6 Essential steps to teach classification of skill successfully


At first sight it might seem that classification of skill is a relatively straightforward topic to teach. And for the most part, you’d be right!

However, as I explain in this blog, there are a few essential steps required in order to ensure students fully understand this topic and are able to successfully tackle any exam question thrown their way.


Often this topic is one of the first to be taught on an AS or A level PE course and that is because its content is relatively straightforward to grasp and many students will have come across classification of skill of some kind if they have studied GCSE PE previously.

However, to ensure thorough subject knowledge for your students and to give them the best possible chance of performing well in exam questions there are a few pitfalls that need to be avoided and some skills which are often overlooked that need to be developed.

Follow these essential steps to teach classification of skill successfully:

#1.  Excellent subject knowledge – your subject knowledge. As with every topic, before you start teaching classification of skill you need to ensure your subject knowledge is tip top and that you know your way around every part of it so that you are confident in your ability to pass on this knowledge to your students and to ask them the right questions to see where the gaps in their knowledge lie.

With in-depth subject knowledge you also have an understanding and appreciation of the bigger picture of this topic and you can tailor your teaching accordingly. (Click to Tweet).

#2. Teach and test definitions and key terms – to ensure your students gain valuable marks in their exams. There’s a lot of information for your students to know in this topic and it is essential that their learning is structured. That’s why I recommend that you are very specific and logical with the way in which you teach the definitions of key terms and concepts such as a ‘movement skill’, ‘classification’ and ‘continuum’, as well as the meanings of each of the different types of skill classifications, (e.g. discrete skill and complex skill).

Exam questions on this topic do not often carry a high value i.e. they may be out of two or four marks only. Therefore it is important that your students are able to give specific, precise answers using the correct terminology to these types of questions rather than giving ‘woolly’ responses which will gain no credit (Click to Tweet) and will often be marked as ‘TV’, (which means too vague).

As well as teaching students the meaning of key concepts such as ‘externally-paced skill’, it is important that you instil in your students the importance of being able to give practical examples to each of these concepts from the very start of their learning, (see essential step #5 for more on this).

Tip: Worksheets with the key concept or terms in the left hand column and the definition or meaning in the right hand column are a simple but highly effective way of structuring learning for this topic. Test or quiz your students often on these key concepts and terms.

Ensure your students have plenty of practice in answering these exam style questions which are marked (according to the rigours of the mark scheme and the exam board) and that you give your students the feedback they need in order to improve and make progress.

Additionally, make use of some of the excellent online digital flashcard websites or apps that are available for free. I favour Quizlet and make use of all of its functionality with my students, but especially the test feature.

Click the link for free access to my PE Tutor class on Quizlet where you’ll get unlimited access to all of the flashcard sets I’ve ever created.

If you’d like to learn more about how to make effective use of Quizlet for teaching and learning, enrol on my free online course here.

#3. Teach the names of the continua (& what they mean) – to avoid potential pitfalls! It’s all well and good your students knowing the different types of skills e.g. gross and fine, open and closed, and self paced and externally paced, and what they mean, however there have been a number of times when students have come unstuck when they have been asked an exam question which has included the name of a continuum which they were not familiar with and as a result they were not able to access the question. OCR do this often!  

Take a look at this past paper question:

Movement skills can be classified in a number of ways. Explain what is meant by the continuity classification.

Students may well have a good understanding of what a discrete skill is, what a serial skill is and what a continuous skill is and they may well be able to give good practical examples of each of these. However, if they are not familiar with the term continuity continuum and they do not know what that means they would have difficulty in accessing this question and responding successful.

Therefore it is important (essential) that you teach the names of each of the continua to students and that they know which skill classifications correspond to each name. (Click to Tweet).

