The Striking & Fielding Games Teacher Pack
by Joey Feith
I haven’t written a full Teacher Pack blog post in a while and I have to say that I was pretty pumped to sit down and write this one!
If you’re unaware of what these teacher packs are all about, they’re showcases of how I design standards-based units for my students. I’ll be walking you through the entire process step-by-step from selecting the appropriate grade-level outcomes to sequencing the lessons and learning.
Before we dive into this, I wanted to let you know that I have put together an online course that can help you learn how to master standards-based instructional design. The course is hosted on my #PhysEdU online learning platform and will be on sale until the end of the year. Just use the code “LEARNWITHJOEY” at checkout to save $20 on your registration.
Side note: I just recorded an episode of The #PhysEd Show Podcast to complement this blog post. If you’re not already, be sure to subscribe to my podcast to never miss out on future episodes! (Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Anchor)
Alright, let’s dive into this monster post!
Table of Contents
The Striking & Fielding Games Unit
The unit I am about to walk you through is part of my grade six curriculum and is “normally” (air quotes here because what does “normal” even mean any more?) taught in the fall as our first unit after we have completed our “Welcome Back” lessons.
I like to teach this unit in the fall for a few different reasons:
First off, it jives well with the September/October weather that we have here in Montreal. The gym at my school isn’t huge, so it’s a perfect unit for mostly-outside lessons.
Second, the tactical complexity of striking and fielding games presents the perfect level of challenge for my students: simple enough that it is within reach for students who are new to these games and rich enough to allow those with experience to dive in pretty deep.
All of this adds up to a unit that the students enjoy and can use to grow their confidence and competence in a noticeable way within a few lessons. Not to mention that we typically wrap the unit up with a full game of baseball at a local baseball diamond on a warm October afternoon! Walk-up songs, ballpark organ music, fans heckling the pitcher (née students laughing at their teacher)… it’s the Grade 6 World Series of Baseball!
Unpacking The Grade-Level Outcomes
This unit is designed around the following student learning objectives from SHAPE America’s National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education:
- Identifies open spaces and attempts to strike the object into that space. (S2.M10.6)
- Identifies the correct defensive play based on the situation (e.g., number of outs). (S2.M11.6)
- Strikes a pitched ball with an implement with force in a variety of practice tasks. (S1.M20.6)
Just a side note: I used to include GLO S1.M2.6 (“Catches, with a mature pattern, from different trajectories using a variety of objects in a varying practice tasks”) in this unit as well, but – as you’ll see once you check out the Unpacking Tree below – it wound up being too much content to cover in a meaningful way. That being said, I’ll still cover catching in less formal way throughout my lessons as it plays an important role in completing defensive plays.
Ok, let’s unpack those three outcomes:
Using the unpacking method that I learned from the one and only Terri Drain and expand on in my #PhysEdU course, I carefully break each GLO down into it’s smallest pieces and try to uncover what students would be able to do, know, and understand if they showed mastery towards those outcomes.
As you can see, it’s a lot of content! It’s important to know that I will not focus on ALL of that content in this unit. That being said, being thorough in the unpacking process gives me a much deeper understanding of where I will be trying to guide my students in this unit. It will help me plan better lessons, design more intentional learning activities, and provide the most effective feedback possible.
As I complete the unpacking process, I become more aware of what I know, kind of know, and really don’t know. Looking at those pieces from a place of curiosity rather than a place of self-judgment helps me continue to deepen my content knowledge and grow as an educator.
In other words, do the work! It pays off in the end.
Determining The Evidence of Learning
With the unpacking work done, it is time to look at what came out of it and determine what learning would look like by asking myself the question “which new behaviours would serve as evidence that learning has taken place here?”
If you haven’t checked out my episode of The #PhysEd Show Vlog in which I break down how I design my learning roadmaps, I’d suggest you check that out. Here’s the video (and here is the detailed show notes post):
As you’ll learn in that video, to build my learning roadmaps, I start off by taking a bird’s eye view of the unpacked content that I pulled from the GLOs. From there, I look at each GLO and determine three priority indicators of student learning. I do my best to select a skills-based one, a knowledge-based one, and an understanding-based one.
These indicators will serve as the evidence of learning for the “Got It” level of my roadmap: the expectation for what learning can look like at that grade-level. From there, I map out the learning journey across other levels by going backward first (i.e. the “Not Yet” and “Getting There” levels) and then jumping forward (i.e. the “Wow” level). The “Wow” level can be a little tricky, so I sometimes take a peek at the same GLO but for the next grade-level up to figure out where I should go.
Once that work is done, I can confidently put together my Learning Roadmap for this unit:
If you’re thinking “Joey, this seems like a lot of work”… then you’re right! It’s tedious to go through this process every time, but it is worth it. Building a Learning Roadmap before creating any other resources/activities for a unit helps give you a crystal clear idea of where students will be going in their learning and will help you create tools that will be more effective in regards to getting students there. Don’t think of it as “work that needs to be done” as much as an investment in your own practice as well as your students’ learning.
