Transforming Playground Games

So recently I wrapped up a playground games unit with my 3rd and 4th grade students.  This unit started several years ago when my principal asked me if I could share some games with our students that they could play outside at recess.  Apparently the students were having some difficulty playing appropriately at recess.  Now, I am one who firmly believes that “recess” should be completely unstructured time for students, especially because the rest of their 7 hour day is totally structured.

I took this opportunity to introduce my students to some games that I loved playing as a kid.  As I started to plan out these activities I quickly realized that they didn’t fit into the Physical Education setting because a majority of them had some components that were NOT acceptable practice: Eliminating Players, Using Human Targets, etc.  So I had to modify the rules/directions to accommodate for these deficiencies.  In most games I implemented a scoring system instead of elimination, modified the skills used in the game to meet specific standards/grade level outcomes.

Over the years this unit has transformed into one of my favorite units because I’ve seen the students take these games learned in class and begin to play them at recess!  So the million $$$ question is: What games and how do you play?  I introduce 4 games to my students as a means of developing various manipulative skills.  Those games are 4 Square, Wall Ball, Pickle (Run Down) and Spud.

Once I introduced 4 Square to the students they immediately loved it.  It’s a fast-paced game that requires skill, strategy, etc.  We also had 4 courts painted on our blacktop area for students to use during recess.  I introduce the basic rules/skills of the game.  I only allow open, underhand strikes, no “trick” shots, and points are optional.  I usually have “competitive and noncompetitive” courts and the students can choose and move freely between during our game sessions.  After a great idea by the one and only Justin Schleider (@schleiderjustin) I made a court in which the squares were different sizes.  The first square was the smallest, getting larger until you got to the King/Queen square (serving square).  This server’s square was the largest making it harder because he/she has to cover more area.  The kids really enjoyed it and it made sense to them.  4 square utilizes striking, timing, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, so it’s a great activity for students to develop these skills.

Next we move into Wall Ball and Pickle.  Both games utilize the Overhand Throw and Catching as the main skills required to play.  I did have to modify Wall Ball by adding a scoring system as opposed to actually having students throw the tennis ball at one another.  This works out great!  Unfortunately our students can’t play this at recess, although they would love to, because it disrupts the other classes when the tennis ball is thrown off the wall.  Pickle or Run Down is another game that gets the kids very active and develops their throwing, catching, and tagging skills.  I play with gatorskin balls as they are easier to catch and softer to tag with.

Lastly I introduce Spud, which was one of my favorite games as a kid.  This game has required the most modification of all 4.  First it is an elimination game, which I don’t play.  Second, it requires students to be human targets EAGERLY waiting for someone to pelt them with a ball.  The first modification that I made was to remove the elimination aspect of the game.  I replaced it with a scoring system in which players can earn points in 2 ways.  First, if their number is called they take 3 steps towards anyone they want.  Then they roll the ball, not throw it, at someone’s feet.  If they hit their target’s feet, the roller gets a point.  If the roller misses their target, the “target” gets a point.  This worked pretty well, but I wanted to completely eliminate students being the “targets”, so I placed bowling pins and cones out on the floor for players to stand behind.  Now when the roller is trying to hit their target it is a pin or a cone.  Students took to this really well, it also gave them a designated place to go.  We then went even further, as we were accumulating points I quickly realized that this was a golden opportunity to incorporate numeracy.  So we adjusted our cones/pins into 2 staggered rows on either side of the gym.  The front row had a multiplier of 1 and second row had a multiplier of 2.  We also added new skills and new scoring.  For example, students could either roll, throw or kick the ball at their intended target. (rolling = 1 pt, throwing = 2 pts, kicking = 3 pts)   Let’s say a player decides to kick the ball to the second row and they hit their target, that player would receive 6 points; 3 for kicking X 2 for the back row.  If this player missed their target, the “target” would receive 6 points.  The kids really liked the fact that they could choose the skill and target and that they could give or receive points.  The last change we made to Spud was to make it a Team game.  In this version players were on 2 teams based upon their numbers (odds v. evens).  With this version odds could only call even numbers and vice versa.  Players could only target the opposite team (odds went to 1 side, evens went to the other).  The scoring was still the same, however, this time I had the students record their team score on the whiteboard by either filling in a bar graph or by using tally marks.  This team aspect became a SUPER hit with the kids.

