Games for Understanding: why and what?

Along with the Fundamental Motor Skills unit that our Yr7 boys undertake at the start of the year, this unit forms part of a “non-sports specific” element of our KS3 curriculum.

It isn’t my intention in this post to discuss the benefits, drawbacks or pedegogical tripe involved in G4U; if that’s what you’re searching for, try someone more intelligent than me. This is very much in the flavour if the #PETotD (PE tip of the day). Real ideas, you can implement in practical PE. Which is really what you’re probably paid to do.

Why do G4U?

Many of you will have seen or experienced a similar idea before. I remember being on PGCE and doing a couple of sessions on “Teaching Games for Understanding” and it became quite a popular concept in the early-mid 2000’s.

At CLV we decided to dedicate a full 6 lesson unit to the concept & write a specific scheme & lesson plans.

The basic aim of the unit is to develop tactical & strategic awareness & thinking in game situations. There are definite motor skill requirements included but the content is delivered entirely through games, with no drills/practices.

We often expect kids to “know” what to do in a game situation, even though we don’t always make it explicit during our teaching. The nature of delivering via games lends itself better to stopping, questioning, explaining & developing a working understanding of what is going on. It is the hope that this understanding can then be applied to the range of games delivered throughout KS3 & 4.

What? How?

We timetable this as an indoor activity, usually in the smaller of our Sportshalls. On occasion, 2 groups might be timetabled on the activity together. Rather than being inconvenient, this often adds more of a competitive element & buzz to the lesson (just my opinion lads!).

We find that those pink, soft volleyballs (OK, Dodgeballs) are invaluable when delivering the unit. They burst easily so buy loads.

Activities

When planning, we worked in reverse. We end the unit with 2 Dodgeball lessons. Reason for this is if we start with DB, all the kids want to know every lesson is “are we playing dodgeball sir?” No. We originally kept lesson 6 as a “kids plan their own games” activity. The girls still do this I believe. Personally however, I think this runs the risk of becoming a classroom/paper-based/planning heavy lesson. If you’ve got 60 lads, absolutely bursting to get active & ready to work their nuts off; don’t put them in a classroom. As my new pal Ben Horbury would say; “we’re educating the physical”.

I’ve included a basic overview of the activities below. These are not extensive instructions/rules. I’m sure you’ll be able to fill in any blanks & do it better than I do anyway!

Lesson 1: Matball/Endball

Set out a “scoring zone”. I like to use gym mats or coned area. Ball can only be moved by passing. Score via pass to teammate in scoring zone. Tonnes of variations here.

Lesson 2: Benchball

Or “screamball” if the girls are teaching it. Set out benches at opposite sides of SH. Start with X number of players on opposing bench, players attempt to throw ball over opponents to bd caught by their teammates on bench. H&S; if your kids are muppets & likely to fall off bench & sustain horrific injuries, get them to stand behind, not on, benches. Ball caught = thrower joins teammates on (of behind) bench.

Lesson 3: Well, we call it “Kicky Rounders”, you might call it Longball etc.

This one is nice to split into 3 teams, kids bibbed-up. 2 teams field, 1 team kicks & runs. Bowler from each team rolls ball out to 2 or 3 kickers. Kick or miss, players have to run across SH to “safety zone” (remove this for extra challenge). Points are scored when runners return over a “home line”. On way, fielders attempt to catch kickers out, or hit them with ball Dodgeball-style below waist. Differentiate points for a run “there & back” or players who chose to stay in safety zone before returning. Fielding teams accumulate points for catches/hits. Good to keep fielding teams active & encourage kids to make good decisions about risk; points are only scored at the home line; is it worth throwing at a runner on their way outwards?

Lesson 4: Corner/Hexiball

Set up goals in corners of SH; we use the tabletennis partition dividers – don’t tell CTTC please, but benches on their sides do the job as well. Or alternatively 6 goals in hexagon shape. Split into 4/6 teams (can do this with massive groups; still 4/6 teams but each has an A & B team with one off the court when other is on).

Ball can only be moved via pass & intercepted in air/on floor. Teams attempt to prevent opponents scoring in their goal whilst attacking all other opponents. If a team concedes, their team is out & their goal is turned over. Last 2 teams play-off in final, defending 2 goals each.

Adaptations: 1) teams start with 2 players. When they score, another player comes into the game. 2) When a team is knocked out, 2 players stay in, attempting to “regenerate” their team. You might use a direct hit on a basketball backboard as a target. 3) Allow dribbling… There are loads more! This game is great. Original idea was pinched from one of the worst teachers I have ever seen – but what a game! Great for tactical discussion, attack vs defence, playing multiple opponents; the kids will often form “alliances” with opponents – @Ticktock80 would love this an an opportunity to discuss historical detantes.