Selecting Effective Assessment Tools
Now that I know which evidence of learning I’ll be seeking out in this unit, it’s time to create/select assessment tools that will allow me to capture it.
The first thing I’ll put together is my Numbers Gradebook for this unit. If you don’t know how my updated gradebooks work, then be sure to check out my Meaningful Grades in Physical Education blog post to learn more.
The gradebook is essential as it serves as my home base for all of my assessment. Having it ready before I launch into the lessons means that I can keep it updated as more and more evidence comes in and I can determine where the students are at in their learning.
Although this was done at the start of the year, it will be really important for me to make sure that the students have a “Striking & Fielding Games” folder good to go in their Google Drive-Based digital portfolios (click the link to learn more about how I set these up/manage them throughout the year). There will be a lot of evidence collected throughout this unit, so I’ll need a place to keep it all organized. This is especially true for the video-based evidence that I will gather on students’ striking skills.
In order to help me see where my students are at in regards to their ability to identify open space when striking the object into play, I put together this “Selecting Space” assessment sheet. Although this will be complemented by my observations in class as well as my discussions/question periods with individual students, it is a great resource to help students share their thinking process in regards to offensive tactics in striking and fielding games.
As you can see in the Learning Roadmap, students not only want to be able to identify open space, they also want to be able to strike the ball to that space. The “Striking To An Open Space Recorder” assessment sheet is a self-assessment piece that will help students reflect on how consistent they are in regards to hitting the ball to open space and think about the factors that lead to the ball being hit there (either successfully or unsuccessfully).
The final assessment sheet was designed to help students showcase their ability to select the correct defensive play after taking into account the different factors that may influence defensive decision making. This sheet would be one of the final assessment pieces in the unit as students would need to be able to fully grasp striking and fielding game mechanics as well as the offensive tactics that are a part of those games.
The skill-related GLO that this unit is built on (“Strikes a pitched ball…”) requires me to collect evidence of the skill being performed. The best way to do that is through video and I’ll use a few different tools to get this done:
One of my all-time favourite apps, Coach’s Eye allows you to record and analyze video. The app also has a featured that allows you to record yourself analyzing a video via a built-in screencast feature.
After having my students have a classmate record a video of themselves striking a pinched ball, I’ll have them use Coach’s Eye to analyze their performance by breaking down their technique using the critical elements of the skill. They are asked to record the whole thing using the built-in screencast feature. Once they are done their recording, they AirDrop the final product to my iPad.
Not only does this give me additional evidence of their current skill level, it also provides me with evidence of their knowledge of the critical elements of the skills and well as their understanding of how any evidence of those elements in their performance led to a successful or unsuccessful attempt to strike the pitched ball.
Once I have their video analysis screencast on my iPad, I can review it before dropping it into their Google Drive portfolio.
Flipgrid was a more recent addition to this unit and I have to say that it was pretty great!
Again, students had a classmate record them striking a pitched ball. However, this time the video was recorded directly into a Flipgrid Grid that I had set up for my grade six class. Once everyone had uploaded the video of their performance to the Grid, classmates could watch each other perform the skill and leave feedback via Flipgrid’s comments feature. Students were encouraged to provide feedback that was specific to the critical elements (e.g. “you swung the bat nice and level!”) as opposed to very general, very vague feedback (e.g. “yeeeeeeeeaaaaa booooiiiiiiiiiii”).
Again, this provided me with additional looks at each student’s swing so that I could make a more informed decision in my assessment of their learning progress.
Finally, I usually set aside some time over a few of the lessons to work one-on-one with each student to help them grow their confidence when at bat. It can be easy to forget how stressful being at bat can be (we literally use “striking out” as an every day expression to say we failed) and it can become a big barrier to growth in this unit. It’s important to scaffold the learning here, help students experience some early success, and gradually build their confidence over time.
That being said, when I set up some time to work one-on-one, I usually set up my iPhone on a tripod and try to record a few swings. I use my phone since it has the better camera and shoots 60fps which allows me to review the footage in slow motion later on in a much smoother fashion.
All of this together, in combination with my own observations, leads to a lot of evidence of learning that will allow me to be pretty darn confident in my assessment and as effective as possible in my feedback/instruction.
Designing Learning Activities
As I mentioned earlier, we ultimately cap this unit off with a grade six World Series of Baseball game at a local ballpark. However, there is a lot of work that needs to be done leading up to that day in order to ensure that everyone feels competent and confident enough to get the most out of that activity.
Using the evidence of learning outlined in the Learning Roadmap and knowing the assessment tools that I will want to use to capture that evidence, I then get to work designing a series of modified striking and fielding games that will help my students dive deep into their learning, build their capacity to play with confidence, and have a ton of fun along the way!
RACE TO THE BASES
Race To The Bases is the first game that I typically introduce in this unit. I use this game to help my students learn how to a) successfully strike a ball, b) strike a ball with power, c) attempt to send a ball to an identified open space.
