Backwards Design with the Standards in Mind: 4-S Approach to Planning Sport and Team-Based Activities

4-S Approach to Planning Team-Based Activities or Sport

Curriculum mapping. Standards-based grading. Mastery-based education. Competencies. Proficiency scales. Rubrics. Assessments. Am I hitting many of the terms you are hearing emphasized in today’s education circles? Well, good. These are important terms worth recognizing, reflecting upon, and refining teaching practices for.

In a series of blogs titled “Backwards Design with the Standards in Mind,” I will share program planning strategies, tips, and templates learned or refined through these professional development opportunities.

While processing some of this recent professional development, I kept coming back to one of my favorite sayings: “Backwards design with the standards in mind.” It is something I came up with a long time ago to help me remember to use the backwards design process, also known as Understanding by Design from Wiggins & McTighe, along with my national and state standards when planning. I use the “4-S” approach as an additional tool when planning for sport or team-based activities.

How does this “4-S” approach work?

My learning targets can be narrowed down to fall under the umbrella of four “s” words when it comes to teaching sports or team-based activities, and these link to the national standards. These four “s” words are learning target categories I deem most important when teaching a sport or team activity. What do I want students to know and be able to do? I select the most important learning target for each “s” category.

The “4-S” Approach to Planning Sport or Team-Based Activities

  • SKILL(links to National P.E. Standard 1)
    What is the most important skill I want this group to work on? We will work on other skills, of course, but what is my area of emphasis? What is my progression?
    SERVING – Another skill I add during tennis, pickleball and volleyball. I want students to know how to put the ball in play in order for a game to materialize.
  • STRATEGY(links to National P.E. Standard 2)
    What is the most important strategy I want to emphasize with this grade level? What is my progression and what was emphasized in previous years?
  • SPORTSMANSHIP(links to National P.E. Standard 4 & 5)
    Good sportsmanship is essential. For me, this can often times be the most important learning outcome as it doesn’t matter how good a student is if they aren’t fun to play with. My students need to learn how to play well with others in both competitive or cooperative settings. There are many ways to emphasize different aspects of sportsmanship throughout your teaching. What does it mean to be a good teammate? How can you handle disputes during game play?
  • SCORING(links to National P.E. Standard 4)
    Simply put, this is basic game-play knowledge. How do you play this game? What are the basic rules and etiquette students must know?

Example: 8th Grade Tennis Unit Learning Targets

GPHR OvrSz Alum TnsRqt MODEL pg164 42
  • SKILL: I can demonstrate the mature form of forehand and backhand strokes with power and accuracy. (S1.M14)
  • SERVING: I can execute consistently a legal underhand serve in games (at least 70% of the time). (S1.M12)
  • STRATEGY: I can vary the placement, force, and timing of my shot to prevent anticipation by my opponent. (S2.M8)
  • SPORTSMANSHIP: I maintain my self-control. I can cooperate with my peers and play within the spirit of the game. (S5.M6)
  • SCORING: I can play by the rules and self-officiate. (S4.M6)

So, the next time you’re in a planning rut or need a new approach to planning for your sport or team-based activities, try the “4-S” approach to keep things simple and focused. Utilizing the K.I.S.S. principle philosophy is essential as I can sometimes get overwhelmed with all that I want students to know and be able to do. I have to remind myself this is a normal feeling. To refrain from freezing up from the overwhelm think “backwards design with the standards in mind” and use the “4-S” approach to re-focus and simplify your planning.

Lastly, remember you’re not alone in your professional development journey. There is support in the physical education profession for helping to refine, refresh, and re-evaluate your program and planning practices. I’m thankful for the support our professional learning network provides. The power of social media platforms (such as Voxer, Twitter, and Google), SHAPE America’s Exchange, and the many blogs and podcasts so many organizations provide (such as Gopher Sport) continues to make our profession stronger each day.

You can contact me anytime. I’m happy to help however I can or connect you with other professionals and resources that will support you to help make your physical education program better. That’s why I’m here! Connect with me on Twitter @JessicaShawley

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