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Stretching your skills

magazine article | Published in TES Newspaper on 22 November, 1996 | By: Colin Lee

Colin Lee tackles an exciting new approach to physical education. DEVON APPROACH TO PHYSICAL EDUCATION

ATHLETICS Pounds 9 CURRICULUM GYMNASTICS AT KEY STAGES 1, 2 AND 3 Pounds 12. DANCE AT KEY STAGE 1 Pounds 6. DANCE AT KEY STAGE 2, 3 and 4 Pounds 8. THE DANCE PACK Pounds 14.95. OUTDOOR AND ADVENTUROUS ACTIVITIES AT KEY STAGES 1 and 2 Pounds 8.50. SWIMMING AND SURVIVAL Pounds 11. TEACHING GAMES Pounds 11

From Devon Learning Resources, 21 Old Mill Road, Torquay TQ2 6AU

Teachers in primary and middle schools have access to an overwhelming body of material on the physical education curriculum. Many LEAs have produced guidelines which are now on general sale - such guidelines all seek to provide sound practical advice and, above all else, ideas for learning activities in PE lessons. To rate these guidelines in terms of overall quality requires a very broad scale indeed but the Devon publications are certainly at the "very good" end.

The key to the success of the Devon Approach is the integration of what children should be doing with very clear explanations of why they should be doing it. Ideas abound, usually accompanied by notes which will help make teaching and learning more successful. The booklets all have slight variations in format - there is an argument for adopting a uniform format for ease of use, but most include a standardised presentation of units of work and clear descriptions of progressions.

Teachers' apparent lack of understanding of progression is the aspect of PE which receives particular criticism in official reports so the attention paid to it here is very welcome.

Dance, as so often seems to happen, is the exception in this series. The dance booklets offer straightforward lesson plans, often very exciting and all worth trying, but with no real attempt to establish what dance shares with the rest of the PE curriculum.

The Dance Pack includes a cassette of the musical accompaniment required for each of its cross-curricular topic-based lessons and this will make it particularly popular.

A school seeking a resource to cover the complete key stage 1 and 2 curriculum faces an outlay of Pounds 65.50 for all but The Dance Pack. This prompts advice to buy selectively and closer inspection of individual sections reveals almost immediately that Teaching Games is superior to much other material in this area. It has an impressive clarity of presentation and provides the non-specialist with excellent support for every aspect of games teaching. The educational value of game making is acknowledged and, indeed, is an integral part of the Devon approach.

Swimming and Survival also impresses with the thoroughness of its main text and invaluable appendices on swimming for specific disabilities and resuscitation. The survival element of the programme is not the brief additional extra found in many swimming texts, but is an important progression in the total package. Only time will be a limiting factor in the delivery of this complete programme.

Curriculum Gymnastics illustrates the developing trend towards a much more structured approach than the "There's the apparatus, children - explore it" informality of early educational gymnastics.

The framework of the Devon scheme is a progressive series of Focuses, for example, bending, stretching and curling at key stage 2 and the tasks in each Focus are categorised in four components: travelling, springing, balancing and inversion plus tasks for low surfaces and apparatus. This provides an ideal structure for planning purposeful, differentiated gymnastics.

The Athletics booklet, like the Dance publications, is chiefly about lesson content - there are good ideas, but teachers would benefit from more about lesson organisation with detailedlesson plans to indicate the essential teaching points. The latter are, in fact, particularly commendable features of the Dance materials.

Finally, Outdoor and Adventurous Activities will leave key stage 3 teachers much happier than those of key stage 2. The latter will find too much is assumed about their back-ground knowledge and there is insufficient detail for the learning activities.

Colin Lee is a physical education consultant


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