Lessons 5 & 6: Dodgeball

I’m not even going to discuss this here. Have a read of my dodgeball post if you’re after ideas. In a nutshell, it’s brilliant for teaching everything.

Thoughts & suggestions welcome. Big thanks to the lads at CLV: this unit was a joint effort, created at Longhirst Hall, Morpeth. Ah, those were the days.

Advertisements

Making Rugby Enjoyable

rug1

For this post, I’m emphatically staying out of the classroom. I’ve recently fallen into the trap, to which we all seem to have been lured; focusing heavily on our classroom practice and not so much on our bread & butter.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that we teach PE. I’m sure if we look back on our PGCE (or PE with QTS) days, we were motivated heavily by the lure of teaching out on some field with a bunch of kids, whatever the weather. We all used the same lines in our first interviews; yes we are first and foremost educators, but the practical, physical element is what pushes our buttons. Core PE for me is the most important part of the job by a million miles.

Rugby

Whether you timetable proper rugby (like what I learned thanks Creeky), or posh girl’s Rugby (like I now teach); League or Union for those devoid of humour genes, you will encounter at least one of the situations outlined here:

You will find that some kids are absolutely buzzing about the activity. They might never have had the chance to legally smash people around in their lessons pre-secondary school and are now very happy to be doing Rugby with you.

Some kids will get on with it with a hint of enthusiasm, but not necessarily love the sport.

Some kids will hate the idea of having to lay hands on another human, let alone have someone do the same to them.

So there you have it; we’ve got the jocks, the inbetweeners and the softies. What you’ve now got to do is make Rugby lessons enjoyable for all of them. Good luck.

First things first:

Timetabling is important. If you want your little Year 7’s to take away positive experiences, put Rugby as the 1st or 2nd activity on your curriculum calendar. If you start the activity after October half-term & have never done any Rugby with a group before, chances are the weather will kill you. In the Northeast, once you get to that 1st half term, it’s time to put the shorts away & stop pretending to be hard as nails. It’s Baltic. Imagine how an 11 year old is going to cope with contact skills for the 1st time when his hands simply won’t work in the cold. Leave the character-building & “hairs on the chest” to the private schools.

At our place, year 9 and 10 boys core PE is ability grouped. The bottom sets simply don’t get timetabled on Rugby after half term 1 for the same reasons as above.

Introduce contact work early:

This might sound ridiculous but I think it works. Contact isn’t just tackling, ruck, maul & scrummaging. You need to encourage kids to hit the deck properly, hit contact shields & become comfortable with physical contact with other pupils and objects. I like using contact shields loads in warm-ups. Get kids punching the pads like boxers to warm up shoulders & arms. Lay out as many pads as you’ve got in a grid and get kids to drop onto them “knee, hip, shoulder” as the jog past. In your warm-up, pair kids up – play “follow the leader”. When shouted, ball carrier drops onto ground/shield and pop passes from the floor (union only please!). These ridiculously simply warm up activities all help build confidence.

Relevant Warm up:

Sounds obvious, but there are still times you’ll see a warm up at the start of the lesson with some kind of running around aimlessly, whilst the teacher sets up their cones for activity 1. I know this because I did it on Friday morning.

If teaching contact skills, always try and incorporate some elements of contact in your warm up. Press-up wrestling is one of my favourites (assume press up position facing partner, attempt to get partner to put elbow, knee, torso, full body on ground).

Groupings:

It goes without saying, your kids will almost certainly differ in height, weight & physicality. Kristian Jowett at my school was a 6ft 1inch man in year 7. Imagine being paired with him in your 1st ever lesson (Jon, Tick, you know that he was a big lass as well as I do but we’ll keep that secret).

Encourage kids to work with a pal; someone of similar size, strength or ability. Give choice. You might set up a few different activities or practices with a variable amount of physical contact. Let students pick which one they’d like to attempt. Hey, if they improve, they could move on to the next stage of challenge. Oh is that you Mr Ofsted inspector? Did you see that progress there?

rug2

Mix things up:

When introducing tackling, I usually start with a pad/shield-based warm-up. Getting kids adopting good body position (“Aeroplane swoop” – get them to swoop on approach, touching the grass with one hand to get low), make it competitive by putting a cone behind the pad-man – see if you can drive the pad man behind his cone.

Rather than just moving straight onto tackling a partner, stick with the pads. Instead of standing holding the pad, put the pad upright on the floor with pad-man supporting it from the side. Get kids tackling the pad; using all your teaching points, body position, head, shoulders/hips, arms, drive, landing.

