Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Games Literacy

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Games literacy is built upon the holistic definition of physical literacy. The notion of games literacy is to indicate the qualities and skills that students will acquire from experiencing high quality instruction when participating in games. Students are considered games literate if they have the following:

  • Have knowledge and understanding that enables them to anticipate patterns of play
  • Possess technical and tactical skills to deploy appropriate and imaginative response
  • Are able to experience positive motivational states while helping to facilitate motivation among others involved in the game.

(Mandigo & Holt, 2004)

Knowledge and Understanding

Children with games literacy know the primary rules and understand how these rules create structural and tactical similarities and differences between games (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). Children with tactical knowledge and understanding of the different game forms of invasive games, net/wall games, striking games and target games will likely transfer skills and strategies positively in games of similar form (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013). Children with games literacy will be able to “read the game” and anticipate plays as they develop because they have a strong understanding of the games rules and tactics commonly used (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). Students that are games literate will have domain knowledge which consists of declarative knowledge which is knowing the “what” about something (such as rules of the game), procedural knowledge which is knowing “how” to use a concept or function and conditional knowledge which is knowing “when” and “where” to apply a concept or function (Alexander & Judy, 1988). Children that have games literacy will be able to understand and apply knowledge across games and understand that certain tactical concepts transfer between similar games (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). If children can learn the primary rules and tactics across game categories, they will be in a better position to anticipate the development of patterns of play (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). The literate games player looks for opportunities in which to demonstrate their proficiency in games without always having to play within the context of specialized rules and equipment (Mandigo & Holt, 2004).

Technical and Tactical Skills

Another key aspect in games literacy is technical and tactical skills. Children will need to have the necessary skills (technical and tactical) in order to execute the correct skill under different circumstances during a game. Examples of technical skills could include things such as: passing, shooting, dribbling and tactical skills could include things such as: off-the-ball movement, decision-making, defensive marking (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). A literate games player will be able to perform multiple different skills and know how and when to use them depending on the situation (Bunker & Thorpe, 1982). The “Teaching Games for Understanding” (TGfU) model suggests that students should work on technical skills once they have developed tactical awareness of the game (Hopper, 2002). When using this model to teach children, the game structures are usually broken down into simple modified game forms to give children the chance to develop an appreciation for the rules of the game and initiate awareness of important tactical problems. Once students can grasp the concept of the tactical skill, the teacher can introduce the proper mechanics to perform the technical skill (Mandigo & Holt, 2004).

Positive Motivational Experiences for Self and Others

Game environments that motivate children also help students with intrinsic motivation that leads to a more positive experience when playing (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). In 2003, Mandigo and Holt reported that when children who were game literate were given the chance to modify the difficulty level of an activity, they were more likely to experience positive affects due to the fact that the students would optimally challenge themselves and make the activity more fun by giving themselves a task that challenged them and their skills. Games literacy has been enhanced through an autonomy-supportive approach that was shown to have a positive impact on students’ perceived competence, self-esteem, conceptual understanding, ability to think, creativity, and retention (Reeve, 2002). With the autonomy-supportive approach, students learn how to play the game within the given set of rules and it helps develop moral and ethical skills (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). Children that are games literate are able to “read the game” which helps them see the game through their eyes with past experiences, but it also helps when they are with their peers because they get a chance to see the game from another perspective (Mandigo & Holt, 2004). In team sports, teammates often help by encouraging one another leading to a positive motivational experience.

Types of Game Forms

Invasion games

In invasive type games, the goal of the possession team is try to score by moving the game object into the other team’s territory - either by shooting into a fixed target such as a goal or basket, or by moving the game object across an open-ended target - such as across a line. The non-possession team is trying to prevent the other team from scoring and to regain possession of the game object to attempt to score (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013).

Net & Wall games

In net and wall games, the objective of the game is to score by hitting a ball into a court space, within the designated boundaries with sufficient accuracy and power so that opponents cannot return the ball back over the net. Depending on the type of sport, there are different rules, for example, the ball cannot touch the ground in sports such as volleyball or badminton but in other sports such as tennis or squash the ball may be allowed to bounce once before returned (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013). There is normally one to two players per side of one court with the exception to volleyball which has 6 players on both ends.

