Game Sense: Reviews

Game Sense is neither a ‘game-is-the-teacher’ or a ‘roll-out-the-ball-and-play’ approach to teaching (Pill, 2016). It is an explicit guided approach that is driven by four core pedagogical features (Light, 2013):

  1. Designing the learning environment
  2. Emphasising questioning to generate dialogue
  3. Providing opportunities for collaborative formulation of ideas/solutions that have time to be tested and evaluated
  4. In a supportive socio-moral environment

Designing the learning environment means starting with play and ending with play of well designed games, but being open and willing to practice or prepare if needed for development. The decision to make the games easier or harder, to stop playing and practice on a specific aspect is driven by the reflection process. Whilst questioning is a great way of generating dialogue, clarifying problems and forming plans and solutions it can sometimes feel artificial and is often driven by the teacher. Another approach to stimulate conversation that is more game realistic is using reviews. Reviews are short, sharp and more representation to how teams members would communicate whilst playing an actual competitive game. If you want teams to learn to communicate with each other, find problems, formulate plans, execute and then review whilst playing then you need to provide the opportunity to practice.

Review Tools from Mark Bennett of PDScoaching:

  • Reset – Teacher calls out the reason for the review. So for example if teaching basketball and the agreed learning intention is setting up a man to man defence and it isn’t happening or the level is unacceptable the teacher would call out “RESET Man to Man”. The two teams would sprint to each other have have 10 seconds to review and then play is live again. I usually drop the ball somewhere and they have to find it and start playing from there.
  • Review – Teacher calls out “REVIEW”. Both teams sprint in to the teacher. They have 20 seconds to review, then form up in a semi-circle either side of the teacher. The teacher nominates individuals to feedback to the group through a question and answer session. Teacher asks how long they need to formulate a plan and then play is live again.
  • Hot review – Teacher calls out “HOT REVIEW” and then the players name. The player steps out of the game to do a one-to-one review with the teacher based on the learning intentions or agreed success criteria. Then back into the game.
  • Rotational review – Teacher calls out “HOT REVIEW” and then calls out one players name from both teams. They are to observe the game, based on the learning intentions or agreed success criteria, with the teacher. They have to formulate a plan to improve play and try to implement it live in the game. This can be repeated multiple times with different players. This is also a great way to change the rules or constraints of the game, by telling the players and then letting them take charge whilst in play.
  • Live review – Teacher calls out a players name. Player then must recognise and respond in play to the learning intention or agreed success criteria –  for example a hand-up means they recognise they made a mistake, a thumb up means they recognise success, hand to ear means they want to come and talk to you, tap to the head means they have no idea, fist bumping a team mate means they recognise that player has been success. Lots of different signals for different means can be use to find out what they recognise and know whilst in the middle of play. This however needs careful use, because some players don’t like being called out to when playing.
  • Self-reset – As players get more confident and effective with the review system you can give them permission to call the reset. This is what you are working towards so they can implement into a competitive fixture.
  • Self-review – Same as above. In this you can step in a listen and direct dialogue to learning intentions or success criteria if needed.
  • Overt review – This is where there is agreement with the learning intentions or success criteria and the teacher explicitly tells the group what they are looking for.
  • Covert review – This is where the teacher doesn’t tell them what they are looking for or tells them they are looking for something else to what they are actually are looking for. Using the basketball example above, a few lessons after working on man-to-man defence, the teacher tells the group they are looking for quick outlet passes. However the teacher is really looking to see if they still set up man-to-man. This is a goo review for inferring learning.
  • Cold review – review at the beginning of next lesson/session or away from practice/game.

For these reviews to work all of them need to be explicitly taught through modelling, agreeing and setting expectations especially around positive social behaviour and then practicing within lessons. They also need to always be focused around the agreed learning intention of the lesson or success criteria if they are to be effective. Often with players they tend to get caught up in the game and talk about what is happening, rather than what they are trying to learn about or develop in their play. It helps to refocus their attention by reminding them of positive social behaviours, learning intentions and success criteria, as all of the above reviews should be on about improving performance. Finally as Mark Bennett of PDS states with regards to using reviews players should always talk first and talk last.


Bennett, M. PDS Coaching

Light, R. (2013) Game Sense: Pedagogy for performance, participation and enjoyment. Abingdon: Routledge

Pill, S. (2016) Play with Purpose: Developing Thinking Players – A Game Sense Resource for Rugby Union, League and Touch. Australia: ACHPER

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