Individual Pursuits – Athletics

Students from Grades 1-5 inquire into techniques required to perform various athletics events in the build up to sports day.



Central Idea: Athletics provides an opportunity for students to discover a preferred event.

Key Concepts: Form, Function, connection,      Related Concepts: Technique, style

Lines of Inquiry: 1. Discovering an event/events to promote participation   2. Techniques used to perform various individual events. 3. Inquiring in to personal performances compared to Olympic athletes.


To begin this unit, I used/borrowed a learning experience from Mr. Andy Vasily with regards to inquiry and athletics, thank you Andy for this awesome learning experience! If you have not seen the work of Andy Vasily, please check out his website:

In order to tune in to this unit, I decided to bring all students on a P.E field trip to a nearby athletics track which has a full 400m running track. The students arrived and completed a walk/wonder followed by a discussion relating to distances on the track, start/finish lines, relay change boxes etc. Following this, I asked the students to enter a small room where we had a computer & projector set up to show them the following youtube videos featuring Usain Bolt. Before showing the video, I asked the students if they knew who the fastest person on earth was and how fast could they run.

Following the first video, I asked the students to list the characteristics of Usain Bolts running style that makes him so fast. The students discussed a number of factors but I wanted them to find and list more features so we then watched the next video which features a slow motion version of Usain Bolt (and others) sprinting.

After compiling our list, I asked the students again, ‘How fast is Usain Bolt?’ Students immediately began making comments in relation to his world record time, 9.58 sec so I asked again, ‘But how fast is that? Using the concept of form, what does it look like?’ The students agreed that it was hard to know just by watching a TV screen so we then moved outside to the running track. I instructed the students to leave their water bottles at the finish line and slowly jog to the start line for a warm up. We took a few minutes to stretch out before beginning some 100m run through’s. I told the students I would call out times as they came across the finish line so that could start to compare themselves and their times to Usain Bolt. We ran a number of races and when the students finished, they waited at the finish line until all groups had completed their sprint where we once again discussed how fast Usain Bolt was in comparison to the students and their times.

Boys & Girls races for initial run throughs.   Students then wait at the finish line.

DSCN3760 DSCN3764


I then asked, ‘Think of the concept of form and what does it look like and consider, what does a person running 100m in just under 10 seconds look like?’ The students agreed that they had a better understanding but it was still not crystal clear as to what a sprinter sprinting that fast actually looks like. It was at this point in time that a plan I had devised with my teaching assistant kicked in. I had positioned the students at the finish line so they could not see the starting area. As I talked to the students, I explained how I wanted them to get a visual idea as to how fast Usain Bolt was and I gave a signal to my teaching assistant to begin riding a bicycle as fast as possible down the 100m track. When he got about 20-30m, I stated that ‘I couldn’t arrange for Usain Bolt to come and visit but we have our very own Usain Bolt here on a bike.’ The students turned around to see our P.E assistant flying down the 100m track on a bicycle and completing the 100m stretch in just under 10 seconds.

At finish line ready to watch ‘Usain Bolt’       Second viewing & students counting 10 sec.

DSCN3768 DSCN3769


The next part of the lesson focused on inquiry. After watching another run through of our own Usain Bolt on the bike, I presented an inquiry based challenge to the students. I quickly discussed the time of 9.58sec with the students and asked them to think of their own time from the first run through. I asked them to consider the difference and then with this knowledge, the students had to decide whereabouts on the running track they needed to begin running in order to cross the finish line at the same time as Usain Bolt (on the bike). We did not want them to beat the bike (and many students pointed out that that would be too easy) but instead, the inquiry asked them to judge how much of a head start they think they might need in order to finish at the same time as the bike. Once all students had decided their position at the side of the track, we began some races…students with a head start vs Usain Bolt (on a bike). Below is a video of  this learning experience with myself on the bike on this occasion.

Here is a video showing students starting from different positions to try and finish at the same time as the bike


Here  are some finish line photos of students competing against the bike & demonstrating their judgement.

IMG_0102 photo 3 photo 5 photo 9


Weeks 2-5: Individual Events/Relays

The lesson formats for the following weeks continued with a similar pattern, to inquire in to individual performances compared to the world records for each event. As I use this unit to help prepare students for sports day, we will focus on the events that we include in our annual house competition.


Week 2 – Shot Put

To begin, we once again watched a youtube video showing a progression of shot put world records being set.

Before heading outside, we discussed the techniques and actions demonstrated by the different athletes and listed various attributes on the board mostly focusing on developing momentum in order to propel the shot. Once outside, the students used various shots spread out along the sideline on the field to try the different techniques witnessed, the glide and the spin. Students attempted different techniques with different weights before trying in the shot put ring for a real measured attempt.

Students attempting a glide technique

IMG_4704 IMG_4709

Following this, we focused on the world record inquiry part of the lesson and placed a flag at the world record mark. Students were then asked to consider their attempt in the ring with regards to the position of the flag and stand in a spot where they believed they could throw form in order to hit the flag and reach the world record mark. We began with the students standing closest and agreed that the idea was to try and land the shot at the base of the flag whilst standing in a realistic position (not just dropping the shot). The closest students began and we worked our way back to the students at the back. A number of students at the beginning were fairly close with their estimates but just happened to be off target and we then placed more cones in an arc still measuring at the world record mark.

Deciding start position to reach flag              Beginning to match the world record mark

CIMG6862 CIMG6863


Week 3 – Long Jump

We began inside again to watch a video of the world long jump record being set. The discussion following the viewing related to the athlete sprinting to gain momentum, large bounds during the run up, high knees, arms pumping and the landing technique ended up being a topic that the students also wanted to discuss.