Target games

In target games, players score by throwing or striking a ball to a target. There are games that are unopposed such as golf or bowling and there are games where you are opposed such as lawn bowling or curling. In opposed target games, players attempt to prevent scoring by hitting the opponent’s object to a disadvantageous position relative to the target and have their game object closer to the target (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013)

Striking & Fielding games

In striking and fielding games, there are games such as softball, baseball and cricket where there is a batting team and fielding team. Players on the batting team attempt to strike a ball into an open area that eludes players on the fielding team to give the most amount of time to run between two destinations (a base or wicket). To prevent scoring, the fielding team must gather and throw the ball to the base or wicket before the runner reaches there (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013).


With games literacy being closely associated with physical literacy, it gives children the tools they need to participate in physical activity and sport as they age, both for healthy life-long enjoyment as well as sporting success (Higgs, Balyi & Way, 2008). Children that are games literate tend to enjoy physical activity and are more likely to continue and engage in different types of sports. Experts say that early, positive, physical activity experiences may increase the likelihood of maintaining a physically active lifestyle (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006).

Risks & Potential Issues

As previously mentioned, games literacy is closely associated with physical literacy which means poor physical literacy has long-lasting impacts. Not only does poor physical literacy block children from participating in sports and leading active lives, it also haunts them into adulthood. Without basic movement skills to lunge and sidestep, an everyday obstacle like an icy sidewalk surface becomes a potential danger zone (Yard, 2015). Research shows that without the development of physical literacy, many children and youth withdraw from physical activity and sport and turn to more inactive and unhealthy choices during their leisure time (Higgs, Balyi & Way, 2008).

Link Between Games Literacy and Teaching Games for Understanding

The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) provides a learner-centered approach that puts the needs and abilities of the participants first over the importance of the game (Mandigo, Butler & Hopper, 2007). TGfU is aimed at encouraging children to become more tactically aware and to make better decisions during the game. It also encourages children to begin thinking strategically about game concepts whilst developing skills within a realistic context and most importantly, having fun while playing. Essentially by focusing on the game, players are encouraged to develop a greater understanding of the game being played (Webb, Pearson, & Forrest, 2006). The TGfU is intended to provide children with an understanding of the technical and tactical skills necessary to be successful across a wide variety of games and the motivation to continue participation (Mandigo, Butler & Hopper, 2007). With access to such a variety of games, children may find they enjoy certain game forms over others and it helps lead youth to discovering more physical activities instead of only doing one. Students that can achieve the knowledge and understanding of games, technical and tactic skills and positive motivational experiences can become game literate.


  • Alderman, B. L., Beighle, A., & Pangrazi, R. P. (2006). Enhancing motivation in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 77(2), 41-51.
  • Alexander, P.A. & Judy, J.E. (1988). The interaction of domain-specific and strategic knowledge in academic performance. Review of Educational Research, 58, 375- 404.
  • Bunker, D., & Thorpe, R. (1982). A model for the teaching of games in secondary schools. British Journal of Physical Education, 18(1), 5-8.
  • Higgs, C., Balyi, I. & Way, R. (2008). Developing physical literacy: A guide for parents of children ages 0 to 12: A supplement to Canadian sport for life. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Sport Centres.
  • Hopper, T. (2002). Teaching games for understanding: The importance of student emphasis over content emphasis. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 73(7), 44-48.
  • Mandigo, J., Butler, J., & Hopper, T. (2007). What is Teaching Games for Understanding? A Canadian perspective. Physical & Health Education Journal, 73(2).
  • Mitchell, S. A., Oslin, J. L., & Griffin, L. L. (2013). Teaching sport concepts and skills: A tactical games approach for ages 7 to 18. Human Kinetics.
  • Reeve, J. (2002). Self-determination theory applied to educational settings. In E. L. Deci & R.M. Ryan (Eds.). Handbook of self-determination research (pp.183-203). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
  • Webb, P. I., Pearson, P. J., & Forrest, G. (2006). Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) in primary and secondary physical education
  • Yard, B. (2015, January 28). Effects of poor physical literacy in children carry into adulthood. CBC News