The Innovative Teaching Challenge

I came across this challenge by A.J. Juliani and thought I’d give it a go.  I am also currently following the #hackyrclass challenge by Claire Amos at Hobsonville Point Secondary School which I am also following closely.  Each have topics emailed to you to challenge your teaching and thinking in various ways.  The #hackyrclass first challenge is to look at the Growth Mindset idea.  So with this in mind I am trying to be more open to trying new ideas out in my lessons and trying to instill this concept in my students by getting them to try new things in our lessons.

Anyhow, my focus for this blog is the innovative teachers challenge’s first task.  Which is to look at how offering our students choices in their learning can be helpful in getting your students to be more innovative.

Choice in PE

So over the past few days I have implemented this in a couple of ways.  Firstly as a PE teacher, rather than giving a one sized fits all warm up at the beginning of my lessons, instead I offered three choices for my students.  I explained this at the beginning of two lessons with year 10 students over the past few days, and off they went.  What initially surprised me was that students chose an option which I thought they would choose the least.  The second thing I noticed was that there were a number of students participating in each of the three options.


So in the second of my two classes who I did this with today, I asked at the end what they thought about the warm up and about having choice.  They all agreed that they liked that opportunity.  They also liked that I had provided options with and without equipment.

Out of the three choices one was left open, in other words to get the students to create their own warm up.  There was one criteria that it must get their heart rate up.  Both times I have done this the students who chose this third choice showed at the very least understanding of the criteria, which obviously shows some understanding of the concepts around Heart Rate.  But more importantly I think it also shows innovation.  The two different groups of students who chose to create their own did so in very different ways.  The first went off and did something completely different to the other two choices.  The second group combined the elements from the first two choices.  I have found this really interesting.

Choice in Health

Over the past year I have been playing with PBL (Project Based Learning) and trying to implement this successfully in my classrooms.  In addition to this I have been working to increase the use of technology in my classrooms for everyday learning (not just assessments!), as my school is moving towards 1:1 devices.  I have had varying levels of success with this and am continuing to explore and develop my use of this further.

The way I have applied this idea of choice in my Year 10 Health class at present follows the PBL in many ways.  I have introduced my topic with a bit of a ‘hook’ and varying brainstorms to gauge current knowledge and now offered my students options for what they want to produce for this topic.  The mediums of presenting are their choice, however the topic I have left the topic itself fairly open for them to follow an aspect of that topic that interests them.  The options given can be seen below on our class page.  Further details on this mini unit lesson plan can be seen below.  So far I have done lesson one and it is interesting how the students have reacted so positively.  Will see how it goes!

Wellbeing Yr 10 – Self Esteem 3 lesson mini unit.

Lesson 1 – Brainstrom What is self esteem.

  • Create a table, what things affect self esteem positively/negatively.
  • Watch ad –  This is just being shown now
  • Discussion amazing for a 50 year old to look as stunning as that e.g. what photo shopping has gone on?  What messages do these adds give us as women?  Etc
  • Introduce task (not an assessment task for me but could be)  Focus is on health promotion, promoting positive self esteem in wGHS/wider community?   They get to choose from one of the tasks.  They can do as individual or pair or group but what is produced needs to be comparable to the number in the group.
  • I get them to choose which task and who they might be working with and start to plan what content they need to research/ or want to put into this product.

Lesson 2-3 – in computer lab if non byod or as per normal if byod in classroom.

Flipped Year 11 PE Unit (A.S. 1.6)

My colleague and I decided to go full on with a full flipped classroom unit.  So in the interest of share and share alike, I thought I’d share some of the resources we have created and comment on how amazingly well this has gone.

Unit: Be An Ace

Content: Strategies to Improve Performance

To introduce this new style of working, I created this short clip to clearly communicate our expectation for our students.


