Using Foldable lap books to improve theory retention in GCSE PE

This guest post was written by Dana Abdulkarim @DanaABDUL.


In September 2014 we moved to whole cohort GCSE PE study, in order to preserve and ensure a high quality curriculum including PE at Key Stage 4. Previously whole cohorts studied the BTEC First award – the inclusion of the online exam has made this no longer a viable option. We have over 220 students in present Y10 and whilst a great number would have selected GCSE PE as an option, we have a varied spectrum of physical and theoretical competence. At the highest level, we have students who have surpassed 4 levels progress at Key Stage 3 and play sport to a high level (ideal PE candidates) and at the lowest, students without a ‘love’ for practical PE and entry level data below level 3 from Key Stage 2 SATs. Students have 2 hours of GCSE PE a week, one practical and one theory (Edexcel syllabus).

I teach two classes, one with 26 girls and the other with 31. Target grades within these groups range from A* – G, with 15% Pupil Premium. The challenges in theory lessons have been enabling access to the learning for all to ensure maximal learning and retention; supporting reluctant learners to organise their notes more coherently and tackling the very poor literacy levels within the group (some learners have reading comprehension ages below 11 years). As a teacher I try to teach using various methods and strategies, I am open to the use of technology and use a number of recognised ‘best practice’ techniques that are common place in sound pedagogy. I had come across the idea of foldable lap books via a colleague @jk_graves in Science 12 months ago; she presented their use and merit with nurture group Key Stage 3 science lessons and was able to demonstrate the impact on learning, engagement and retention for testing successfully with a small group of educationally vulnerable students. Besides being impressed by their impact I chose not to include this strategy in my teaching at the time. The move to whole cohort classroom teaching forced me to look at my own practice in the classroom and question the appropriateness of my approach with groups not 100% sold on studying my subject. In end of unit tests prior to trying this method, those students that would’ve opted to study PE performed as expected, they were highly engaged and motivated to demonstrate their theoretical competence; students more reluctant were performing below target level consistently and their work showed a lack of clarity in their knowledge and ability to link theory ideas. I also teach these classes Monday period 1 and Monday period 5, so enthusiasm and positivity can sometimes be still in bed or thinking about post school naps!

What are Foldable lap books?

There is a lot of information online about foldable learning, a great slideshow is available here; but essentially it is a 3D learning tool that encourages creative, interactive learning resources that organises student work to be something that they can use to refer back to. The key ‘hook’ is their ability to generate independent learning and the malleability to create any design necessary given the content. They are a kinaesthetic learning task and the use of colour and ‘folds’ supports the pedagogy needs of vulnerable learners.

What we did

I wanted students to create a foldable that would include all the key knowledge and underpinning theory that they needed for the respiratory system (1.2.4). In order to do this the first task was to design a WAGOLL including the essential content. Given the concept of a foldable was new to most students in the room I made the decision to be somewhat didactic with the design, in future I hope to allow more open license to the design after agreeing the content (success criteria). Students created a shutter fold with four mini doors.

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The syllabus asks for students to understand the respiratory system in four key areas:

1. Functions of the system and key definitions
2. Immediate effects of exercise on the system
3. Long term adaptations of exercise and the benefits to the system
4. The effects of smoking

Students also need to know and understand Oxygen debt and lactic acid. That is it! It is a very basic expectation, however the syllabus expects students to also ‘know and appreciate’ a great deal of underpinning theory:

• Mechanics of breathing
• Gaseous exchange
• Aerobic respiration
• Anaerobic respiration

The latter theory above is crucial in being able to appreciate the subtle differences of the former essential ‘syllabus content’ – it was here with the underpinning expected baseline knowledge that vulnerable learners were coming unstuck. They were finding the scientific application confused their notes and they found it hard to organise their ideas.

All underpinning supporting theory was added to the back of the foldable (mechanics of breathing and gaseous exchange) and the inside middle space (aerobic and anaerobic respiration), which was linked to oxygen debt and identifying sports and sporting actions that utilise different respiration. The doors were for the essential ‘syllabus content’.

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Following my instructions, students cut out their own doors and folds and got creative with the presentation. Students were encouraged to use imagery in place of text on doors with text beneath thus creating an immediate learning tool. The content, whilst I had decided upon the structure was left to students to create after discussions/ direct teaching/ demonstrations/ role play to draft in their work books and transfer to the foldable. I used all the resources I would normally use but in a way that demanded students listen, note take, select and manipulate to make sense personally. Peer checking of content happened after each mini stage of design. More able students were selected as ‘foldable experts’ to help teach theory or suggest content design to those struggling.

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Impact and reflection

Normally I would teach this area of the syllabus over 3 or 4 lessons with a test at the end. Using the foldable took the same amount of lesson time, 4, with the test at the start of the 5th lesson. Student voice during the learning was positive with the groups highly motivated. Many of the more able students in the group at first questioned the method, but found that they enjoyed it with comments like, ‘this is already making my revision notes’ and ‘I am going to do this with the cardiovascular system we just did’ commonplace. Similarly, they enjoyed taking on roles to help others, I think they enjoyed that the usually reluctant and poorly motivated students were engaged. Students that were more vulnerable also praised the strategy, they too valued the creativity element and some commented that they knew ‘a bit more about how they learn better with pictures rather than words now’ achat de viagra belgique.
As a school we encourage using images in place of words a lot, but it wasn’t until the foldable task that they ‘got it’! In terms of the impact on test results, the data suggests that it was on the whole positive. Most students improved their test average grade by 10% or more from the previous cardiovascular system test (similar content expectation). The area where this strategy had most impact was with those students that often scored between 40-50% in tests, C-E grade students. In this band some students improved by up to 40% from previous tests. The most able benefitted from the clarity of their notes to learn from as they too improved by an average 6%. Where the foldable appeared to make little or no significant impression was for students averaging 10 – 25% in tests, F-U grade students. Whilst they were better in the multiple choice recall questions, they still struggled where they had to consider the underpinning knowledge and apply this to a sporting scenario. Interventions have been put in place for these students working alongside in-house learning support strategies to increase access to learning by challenging their literacy gaps. A subject specific dictionary and definition cards are one example.
Obviously student achievement in the test cannot fully demonstrate the impact of the foldable, students are becoming more ‘test savvy’ and are starting to understand how to approach the question (BUSY exam question preparation). We have also done lots of work to improve their ability to tackle the 6 mark question using ‘IDEA answering’ developed from work by David Fawcett. I think as a learning tool it has merit, I am using it with my Y11 GCSE option group as they start to prepare for the summer examination. For some more complicated elements of the curriculum I might look to use this again to help students organise their ideas, similarly if I set a ‘choice presentation’ homework ‘creating a foldable’ might now be an option. I am adapting the ‘interactive learning tool’ idea to the display wall – I am presently recreating the respiratory system foldable as a display, who knew pizza boxes could be the perfect shape to create doors?!

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