Curriculum PE

Simple Notational Analysis in PE

Today I went to see a colleague teach Year 8 Football. They are a low ability set and have very poor fundamental motor skills. We have been discussing different approaches in getting them motivated, moving and working on improving their confidence and competence in different activities.

Through questioning my colleague about his teaching of the class we discovers some areas that he felt he could improve. He reflected that he had probably spent too much time on drills, over taught them and tried to answer questions for them when they didn’t answer him the way he wanted. He also felt that he had stopped them a lot in competitive situations to try to get them to think about what they were doing and because of this there had been no flow to lesson.

What he came up with today was a lesson that was looking at improving the accuracy of their passing and and the consistency of their receiving. He was going to do this through small sided games, minimal teacher talk and an emphasis on notational analysis.

Notational analysis is the use of movement patterns, technique, tactics and strategies usually within team sports. It gives you hard data, through analysis, that allows you to give feedback. The role of feedback, especially within Physical Education and Sport is central to improving performance. Most feedback we give as teachers is very subjective. Data is not (although the interpretation of the data could be). However we both felt that the data would be more objective and lead to potentially a greater improvement within the lesson.

After the warm-up and paired skill drills that focused on passing and moving he then put them into the games. He explained he was going to record the amount of passes attempted and the amount of passes completed. A pass completed would be counted as one that was directly to the feet of a teammate that was controlled.

My colleague used an iPad and the application Dartfish Easy Tag to do this. However there are plenty of other alternatives out there or you could just use the traditional pen and paper. He allowed them to play for 10 minutes, and didn’t interfere or stop them. At then end of the 10 minutes he called them over.

Game 1 – Analysis

photo 2

He shared the data and asked pupils to work out their percentage of successful passes. (Team 1 – 31% and Team 2 – 31%, my colleague said this was quite successful for them). He then asked the teams to discuss what ONE thing they could implement to improve the success and accuracy of their passing.

Team 1 – Do not kick the ball immediately. Try to stop it. (They had recognised people were panicking and kicking it straight away before controlling it).

Team 2 – Call for the ball when you are free. (Not one of them had said anything to each other in the match and they thought calling for the ball might help the passer)

My colleague then asked them to only focus on this during the next game and nothing else. This time he gave them advice when they were playing, but it was only to remind them of the key areas they had decided to implement into their game.

Game 2 – Analysis

photo 1

Once again he shared the data and asked pupils to work out their percentage of successful passes. (Team 1 – 58% and Team 2 – 51%).  My colleague discussed reasons why they had made such a massive improvement and then once again asked them to come up with one area to focus on in the final game.

Team 1 – Move into space after you pass the ball. (2 students said that their teammates were staying stationary and therefore passing was difficult as defenders were in the way)

Team 2 – Look at the ball when you kick it. (A number of the team said they were so worried about the opposition, they were looking at them when they kicked the ball).

My colleague asked them in the final game to focus only on the two areas they wanted to improve upon. He kept his comments and feedback to the key areas of improvement the students had come up with.

Game 3 Analysis

photo 3

Team 1 had improved their initial pass accuracy from 31% to 66% and Team 2 from 31% to 51%. The students were actually elated and my colleague said this was the best they had been for him in all lessons this term. The plenary consisted of an excellent Q and A with regards to teaching points to help improve their passing accuracy in a game and the use and benefits of notational analysis within sport.


After the lesson my colleague and I discussed the lesson and why he thought it had been successful:

1. When students have poor ability we as teachers try to compensate by over teaching them. We give them too much information and this can be incredibly hard to take in and remember. Sometimes less is more.

2. The data provided information for the students to analyse and come up with their own teaching points. I have discussed in previous blog posts that delivering ‘common errors’ to the whole class has a significant downside. Students can think that those errors simply don’t apply to them when you communicate them to the whole class. The data was something concrete they couldn’t argue with and it empowered them to come up with their own reasons why and then seek solutions and implement them.

3. Keeping the teaching points to a minimum was hugely helpful. It meant in the game they only really had to focus on one thing. We keep forgetting that for novices any sport can be an incredibly complex environment for them with regards to decision making and by reducing what they had to think about helps them to improve both consistency and accuracy of replicating skills. This is what fundamentally TGfU is based on.

4. Teacher talk is important, but you need to balance it with practice. This is hugely important for novices, who need the time for practice to grow in confidence and improve. My colleague felt they definitely got through a lot more in the lesson today.

5. We both thought having a target to try and improve actually helped focussed the students and increase the levels of effort. It also added an element of competition that wasn’t just about beating another team and we weren’t sure whether lower ability students in PE might prefer this type of competitiveness. It was clear they really wanted to try and beat their percentage accuracy from the previous games more than the opposition.

NB – This is an excellent task for a non-doer to do and get involved within the lesson. My colleague had two students unable to take part today and had them recording data from the other games.

Notational analysis is not an area I have used much in my teaching (but I do regularly in my coaching). After today I could see  some potential benefits. I’m going to try something similar with my Year 9 Badminton class in the next few weeks to see if it has similar impact with different abilities in a different sport. Let me know if you will attempt something similar or if you already use this method in your teaching and can recommend anyway we could refine and improve it.

By @ImSporticus

Lecturer in PE, Sport and Physical Activity. Helping others to flourish through movement.

2 replies on “Simple Notational Analysis in PE”

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