If you haven’t tried incorporating any “playground games” like the ones I’ve mentioned, I highly recommend it.  They are great games that work on a ton of skills, the students can play them at recess, at home, etc and best yet they require little equipment and can be played by any number of people!


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Embrace the Shake!

So 2 years ago I came across this TED Talk and was truly blown away!  I immediately shared it with our Art Teacher, for obvious reasons.  I was honestly moved by Phil’s ability to adapt, persevere, and reinvent himself.  We are so often overwhelmed by what we DON’T have that it paralyzes us from being and achieving greatness.

In this Talk, Phil describes his limitations as his ultimate liberation. So take a moment and think about all the “LIMITATIONS” you face as person, teacher, etc.  Limitations can be a variety of things such as physical; not enough equipment/supplies in your classroom, to personal; lack of organization, time management, etc.  Now how can you utilize those said limitations to create something new and amazing??

As I ponder my own limitations as a Physical Educator a laundry list begins to develop: not enough equipment, no budget to buy new equipment, not enough class time with students, too small of a classroom/gym space.  These name the ones at the TOP of my list.

One thing that I learned from the amazing educators on Voxer is that I’m not alone, I don’t have to do everything myself, and it’s okay to ask for help.  As an elementary physical education teacher for 10 years I’ve been on an island, by MYSELF!  3 years ago Twitter opened my mind to the possibilities of what I can do, but Voxer took those possibilities and made them happen.  Several of the things on my list above I can’t directly change, but others I can.  I have learned ways to STRETCH my equipment, make my own equipment, utilize my current space more efficiently, and gain valuable time for my students.

So a big THANK YOU goes out to my PLN, especially those on Voxer who push me everyday.  Sometimes our own limitations keep us from being the person or educator we wanted to be, but allowing ourselves to “embrace” these limitations can spark the creativity we need to truly become someone great!

We can find inspiration, creativity, and greatness in places we never dreamed of if we keep an open mind, continue to grow and share our greatness with the world!  If you can answer the following questions honestly, you will be able to “embrace the shake” and turn your limitations into something amazing!

What limitations do you have professionally?

What inspires you to be great?

What is one “limitation” that you can act upon tomorrow to make a positive change?

What roadblocks/hurdles do you have in your way to transform those limitations into something positive?

Who can you lean/rely on to support you, push you, and hold you accountable for making this change?

Recording Student Data

collecting student data blog

3 years ago my district made some building changes that moved me from teaching K-4th grade to teaching K-6th grade.  This wasn’t a huge deal except for the fact that for the first time in 7 years I would have to formally assess/grade students.

The first year was really rough!  Although 2 other physical education teachers in my district had taught these grade levels previously we didn’t have any time to meet, collaborate or discuss units, resources or assessments.  And like an infant trying to walk, I failed and failed often, sometimes falling right on my face.

At the time I was relatively involved with #pechat and connecting with other #physed teachers through Twitter.  It was through these interactions and learning that I was able to start to transform the way I collected student data.

In my first year I had students using HR monitors during class and recording their heart rates via paper and pencil.  I would then have to go in on a daily/weekly basis and enter the student data into a spreadsheet in order to calculate their average heart rate over the course of a semester.  Their average heart rate was used as one form of assessment for their overall grade.  The problem came when I couldn’t keep up with the data entry and became VERY overwhelmed. 

The other issue was that I was only using this data for grading purposes, which was ok because I needed to provide evidence of student achievement.  However, I wanted to see how active my students were during specific lessons.  This would provide me with some data about the lessons I was planning and how active they made the students.

