By HANNAH PARR
March 13, 2020. The last day that staff and students would be in the building for the 2019-2020 school year. No one knew how long this would last. No one was prepared to switch over to an all virtual environment. Fast forward to September 2020. Students are still virtual. New ideas were being proposed every week of new ways to be able to help reach and teach these students but the one topic that was always a question for me was: how am I going to teach PE virtually? A job where I am face to face with students every day, teaching them skills and getting them physically active, I now have to teach online. I’ve never done this before.
My school district does not require students to have their cameras on during Zoom classes. Though I respect the privacy of the students and families in their own homes, it does make my job as a PE teacher more difficult. I was told that the elementary school teachers were still doing physical activities with their students on Zoom and could see them doing exercises too. It was articulated to me students were excited to participate in P.E. Well, the challenge of middle school, is that not everyone is excited to be there all the time nor do some students want to do anything physically active. I can probably count on one hand the student faces that I saw each day out of 180 students. I don’t even think I can average that out to 1 face per class. So, in my head, I’m thinking: there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to be going through and doing these workouts with them on the camera like the elementary school when I can’t even see them. I have two reasons for this:
- Because I could not see the students, I didn’t know what they were doing. I did not want them recording me doing these activities (by myself) and using them for whatever memes or jokes that their creative little minds could come up with.
- And...I felt I would be giving way more effort than what I would be receiving in return. So, I had to come up with a way to teach them physical skills and get them physically active.
I spent a a lot amount of time teaching students about fitness concepts such as health & skill related fitness components, heart rate, and FITT Principle. I created workout logs for them to complete in order to get them up and moving (on their own time & pace) and to give them a break from their technology. I provided workout exercises and workout videos from YouTube that they could follow along with that didn’t require any equipment. Some students even asked if their team sports practices could count towards their logs, which I encouraged! My main focus was to get them up and moving and away from their screens. I thought this was working well, but knew I needed to do more in order to evaluate individual skills to stay on track with the standards grading process. But how was I going to grade them on physical skills when I wasn’t even seeing their faces on the screen? I tried doing breakout rooms and I would pop in and have them show me their skill and I got either no response, or some students logged off before I got to them. That’s when I discovered Flip Grid.FlipGrid Saves the Day
Flip Grid allowed me to post a prompt, about demonstrating a certain skill, and allow students to respond to that prompt by recording a video of themselves discussing and completing the skill. It allows them to complete the video on their own time and at their own pace. It allows me to see them performing the skill and provide specific feedback to them – I can write a response back to them, or I could record a response back to them and actually show them how to improve on their skill. It took students a little while to catch up, but it has definitely improved the longer I’ve used it. I wish I would have discovered it sooner. I plan on, and look forward to, using flip grid in a variety of ways in my future lessons, both virtually and in person.
Here are some examples I have used this quarter to assess skills.
Hannah Parr is a Health, P.E. and Team Sports teacher currently working at Easton Middle School in Easton, MD.