Teaching Games for Understanding

Physical education and sport studies is different from learning that is classroom based, and it requires tailored teaching approaches. Teaching Games for Understanding has been successfully used in physical education and sport studies, and is included here.

A group of children and their teacher playing a game.

Teaching Games for Understanding

The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) model fosters tactical awareness and skill instruction.

TGfU is most effective when it is ākonga-centred and game-centred. It is founded on the principle that understanding the tactics and strategies of a sport should precede developing and executing the required skills.

Suggested lesson sequence for teaching games for understanding:

  1. Game form: Small numbers of players, modified equipment, rules and playing area.
  2. Game appreciation: Applying and understanding the particular rules of the game (simplified and modified), so that ākonga develop tactics appropriate for their skill levels.
  3. Tactical awareness: Developing tactics by gradually introducing movement principles (for example, space and time), and increasing the complexity of scenarios (for example, creating and denying space, recognising their opponents' and team-mates' strengths and weaknesses).
  4. Decision-making: Facilitated through questioning, for example, what can you do?, who could you pass to? and how can you do it?
  5. Skill execution: Ākonga recognise the need for required skills to be executed correctly. Instruction is provided for skills and technical aspects.
  6. Performance: Ākonga demonstrate technical efficiency and appropriateness of movement.
  7. Game: After completing all the previous steps, ākonga are able to play the full, unmodified game competently.

Teaching games for understanding allows ākonga to:

  • take responsibility for their learning
  • transfer understanding about games to other games.

Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1986). Issues that arise when preparing to teach for understanding. In R. Thorpe, D. Bunker, & L. Almond (Eds.). Rethinking games teaching. Loughborough: University of Technology.