Teaching Games. Lessons from Learning to Sail

I don’t claim to be the most confident of Games teachers; my specialisms tend towards the creative arts and humanities.  Consequently I plan my PE and Games carefully, and have rather surprised myself.  My guiding principles are: if you aren’t sure, ask, and, if you can’t think of an activity, look one up.

I was interested by this post by Andy Tharby, on what he learned about teaching from learning how to brew beer, so this post is, in part, my response: what I learned about teaching games by learning to sail.  You can find a reflection on the experience here.

This post applies the principles.

Here goes.

  1.  First of all, spend some time going through the rules.  This might be in the classroom – if you are teaching Y4 to play Rounders they may not quite know them, or they may well have forgotten from last summer.  Diagrams on the board and answering questions before you get outside is time well spent.  (This is the part where I learned, in a classroom, about wind, points of sail, and the benefits of roll tacking.)
  2. Warming up.  This doesn’t just have to be about warming up and stretching muscle groups, especially if you are teaching this lesson after play time.  The children will already be pretty warm!  You also need to consider warming up the brain, and thinking about the skills they will be developing by playing the game.  A simple warm up for a lesson on Netball would be to run around the lines of the court, run relays up the thirds and back. (This is the part where we got changed and looked scared.)
  3. Skill development.  Before any child can play a game they need to be able to, say, in Tennis, control a bat and ball.  This is where teacher books and more experienced colleagues really come into their own.  A series of drills, individual challenges, partner and group work can be used here.  I have usually found that there is a huge range of ability (many children attend clubs, and there are always those who live for playing out and playing any game), so you need to think about how the children can up their own level of challenge in order to develop their skills.  Make the aim of this part of the lesson (skill development) explicit so that they can do this. (This is the part where we were put in a boat and shown the ropes, followed rapidly by learning the basic techniques of tacking, gybing, reefing a sail, coming into land, man overboard and capsize drill.)
  4. Game, or mini game.  After all that skill practice the children need a chance to use what they have learned in a game.  Again, books and teacher guides are great places to source games they can play – 2vs1 cricket for example, 3v3 games of netball style games using a third of the court will keep everyone busy and active.  (This is the best fun of all.  Learning to race.)


Helpful?  I hope so.  Happy sailing.

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