Finding Praise in PE – @ImSporticus

In a recent post I wrote about the Sutton Trust and Praise, specifically in PE. It was a long, rambling windy post where I finally got to my own practice at the bottom. This was what I thought:

1. Task associated Praise – (link my praise to the key teaching points of the task).

Well done Jimmy that was an excellent tackle because you kept low – eyes to thighs.

A very good tackle Bobby because you went cheek to cheek and ended up on top of him in a safe position

An effective tackle Sammy because your arms made a ring of steel around his legs and took away his balance

Well done Harry that was a great tackle because you didn’t stop at the point of contact and followed through with your shoulder and body

2. Effort associated Praise (linking effort and success together).

Well done Jimmy your tackles are becoming better because of the practice you are putting. Don’t give up now.

That last tackle Bobby was your best one yet, because you were committed and put effort into it.

Keep working at that level and intensity Sammy, your tackles are becoming more effective because of it.

Harry, you haven’t give up yet and that is brilliant, your tackling will improve with that fantastic approach.

3. Being prepared to move students on to a harder/more complex task if they are successful

Kneeling tackle to stationary target

Squatting tackle to stationary target

Squatting tackle to walking target

Standing tackle to walking target

Standing tackle to jogging target

Full 1 v 1 tackling

If students perform this very well immediately, I shall endeavour not to praise them but move them onto the next tackling progression.

I shall set up a ‘tackling clinic’ area. If students feel they need extra help they are to come to this area and either myself or a student who is able to will give them 1 to 1 advice, feedback and practice. I shall try this that giving unrequested help. I shall only intervene if i see a lack of effort or issues with safety.

I took my experience, the reading of research and my thoughts of praise into my Year 7 Rugby lesson which was focussing on tackling. Due to the rain, cold and the limited amount of lean muscle mass that my Year 7 group have, I made the call and took them in early. Once they had dried off and warmed up I took them into the gym and decided to get some feedback about the quality of my praise in the lesson, and decided to record the conversation on my phone. Whilst not the most physically able bunch of students I have taught, they are all very cerebral. The feedback I received was honest and completely unexpected.

Their feedback on my praise:

  • Initially they felt the praise I gave them about their effort was motivating and encouraging, especially due to the poor weather and the contact which most of them didn’t like.
  • However I used it too much and they stop listening, especially as I gave everyone some praise about their effort.
  • They thought my praise was directed at something they were doing. Other teachers just say ‘well done’.
  • Some like the task associated praise as it reminded them of the key teaching points.
  • Others didn’t like the task associated praise not because it wasn’t useful, but as they were concentrating on the tackling so much they didn’t hear it.
  • They liked being moved on to a different task immediately If they were good at the one I had set. 1 student said this was very motivating for him, others murmured agreement

So I asked them what they would prefer:

  • To continue to be enthusiastic about what they were doing
  • They all wanted me to try speak to them individually about what they were doing, then I could praise them about their effort or their performance for task. They all thought this was better than me shouting out my praise to all to hear.
  • 3 students were happy if I told them what I saw and they tried to interpret what they needed to improve
  • One student questioned If I had to say anything at all
  • They want me to keep using the progressions if they get something immediately.

This requires a shift in my thinking and practice (at least with how I use praise with this specific class of Year 7 students).

So what are my take home messages from this experience:

  • Consider if I need to say anything in the first place. If I do;
  • Try to give it direct to the individual, not for the benefit of the class
  • Do not over use it
  • Focus more on using task associated praise, but try to use questioning to get the student to verbalise it instead of offering my opinion
  • Moving a student, or a group of students directly on to the next task without doing it for the whole class can be considered as praise by the students

However what I won’t be trying to change is showing enthusiasm for students being active, demonstrating effort and enjoying being physical within lessons.

Link to @ImSpoticus Blog

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Written by ImSporticus
On the first day in my current school I sat down next to a colleague and began to introduce myself as the new Teacher of PE. She kindly smiled at me, pointed to the opposite side of the common room, and said sweetly ‘I know. The shallow side is over there.’ I’ve been drowning ever since.

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