Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) 101
Building physical literacy—defined as the ability to move with competence in a variety of physical activities—is at the heart of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU).
The approach focuses on helping students learn fundamental movement skills, concepts and principles that they can apply to a wide range of physical activities rather than emphasizing specific sports skills. TGfU provides a learner-centred approach that puts the needs and abilities of the participants first, and in doing so increasing students’ levels of enjoyment and participation, all while providing them with the skills they need to move confidently in a wide range of physical activities.
TGfU was developed by researchers at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom to tap into children’s inherent desire to play. Bunker and Thorpe (1982) developed TGfU around the concept of teaching kids games by playing games. Butler et al. (2008) identified six Basic
- Teach games through games.
- Break games into their simplest format - then increase complexity.
- Participants are intelligent performers in games.
- Every learner is important and is involved.
- Participants need to know the subject matter.
- Need to match participants’ skill and challenge.
TGfU Game Categories
Recent approaches to TGfU have advocated for a thematic approach to teaching games. Rather than teaching sport-specific units (e.g., volleyball unit, soccer unit), children and youth gain skills and knowledge to apply to different sports by playing a variety of games associated with 4 game categories:
- Target Games in which the participant propels an object, preferably with a high degree of accuracy, at a target.
- Net/Wall Games in which the participant propels an object into space trying to make it difficult for an opponent to return it.
- Striking/Fielding Games in which the participant strikes an object so it is placed away from defenders in the field.
- Territory Games in which participants invade an opponent's territory to score.
These categories represent games and activities that are similar in structure. By exposing children and youth to the primary rules, fundamental skills, and tactical problems associated with each category, they become literate in a variety of games, activities and sports and develop an understanding and competency of the skills and tactics associated with playing sports.
Teaching Games for Understanding is a child-centred approach where the leader acts as a facilitator and the participants make their own adaptations in order to maximize the level of challenge and fun!
The following steps are elements of a Teaching Games for Understanding approach:
- Activity Appreciation: trying out a version of the activity in a small-group
- Tactical Awareness: developing understanding of common elements of games and tactics needed for success
- Decision-Making: learning and practising making decisions in action, in response to different situations
- Application of Skills: identifying and practising the skills needed to improve play
- Performance: putting it all together, applying the skills, decision-making and tactics in game situations
The process is a cyclical one with participants continuing to adapt and change as needed for the best playing experience.
In offering choice and flexibility in how students practise and demonstrate a skill, educators can provide the best possible chance for the greatest number of students to succeed.
Have you used the TGfU approach in your class or program? Share below what you did and how it was received.