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Literacy standards and physical education

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In this video, Mangere College heads of English and health and PE, Sandy Harris and Nikki Johnson, describe a cross curricular approach to introducing literacy unit standards and gathering naturally occurring evidence across both learning areas.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

The teachers involved visited one another’s classes throughout to ensure the students understood the links between their work in English and PE. For example, if they were learning how to play volleyball and score in PE they might look at rules and history of volleyball in English.

Nikki talks about gathering evidence of oral interactions in PE. What approaches do you currently use in or across departments to collect evidence of oral interactions in your programmes? What technologies might help you and your students record and store this evidence?


The English department recognised very early on through the ASTTLE results and the assessment data that we collected in year ten, that there were a group of students who would struggle to achieve the achievement standards especially with the new matrix coming out. So we wanted to design a course that would meet the needs of those students. When I had a little look at the proposal for the alternative unit standards online, I thought that was one way we could try and meet those needs.

These students are students who struggle with their reading and writing. Traditionally we probably would place them in classes who were doing the old unit standards the 8808s and practical English standards like 2977. But with the move to the new matrix we wanted to try to find an alternative pathway for these students to follow. They were small classes. Both classes were less than twenty students (between 15 and 20). We also micromanaged the course very closely (between) the English department and the PE department. English focused on doing work towards the reading and writing standards. The speaking and participation standard was done by the PE department.

At first this was quite daunting for the PE department. Literacy is not normally associated with PE. But after discussions within department meetings we realised how valuable this was and giving the students another opportunity to get their literacy assessments and literacy credits.

It was better explaining how to play sport in PE than doing speeches in front of a whole class.

In PE for my speaking assessment had to I was a referee for badminton had to explain my rules, explain the rules to the group.

Within our core PE lessons we assess students verbally for the achievement standards within our core PE program. So students may have to demonstrate self management strategies. The students that are also involved in the literacy program we will interview them, question them in the same way as the other students - however these students are highlighted on the assessment sheet that the PE staff have. And then they may ask just a few more probing questions about what they've done, how they've set their group up, etc in order to achieve the PE assessment and the literacy assessment.

The most exciting thing about English that we did was going to the museum. Looking at the clips and how the All Blacks were playing. Especially when we learned about (the) South African tour to New Zealand. How there was a big controversy about that, and flour bombs put on us in our games.

We tried really hard to make sure that students knew there was a link between English and PE. Nikki frequently came into the classroom so they saw that connection between her and myself. With some of the visits that Nikki made into the classroom we got the students to explain to her what they were doing in English so they could take that bit of information back to the PE department. Couple of the things that we've also been doing we looked at, “Why do PE?” and we made some posters with some text on it with a bit of writing to follow up and were giving those to the PE department to put on their noticeboard. So the students have got some work that they've done in English but it's displayed in the gym.

If we don’t pass we keep on trying until we get our work to the bit our teacher wants us to be at.

One of the really exciting things about this course is that it's not assessment driven.

The thing in English that was different was we didn't have big assignments and exams in our class to pass our literacy.

We could just focus on enjoying English, enjoying the reading and writing the topics we were doing, and making sure that we engaged the students. From my experience (and my colleague in the English department who had the other class) it really engaged us with the students as well.

Published on: 22 Jul 2012