We created short, concise videos on most topics.  My colleague used Educreations for creating video’s, while I prefered the ipad app Explain Everything (as it uploads direct to youtube).  Students watch the video’s at home and completed a task in their lab booklet which was basically all the notes they would then need for the unit.  Here is the lab booklet that we created for the unit. (formating seems a little odd in dropbox but it can be downloaded!)  We used QR codes and shortened url’s in the booklet so that students had the information they needed at all times to access the video’s.  We also reminded students via edmodo which video they needed to watch that night/week.  If students arrived in class and had not watched the video, we had our laptops set up for them to do their work then and there.  We carried on with our practical lesson which was applying the concepts they had learnt the night before in the video’s.  So if they didn’t do the work at home, they still got the notes but missed out on some cool practical activities.

We had a set of lesson plans that helped us to structure the unit (mainly to help us fit everything in!)  A copy of these lesson plans are here.  The lessons were fairly flexible and could be moved around to suit the teacher.  Types of Practice Practical is a practical activity referred to in the lesson plans.

Feedback Video


We completed the new Achievement Standard 1.6 as the assessment for this unit for the first time this year.  I have changed it for next year to include only session plans in the assessment booklet and the reflections will be done via a google form.  I am doing this to try and reduce how much paper we are using in our department and with a feeling that they may write more thoughtfully through a technology based forum (a complete assumption at this stage!) and also to try to enable teachers to mark the reflections as we go through the unit rather than waiting till the end.  Please feel free to have a look at this google form as I would really appreciate feedback.

Reflection of Flipped Unit

This unit has been so smooth and has flowed really well, enabling us to do far more practical activities to get students applying the concepts taught.  From having just marked the assesment for this unit, I would say it was a resounding success in that almost all students understood the concepts taught really well and applied them successfully in the practical setting.  Students got into a good routine very quickly with watching the video’s and completing their lab booklets.  Overall a great result.

Please use the resources included if you find them useful and feel free to comment below.



Classroom Management for BYOD – My Top Tips

I would like to start this post by saying that I am in no way an expert in this topic, and in actual fact I have only been teaching my two year nine BYOD classes for two terms so far this year. So I am purely going to share what classroom management strategies I have put in place to help my classes get and stay on task.

  • The 5 minute Rule
    Initially when I arrived in term two, I am sad to say that I got played!! The “I can’t get connected”, and “the wifi isn’t working”, enabled my students to get away with doing very little work. So I came up with the 5min rule. Basically, if students can’t connect within the first 5minutes of the lesson, they are to put their device away in their bags and get paper out to work on or use an offline method for recording their work. This fixed the problem instantly.

During this particular term our non BYOD classes had a workbook so as a backup I gave every student a booklet and they were to bring this to every lesson also (in retrospect they could be stored in the classroom)!! I think in future, in an effort to go more paperless, creating 2-3 bound paper copies of the activities in the unit is a better fix. And for any tasks that require the Internet e.g. a youtube clip, I have allowed students in this position to use my iPad or group together with another to share their device.

    Now this term really comes from my rowing coaching background, however it seems to work well in the classroom as well, much to my surprise. Traditionally a lot of teachers might have said pens down in order to get students attention, so this phrase is used in the same way, to get students to stop working and listen. In iPad only schools I have read that some teachers use the phrase “APPLES DOWN”‘ which means to place your iPad face down, therefore making it impossible for students to play with it rather than listening. I really like this, however it didn’t suit our mixed device school. So ‘hands off’it was. When I introduced this to kids, it was important to make very clear what I wanted them to do, like any classroom management strategy, clarity on expectations is essential. I expect my students to stop typing, take their hands off their devices completely and to look at me. I have always used the phrase “Eyes this way”, and this seems to fit well with Hands Off.


  • Edmodo for Workflow                                                                                         Last year I experimented with using Facebook as a means to communicate with my students and as a way to send them additional information. However this year, I have moved to using Edmodo. It has so many more functions that make it an invaluable tool in my teaching of byod classes. Ability to post notes/messages, Internet links (which can include google drive docs, Dropbox links, YouTube etc), Actual documents, online self marked quizzes, polls, calendar and so much more.  It also has communities (groups) for our own pd which has yielded some great resources and sharing from all over the world.