I normally set several games (4-6) of Race To The Bases up side-by-side on our turf field. This keeps the number of players at each game small, which gives each student a maximum amount of practice time with the skills I mentioned above.
Also, after assigning students to their original groups (which are colour-based), I’ll also go around to each group and assign each student there with a number from 1-4 (or 1-6 depending on how many kids there are at each game). This allows me to quickly make new groups half-way through the lesson to keep things fresh and allow students to work with a different set of classmates.
CHUCK THE CHICKEN
Chuck The Chicken is a very different kind of striking and fielding game, but – nonetheless – it is indeed a striking and fielding game.
I use this game to help my students begin to develop their understanding of offensive tactics in this game category. The goal here is to help students understand the value of quickly identifying open space and attempting to send the object to that space.
By replacing the challenge of having to strike the ball to an open space with the ease of throwing a rubber chicken to an open space, Chuck The Chicken makes it easier for students to discover the value of attacking open space while on offence. This idea will continue to exist throughout the unit as we apply it to more and more complex games.
In Whacky Baseball, we will start to look at how to make defensive decisions in striking and fielding games.
In this game, the decision making is pretty simple: get to the ball as quickly as possible and send it to a stop spot. Although that looks simple on paper, it’s not uncommon for students to struggle with being able to react quickly and make that decision. By keeping things simple here, we’re able to build their competence and confidence in a gradual kind of way.
Throughout the game, I’ll randomly call on fielding students and ask them where they would send the ball if it came their way. The idea is to get them to work through that decision making prior to the situation happening so that – when it does happen – they already know what to do.
In Ribby, the focus remains on defensive decision making. In the first build of the game, the decision making is pretty simple since it is a forced play situation (the batting player has to run to first base, so the fielding players’ focus is only on that base). As the game progresses, that decision making becomes more complex:
In build two, fielding players have to take into account who is at bat, where the ball was sent to, and what the running player might decide to do. In build three, additional factors such as the score, the inning, the number of runners on base all add complexity to decision making on defence.
Once again, I’ll usually set up a few games as I did with Race To The Bases. I’ll move around in the outfield during the games and talk to the fielding players: “what would you do if they hit the ball there?”, “how would you decide to send the ball to second base?”, etc. As I do so, I’ll take notes in my gradebook and use questioning to help students broaden/deepen their understanding of the factors at play whenever a new player comes up to bat.
In Danish Longball, the complexity of the game really starts to increase.
On offence, players at bat must take several factors into consideration when deciding where they would like to strike the ball. Also, they need to be mindful not to send the ball directly to the running base which could result in them quickly getting tagged out.
On defence, the complexity also increases. As the game moves into later innings and the scores become a bigger factor, players need to decide where to field the ball in order to limit the other team’s chances of winning the game. We will also briefly discuss how the fielding team can position themselves in the outfield to maximize their chances of quickly fielding the ball once it is struck.
All of this may seem complex, but – if you read back through the sequence of games I’ve shared here – you can see how it all adds up. Slowly but surely, students were guided to a place where they can make sense of this game and find ways to gain advantages over their opponents.
At last, we get to a place where we can play a game of baseball. In the lesson prior to our World Series day, we’ll go back to playing Ribby but add a few new builds:
- We’ll build on build three by adding a third base to the game.
- Finally, we’ll complete the diamond by having players have to make it back to home base in order to score a point.
From there, the progression into baseball makes sense and students have developed enough skill/understanding to be able to confidently play that game all while having fun. Once we’re at a place where the game makes sense, we’ll be ready for our big day at the ballpark!
The Striking & Fielding Games Teacher Pack
So that’s my grade six striking and fielding games unit. As you’ve probably guessed, all of the learning here could easily be tailored to meet the needs of other middle school grades.
If you’re interested in running this unit as part of your curriculum, I’ve put together a Striking & Fielding Games Teacher Pack for you. In the download, you will find:
- The Unpacked Content Tree for the GLOs the unit is built around
- The Striking & Fielding Games Unit Learning Roadmap
- My Numbers Gradebook for this unit (compatible only with Numbers for macOS/iOS)
- The Selecting Space Assessment Sheet
- The Striking To An Open Space Self-Assessment Sheet
- The Defensive-Decision Making Assessment Sheet
- The “Race To The Bases” Printable Game Sheets
- The “Chuck The Chicken” Printable Game Sheets
- The “Whacky Baseball” Printable Game Sheets
- The “Ribby” Printable Game Sheets
- The “Danish Longball” Printable Game Sheets
Hopefully, these resources – along with this monster post I put together for ya – will provide you with everything you need to be able to confidently make this unit a part of your physical education curriculum!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it provided you with some insight into how I go about planning units in my teaching. If you’d like to learn even more about the standards-based, backwards design process I’ve adopted, be sure to check out my “Standards-Based Instructional Design” course on #PhysEdU. Again, feel free to use that “LEARNWITHJOEY” code until December 31st to save $20 on your registration.
As always, thank you so much for your support!
March 28, 2021
March 28, 2021
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