Last week we explored the importance of consistency before the lesson begins, which, if you are interested, you can read here. There is still an ongoing discussion on the importance of warming up before the activity, and you read about my thoughts on this subject from two weeks ago. This week, we are going to discuss consistency during the lesson. If done well, students will not only make connections to themes from the classroom in PE, they will make connections from PE lesson to PE lesson. When students are able to connect PE lesson to PE lesson, they are connecting the classroom concepts as well, and a more complete learning is happening in those special moments.
Why Colors are so Important
After spending a little bit of time in the Montessori classroom, it becomes obvious that colors have significant meaning within the materials that the students use. They convey an extra layer of information that serve as through lines from work to work. An excellent example of the use of color is in our math materials. Green, red, and blue are used to symbolize units, tens, and hundreds, and this theme is repeated over and over again in the math materials. It becomes a foundational piece that anchors the student as they move from concept to concept. Once they learn the color system, they always have that information at their disposal.
We want to create the same type of foundational structure with color anytime we can in PE. This underscores the importance of having jerseys or pennies as one of your gym materials. They are often overlooked because we concentrate on sports balls or apparatuses, but having plenty of different colored jerseys is a key component to your successful Montessori PE program. They do not have to be expensive or have numbers or writing on the; thin mesh jerseys work perfectly fine. So many of the lessons within Montessori PE rely on using color to convey information, so the jerseys are a must have material for the PE classroom.
While there are so many ways that the PE instructor can decide to use color within their lessons, one of the most successful ways has been by using blue to symbolize cold, and red to symbolize heat. There are many lessons within volume two that use the concepts of heat and cold as a driver for movement and change within the lesson. Having those color concepts repeat over and over gives the students a clue as to the function of the role they will be playing within the game. While those colors don’t always represent those concepts, when they do, it gives the students the ability to see the connection from one lesson to another.
One of my proudest moments was hearing a first grade girl say, “The red jerseys were heat (in the Layers of the Earth game) the way that they were in that other tag game (States of Matter tag).” Because of this observation, she made a connection between the role of heat in transforming states of matter and how heat acts as an engine within the layers of the Earth. In the classroom, she may hear about this connection, or see a chart or read a book, but she got to feel this connection in a game as well. If she is a kinesthetic learner, this may be the light bulb moment that facilitated her learning of the functions of heat.
Another way to have consistency in the PE classroom is to find certain materials that make it easy for the students to see the symbolism behind the activity. Whether it is the size or shape of an implement, sometimes they work perfectly to symbolize a concept within the lesson. A classic example is a special type of ball most commonly referred to as a tail ball. It is a soft, baseball-looking ball that has a long cloth stitched to it that looks like a tail protruding from the ball itself. It is a wonderful material because it can be used successfully by multiple ages. Older students, or those proficient in catching, will go for the ball when catching, but the tail gives some room for error for catching with younger ages. They may miss the ball, but grab the tail, thereby still successfully catching the ball. The same can be said for throwing the ball. If there is an activity that requires throwing the ball for long distances or very fast, the ball adapts to novice and experienced users. Older students can throw the ball like a baseball, while younger students can swing the ball by its tail, and with the correct release trajectory, have a massive throw.
What I also like about the tail ball is that it looks just like a comet when it flies through the air. If you are doing any type of lesson on celestial bodies, you now have a wonderful implement that can symbolize comets, and it genuinely looks like a comet as it flies through the air. For younger students, this becomes a significant point of interest, which certainly captures the imagination of those playing.
Consistency within the lesson, when done well, transmits so much more information nonverbally. Not only can it be a timesaver when students understand the color schemes or the implements being used, but also it enhances connections that they may be making within our Montessori PE lesson. That is the essential goal of Montessori PE; we are striving to integrate the classroom curriculum with our PE curriculum. Anything that helps the students understand the connections between the classroom and PE is serving that mission and taking your PE lessons to the next level.