Students of all ages have been enjoying the last of the warm weather and making the most of their lunchtimes by getting involved with spontaneous, student organised games, often involving large groups of students of mixed year levels. These have ranged from an informal version of soccer to ‘gang-up tag’; a variation of tag where students also become ‘it’ when they are tagged. In this variation, students ‘gang up’ once they are tagged in order to tag as many students as they can until only one student remains.
The games change every few days as students adapt to the wishes of the group, but they continue to involve physical activity. The benefits of this type of play are numerous and when viewed through the lens of Dr Mason Durie’s Whare Tapawha model of Hauora (wellbeing), aligns clearly to the Health and Physical Education strand of the New Zealand Curriculum.
Taha tinana (physical wellbeing) is the most obvious benefit of physical games, and this is much more than an increase of physical fitness. In addition, students are developing a wide range of gross motor skills. An informal game of soccer allows students to practice large ball skills such as dribbling, kicking and passing. They are also learning running skills such as dodging and increasing or decreasing speed quickly. In these games, younger students are often supported by older students.
I love playing soccer at lunchtime because I get to dribble and boot the ball. I can practise my skills.’ - Elijah - Room 1
I like playing the goalie and I like the big kicks. - Jacob - Room 4
Stanley and Jacob guard the goal for their team.
Students also develop important social skills while participating in semi-structured games, which is the taha wairua aspect of hauora. While playing games such as lunchtime tag or soccer, students must first agree to a set of rules by negotiating with other students, they must then be able to abide by the rules. Jacob explains a variation to the game of soccer that is often played:
The boss is the one who brings the ball and when the boss says ‘Pick up the ball!’ we’re allowed to pick it up and run. - Jacob - Room 4
Seniors and juniors are often seen playing together and at times allowances must be made to accommodate younger students.
I like gang up tag because I get to play with Harry. He’s my buddy from my buddy class. - Benjamin - Room 5
Benjamin is never ‘in’. He just sticks with me. - Harry - Room 9
Senior students are taking on leadership roles by organising other students, so a game can get underway and then acting as referees to ensure the game is being played fairly. These are all important life skills and cover all five of the key competencies. These are participating and contributing, using language, symbols and text, thinking, managing self, and relating to others.
Students figure out who is ‘in’ before a game of gang-up tag.
Taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing) is catered for as students experience a sense of community and belonging by being involved in the game. Students are welcomed by others and nobody is excluded.
The best thing about soccer at lunchtime is that I get to play with all of my friends. Anyone that wants to come can play. - Zavier - Room 7
Increasing self-worth and individual confidence is a wonderful by-product of lunchtime games and is a part of taha hinengaro (emotional/mental wellbeing). The more relaxed style allows students to develop their skills and have a go without the strict rules of a formal game. Some games require strategy and older students especially can be seen strategising together to come up with a game plan. Thinking skills are important here and younger students learn from watching older ones and from trial and error.
It’s not really my thing being on the field and doing the dribbling but I still give it a go. - Jacob - Room 4
A game of soccer in full swing.
Aside from the curriculum benefits, of course we can’t forget that students need to simply have fun.
In gang-up tag you get to play hide and seek and it’s really fun. - Asharntay - Room 8
I quite like it because you can hide in places and run away from taggers. - Stacy - Room 12
Some might argue that enjoyment is the most important benefit of all.
Key words: hauora, play, whare tapawha,