Amy and I believe that when you learn, you should learn from the best.
Learn from them. Develop their ideas and make them your own. We apply this to our kids also.
Our sons' futsal school: Footpal has a renowned coach. People travel long distances to take his classes. His results are a testimony to his excellence. Numerous young players are snapped up every year by the local J. league academy teams: Urawa Reds, Omiya Ardija (squirrels —-yes, really!), Kashiwa Reysol. Several players have graduated to J. League 1 and 2 teams. One former student is a Japan national player.
Why is Footpal SO GOOD? Coach Fukuoka’s high standards. Amy and I have taken inspiration from Coach Fukuoka’s rigorous coaching and applied it to our classes. and materials. What have we learned? And how have we applied it to our lessons?
#1: Expect a lot. Your students will rise to the challenge and exceed it. Students are motivated by the coach's high energy and demands. There is an intensity to ALL drills/ games that raises every student's level.
In our lessons, we want the children focused on the activity at hand: working hard do it to at their best. We also expect a lot. We expect 4 and 5 year olds to recognize the alphabet. We expect beginner elementary students to be able to read sentences after 3 months of study. And you know what? By constantly challenging kids, they CAN do it and go on to the next challenge.
#2. No wasted time. Coach Fukuoka is intense. Students arrive prepared for a vigorous, sweat soaked session. Students go seamlessly from 1 drill to the next. There is NO waiting time. (none of the dreaded 3 Ls of practice that you see elsewhere (lines / lectures / laps). (Lines: waiting to do an activity / lectures: coaches TALKING about WHAT to do for a LONG time instead of quick explanations / displays and letting kids get on with practicing. / Laps: while good for fitness, not good for overall raising soccer skills. If you MUST do laps, why not with a ball).
In our lessons, we too hate wasted time. Students are with us 1 hour a week. We need to make every minute count. When students finish an activity,we are ready with the next activity. We avoid the 3 Ls by: No lines (the next activity is ready and kids can start straight away / no lectures: kids don't want to listen to the teacher droning on AND most games are easily understood by student modeling / no laps: in our case: ALL games / flashcards / written work is MEANINGFUL and not just filling time. The students’ AND teacher’s brains will get a work out by the end of class.
# 3 Test Students: At footpal, students are ‘tested’ 3 times a year with field, skill and bleep tests. This might sound crazy but it’s not. Kids ENJOY these tests. They enjoy seeing how they can improve from season to season.
In our classes, we have tests built into the texts. Essentially, students are tested every class when they complete a written page and get a score. The corresponding games also are leveled. Kids are thrilled when they level up from game 2A to 2B. It’s a friendly, self-focused competition kids have to test and better themselves.
# 4 Do the same thing in different ways.
# 5 Begin Easy. Increase Difficulty.
Coach Fukuoka has a wide variety of drills. Invariably they begin simply and progress to amazing displays of skill, movement and fast thinking. It’s simple amazing to watch. (And a testimony to how agile kids brains are. Amy goes to ladies soccer (honobono ladies which is anything but honobono (laid-back)) with Fukuoka on Thursdays. They only do a fraction of what 8 year olds do and STILL mess it up)
Our lessons are the same. The games, flashcards, texts complement each other, but crucially, they ARE different: go fish / flip ’n read / bingo / flashcards / read ’n match…. Students learn the SAME thing in different ways. It is NOT boring. All activities can be made MORE or LESS difficult so the students can begin nice and easy and then challenge themselves.
We've learned a lot at footpal, so we'll continue with PART 2 next week.
How about you? What inspiration have you taken from various schools you or your kids go to? And also, what have you learned about what NOT to do? (another blog series we'll start)