If you teach OCR A Level PE, here’s a reminder of the names of each of the continua:

  • the difficulty continuum (including simple & complex skills)
  • the environmental influence continuum (including open & closed skills)
  • the pacing continuum (including self-paced & externally paced skills)
  • the muscular involvement continuum (including gross & fine skills)
  • the continuity continuum (including discrete, serial & continuous skills)
  • the organisation continuum (including high organisation & low organisation skills)

#4. Justification – one of the key themes that I have seen running through examiners’ reports is that students tend to have a reasonably good understanding of the different types of skill classification but in their written responses in exams they tend to be less good at justifying the placement of these skills on any given continuum.

Therefore it is absolutely vital that you teach your students the importance of justifying the placement of each skill on a continuum. (Click to Tweet). Make sure that your students understand what ‘justification’ and ‘to justify’ means. (Click to Tweet).

This is a rather simple concept and forgive me for teaching you to suck eggs, but it is one which is often overlooked by teachers who assume their students know and understand what these words mean. However, experience tells me that this is not the case. So ensure that your students know what justification means and that they have plenty of practice in justifying and giving reasons for the placement of skills on a continuum.

Tip: A very useful and simple tip is to ensure that students use the word ‘because’ in every response they make to these kinds of questions. I know, it’s too obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students don’t do this!!

It is also important to make sure that students are aware of the way in which some questions are structured and that often the second part of a question on classification of skill is the area that focuses on the justification of the placement of the skill on a continuum. Far too often students either do not respond to this part of the question or fail to answer it correctly.

The importance of being able to justify should not be underestimated!  

#5. Practical examples – ensure that your students give practical examples all the time. I have written about the importance of exam technique and giving practical examples in another blog and this point cannot be overemphasised!!

Frequently remind your students that they are studying physical education and sport and as such they need to be able to provide practical examples from sport and physical activity in all instances. The quicker they get into the habit of doing this, the better! (Click to Tweet).

For example, usually it is not enough just to write about the theory of gross and fine skills (e.g. gross skills involve large muscle movements and fine skills involves small muscle movements) without giving a practical example to support their response.

Students need to be able to show the examiner that they can apply their theory to practical examples. For most exam boards this is AO2 (practical application) and students will lose relatively easy marks if they don’t / can’t give practical examples.

Tip: A very useful and simple tip is to ensure that students use the phrase ‘for example, or ‘e.g.’ in every response they make to these kinds of questions. I know, again, it’s too obvious, right? So obvious, that we often assume our students know to do this, without us explicitly telling them to do it. Don’t overlook this. Put an A3 piece of paper or large poster on the classroom wall that all of your students can see with ‘for example’ in large, bold letters on it and refer to it often in your teaching.

Additionally coach your students to write the name of the sport in which the skill is executed at the start of their response, for example, ‘In hockey, a hit would be a gross skill because large muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps and deltoids are used to execute this rapid, explosive action.’ But make sure students know that simply stating the name of a sport is not the same as giving an example of a given skill (Click to Tweet) and as such they would be unlikely to gain marks for this.

#6. Quiz – often! – the more we know about neuroscience and learning the more it is apparent that the more frequently we review and revisit concepts and topics, the more likelihood there is that we will remember them. If you are familiar with the concepts of interleaving and spaced retrieval you know this already.

Make use of online digital quiz applications, such as Socrative, to frequently give your students low stakes quizzes. (Click to Tweet).

Not only do the students enjoy doing these quizzes, sites such as Socrative provide valuable feedback for you to act upon (in real time, if necessary) to see where your students’ understanding is and how you need to adapt your teaching accordingly.

If you teach OCR A level PE, here’s the code to a ready made 25 question multiple choice and true / false quiz on classification of skills. If you teach another exam board, that’s not a problem, you can edit the quiz in Socrative to make it exam board specific.

Simply copy the code and paste it into Socrative.


Socrative is a great tool for responsive teaching! To learn more about how to use Socrative effectively, enrol on my free course here.

And if you’re already familiar with using this great resource, here’s a direct link to the Socrative website.

