Hey all, Julian Schuetze here on behalf of the Collective. Here today with a follow-up to my previous post - Why your club should play more games. If you haven't read that, you will want to do so before jumping in here.
I've had quite a few questions thrown my way along the lines of "okay, but how do I do that tho" - so I figured I'd make a quick follow-up on actually structuring a lesson around game-based learning. Before I get started on that though, I wanted to make it clear that there are many ways to do this, and there are many models that you can base your structure around (TGfU, CLA, etc). I will be describing the TGfU model - Teaching Games for Understanding. This is what I was taught for my degree, so it's what I will be relaying to you (for the most part. This should be considered applying the TGfU format & principles to HEMA, not a direct example of TGfU itself for some varying reasons that aren't particularly important enough for me to get into).
The main principle of a lesson plan with TGfU is what I'll refer to as a "Block". A block is comprised of 3 main components:
I've found that the ideal block of time for a lesson range from one to one and a half hours. If you want to plan a longer lesson, I suggest breaking it up into multiple blocks instead. I have also experimented with 30-minute blocks, but I find that this only works effectively if the participants are already familiar with the games.
To break down the components of a training session, I use the open/closed method I mentioned in my previous article. Let's use the example of a training session focused on improving thrusting techniques. To achieve this, we need games that challenge participants to land thrusts on an unwilling opponent.
For the first play, I introduce an Open/Opposed game, usually one that involves sparring. For example, a game where participants can land hits however they want, but thrusts are worth double or triple the points. This game has a broad scope, which helps participants with the tactical application of thrusts.
Next, I apply questioning to the game. I've discussed the importance of questioning in the "Active, leading questioning" section of my previous article. I ask questions such as, why are thrusts effective, when are they effective, what are the mechanics of a strong thrust, and what makes a thrust work. These questions are crucial because they help establish a connection between the game and the participants' skill set. Here's a good, relatively quick article about how to build effective questioning for TGfU that you may want to check out if you're not entirely sure on what kinds of questions you should be asking.
For the practice sessions in between, I'll do a couple Closed/Opposed games to help them really refine the mechanics of the thrust. For example, Thrust Toggle from GD4H.org by Sean Franklin and then Primo Tempo by Adrien Pommellet. The games I use for refinement and improvement of thrust mechanics are still oppositional, but they have a narrower focus and a more stable, consistent environment due to stricter rules. This allows participants to really hone in on the mechanics of the thrust and practice landing them more effectively.
Then I will have them participate in another Open/Opposed game. Such the same game I did at the beginning, or maybe Cuts vs Thrusts by Stephen Cheney.
When planning for an hour block, I usually allocate 15 minutes for the first play, 30 minutes for the practice, and then 15 minutes for the final play. However, it's important to experiment with different timings and see what works best for the participants. I've found that things shouldn't be too short, as participants need time to learn and apply their solutions to the tactical problem.
It's also helpful to have a few extra games in mind and be flexible. Sometimes participants don't respond well to a game, and being able to cut it short and switch to a different option is important (after attempting to help them through it first via questioning, of course). If participants are particularly enjoying a game, it's okay to let it run longer to give them more time. In such cases, it's important to adapt your questioning to see why they were responding so poorly, or so well to the game to help them internalize their difficulties/success.
If the participants are already familiar with the games and have practiced them before, then shorter blocks can work because they can get right into it. For example, for a 30-minute session, I allocate 10 minutes for the Open/Opposed game, 10 minutes for questioning & 1 Closed/Opposed game, and then another 10 minutes for the Open/Opposed game.
During all of these segments, it's important to be an active coach. As a coach, I question, provide feedback, and encourage open communication during the practice. As I've mentioned before in my previous article, this is crucial for effective learning and improvement. You should go re-read that section if you haven't.
Hopefully this article, combined with my previous one will help give you enough of a framework to get started on gamification for your training plans! The HEMA Games Archive is a phenominal resource, where you can search the entire archive for tactical, or technical problems so you can just pick out what you're looking for and get some good ideas!
We acknowledge that The Historical Combat Collective operates on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Kwikwetlem, Sto:lo and Songhees First Nations Peoples. We are grateful to have the opportunity to gather, work, and train on this land.