  • Consistency in Procedures
    It took me most of a term to get this one really sorted when I realised something quite substantial. Students who are in our BYOD pilot classes (in its first year of the program) are not necessarily adept with technology. This was a major assumption! Obviously parents had a significant impact on decision making with regards to opting into these classes. So once I had this aphifany (which should have been far more obvious to me), I realised I actually have to teach technology as well as Health and PE! When I had figured out what I wanted my students to do, it was far easier to clearly plan for teaching these skills within my lessons. For example, I decided all students would use a google doc as their book. Getting all students to have set this up in folders in their google drive and shared with me was a significant achievement! (due to such a wide variety of ability with technology)

Some would suggest that students should select the app or program that best suits them, however without students having experienced many different types they are unable to make effective decisions about which to use. Obviously I provide activities within lessons where students have some choice on what to use, however for their main set of notes I have found the google doc to be the best. One of my goals throughout the year is to expose students to using different apps/websites to do various tasks and also to provide opportunities for students to share things that they find useful.

So my procedure with my class is now this.
* sign onto the wifi.
* open edmodo
* open the lesson that I have given them the link to (a view only google doc usually)
* copy this lesson
* open their google book (i encourage them to use the internet rather than the apps.
* paste in their lesson and get started if there are self directed tasks at the beginning.
* students also know to copy the most recent lesson at the top of their google book rather than the bottom, that way if you want to check their work you don’t have to scroll through everything to get to the most recent work.

Having this procedure means students don’t muck around when they arrive and if as a teacher you are coming from the other side of the school, they can get started without you. Using a procedure helps to make those expectations far clearer and the start of your lessons smoother. Whatever your procedure is, make it clear and repeat those expectations until they have gotten the hang of it.

  • Technology Mixed Ability Groups
    After the afore mentioned aphifany I also started to use mixed ability groups a lot more. This enabled the higher ability students to help those with little technology experience and keep them more on track with the lesson. One tool I use is the Team Shake App which will randomly select groups of any number for you. You can also identify ability levels of students and it will create groups where high and low ability students are spread amongst the groups. I use this in PE (practical setting) and for classroom activities as well. A fantastic time saving app (ipad app).

Please comment on this blog if there are strategies that you have used and find really useful in your BYOD classes.

PechaKucha Revisited with BYOD class

I have just returned to teaching in term two after maternity leave. Changes in our timetabling has meant that students are not in all the same core  classes with each other.  As a result students in my Health and PE classes know one or two others but that is about it. We are beginning a unit on Sexuality Education, and it was really difficult to get any meaningful discussions going. So I decided to do Pechakucha’s again.  One of my previous posts explains Pechakucha’s in far more detail. 

This particular class was a BYOD class (bring your own device), so they had access to technology. This meant that I could get students to do the task for homework, rather than spending a couple of lessons in an overbooked computer lab!  So I introduced the concept to them and away we went.  Now its not until you do something new like this and are about to execute it that you realise the flaw in your thinking. As students had a range devices, I thought it best that they choose the app or program that best suited them.  When it came time to present them, we had a problem, connecting their device to the projector! Now if we were an ipad school, I guess you would connect to an apple tv, but unfortunately were not.  We managed to have one student present that lesson, it was the only other student in the class who had an ipad4 and so could connect via my ipad adapter (ipad4 adapters are differnt to any previous ipads! )  So I asked students to email me their presentations.  Today we managed to show two more presentations successfully.  We will continue to do this with a few students each week. 

What continues to amaze me is that students put photos of themselves at young ages and of their family, which I thought maybe they would be too embarressed to do.  I am loving the fact that they are enjoying sharing with their class who they are, their families, what they are in to and what they want to do in the future.