Recap: 6 Essential steps to teach classification of skill successfully

#1 ~ Excellent subject knowledge

#2 ~ Teach and test definitions and key terms (often)

#3 ~ Teach the names of the continua (& what they mean)

#4 ~ Justification

#5 ~ Practical examples

#6 ~ Quiz – often

I hope you find this post useful. I’d love to hear your feedback about it and your experiences of teaching this topic.

Let’s talk about it in the comments below.


BTEC Sport Unit 22 – Private Sector

Here I share my experiences of using Quizlet recently to teach the key terminology associated with the main aims and objectives of the private sector within unit 22 of the Level 3 National Diploma in Sport. A simple lesson plan, if you like.

First, I created a set of flashcards (11 in total) of the key terminology my students need know. The key terms were taken from the specification and textbook and I used the helpful suggestion feature in Quizlet to help me tailor the descriptions of each piece of terminology so that it was accessible to my learners.

Next, I printed three sets of large flashcards and cut them up so that the key terms and descriptions were separated.

I divided my BTEC class into three groups and distributed the three flashcard sets to each group. Their first task, in their groups, was to match the key term with the correct corresponding description.

Once they had successfully completed that task and having checked for understanding as a whole class, we developed the challenge and played the ‘memory game’ (also known as pelmanism).

In this activity all the flashcards were placed face down and students played the game in teams of two, whereby they turn one card over to reveal a key term (for example) and they then have to find the corresponding description. A matching pair is kept by the team. If the two cards do not correspond, both cards are turned face down again and returned to their original position. The other team then has a go at matching two correct cards. This is a useful exercise because it involves a lot of repetition and revisiting key terms and descriptions.

When the groups had finished playing the memory game, they logged onto Quizlet on their iPads or laptops and spent time working independently studying the same set of digital flashcards. In particular, I encouraged them to use the ‘Learn’, ‘Flashcards’ and ‘Match’ features on Quizlet.

To learn more about these features, click here.

After a period of time, all of the students were instructed to navigate to the ‘Test’ feature, where they had to complete a Quizlet test using the multiple choice, true / false and matching options. I circulated and noted individual student scores and provided feedback where necessary.

Following this, I set up a Quizlet Live session. This is a fun way for students to see the extent of their learning.

Finally, with all devices out of sight, having used the print function in Quizlet, I gave my students a hand out of a glossary of the key terms and I asked my students to complete the following task:

Using the key terms you have studied, explain the main aims and objectives of the private sector. Develop your points and provide examples from businesses in the SAL industry.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Quizlet effectively for teaching and learning, why not enrol in my free online course here?


Using practical examples!

It is two days after the AS and A level results have been published and I have already been asked to look at photocopied scripts of some of my students’ papers because they didn’t do as well as expected and it is heartbreaking to read some of their responses.

With particular reference to the skill acquisition and sports psychology components, but this applies equally to all areas of the specification, I lost count of the number of times students answered the question well (in terms of theory), i.e. they explained the theory of operant conditioning or the stages of learning, but scored no marks because they failed to use a practical example from sport in their response!! As a result, a number of students achieved grades which did not reflect their ability and their knowledge and understanding of the course material.

In the OCR AS paper in June 2018 the phrase ‘using practical examples from sport or physical activity’ was used in at least 5 questions and in each of those questions the mark scheme was very clear that if no practical examples were provided candidates would score no marks, even if the theory was correct! Not providing practical examples to even a couple of questions could be the difference of a whole grade or more!

So the lesson learned and the take away message is ‘make sure your students give practical examples in their answers’. I know it’s such a simple concept and hopefully most of your students do this all the time, but for those who don’t, it can have a devastating effect on their overall result.

My tip would be to coach your students to include a practical example in each and every answer they write, even if it is not specifically asked for in the question. This is particularly important for the skill acquisition and sport psychology components.

Collaborative Learning with Baiboard 3

Consumption rather than intellectual development?

I have been enjoying a discussion recently on Twitter about whether the use of technology in education (iPads in my case) promotes consumption rather than intellectual development.

