Lee Garrett

A teaching and learning journey through PE

‘Crossover’ Cooperative Learning Structure in Rugby


In my quest of delivering #realpe lessons, I have recently been focusing on

1) reducing teacher talk

2) lean towards a more guided discovery approach.

I have publicised the benefits of using the cooperative learning model and the various structures on this blog. Today, I used a Kagan structure called Crossover which was used in Rugby. 

Tackling in rugby is something which, I can quite easily omit from lessons and leave for the extra curricular activities for those who want to develop their rugby skills. But this particular class (year 5 boys) love to be stretched, are very competitive and the lower ability students like to embrace challenge  so I decided to try something different other than my ‘traditional’ command style (safety conscious) rugby session.

In groups of 3, Independently warming up, students applied a pulse raiser (rugby specific), stretch and specific skill practice.

After a quick Think-TRI-Share structure, it emerged that most students felt comfortable with the key points and so demonstrating the side on tackle (on knees only) became my hinge task on which way to advance the lesson.

Whenever I ask students to get into groups, this is normally what happens.

1) All the friends (usually similar ability) get together

2) All the competitive ones who MUST win get together

3) Those who struggle (socially and/or physically) get together

And so a continuum of differing abilities, skills, personalities emerge which reflected on the quality range of work produced. So now it was the time to use the Crossover structure to raise progress and continue to use and develop skills other than practical based ones. The Crossover structure is an extremely simple format where students rotate in a specific direction. Shown below:


In groups, they numbered themselves 1-3, and then ALL number 1s moved 1 place to the right and ALL number 3s moved 1 place to the left. Extremely simple to administer but extremely effective. 

I continued to encourage the groups to work together applying the key points of the tackle and then shortly introduced a task to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the front on tackle and the side on tackle. To be honest, the process of thinking, collaboration and analysing was more important than the actual success of the performance and students were rewarded for the level of answering/feedback. 

Initial thoughts at this stage are that, the more able students became leaders through a natural process and not by myself ordering them to take on the leadership role (Taking responsibility). The lower able students were subject to specific feedback by their new peers which enhanced their understanding and confidence (critical feedback). Those that normally get left out/socially rejected suddenly found a new gear to operate in and were engaged although they still had to be monitored for the occasional peer fall out. I’m not sure this would happen with older students.

Back to the Think-Tri-Share structure and this time it was to generate feedback into their understanding and knowledge of comparing two types of tackles. 

After a quick recap and questioning session, I then decided to revert back to the original groups as I felt it would be safer and easier to differentiate the games. The next task was 3v3 with a rugby league type format. To my surprise the level of effort and determination offered by the lower able students was significant. There was a definite resemblance to the technical model offered which more importantly made the skill effective, safe and dare I say fun??? Not to mention the level of knowledge and understanding previously fed back in the lesson

I did have to balance some of the teams but again this was in consultation with both parties involved and at one point I questioned myself as to whether I had ‘stretched’ the students. Yes was the answer. How did I know? They regulated their own game without much confrontation, they wanted to keep playing through their break time, one student requested in private that I do the same next week because he decided he worked better with a particular group as his behaviour had improved.

Finally, this is a great little structure if you want to share or develop information. It randomly mixes groups up creating an environment that can develop leadership, problem solving, decision making/evaluating, I can see that this would be successful in the classroom and in a wide range of activities in PE.

Nb. The Think-Tri-Share is my extended version of Think-Pair-Share. 




3 thoughts on “‘Crossover’ Cooperative Learning Structure in Rugby

  1. Hi Lee
    Thanks for sharing this – always a pleasure to read your blogs.
    It’s great that you decided to try this in Rugby often as you say a concern due to safety.
    I have come across the more able becoming the natural leaders in my own use of Cooperative Learning and within the schools I work. This is beneficial for both parties since the more able have to expand and apply their knowledge (often needing to re-phrase what they say) going into a higher level of cognitive thinking (Blooms Taxonomy) and they develop their social skills. The less able learn to respond and develop from the more frequent dialogue as opposed to the traditional 1:30 ratio. Again your reflection has highlighted this and how Cooperative Learning is beneficial for the multi-dimensional focus on learning: physical, social, emotional and cognitive – and the transfer of learning to ‘free time’ the ultimate aim of physical education.
    I hadn’t heard of this structure – I looked in my books but couldn’t find where it came from – where did you get it? It seems quite similar to carousel feedback have you seen this one?
    I also have some points you may want to consider and I would be interested in what you think
    1. Considering the PIES or the elements of the model – how where they positively interdependent and individually accountable. For example, they went through the cross over developing their skills and discussing with each other – but how did the team benefit (beyond the social skill development) when they went back to the original one. Did the team have a group goal? – a form of responsibility they had to take back to their original team (a bit like Jigsaw?)
    2. The high able are the natural leaders – how can we develop the less able’s qualities in such a role – an idea we have been playing with is either to give the information only to the less able and then they have someone in the team who acts as a supporter (Tip Tip Coach Structure) or the task is designed so no-one is more able (e.g. games making to break down physical/cognitive hierarchies).
    3. You say your aims are acting more in a facilitator role – I have some ideas for this taken from my work with Cooperative Learning, if you want to know anymore let me know
    Again a great blog – some great work you are doing with the students (with impact)
    Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Vicky for the feedback – helpful as always. I think that this first experience of using “crossover” needs some fine refinements after contemplating some of your points to consider.

      In terms of thinking about PIES. Im already thinking that as the numbers rotate, to enhance positive interdependence, students would be sharing a particular idea/concept which would be different to the other groups. This has a ring of jigsaw structure, so I guess its another hybrid of a CL structure which seems to work effectively.

      An example in this particular case could be that each group would develop a particular rugby tackle (front, side, back, etc) and after a crossover the knowledge/concepts of particular tackles have been shared making individuals accountable.

      After several crossovers, the whole class should have benefitted by participating in small practicals and sharing knowledge off ALL tackle types. (I will explore this next week).

      Just adding to your consideration point 2. Resources or cue cards can be shared to groups which has questions ranging from low order to high order. This would create ample opportunities for various AFL strategies.

      As a PE Dept, we are trying to reduce the amount of “teacher talk”. Again, steering away from the traditional PE (sport) model, I found that this structure lends itself well and the amount of peer feedback is enhanced by as you said the 1:3 ratio. As the teacher, I was more focused on listening, observing and preparing to intervene with groups to ensure safe techniques were in place which happened occasionally.

      All in all, its another tool for the toolbox and one that helps the provision of quality PE.

      • Hi Lee

        I think you are right there is so much cross over with the structures. Even that what you are getting at is similar to Cohen (like Kagan another developer) who uses complex instruction where each team works on a different task in the lesson to achieve the same learning outcome.

        Your right about the PIES they just need something to take back to their home team – interested to hear more on how it goes.

        Good point about the differing questions I hadnt thought of that – just had my CL head on (sometimes I think I loose track 🙂

        The reason I ask about the teacher talk is that I am currently trying to analyse and write about it for my thesis – to do the role of the facilitator I have had to go mostly out of PE CL research to get a grasp of what the teacher does – so in that way I would be interested in what you do in lessons. In the lit they talk about re-phrasing dialogue to challenge and validating the discussions to further challenge.

        Thanks for the reply


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