Following our viewing, we once again headed outside to begin practicing long jump. The students were encouraged to take some time and do pretend jumps to determine if they prefer jumping off their left or their right foot. Once this was decided, the students attempted a few jumps and we quickly discovered that we needed to try and figure out a run up so the students could ensure they jump off their preferred foot at the take off board. Students worked in pairs to try and help their partner determine a starting point in order to take off and land correctly.

Long Jump practice & trialing different take off positions/feet.


We then moved to our inquiry time and wanted to compare the students jumps vs the real world record. Before beginning our class discussion highlighted the fact that this could be harder to do than the previous weeks due to the fact that the world record mark was a lot longer and the students would have to jump from within the long jump pit in order to reach the same mark as the world record. A few students tried it and it was decided that whilst it was ‘okay’, it didn’t have the same impact as previous sessions. The idea of a sliding/moving carpet was then trialed and whilst it was not perfect, it did help the students to complete the activity. At the end of our run up we added another section of green matting that could be extended in to the sand. Before each jump, the students had to decided how far up the sand they wanted the carpet moved so that they could try and match the world record jump.

Students could slide the mat closer/further away depending on their estimate

CIMG6839 CIMG6846


Week 4 – Javelin

This session began inside again in order to watch a video for the world record throw for Javelin. The discussion once again related to the run up, the building of momentum and the technique for throwing the javelin. Many students noted how far away from the line the athlete actually began the throwing motion in order to not cross the line.

As soon as the students were outside, they had a period of time to simply try out different javelins similar to the shot put activity. Both short and long plastic javelins were placed out along the sideline of the football field. The students could simply try a plastic javelin, wait for the field to be cleared and then retrieve to throw again. Students were encouraged to change between a standing throw and throwing with a run up to simply try the different styles. As students attempted throws, teachers helped students with their action and give suggestions as to how to improve.

Students inquiring in to the difference between standing and run-up throws.

IMG_4438 IMG_4446

The world record inquiry part of the lesson worked similar to the shot put lesson although this time, we needed to use the whole field as we needed to place our world record mark (flag) at just under 100m in distance. The students had their first attempt by throwing from the end line and their distance was recorded so that the students knew how far they threw. Then, the students were asked to consider their measured throw, look at where the flag (world record mark) was placed and work back from there. The students had to determine how far back they would go to mark the spot they would throw from in order to try and match the world record throw. After students had decided on their position, we worked from the closest students first before making our way back to the last student standing farthest back. Students who felt they were way off the mark had an opportunity to complete the activity again whilst there were many others who were quite successful with their predictions and throws.


Week 5 – Long Distance Run

This session ran a little differently to the previous weeks due to the event and size of our field at school. Our football field provides us with the space to create a 200m circular track around the outside of the fields boundaries and running a long distance race is one of our events for sports day. In it, students receive house points for each lap completed within their 10 minute allotment and students are permitted to change between walking, jogging and running throughout the event. Therefore, as this was a little different I decided to head straight out to the field with the students and have the students complete the 200m circuit with a warm up jog (following a stretch). Once the students arrived back I informed them that the distance they just ran of 200m was completed in 19.19 sec. To get an idea of that, the students were instructed to begin the race again but this time I would blow the whistle after 19.19 seconds and the students were to stop when they heard the whistle then consider how far they had come from the start line.

The students were then instructed to return to the start/finish line and told that we would do the experiment again. This time however, they needed to consider the distance they went in 19.19 seconds and work backwards from the finish line and stand in their estimated position. Once the students had determined their newly adjusted starting positions the race started again and they needed to see how close they got to the finish line when the time of 19.19 sec elapsed and the whistle blew again. The discussion following this activity focused on the fact that all students had sprinted in their attempt to keep up with the world record but agreed that they couldn’t keep sprinting that fast for that long (the whole 200m circuit). The discussion then moved towards running at a sustainable speed or slowing down or stopping to a walk for a period of time in order to complete the 10 minute event on sports day.


Week 6 – Relay & Sports Day

During the final week, I grouped classes together in order for all year levels to have one final lesson before sports day during the final week of school before break. Sports day would also act as an opportunity for students to undertake their summative assessment task and demonstrate through participation. As the central idea focused on students discovering a preferred event in order to encourage participation, students were asked to complete a task related to that one event and were asked to complete it following that event.

S.A Task - I.P-AthsSports Day Summative Assessment Task

The final practice lesson focused on the relay race and in particular the baton change for a shuttle relay race. The lesson began outside this time and students were grouped in to their house teams and asked to discuss and then demonstrate the technique they believed to be the best for a relay baton change. We attempted a first race with the students initial ideas and there were a couple of mishaps, one being a dropped baton and the other where students came close to bumping in to one another. A short discussion followed covering a two handed technique for receiving a baton and the need for students to stay single file whilst waiting for their turn so no collisions occurred. We then tried the relay race again and students were clearly more successful. The remainder of the lesson comprised of practice time. Students were to remain in house groups and move to four different stations for about 5 minutes at each station in order to practice shot put, javelin, long jump and relays (where they could run shorter distances).

P.E lesson to practice baton changes            Sports Day relay race and great technique


More photos from sports day of the shot put and long jump events

DSC_0051 DSC_0062

The favourite event was the obstacle course where teams relay raced through the jumping castle.

jump castleDSCN4107

Beginning of the 60m sprints                          Capture the Flag was another team event.