Twitter chat

This is a really interesting concept and one which you will no doubt have your own thoughts on. It is true, without  a doubt, that there is the potential for technology to be ‘misused’ in this way, such that students are merely recipients of information and use the technology for nothing more than searching the internet, reading an electronic version of a paper handout, or watching videos online. In some instances we may even argue that this consumption is justified and has its place.

Of course, used creatively and with a little understanding of the theories behind ed tech, there is unimaginable scope for the promotion of intellectual development when using technology in education. One such example is by using collaborative tools which enable students to work together in creating a project. Such tools not only assist in developing intellectual capacity but also develop the skills required to work effectively with others – skills and attributes which employers desire in their workforce.

In a recent lesson, using Biaboard 3 as the collaborative learning tool, I set up a learning episode which challenged my students to work together in small groups on the topic of Sport and the Law. This was a new topic to them and students had limited knowledge about the issues involved. They were to research specific sub topics and create a project (or board) on Baiboard 3, (one page per group) demonstrating their new-found knowledge and understanding.

Once all students had finished, we projected the completed board onto the class whiteboard using AirPlay, enabling each group in turn to present their findings to the rest of the class. Questions were asked and further examples and clarification was provided where necessary, (by the students), which led to deeper comprehension. Finally, the Baiboard 3 project was exported as a PDF file to Showbie, which enabled all students to have access to all of the learning in that lesson and not just the individual sub topic they were working on. This, in turn, ensures that the rich learning that took place in the lesson is not ‘lost’ and enables easy access and retrieval of classwork when it comes to reviewing learning and preparation for assessments and exams.

Baiboard 3

Did the use of technology promote intellectual development?

I would argue yes, but ultimately it was the pedagogy – the requirements of the activity and the way in which it was set up and structured which really allowed for the promotion of intellectual development. This should always be the driver and at the forefront of our teaching, rather than putting the technology first and trying to fit a topic around it.

That said, this activity could not have been carried out with the same degree of success and engagement without the use of technology. Firstly, the technology allowed students’ curiosity to be piqued; they had the choice to go anywhere on the internet and find out more about the sub topic they were working on. They were able to delve deeper into stories about player and spectator violence and the consequences of such actions. They were able to discover the meaning of negligence and its place in sport and the law and they were able to familiarise themselves with the complexities of employment and commercial contracts.

In working together to create their presentations, students then had to decide and agree upon which pieces of information to use and which to discard, which pieces of information were relevant and which were not, which pieces of media to use in order to best convey their intended message. They had to discuss with their partners about how to present their information on the Baiboard page and who from within their group was going to present to the rest of the class. They spent time rehearsing and modifying their presentations.

All this great interaction (intellectual development) was taking place among the students and Baiboard 3 was the tool that pulled it all together. This simply would not have been possible if each group had just been working with some colour pens, an A3 piece of paper and a text book.

Alternatively, I could have stood at the front of the class in my didactic mode and my students could have ‘consumed’ a PowerPoint presentation on the subject! How’s that for promoting intellectual development?



Feedback is the essence of learning

How exactly can the iPad enhance learning?

If you look on Twitter you’ll find that almost everyday there are a plethora of tweets which tackle this question and it seems that for every positive proposal there’s bound to be a counter argument of some sort or another.

In this blog and the accompanying video, I am going to offer one small but I hope not insignificant example of how I believe the use of the iPad (or other mobile devices) can enhance learning. This is through the use of an activity which personalises learning and provides instant feedback to the learner so that she can progress on her learning journey at her own pace and in complete control. She can manipulate the resource as she wishes; she can review content that she is unsure of and she can develop strategies and tactics to help her in tackling (potentially) challenging multiple choice questions.