As I re-evaluated my practices I realized that I needed to do more with the data I collect.  I also needed to collect more data.  This is were my love affair with Google Forms and QR codes began!  I am fortunate enough to have access to a classroom set of iPods.  Last year I began collecting student data in a variety of forms for multiple uses.

First I collect student data as a means of assessment.  On a daily basis students are using HR monitors and/or pedometers to measure student activity level during class.  Each class has its own Google Form with the add-on Doc Appender running on it.  Doc Appender is linked to a Google Doc that the students wrote their personal fitness goals on at the beginning of the year.  The way Doc Appender works is that every time a students submits a response through the designated Google Form it automatically updates their Fitness Goal Doc as represented by the table below.  I have it set to Append the Time stamp and number of steps taken in a horizontal table.

Doc Appender. FitnessGoals

By combining Google Forms and Google Classroom I can seamlessly push out the assignment to my students at the beginning of the year and use that same document to track not only their pedometer steps and heart rates, but any other assessment.

So what data am I collecting and what do I do with it?  As mentioned, I daily collect pedometer steps and/or heart rates.  I love to use Google Forms as Exit Tickets during units to check students understanding of key concepts and skills.  I use this information to plan future lessons.  For example, this year I introduced Tchouckball to my 6th grade students, but when I had them complete an exit ticket the data showed me that the students weren’t understanding the skills necessary to “get open in space.”  My next lesson then focused on moving without the ball, faking, cutting, and give-and-go activities.  The summary of responses from a Google Form will break down the percentage of students who answered a particular question a certain way.  This is a very quick way to check the understanding of your students and make adjustments to your lessons.

The other way I utilize Google Forms is to take student surveys.  Each year I ask my students to complete a survey in which they get to rank various units that we “may” participate in during the school year.  As I plan the units I use this data to determine what activities to teach.  I will also use this information to provide various activities that the students can choose from.

As I move forward and continue to try to improve my instruction and assessment I try to ask myself several questions.

1.  What types of student data do you collect?

2.  How do you determine what types of assessments/data to collect?  Teacher Assessment? Peer Assessment? Self Assessment? Exit Tickets? Student Surveys?

3.  How do you collect data and/or administer the assessment? Individual? Partner? Whole Class? Written? Digital?

4.  How do you use Student Data?  Assessment/Grades?  Provide data driven instruction? Student Understanding? Lesson Planning?

5.  What are your favorite tools/apps/websites for collecting Student Data?

Year in Review

Wow!!  Seriously, is the school year already over??  With Just 4 full days of school left I’m wondering where the school year went.  It seems like just yesterday I was watching my daughter walk off the bus on her first day of Kindergarten!  Now she’s starting to read short chapter books, adding and subtracting, it’s just amazing how they grow during one year.  This leaves me to think…  What impact have I had on my students education???

Building relationships with my students has become a major focus of mine over the last 2 years.  This year especially I’ve focused on creating a more “student-centered” classroom, in all aspects.  It began by creating an environment of mutual respect, followed by getting to know my students on a more individual and personal level.  These two things allowed me to develop more engaging and meaningful lessons that met my students’ individual needs.

As a member of PEPLC Assessment and Technology North America Team 2 I was able to discuss with other Physical Education professionals my implementation of various assessment tools and strategies, as well as effectively integrating technology in both Physical Education and Wellness.  The PEPLC PLN was a great community to be involved with and allowed me to reflect and discuss my successes and failures while receiving feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Through the use of QR Codes, Google Forms, Google Drive, iPods, and Chromebooks I was able to infuse technology into my assessments.  My goal was to maximize physical activity time, while collecting data on students’ knowledge of skills, concepts, and self-assessment of personal performance.

As the summer begins my focus is NOT on the pool, beach, and “hanging out”, but rather how can I improve the educational experience for my students next year!