Once kids are ready, then move onto 1-1 tackling. Again give three or four different “stages” through which kids can progress/pick a starting point. It’s a bit like if you use SOLO taxonomy in your classroom – you aren’t expecting all kids to start from pre or uni-structural stages, so do the same in your practical.

Switch things up between using non-competitive/passive practices like the examples above and more challenging, competitive situations. Our lads seem to love “Kabaddi” games “Last Man Standing” and “Ball Steal” (examples of these can be seen in the old exemplar scheme linked at the end of this post). These games are great for removing the “Rugby” from the lesson, should you encounter a group of students who are switched off.

Do fun stuff:

Use games like Kabaddi or “Escape from…” to make contact fun. I tend to use “Escape from CLV” with yr7’s. Arrange groups of 5; 3 attackers, 2 defenders in a 20 x 10m grid. Set up 2 pairs of cones on the try line as “scoring gates”.

1st defender is a tackler (name them after one of the heads of year/deputy heads etc). This tackler can only operate in 1st 10m. If attackers pass into 2nd 10m, tackler is defunct. 2nd defender is a “blocker” who can stand in either “scoring gate” to prevent attackers from scoring a try (I always get the blocker to be the headteacher – the last line of defence you have to cross in your escape from school). This set up helps you differentiate defensive roles as well as using a game situation to deal with the inevitable “can we play a match?” questions. You can give the blocker a shield and introduce more contact should you wish. Tell the kids that they’ve found a magic egg (the ball incredibly) and they’ve got to bust out of school past the teachers. They can only use the exit doors (scoring gates). Mad, inappropriate, but fun.

I want to assess the kids in a game; it’s the end of the unit

Use differentiated pitches & modify rules. Pitch 1 might be Twickenham (or Headingley if you teach proper Rugby) – this might be “touch” or “grip” tackling. Pitch 2 might be Murrayfield (the Jungle at a push) – there might be tackling but rucks might be uncontested. Pitch 3 – well you get the idea.

You don’t have to play 15 (or 13) a-side to assess kids in game situations. Have you ever seen that on A Level moderation day? Cater for your kids.

Enjoy it

Even if your own experience is crap, don’t pass that onto the kids. Rugby has the potential to offer so much more to kids that things like football ever could. Use it & get your kids to love it.

Sample lesson plans:

Rugby Year 7 Scheme

Rugby Year 8 Scheme

Edutainment – Chat shows in lessons

Basis:

I’d had a similar idea to this a while back, but had never been able to get any further than that, an idea. It was my old pal Paul Taylor (@ticktock80) who put me onto Kate Bancroft (@klbancroft88) at Penistone Grammar School, who then inspired me to try the lesson I’m about to describe.

Kate is famed at their place for her innovative use of chat-shows/reality TV in creating engaging lessons. I’d read a few bits and pieces about her lessons and started to think more seriously about how I could do something similar. Another old pal, Jon Nicholls (@JonNicholls81) had mentioned on Twitter that he had an idea in the pipeline and this sealed it for me – I was definitely going to give it a whirl.

I had already decided on my reasons for using this kind of delivery method with my AS group; for a while I’ve been concerned about their struggles with extended questions – especially where they are asked to “critically evaluate/analyse/discuss”. I would use this idea to help the kids generate argument, discussion and highlight opposing viewpoints.

Guest Spot: Kate’s Experiences – AS PE: Rational Recreation

Jeremy Kyle definitely got my class buzzing about learning! They took on roles of the working class and it was fantastic to see them using so many key points that we had learnt in lesson during the ‘arguments’! Luckily we had a bouncer to step in when it really kicked off between the couple over the amount of time that he was working in the factories and then watching football on the ‘half day’ Saturday.

 
This particular group got so into character that they did the filming in one take, with no script…and amazingly still hit so many relevant learning points!! Definitely up there with my best lessons. What kids come up with when you give them the chance amazes me!
 
