Going through the Gears

Going through the Gears‘ is a shared mental model that can help pupils to make decisions, communicate those decisions with each other, then reflect on the effectiveness of those decisions. The idea is that team (and individuals) performance improves if team members have a shared understanding of the task that is to be performed and of the involved teamwork required to be successful. It is a representation of the two key principles of batting in cricket at a simple level; stay in and get runs.

This continues to build on the work we did last year to move our cricket teaching from solely isolated technical practice to the game being the central aspect of the learning environment through a Game Sense Approach. Richard Light in his book Game Sense proposes four core pedagogical features of a games sense approach:

  • designing the learning environment which emphasises engagement
  • use questioning to generate dialogue and thinking, rather than telling what to do
  • provide opportunities for the collaborative formulation of solutions to problems, that are then tested and evaluated
  • provide a supportive socio-moral culture environment, that allows participants to take risks and learn from mistakes

The core feature that I struggle with the most is the designing of games. Games Sense is based on a holistic and ecological view of learning with a focus on the game itself, rather than distinct components of it such as physical fitness, technique or tactics. Getting this right is of pivotal importance. Designing the game to align with the desired learning intentions and the abilities of the pupils is the most difficult step but without a doubt the most important step. Therefore small sided designer games which focus on what to do and how to do it are essential. Intentionally shaping the game can guide the pupils learning through play. If success is high then the game can be made more variable, if the success is low then the complexity can be reduced. Below are some examples of designer games linked to the principles of batting and the shared mental of Going through the Gears.

Once the games are designed the next core feature I struggle with is stepping back and letting the pupils try and find solutions to the problems the game is asking. Again Richard Light offers a practical method of going about this which I have used and found to be helpful:

1. Explain the game (preferably with a demonstration).

2. Let them play (for an extended period of time without interruption).

3. Stop them and then ask open-ended questions that help identify potential solutions to the problems being faced.

4. Give time to formulate an action plan as a group (get them to verbalise this explicitly).

5. Let the group implement their action plan within a game.

6. Allow time to critically reflect on the success of the action plan (through group processing) and then suggest further refinements.

7. Support the playing of the game (with purposeful practice and purposeful preparation if and when needed).

The game is no longer an appendage to the learning process. The game, with its tactics, decisions, judgements and skills, becomes the central aspect of the learning environment when teaching sport within PE. Not only does it promote higher levels of motivation and engagement, but also understanding through guided play, problem-solving, questioning, positive social interactions and a series of sequential modifications that build towards the adult game.


Going through the Gears – Shared Mental Model



Gear 1 – Consolidate (Stay in) – Tendulkar Ball


Gear 2 – Comfort zone (attack the bad ball) – V Cricket


Gear 3 – Hit the Gaps (Exploit the field) – Jail Break


Gear 4 – Dominate the game (score off 4 balls an over) – 4 Ball


Gear 5 – Hit the ropes (attack the bowling) – Go hard

8 thoughts on “Going through the Gears

    1. Hi Craig. We use this as a shared mental model from Year 7 to 11, but the games are mainly for Year 7 to 9. As they get more competent and confident with batting we try to design games that incorporate multiple gears as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Another wonderful post with clear ideas and progressions – do you do skill pullouts with students who cannot throw or bowl – how do you include this as they are playing? I find this to be the biggest struggle of mine – to monitor gameplay (ask questions, keep on task, change the game as required) but also to pull out kids who need some skills assistance to see further tactical improvements.


    1. Hi Mel. Thanks for the comment. Yes I do skill pullouts. I do this in three ways.

      1. I spot someone that needs technical help and pull them out for some intensive work before putting them back into the game.
      2. The pupils themselves can do this, usually in pairs, to work on an aspect of their technique. I have already shown them some isolated practices they can do. They can ask for help.
      3. I see that the poor technique is such a common occurrence I do a whole class skill pullout. Very short, sharp, quality practice before I put them back into a game. I then put it into the warm-up for the next few weeks.

      The aim is to get 80% play time in every lesson. Hope that helps?


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