Last week we discussed the benefits of playing games to break records. Breaking records helps students compete in a way that avoids direct competition and encourages teamwork. There is a sense of pride and camaraderie when a class is successful in breaking a record. When a class is not successful, it gives them an opportunity to use a different strategy and try again. A way to take this idea to the next level is by implementing another idea into your games: risk vs. reward.
For many game and sports, there is only one way to score points (or successfully achieve a task). For example, scoring a goal in soccer or hockey is always one point, no matter where the shot was taken from. However, in the sport of basketball, there is a one-point shot, a two point shot, and a three point shot. The one point shot (free throw) is typically the easiest because there is no defense to stop the shooter. A two point shot can be easy or difficult depending on the circumstance of the game, but traditionally is more difficult than a free throw because the defense is allowed to try and stop the shot. The three point shot is traditionally a difficult shot because of its farther distance from the basket. This idea of having different point values based on the difficulty of the task is the hallmark of the idea of risk vs. reward.
By having more than one way to score points, this allows the students to make choices for themselves. The easier task, the less that it is worth, but the chance of success is higher. A more difficult task is worth more, but there is a higher rate of failure. The students will have to weigh these options as they are playing the game. Being individually successful helps the team be more successful overall, and the student must decide where they will be the most successful. This facilitates critical thinking for the student; where would they do the most good for the team?
By having more than one way to score points, this provides different levels of challenge for the students, and lets them decide what to attempt based on their skill level. More skilled athletes may try the harder variations of scoring within the game because they want to score the highest amount of points possible. If they choose the easier task, they would probably be successful at the task, but their earning potential over time is lower. If they try the harder task and are still (even somewhat) successful, those higher earning tasks are more beneficial to the team. This stratification of difficulty gives that the student the right amount of challenge, and they are also free to change their mind throughout the game if they realized they made an error in the decision.
For a less skilled athlete, they can score points and contribute to the overall benefit of the team and not feel left out. Many times less skilled or younger students don’t feel they get the same opportunities to contribute to the overall team effort, but if they have a task that is the right level for them, they can be successful. If the student wants, they can try the harder tasks (that the adult may not have thought they were capable of or ready for) and may surprise themself, which goes a long way in building self esteem and confidence.
The implementation of risk vs. reward is a very Montessori idea because it combines the two concepts of natural consequences and freedom of choice. The student is allowed to choose the task that is most appropriate for them, and can move back and for the as they see fit. Their choices (good or bad) affect the overall team, and the student will see the outcome of their choice. It is important to play the game more than once so the students have more than one opportunity to adjust their strategies. Risk and reward is a life lesson, and learning and practicing in PE gives the students a fun way to explore and make decisions for themselves.