Graham, G. (2007). Teaching children physical education: Becoming a master teacher, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.        I


 


Intratask Variation

Like teaching by invitation, the technique of intratask variation is appropriate for some classes and some lessons. It allows a teacher to modify a task based on the abilities and interests of the children. Intratask variation is different from the previous technique because the teacher makes the decision for the children (i.e., the teacher decides that a task needs to be changed for a child [or a group of children] to make it easier or harder) (Pellett & Harrison, 1996; Tjeerdsma, 1995). Probably this is a more difficult technique because the teacher is required to observe the children and then make a series of individual decisions based on his perceptions. Typically, intratask variation is used to make a task easier for the lower skilled—a different type of ball, landing on two feet instead of one, not turning when they jump—or harder for the higher skilled.

Another effective use of intratask variation is to provide the highly skilled children, who don't really need basic skill practice, the opportunity to play a game

        that they are ready for. An example from my teaching is a good way to illustrate this

    use of intratask variation. I was teaching hand dribbling to a class of fifth graders.

        The majority of the children were at the stage at which they were challenged by

trying to dribble and travel at the same time. A few of the children were well past this

stage, as they had been playing basketball on teams for several years. When I had provided the entire class with the task of dribbling slowly in general space, I called six children over who were highly skilled. My instructions were: "Go down to the other half of the playground. Get a game going that has dribbling in it. As long as you get along and don't make a lot of noise when I stop the rest of the class to talk to them, you can continue with your game." Several things happened:

 

        > As you might imagine, the six decided to play a modified version of basketball. They played the entire time. I provided them with suggestions about how to dribble more effectively.

        > The remainder of the class continued to practice dribbling and traveling and

        dribbling and trying to keep the ball away from an opponent.

^ Some asked why they couldn't be playing with the other six. I explained that they could when they were able to dribble well enough, and encouraged them to practice hard—not only at school, but at home, too.

Intratask variation allowed me to better match the task to the skill levels of the children. I find this especially appropriate for the highly skilled children who always want to play a game. The fact is that, in many cases, they are ready to benefit from playing a game. On the occasions when intratask variation is used, children become accustomed to it because they realize that it's not always the same children that are chosen to participate in the different activities. This is especially important to avoid stereotyping lower-skilled children. I have also found that the less-skilled children are delighted not to always have the highly skilled children with them as they learn new skills.

Most of the time, intratask variation is used with individuals or small groups, and others in the class aren't even aware that a task has been changed. To use the dribbling example again, if I didn't want to set up an actual game for the higher-skilled children, I might challenge them privately as I moved through the class: "Can you dribble it behind your back? Between your legs? Make a figure eight?" At the same time I might be making the task easier for the lower-skilled: "Try dribbling the ball more in front of you. It's OK if you use two hands every once in awhile." The point is that in every class the range of skill level is varied. Both intratask variation and teaching by invitation acknowledge these differences by attempting to match the tasks to the


child's skill level, thereby attempting to minimize the boredom or frustration that so readily occurs when all 25 children are required to do the same task.