In this yoga lesson, the students discover the joy and satisfaction of movement while exercising body control to learn elements of effort space, and time. Physical play-based learning, in this case, requires controlled movements and an understanding of the process and purpose of the movements.
Take your cues from your students as they will offer up brilliant ideas for play-as-learning that is fun, pertinent and meaningful to them.
My students and I were practising yoga as part of an introduction to our dance unit that integrates drama and physical education. We were experiencing a beautiful warm snap in March when KA said to me, “Can we do yoga outside?” Why didn’t I think of that?
The next day, we took our yoga practice outside and seized the moment to enjoy the fresh warm air and budding of spring. With safety guidelines clearly understood, I sent the students off in pairs to develop some of their own yoga poses. Lots of giggles were heard as the students explored yoga together.
An adult may not see yoga as play and certainly someone who practices yoga seriously would question the use of the word “play” when referring to yoga. The students however, derived great pleasure from this activity which activated their imagination and creative movement. For these reasons, I feel confident in considering this activity to be “purposeful play.”
The children developed some very creative poses and demonstrated clear understanding of command over their own bodies, pace and emotional control – skills which we will use next to dance to music.
A number of students decided to create poses based on a theme. One group created poses in name and form inspired by nature (the apple tree and river). Another used a popular song on the radio to inspire their poses.
What’s next? The students will use their procedural writing and diagram drawing skills to create an instruction manual for their poses.
Had I not listened to KA and seriously considered her request, we would have lost this unique opportunity for learning together in the outdoor classroom while having fun.
Students will create yoga poses using the knowledge gained in the previous structured yoga lessons and demonstrate an understanding of procedure of these poses and their purpose.
While the students are exploring their yoga poses, the teacher observes if they are on task using their previous knowledge and applying it in a new way. Circulating, the teacher can ask the students about their choices. Questions may include:
“How would this pose make you feel?”
“When would be a good time to practise this pose?”
“How could you apply this pose to another physical activity?”
Have the students orally explain their poses and purpose. After the exploration portion of the yoga poses, the students can create a manual to explain their poses.
Use the rubric attached to assess and provide descriptive feedback.
Health and Physical Education
Over the course of a few 30 minute periods, show a variety of simple/introductory yoga DVD’s and practise together as a class (both teacher and students should participate. At appropriate moments during the practise or after, the teacher should prompt discussion with “How did you feel while you were doing ____ pose?” “Why did you feel calm/energized/focused?” “When would it be helpful in your life to feel this way?” Encourage students to make connections in their own lives at school, home and extracurricular activities.
The teacher will review yoga poses that the class has previously practised and explain that the students will now have the opportunity to create their own poses and that the class will be working outside. The learning goal will be introduced and the class will co-create success criteria including such items as create a title/theme for poses, show a variety of purposes (calming, stretching, developing stability), use controlled movements, cooperate, etc.
Using the success criteria, the teacher demonstrates an example of a unique pose that she/he has created. The teacher and class can together create an example of a title and a list of directions and purpose for this pose. The students will give feedback on the example and highlight a way to improve. An anchor chart can be created using the teacher’s example as an immediate reminder of the goal of the project and for future reference.
Before going outside, safety guidelines must be set. Children must be focussed on their assigned task. Students must follow the instructions carefully and listen to their bodies to ensure they do not hurt themselves – they should only create poses which are comfortable for their bodies. Inversions (headstands or handstands) are forbidden.
In pairs or small groups, the students should develop their own yoga poses which demonstrate the learning goal and adheres to the success criteria. The teacher should circulate to assist the students and ensure that safety guidelines are being followed.
During the student task, the teacher should stop the group to allow a few students to demonstrate their poses and explain the purpose. The teacher and students can give immediate feedback to the students and be inspired by one another.
The self-direction of this activity allows students with a physical exceptionality or injury to create poses which suit their physical needs.
Students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge using their bodies. They can also express their ideas aloud to their teacher and peers and write and draw about their poses.
Other Applications (Extensions)
After the yoga exploration and discovery session, students will create an instruction manual of how to create their poses and the purpose of each pose. The students will use diagrams and words to express their ideas.
“I like yoga. It is fun to do. Yoga is like play. It is new to me … and I would love to do more.”
“Yoga is like playing but you are learning at the same time. It is fun when you are doing it. You get to lie down and relax and you can learn how to control your body easier.”
“Yoga is fun, really, really fun because you get to move your body. Yoga can stretch your body really good and it gives you good exercise. We like yoga because it is really fun for kids.”
“[P]hysical exercise throughout the school day benefits the cognitive performance of students eight to eleven, most notably concentration and attention… exercise works to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.” (Kelly, p.13 – from Motta, Kuligowski & Marino, 2010)
“…active play and games create autonomous opportunities for students to master acute body control and fine motor skills, allowing them to adopt the more precise and systemized ways of moving that is expected of them.” (Kelly, p. 13 – from Caplan & Caplan, 1973)
Each time yoga class begins, norms are established. One must be focussed and quiet, students must follow the instructions carefully and to listen to their bodies to ensure they do not hurt themselves. Inversions (head stands or handstands) are forbidden. When the students are creating their own poses, the guidelines of previous classes are reviewed and students are reminded that they should only create poses which are comfortable for their bodies.