Teaching Theory Through Practical

I am sure we would all agree that the current specifications for GCSE PE theory are not the most inspiring and I believe this is one of the good things to come out of the new specifications is that the theory content is much more substantial, relevant and interesting. Generally the majority of my GCSE PE students are visual and/or kinesthetic learners therefore standing up in front of the class lecturing them is only going to have a limited impact. At the start of the year I always have a look at the specification and see where I can teach the theory through a practical lesson. I find this can have more impact on the students and in particular help with their recall of certain topics. In this blog I am going to highlight what I might do for certain topics to teach the theory through the practical.
The participant as an individual is not the easiest topic to do this with but certainly the area of risk and challenge can be taught practically. I have had students undertake risk assessments by coming into a facility that I have set up prior to the lesson with deliberate risks set out. I would then get students to take part in an activity that they have not possibly taken part in before and not go through the rules etc so they can identify the dangers as the activity develops.
If you have students undertaking the double award they will need to know first aid and emergency arrangements so this can be done practically where students act as physios and they have to deal with the various types of injuries from an ankle sprain to concussion.
The anaerobic and aerobic system can be taught practically by using the athletics track. Students could take part in various activities such as getting students to conduct 6 x 30 metre sprints for anaerobic, 3 x 300 metre runs for lactic acid system and then a 1500 metre for aerobic system. If you have heart rate monitors available this would be a great opportunity to use them so students can see how hard they are working and this should mirror how they feel in the activity.
The circulatory system can be taught by having students wearing red and blue bibs or using red and blue card. Set the students out with six areas labelled lungs, heart, brain, legs, arms, stomach. Sit two students at each area with four at the heart, two on each side. The rest of the class are given bibs or pieces of card – red on one side, blue on the other, representing oxygen-rich and deoxygenated blood. Send one student off first, circulating the body. Start from one side of the heart, choose a part of the body (e.g. legs) to go to, taking red blood. At the legs area, give to one person at that area, who turns the card over, passes it to the other person, who then returns the deoxygenated blood to the carrier. That person then returns to the other side of the heart where the blood card is passed through the two students and back to the carrier, who is directed to the lungs. At the lungs area, the lung volunteers turn the card over, so it becomes once again oxygen-rich. They then send the carrier back to the heart where the cycle begins again and they are directed to another part of the body. Once the path is clear, gradually add in more carriers until you have the complete blood cycle going round the sportshall. At intervals, ask for students to freeze and question students about what type of blood they are carrying, where it is coming from and where they are going to.
The cardiovascular system can be taught by having the students wearing heart rate monitors and getting students to work in specific training zones. I am lucky to have a spinning room at my school so it is a great facility to do this with as students can see how hard they are working by projecting their heart rate onto the television screen. Students then have a much better understanding of the different training zones. You could also incorporate diet into that lesson by having various food types at the front of the class and if students burn off enough calories during the lesson they are allowed to take a food item equivalent to those calories burnt off. This gives the students a great understanding of how much exercise and the intensity of the exercise required to burn off a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps.
Components of fitness is another topic, which can be taught practically. Get students to conduct the various tests and record their results. This gives them a much better understanding of how to conduct the test and what it actually tests rather than giving a powerpoint. I believe there is still a link on the BBC sport website in which students can enter some of the test results in and it gives students their top five sports based on their test results. I also link this with my top trump cards (see previous posts) to consolidate learning and students understanding of what sports require certain components of fitness.
Principles of training is a further topic, which can be taught practically particularly if you have access to a fitness suite or gym. Students can undertake the different methods of training or they can focus on one method of training and then they have to explain and teach their peers that method of training. Again, this gives the students a better understanding of what sports and performers would use certain types of training.
I am not a huge fan of role play but social factors such as the role and influence of the media and the role and influence of sponsors could be taught this way. Students could act as presenters for Sky Sports News attempting to influence their peers or take on the role of selling Nike footwear to an up and coming performer.
I think it is important to vary your theory teaching content so it does not become the same type of lesson where the students are making notes from the teacher stood at the front of the class as I believe over time those lessons all get merged into one great big lesson where it is harder for the students to recall the information. This is why I try using methods like morphsuits for the skeletal and muscular system, top trumps for components of fitness and practical lessons where possible so ultimately the students have more chance of recalling the information when needed.
As always I would be interested to hear of other PE colleagues that use practical methods to teach certain aspects of theory lessons particularly those that I have not mentioned in this blog.

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