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Providing Balance

Classification of Games & Sports in PE

Often when we think of game types in physical education, it is in the form of the traditional four classifications of games: target, striking & fielding, net & wall, and invasion. O'Connor et al. (2022) proposed additional "classifications" to help extend Physical Education's reach with young people (and hopefully promote further movement in one's lifespan). I am not going to dissect this article (it is a great article though) in this blog. Dr. Ash Casey provided a quick recap of the article here. If you are interested in reading the actual full length article, well you are in luck, you can find the article here.


The purpose of this blog is to share a visual to showcase this proposed classification of games and sports in PE put forth by O'Connor, Alfrey, & Penney (2022). Additionally, I would also like to discuss how this fits within a Primary Years Programme (PYP) PE program.

Classification of Games & Sports in PE Visual

Below is a very slightly adapted classification of the games and sports in PE visual proposed by O'Connor et al, (2022):

A few things to note:

  • The four traditional classifications of games remain (target, invasion, striking & fielding, and net/wall).

  • There are three added classifications: travel sports, action or trick sports, and rhythmic or aesthetic sports.

  • Tactical complexity for games goes from invasion (most complex) down to unopposed target (least complex). An unopposed target game is unaffected by any opposing players (e.g. bowling).

PYP and 7 Classifications of Games

A balanced PYP PE curriculum exposes learners to a variety of learning experiences which enables students to make informed choices throughout their lives (IBO, 2009). The PYP suggests PE programs include:

  • Games (four traditional classifications - target, invasion, striking & fielding, and net/wall)

  • Health-Related Fitness (goal setting; fitness plans; nutrition; components of fitness; body systems)

  • Movement Composition (gymnastics, dance, martial arts, synchronized swimming)

  • Adventure Challenges (students use physical & critical thinking skills to solve problems and accomplish a common goal; cooperative and team building activities).

  • Individual Pursuits (swimming, skating, skiing, skateboarding, cycling, track and field, and rollerblading)

Individual pursuits often includes the development of a variety of object control and locomotor skills with emphasis on technique and personal improvement. Students often set goals and discover ways they can better their own performance. I would suggest that action and trick sports aligns nicely here.

I would also say travel sports fits well with individual pursuits but also: health-related fitness. You could quite easily have a unit with learning outcomes related to: measuring distance (travelling; cardiorespiratory endurance), setting goals, creating a plan to improve, identifying types of fitness components and systems used to complete tasks & how your body/mind feels during/after exercise.

Rhythmic or aesthetic sports aligns really well with movement composition.


Ultimately, I believe the PYP balanced framework in PE is suitable for encouraging movement for a lifetime by providing both a wide range of activities while also including emphasis on all domains (e.g. Adventure Challenges). From my experience, the four classifications of games overly consume PE curricula around the world. PE programs need (to continue) to provide alternative individual activities and perhaps scale down the traditional classification of games units to ensure our students are actually receiving a variety of quality learning engagements that are balanced and inspire movement outside of school (and for a lifetime).


So... how might you change your current programming to ensure it is more balanced for your students?


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