I’m sure we will probably have issues showing some presentations again before we complete the whole class, however I believe its worth the effort.  And for those who are venturing down the path of byod, you quickly realise it is more about problem solving and back up plans than anything else.  If you have had similar experiences with byod please share your suggestions/solutions by commenting. 🙂 

My First PBL module, a work in progress

Thank you for reading my blog. I would love feedback, comments and advice on this post. Please add your ideas to the google doc through the link below or comment on the post. All contributors will be acknowledged and the work shared.

I am about to start a fitness module with our junior students and I really want to move away from the boring runs and fitness circuits driven mainly by the teacher. I also want to improve the learning on the fitness topic for all students but especially those that continue on into senior PE. So I thought I would try a Project Based Learning approach.

After reading quite a bit about PBL’s and a lot of contemplation, I finally came up with my driving question:


I want students to learn about:
Fitness components, what they are and which are used for different sporting activities
Training methods and program’s
Basic training principles
Explore training program’s and technology available for training program’s etc.

This is where I am at, being quite unsure how to write the module from here. I envisage introducing the module and getting students in groups to make a list of questions that they need to answer in order to answer the overall question. If they find this hard I may need to provide to starting questions to get them started. Then the lessons would involve activities that I believe they need to experience to help them answer their questions along with lessons that they request to do, to do the same thing.

I see this being a group project that will involve technology to make the whole groupwork process more effective. There will be small parts of the lesson dedicated to discussion and working on their project, but there will inevitably be work required to complete at home.

I am unsure what I want them to create as their final product to show their learning. They could choose from a list of options or I could stipulate a specific requirement (which is what I am leaning towards). Possible Ideas are an advertisement, a blog post on a class site, a poster, podcast, ppoint presentation, a video/fitness session (as instructors), ???

There is also the possibility in the future to use an eportfolio to show evidence of the process they take to complete the project and obviously the learning going on along the way. For this year however I might just stick to the main part.

This I Believe Project

This is a really neat idea that I came accross through an Edmodo webinar that I watched recently.  The “This I Believe Project is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives.”   Basically the project gets the students to write a short essay on a belief that they have. One of the things we are wanting to improve in our Physical Education students are their literacy skills, written and verbal and this task seems like a nice way to work toward that goal.  Also what I like about it is that it is meant to be a positive belief, which keeps the focus a happier one.  Here are the project guidelines the website suggests which can easily be put into assignment instructions.  The project could be completed in written form or as a podcast and uploaded to a class website/edmodo group.  For those of you integrating technology into your lessons, there is a lot you could do with this to help students explore their beliefs. ( eg online surveys, brainstorms etc)

And so my initial thoughts were that this would be a really nice task that would fit into our junior health programe in the Wellbeing module. Then while trying to get to sleep last night I kept thinking that it could be used in so many other topics that we teach in both Health and PE.  Not only that, I thought surely it could be linked to the English department so it becomes a cross curricular task.  That would be really awesome.  If doing it on a PE topic obviously it is complimentary to your practical and doesn’t need to be done in class time.  It could be done as an assignment over a module or a term, with brief discussions during class.


I think its really important to give students an example.  You could give them the link to the website for them to read or listen to others or you could do one yourself, maybe this would help to build a really positive relationship with our students and it also gives us a really good understanding of the tasks difficulty. 

So here are some possible topic ideas for this project.

* Wellbeing – What is a positive belief you have about wellbeing/health?  Nutrition/Exercise/Spirituality etc
* Sexuality Education – What is a belief you have about love? / Relationships / Friendships

Physical Education
* General – What is a positive belief that you have about Physical Education in school? / Physical Activity in general?
*Fitness – What positive beliefs do you have about fitness?
* Team Building – what positive beliefs do you have about how teams work? Or more specifically about communication/leadership etc.  This almosts links well to senior PE for Achievement Standard 1.7.

With the topic choice you could be as general or specific as you want.  I think I would leave it broad and then for those students who are struggling to get started you could give some more specific sub topics.

I would love to gather more ideas and thoughts on this.  So please share with me by adding a comment.