It really was a hit with my class and I can’t wait to do my next one!”
After a recommendation like that, it was easy to see the huge potential of planning something very similar.
My Lesson:
The lesson focus was on the impact of different factors on Coronary Heart Diseases. I knew I wanted the kids to answer a 10-marker for homework, so I picked the rather challenging “Critically evaluate the effect of lifestyle factors on CHD’s”.
In my planning for the lesson I decided that I’d try and keep things quite structured, rather than go all-out and turn things completely over to the kids to arrange. I wanted each pupil in the group to have a set role/persona and I also wanted to give them the opportunity to plan their response to the homework question during the lesson.
The Plan:
I spent a bit of time looking at the ability of kids in the group along with their personalities. Once I’d got my head round this, I tried to match up kids with appropriate roles. As I’m sure is the case in most groups, there is a good mix of geniuses, numpties, performing seals and kids so introverted you alsmost have to pay to hear their thoughts.
roles and jobs – document. Names in red were the kids I gave the more challenging roles and responsibilities. I emailed each pupil with their own role, with instructions to research their part and, if necessary, liaise with any others mentioned in their part. I gave them a good few days in order to ensure nobody was left with nothing to say.
I used an A3 version of this sheet Exercise and CHD 10 mark planning sheet
As a connect activity, I showed a compilation of the more extreme clips from the show and encouraged the group to attempt to replicate it in their efforts.
I set scene at the start of the lesson in character as Jezza, posed the question they kids would be answering and introduced to group to the horrible charver who they’d be watching/speaking to during the show. He was a guest from a previous episode of the show and was a disgusting looking chap. After hearing from him, I introduced our resident twins who were eating at McDonald’s 3 times each day and they got the ball rolling. In my role as Jeremy, I managed who would be speaking and in what general order. My homemade microphone and boom served as a visual aid to let everyone know who had the floor. Obviously if debate ensued, the structure opened up and a bit of organised madness raged.
The Good Bits:
The main positive of the lesson was the level of engagement. The kids genuinely seemed to love the idea that we were doing something a bit different. Had I simply set some preparatory homework as I often do, I’m sure plenty of the kids would have gone through the motions the night before, found out the relevant information in the course textbook and mindlessly copied something down as a means of answer. However, because each pupil had a differrent homework prep task, they put in some real effort. Some kids had generated pages of notes and scripts. One lad, who played the obese man in his 50’s, had brought in bags of crisps and chocolates to eat throughout his part, whilst wheezing away and simulating chest pains.
The quality of delivery from the kids was unreal. The “doctors” really had a pompous, arrogant air about them and at one point, started arguing with each other as a grudging relationship was hinted-at in their role descriptors. My “antagonist” did a great job of winding people up and making controversial, sweeping statements when other characters were trying to explain their points. We had a couple of characters thrown off the show.
The quality of information shared was outstanding. Rather than simply being just a bit of fun and chaos, the kids had really gone to town on becoming an “expert” in their specific field. There was stuff kids had brought from their Biology backgrounds (I’m lucky in that 16/19 kids do both PE and Bio).
After the “show” had finished, we allowed time for kids to go and find an “expert” in whichever field they still had questions. For example, if you still weren’t sure what the implications of HDL and LDL cholesterol were, you could go and speak to Dan and Luke who could tell you. This was propbaly my favourite bit.
The Bad Bits:
On the day of the lesson, I was already suffering from the Gastro-Intestinal infestation that put me out of school for the next 4 days. Basically I felt like shit. I was sweating like a pig and my guts were killing me. I found out the night before that 2 of my colleagues would be systematically taking kids out of the lesson to do their mock EPIP talks. This really didn’t help with continuity. I had been moved classrooms out of the block for the first lesson of the day, this meant that I had to leg it from main school back to PE to dump my gear, then peg it back outside for my break duty and then back to PE for my lesson. This didn’t allow me time to get changed into my suit. I was gutted about this bit. Having rushed around at the start of the lesson and struggled with the growing nausea, I completely forgot to pick up the 4 video cameras I’d charged up that morning for my film crew to use. Idiot. It was a bit like I’d planned the lesson for over a week and it was going tits-up before my eyes. Once I was chasing my tail, I felt I’d lost a bit of organisation along the way.
Overall:
Aside from being a bit annoyed with myself at forgetting the cameras and feeling pretty minging throughout the whole lesson, I was dead chuffed with my 1st effort at this type of lesson. There was clear differentiation in the roles kids assumed; the planning sheets and the notes the kids had prepared beforehand showed the progress made throughout the lesson and engagement was through the roof.
Yes, things could have been much better. I would certainly recommend getting more input from the kids in terms of structure of the show – I’d either let things be much more free flowing, or use a panel of kids to direct/produce the show in future. I might even let it go wild and then book the IT rooms (some expert advice) and then let the kids edit a revision video from the raw footage.
I’m already thinking about the next one. I fancy doing a “Question Time” themed show with kids coming up with their own issues and posers for a panel who would be answering in character. That’s as far as I’ve got with it I’m afraid.
The 10 mark question homework was handed in yesterday. At first glance, they look to be pretty good. I’m actually looking forward to marking them – which quite frankly is a bloody miracle.