part of the administrator role is to ensure that a safe and supportive environment is built for students and educators too. Unlike face-to-face learning, the remote learning platform doesn’t easily allow for an opportunity, or physical space, for educators to gather. Lorne and Ken value the importance of creating a safe space for their educators to connect and build relationships so started to offer virtual meet-upsThink of it like your virtual staff room, a central space where educators can do just that!   

Lorne and Ken shared that they ...found that [our] teachers were missing the spaces to engage with each other to talk about practice throughout the day in Virtual School. There are no staff rooms or hallway conversations. We began to offer these virtual meet-ups to fill that gap. We surveyed the teachers to find out what they wanted to learn about. H&PE came back as a want - so we reached out to Ophea! As teachers, it is our responsibility to use appropriate and effective instructional strategies to help students achieve the curriculum expectations, however sometimes certain subject areas may not come so easily to teach for others.”  

The purpose of Ophea’s virtual visit with the educators in the EVS was to provide support in their teaching and learning journey on how to program plan and deliver a quality Health & Physical Education program online. Here are a few of the questions that were asked:  

  • What does Health & Physical Education look, sound, and feel like on the remote learning platform? 

  • How do I plan and deliver a curriculum that is heavily dependent on the exploration and use of a variety of equipment in an active learning environment virtually 

  • How do I address individual students’ needs while ensuring sound learning opportunities for everyone equitably? 

The following are key learnings that we would like to share from our virtual visit with the EVS: 

Flexible Learning  

Being flexible is a key aspect in making learning inclusive and equitable for all students and their learning needs. We learned that teaching on the remote learning platform has helped educators be able to recognize the diversity in their students and what they need to be their best. Some educators shared that during Physical Education class, students were sharing a room with a sibling or family member who was also at home, and didn’t have the ability to set up and play the game at that moment. Why not have a flexible approach to your program? Consider delivering your lesson synchronously, and allow your students to try the activity on their own time and when and where they feel most comfortable. You may be surprised when students decide to set up the game and invite a family member to play with them, or even take the game outside 

Accessible Learning 

This is key for students and for educators too. Stay open to trying new things, as this is a great way to be a positive role model. It’s pretty safe to say that not all your students will have access to a large playing area, hoola hoops, a variety of balls, and a colourful set of rubber chickens! Making accessible learning means that we need to have a differentiated approach to teaching. As you know your students best, be open to a wider choice of equipment, resources, and ways the students can demonstrate their learning from their very home. Think about setting Physical Education routines with your class, and re-defining what coming prepared for learning looks like. Take the time to co-create, with your students, a collection of equipment of more common items that may be accessible within the home for Physical Education. When Physical Education class begins, ensure that everyone has their laundry hamper or bag of equipment that may include: rolled up socks, soft toys, crumpled up paper, toilet paper rolls, and a spatula or paper plate for sending objects.  

Transferable Learning  

Guess what, you are doing it already! We learned that many educators have successful programs in other subject areas where they were able to break the learning into smaller chunks, set up clear expectations for active participation, and implement a variety of strategies for students to collaborate and provide peer feedback to each other. Why not transfer these strategies into your Health & Physical Education classroom! After teaching your Physical Education lesson, consider having breakout rooms where students can practice the skill in a smaller group environment. This can lead to a more personalized environment for students to co-create success criteria for the learning goal. Try using collaborative apps where you may post a picture of a game as a provocation for students to share sticky notes to predict where the opponent will send the ball. We define true learning for our students when they are able to transfer their skills, concepts, and strategies into other environments… as an educator you can do that too!  

Take a deep breath. We learned that it is important to take the time to pause, reflect, and even take a break for your own personal well-being. As educators, we have pivoted in how we deliver the curriculum for the face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid platforms. It’s okay if you are feeling overwhelmed at times! And it’s okay to feel worried about entering a new subject area that you’ve never taught before. But you don’t have to do it alone! 

Ophea has your back for Health & Physical Education. During our virtual visit with the EVS, we had the opportunity to show the educators a variety of ways to use the Ophea Open Class resource. Did you know that this resource was created during the pandemic to help support educators who are new and experienced in teaching Health & Physical Education? Check out the recorded demonstration videos with a different lesson, game, or activity from Ophea; highlighting curriculum expectations, learning goals, safety requirements, equipment, and success criteria for primary, junior, and intermediate learners. 

Thank you to Lorne and Ken for inviting us to be part of your EVS journey 

Let’s keep the conversation going! Share your successes with us on social media @OpheaCanada on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. 

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