The methodology used in this example is based on the premise that written feedback is more effective for the learner than numerical scores. The idea being, that for every question a pupil gets right she receives feedback as to why the response is correct and similarly, for every question she gets wrong she also receives feedback as to why her response was incorrect. To my mind this is far more valuable than just receiving a score of 1 out of 1 or 0 out of 1 depending upon which response the learner gives. I would argue that this process strengthens the learning experience considerably and I have seen my own pupils benefit hugely from using these resources. The emphasis here is on feedback being the essence of effective learning.

I made these PowerPoint resources a few years ago and used them on PCs when (and if) I was able to get my classes into the computer rooms at school (which wasn’t very often). However, since Microsoft have made the PowerPoint app available on the app store (for free), my students have been able to make great use of these multiple choice PowerPoint slides on their individual iPads (wherever, whenever) to develop their knowledge and understanding of the key concepts involved in the various topics in GCSE Physical Education.






Solo Taxonomy, iPads, e-hexagon learning & Explain Everything

Over the past couple of months I’ve become increasingly interested in the concept of solo taxonomy and wish to express my thanks to Pam Hook @arti_choke for the explanation of how the taxonomy is best utilised in teaching and learning and for the excellent resources available on her fine website. Visit her site here. Thanks also to @PE4Learning for bringing solo taxonomy to my attention initially and all the great sharing of resources that is taking place in the PE community through PE4Learning.com; it is much appreciated and in my opinion a ‘go to’ resource for all PE teachers and trainee PE teachers.

Of particular interest to me is the way in which teachers make use of hexagons made of card or paper to help their pupils develop a deeper understanding of their learning. Pupils essentially use the hexagons to build up their understanding of a concept or concepts and are better able to move from shallow thinking through to more in depth thinking by physically linking pieces of information together to create a ‘bigger, deeper’ picture. For more information on hexagon learning, see David Didau’s blog, here.

It was obvious to me that a hexagon learning approach would benefit a good number of my year 10 and 11 pupils, especially in the construction of the longer answers required at GCSE level for the 3 and 4 mark questions, and in particular for the two 6 mark extended answers (Edexcel).

Many of my pupils tend to be able to provide a (unistructural) shallow thinking response (for which they would probably obtain 1 mark out of the 3 or 4 on offer, for example) but are not yet fully adept at developing their responses in sufficient depth so as to access the full marks available. Typically, pupils will use all of the space (lines) available on the exam script to answer a particular question and think they have responded to the question fully, when actually they have made just one point, but managed to spread their answer out over three or four lines (often repeating themselves or writing in larger than usual handwriting!). No doubt, many teachers recognise this scenario!

So where does hexagon learning, iPads and Expalin Everything come in? And how can they help?

Firstly, a bit of background: At my school, we are very fortunate to have a fully functional, reliable and successful 1:1 mobile learning project, lead by a most able Director of Academic IT, in which every teacher and pupil has their own iPad. Knowing that the school has a robust wi-fi infrastructure, I can trust the system and I believe it is worthwhile investing time in creating e-resources online or on the iPad which I can be confident my pupils can easily access in my lessons with very few concerns over internet reliability issues. (It’s a privilege to work with such a professional, efficient and competent IT support team – without which my use of technology for teaching and learning would be severely restricted. Thank you – IT Support!!) I do appreciate I am fortunately placed in this regard and recognise that not all teachers are in the same position. That said, to my mind, it would be remiss of me not to take advantage of the structure in situ and so I aim to make the best use of the capabilities the technology available has to offer, where appropriate.

One such resource I have focused on recently is the creation of e-hexagons using the Explain Everything app for the iPad which I distribute to my pupils via Showbie.

In this case, although in a digital format, the principle of hexagon learning remains the same, in that pupils develop their thinking starting from a unistructural (shallow) thinking base and progress into a multistructural stage through to a relational (deeper) phase and, all being well, they may be able to access the extended abstract stage of the taxonomy. The major difference is that the hexagons are on each pupil’s iPad and not physically on the desk. See the video example below.

What are the advantages of this approach, if any?

My thoughts are presented below and are in no particular order of priority.

