Just Play

Below is a blog post I wrote last year but never got round to adding it to the site. Im sure it is still relevant today, or I hope it is. Enjoy.

“Can we play a game now, Sir?”


Does this sound familiar? If you teach PE then I bet it does. I can remember saying this as a young person myself (although my own learning was excellent). As a coach and player/performer it is a question I have been asked, asked myself and encouraged many times, but as a teacher it is one I hope is asked scarcely. A key question is ‘how can I make this happen?’ A difficult one considering that it would be impossible to ensure everyone is ‘turned-on’ to Physical Education and Sport. A focus of my research through my ITE (Initial Teacher Education) and my NQT thus far has been games teaching. I am a keen advocate of the TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding) approach that has been developed on a large scale with our friends down under. My teaching of games, I think, is focused on a games based approach and I hope that they harness skill development, cooperation alongside a healthy state of competition. Competition, however, is a prickly theme in todays Physical Education quarters and a thorny issue amongst our young women. I have read many articles about how they have been ‘turned off’ of sport due to negative experiences during PE lessons, they put this down to their ‘major general’ style teacher, or their unwillingness to get sweaty, put their bodies on show or even a lack of female leaders. This is worthy of a more developed discussion in the not so distant future but I would like to focus on games teaching.


I came across an interesting website created by Dr Ash Casey called www.peprn.com. This is a magnificent website which he created for his university students but one that I have found very interesting and useful to browse, read and post on some topics and one which I would highly recommend reading even if just to gain a flavor of the thoughts of our current crop of young and enthusiastic teachers (much like myself). As I was browsing this site I came across a discussion forum based around the question, ‘What were your experiences of games teaching at school?’ I would like to share with you the answer I gave;


“From being at university and teaching myself i realise that my own experience of being taught games was actually quite good. I come from a sport background and so did a lot of my peer group at school and most pupils in the school as a whole. This may be because my teachers used a TGfU approach (bare in mind this was less than ten years ago), they were always allowing us to play games (or so we thought) but thinking back we were always asked questions by the teacher such as “did you have other options for that pass? were you in a good position to defend that attack? how did you come to the decision to make that shot? and why? they always asked why? It made us think about the decisions we made during games, and after all games play is all about making the correct decision. Of course, they looked at skill but the lessons were always broken down like this: warm up, quick game, highlight what needs improvement, quick skill related practice, game related practice, discussion and back to game. This is how i have began to teach games (i’m in my NQT year in Scotland) and pupils respond to it really well, it does take time to get the pupils to be reflective and think about the game they just played as their minds are generally on ‘when will we play next, sir?’ I can also remember a lot of skill centred, teacher led sessions but games were a strong point of Mr Patersons teaching and i am trying to transfer this into my own teaching and thus far it has engaged pupils as after all everyone loves to just play.”

During a previous discussion I spoke of my alarm at some of the comments I seen put forward by the contributors to this website. Alarm at the way they had been taught PE and the vivid memories they have of some awful ‘major general’ style PE lessons. I wrote this in a previous discussion around the topic;


“What really annoys me is the many recollections there are, in the news and in magazines and across blogs and websites, regarding how many were turned off of PE by their PE teacher. Yes their PE teacher!”


I wrote this based on the fact that I entered the profession as I want to foster, promote and encourage a positive attitude to lifelong physical activity, competition and social skills Which I am sure you can relate to as it is probably (I hope) the same motivation for your own entry to the profession. Having said this I am conscious of all the negatives related to team sports and competition. I am keen to develop a curriculum that is based around the promotion of a healthy active lifestyle that makes pupils aware of the benefits of such a lifestyle and provides the tools and knowledge for them to develop their health through use of a gym, a weekly swim or a gentle cycle on a Sunday morning.


Having said that I am also an avid supporter of competition and team sports, I want to ensure that schools can field competitive sports teams and make competitive sports a main component of a PE curriculum. How can we do this and also foster an inclusive environment? Perhaps ensuring that we all have knowledge of approaches to physical education that can do both such as TGfU, Tactical approach and also Sport Education. The latter I am using with great success to improve social skills alongside sporting skills, perhaps as competition comes through each aspect even though it is a silent partner to the learning objectives. I believe it is important that these models are taught at large during ITE years and also during CPD sessions to ensure that experienced teachers have access to such developments. It is certainly a challenge to ‘turn on’ every pupil to PE and sport but it is one I am keen to tackle and certainly a challenge I am up for and I will do this while playing games.



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