So I ask you this!  How are you going to improve the educational experience for your students next year!  Happy Summer!

Mystery Skype

About 2 weeks my students (Mrs. Spahr’s 6th Grade) and I had a great opportunity to participate in a MYSTERY SKYPE with Adam Metcalf’s 7th grade class from the Avery Coonley School in Illinois. Adam (@MrMetcalfPE) and I have connected on several occasions via Twitter and Google+. We both participated in a “t-shirt” swap with several other Physical Education teachers in the US and Canada. After receiving my t-shirt Adam connected with me via Twitter to let me know that he was going to wear my school’s shirt and talk about where we are located and a little information about our Physical Education program. When I read his post I immediately thought about doing a Mystery Skype to bring our two schools together. As we discussed the opportunity we both knew this would be a great experience for our students. We spent a week researching the guidelines and procedures for which we wanted to follow.


We began by selecting the jobs/roles we wanted to assign to our students. I discussed with Mrs. Spahr the responsibilities of each role and assigned them to students based on their strengths. On the day of the event I came in early to set up: 3 laptops, printed blank maps, re-arranged furniture, checked all tech equipment to make sure everything was working properly. The students entered class and reported to their assigned areas. After the initial contact between Mr. Metcalf and myself, the students took control. Each class did a great job of formulating and asking their “yes and no” questions to identify the state in which the other class was located. Although they were very nervous, my students did an excellent job and were asking “when can we do this again” before they left. I think that experiences such as this can make a lasting impression on our students and expose them to a world outside of the walls of our school. I can’t wait for my next Mystery Skype opportunity!

Thank you Adam Metcalf and your 7th graders at The Avery Coonley School for such a great experience. I look forward to future collaborations with you and your students.
Below is a short video that captured our experience:
Mystery Skype

Can I Integrate Mobile Technology into My Classroom?

As stated in previous posts I began integrating technology into my classroom the past two years.  Last year especially when I had the opportunity to work with a classroom set of iPod touches.  I plan on continuing to implement and improve upon how I integrated technology within my Physical Education and Health classes.

I am going to continue utilizing QR codes, Socrative and Infuse Learning (Student Assessment), as well as Lino (Post-It Note).  I will also utilize the photo and video tools, such as iMovie and Phoster,  to aid in student assessment.

I envision pushing the envelope this year by incorporating some new ideas I gained from ED 610, including Explain Everything, Smore, and Aurasma.

I really like the course layout and progressions.  I know a big thing is using mobile devices for student assessment.  It would be beneficial to touch upon at some point.  It may be helpful to also link some/all of the topics to ISTE standards for reference purposes!

Thanks again for another great class Dr. McCullough!

Are there Educational Apps for My Students?

So far I have limited experience using educational apps for my students.  I began using iPods in my classroom in March of this past year.  I experimented with various apps in which my students could use and learn from.  The one we utilized the most was QRafter, for scanning QR codes.  On several occasions I had my 4-6 grade students scanning QR codes for various activities/skills to perform.  Within those activities/skills there were varying levels for which students could choose based upon their perceived level.  We also used them to take pictures and videos, as well as project notes/pictures onto the board/IWB via the Apple TV.

I think there is a lot of potential for my students to use Mobile Devices in the classroom, and look forward to figuring out new ways for them to do so.  I am already planning some new ideas for the upcoming school year: geocaching, Aurasma, iMovie, etc.

Very excited for the possibilities that Mobile Devices can bring to the overall education of students.

ED 610: Can I Use Mobile Devices to be More Productive?

As soon as I read this weeks question, I immediately said “YES”.  Over the past year I’ve been using both a smartphone and an iPad both personally and professionally.  I feel that using these devices has made ME both more and less productive at times!