  • Time and resources – the hexagons only need to be created once on Explain Everything and then distributed to as many pupils as necessary through Showbie with the click of just a few buttons. Time (any money) is saved as there is no need to print multiple hexagons, (perhaps on different colour paper), laminate them and cut them out. (Very time consuming, even with a relatively small number of pupils in your class).
  • Reusable – the same set of hexagons can be used for more than one class, group or set and presented to them in pristine condition, everytime!
  • Colour coded – the use of different coloured hexagons provides guidance to those who need it. To emphasise the importance of developing points beyond simple statements, I use one colour for unistructural points, a different colour for multistructural points and a further different colour for relational points. I encourage each pupil to use all three colours in the development of a point(s) where applicable and that their thought process should progress from colour 1 which links to colour 2 which in turn links to colour 3. In this way, my pupils have a clearer appreciation of the way in which a particular question could / should be developed. Not all pupils need this guidance, but it appears to be helpful for those that do.
  • Templates – when pupils are familiar with the use of e-hexagons, it is possible to provide them with templates (of blank hexagons) for them to fill in on their own. Once they have saved a template on Explain Everything they can return to it many times without the teacher having to create multiple numbers of hexagons for each different topic. This again saves time and money on resource development.
  • Differentiation (personalised learning) – the beauty of developing resources in the digital format is that without too much effort they can be tweaked and amended to suit individual learners. For example, to stretch and challenge pupils I might include a larger number of hexagons with more relational and extended abstract thinking for them to work with, whereas I can reduce the number of hexagons presented to pupils who would benefit from working with a smaller amount of information. Different tasks on the same topic can easily be distributed to individuals using Showbie.
  • Pair – share – even though each individual has their own set of hexagons it is still possible to set up tasks so that pupils work collaboratively. As well as having pupils working in pairs or small groups from the outset another method which works well is to encourage pupils to work individually at first and then to share their thinking with a partner. This allows pupils to articulate their thinking and learning with a view to making their understanding all the clearer; especially if their partner challenges them on why they have placed a certain hexagon in a particular location.
  • Record – a brilliant feature of Explain Everything is that it is possible to record all activity on the screen as well as capturing audio. This means that the movements of the hexagons can be recorded and at the same time the pupil can explain why they have moved a hexagon to a certain location and articulate their thinking and reasoning behind making such a move. (See the video below). For me, this is such a powerful tool because not only does it help pupils really focus on their thinking, it also enables me as the teacher to hear and understand the pupils’ understanding. It’s great for picking up misconceptions and also for developing pupils’ thinking.
  • Display using air server – if you have air server or Apple TV in your classroom it is possible for pupils to project their hexagon learning on the whiteboard or TV so that it can be shared with the whole class. This allows exemplars to be shown and again gives the opportunity for pupils to articulate their thinking. I have also found that projecting a poorly or incorrectly developed example (my own) enables the class to work together to make any necessary corrections and to improve upon the original attempt.
  • Save learning – another great advantage of operating in the digital arena is that pupils’ learning can be saved. How often have we as teachers witnessed great, rich learning taking place in lessons only for it to be lost when the moment has passed or when the lesson has finished? With Explain Everything, both the process of learning and the finished outcome of the task can be recorded and saved (click to tweet) so that it can be referred back to. A perfect revision resource and a wonderful way to demonstrate that individual progress is being made.
  • Modelling – the use of the Explain Everything app enables me to model hexagon learning to my pupils and as mentioned above, allows the teacher to explain how the system works as well as the reasoning and thinking behind the placement of each hexagon. Pupils can easily see ‘what a good one looks like’ and understand what is required to create a ‘good one’ themselves. See the video below.
  • Homework – e-hexagon learning does not have to be restricted to lesson time. Provided pupils have internet access at home (and Explain Everything on their iPad or iPhone) this could be set as a purposeful homework task and / or in preparation for a written extended answer (the 6 marker) for the next lesson.

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