5. Make changes while they are active
When children are playing in the playground, games move quickly and rules, spaces and people are fluid. They don’t usually need to stop to have lengthy talks about small changes. Children are adaptable, observant, masters of play. Make progressions to the activity or group without stopping the activity. If you want to add another tagger to a tag game, change the size of the area or hand out bibs - just do it as they play. Keep the kids active and playing.
6. Get yourself timed
Find a friend or colleague with a stopwatch and ask them to time your interventions. You might even ask them to stand behind the group as you intervene and give you a signal once you’ve talked for 90 seconds. If you want to measure Active Physical Learning Time, then a good way is to choose one child in your group, and ask a parent or coach to record the amount of time that child has had to move and be physical. Also get the overall time for the session - this can give you a percentage. You may be surprised by just how much you talk.
7. Use simple activities
Sometimes it’s hard to be concise when the activity we have planned is complex. Instead, start with simple activities and make changes as you go. Don’t try to explain everything at once. Reducing your instructions will give you more time to make important contributions later in the session. Here are more tips:
- Plan how you will explain the initial activity
- Start by showing the children the physical area. This is best done when the children are at the side of the area
- Use a quick and simple demonstration if you think it would help. A whiteboard is often helpful too – but only if it’s used well
- No need to over explain. Check for understanding with quick review questions
- If just one or two children don’t get it, then no need to repeat everything - you can help them later whilst they watch the rest of the group
- For quick interventions don’t bring all the children in. Use a ‘freeze’ moment - a quick 5-second progression or demo - then restart.
8. Use technology
If you are delivering a football lesson focussing on staying on the ball, you could use part of your lesson to teach and demonstrate techniques for shielding the ball and dribbling out of trouble. Or you could show a slow-motion video of Lieke Martens or Lionel Messi before the practice.
9. The game is also a teacher
Clever activity design will help you bring out the outcomes you want, leaving you less to communicate with words. For example, if you’re working on combination play use a scoring system where a goal is trebled if everyone on the team has touched the ball in the build-up. This will encourage combinations to happen in the game and allow you to get into more specific teaching with individuals or small groups
10. Paint quick pictures with your words
Recently I went to watch a coach deliver PE at a school in Charlton. He was delivering a throwing and catching activity, similar to the way we might work with young goalkeepers. The coach wanted the children to get their hands ready to receive a pass before the ball arrived. So he told them to imagine they were wearing a t-shirt made of glass, and they mustn’t let the ball smash their t-shirt. Most of them immediately started to get ready to catch, with knees bent and hands up and open, ready in case the ball came in their direction. When some of the children forgot, all the coach had to say was “your t-shirt” and they quickly remembered.