Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Drill or Games in Physical Education



In my opinion the 3 most important aspects for Physical Education lesson are:

  1. Safety.
  2. Fun/Enjoyment.
  3. Learn a skill (E.g., Physical, Mental, Moral or Social). 
There are a variety of teaching methods to achieving those goals during a PE lesson. The one that I have found most useful is the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU; Bunker and Thorpe, 1982). Prior to attending, my PGCE in 2017 I was semi-aware of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU approach of teaching physical activities, however whilst at University and conducting my Netball Level 2 and teaching in this way I gained a greater appreciation of the method. By doing it in practice I have witnessed how much more the children have progressed and are enjoying the lessons more.  Drills are defined as discrete practices that children learn a skill without the concept of any game awareness. Whereas a game-based approach to learning is where children learn a skill though a game. They start to develop technical, tactical skills and can understand why they are doing an activity. See table below for an example of difference. In both situations children learn the Chest Pass. However, I want you to consider which one sounds more likely to relate to a real game of Hi5 Netball and be more fun for the children?

Hi5 Netball Chest Pass Example
Traditional (Drill)
Game Based
1.       Warm-Up (Stuck in mud but children have no ball and freeze in star)
2.       Passing against a wall.
3.       Passing with a partner.
4.       Add in a defender (2 vs 1)
5.       Match (5 vs 5)
6.       Cool Down    
    1.   Warm- Up (Stuck in Mud. Children freeze with hands in correct chess pass position. There are other variations depending on equipment, age and etc).

    2.   Keep Ball Match (3 vs 3)

  3. Now teams break off and you do same activity, but children implement teaching points without defenders.

   4. Now do Keep Ball game again (3vs 3, 5vs 5).

    5. Match (5 vs 5) Can have bonus chest pass points).

    6. Cool Down


I do understand that both approaches (Traditional and Game Based) do enable for the aspects mentioned above to be achieved. Indeed, at times teachers will use a drill-based activity to help support the learning, manage behaviour and ensure children understand the key teaching points. However, children can become bored quicker and not understand how this skill is applicable in game environment. Therefore, I agree with Bunker and Thorpe (1982) that teaching activities by playing games is better for skill development. Moreover, Butler et al. (2008) stated that physical education taught through TGFU must adhere to the following requirements:

1.     Teach activities through games
2.   Teach the game in its simplest format- then increase complexity. 
     3.    All participants are involved and have importance.
     4.    Participants must know subject matter.
     5.   Games must match participants’ skill and challenge.

Looking at the concepts above I feel that TGfU is applicable across all key stages including EYFS as it engages the children and gets them doing an activity that they enjoy doing. However, practitioners need to understand what constitutes a game for their pupils. A simple-modified activity of throwing and catching in small groups could be deemed a game for KS1 children but not for KS2. In this situation a basic throwing and catching ‘game’ has become a mundane drill. Instead doing a keep-ball session between two teams may be more beneficial to teach the skills of throwing.

To effectively teach pupils the teacher needs to teach a progression of skills needed to play the game (i.e. catching, kicking, striking), while at the same time introducing a progression of tactical awareness to play effectively (i.e. anticipate where the ball will travel, aim for the spaces). Without the tactical awareness part children are unable to develop their skills further. For Example: Two children can kick a ball back forth between themselves easily, however once a defender (3rd Person) is introduced the activity breaks down. This is where the teacher would intervene and ask the children about ways, they could keep possession of the ball. As Kirk & MacPhail, (2002) highlights for progression of a technique to occur within a game, students need a tactical awareness that comes from an emerging understanding of playing a game.

If a game is to be a learnt experience, then teachers and sport coaches need to ensure children understand the ‘why’ behind a game and the activity they are doing. This will ensure that a skill is developed and understood. I have witnessed poor practice from sport practitioners doing just playing ‘game’ and not explaining the purpose behind it.
In summary, when teaching physical education, the sessions should be safe, fun and allow the children to learn and progress. It should be game centred with children understanding the 'WHY' behind an activity. Simply reminding the children of the Learning Objective and having plenaries will help them understand the reasons behind a game.

Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1982). A model for the teaching of games in the secondary school. Bulletin of Physical Education, 10, 9-16.

Butler, J., Oslin, J., Mitchell, S., & Griffin, L. (2008) The way forward for TGFU: filling the chasm between theory and practice. Physical & Health Education Journal,  74(2): 6-12 

Kirk, D., & MacPhail, A. (2002) Teaching Games for Understanding and Situated Learning: Rethinking the Bunker-Thorpe Model. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 21 (2)177-192.

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