How can that be??  By having access to so much information, entertainment, socialization, etc. it has, at times, become overwhelming and even distracting.  I have to consciously tell myself to “put down the phone” or “get back to work” because I am trying something new.  The landscape for Apps is moving so fast, that it’s hard to keep up.  This can cause ME to be less productive because I don’t want to miss anything, yet I’m not doing the things that I need to do.

What have I done to combat this “addiction” as I call it?  First, I’ve made a conscious effort to convince myself that it’s okay to take a break, the world won’t come to an end if I’m not the first to get/use an App or if I’m not on top of the latest thing out.  Secondly, I’ve found Apps that have helped be become more productive, keeping me on track with what I need to do.

Because we are riding this wave of change, creativity, and ingenuity it can be an overwhelming and daunting task to try and keep up.  Sometimes it’s okay to just “unplug” and take a step back.  Most things, that are good enough, will stick around or come back full-circle so you don’t miss out.

As I’ve become more effective and efficient with my time, I’ve been able to become more productive using mobile devices.  In the classroom, they have freed me from the front of the room and have allowed me to become more mobile in class while still being able to present material on the board.  Being able to access documents, presentations, calendars, etc. from a variety of devices has really allowed me to be more productive!

ED 610 – Using a Mobile Device to Take & Present Images

I have used various camera apps for my “smartphone” and my iPad.  For the iPad, I have used Skitch and Photosynth mostly, as well as Instgram for my smartphone.

I just tried using Color FX on the iPad, which is neat because the picture you select comes up black and white; you then select the brush size and highlight the areas that you want to make color.

As far as photo storage is concerned I mostly use 3 apps/sites.  First, I will upload pictures, using the Walgreen’s app, so that I can print them for pick-up.  Depending on the photos, I will also upload them to Dropbox and/or Picassa.  I have most of my devices set to automatically upload to Picassa, which makes it very easy for storage purposes.  If I want to share pictures with someone or a group I will use Dropbox and simply share the folder.

This past year I began playing with mobile device apps for presentations.  Although I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience with them I have tried several.  My favorite apps to use are Educreations, Explain Everything, Haiku Deck, Zoo Burst, and Prezi.  I like the idea behind Nearpod as well, however having access to enough devices for students to use is the issue.  In conjunction with my Apple TVs I’ve been able to really utilize these tools to help deliver instruction.  I look forward to continuing my use of these tools and learning more about their functions.

These tools are excellent in the education setting given the right conditions.  Nearpod is great if you are in a 1:1 setting in which students can have individual access to your presentations.  Also, having the ability to display your presentations to the entire class can be tricky!  I know our IT dept. had to contact an outside individual to come in and change our network settings to allow for the functionality of “Airplay” on our iOS devices.  Once that occurred, that opened up a whole new avenue for me.  I hope to improve upon my practices with these tools to continue to improve my lessons.

ED 610 “Who Am I”

Hello ED 610,

My name is Nick Endlich and I’m an elementary Health and Physical Education at Dover Area School District.  I currently teach K-6 grade.  I also live in Dover with my Wife and 2 kids, my daughter will be attending my school in the fall, YIKES!

I have 2 courses left to complete my Instructional Technology Certification program at Clarion.  I also have my master’s in Educational Leadership from Temple University.

I am into all things tech these days.  I am very active on Twitter (@NicholasEndlich) as well as Google +.  Over the course of 2 years, since my first class with Dr. McCullough, I’ve really expanded my PLN through these “Social Media” sites and I’m very thankful for how I’ve grown as an educator during that time.

I wrote a grant 2 years ago to get 2 Xbox Kinect systems into my PE classroom, and this past year got a project funded through “Donor’s Choose” for 4 Apple TVs.  I took an iPad course last summer in which I learned a lot about using Mobile Technology in the classroom.  Our school also got an iPod cart which I very enthusiastically offered to “pilot” and help run.  I learned a lot this year on how to use and not use the iPods in class.  There is definitely a learning curve when beginning to utilize these devices in the classroom.  I hope this course with help provide additional insight into how I can improve my practice with these devices.