Making Rugby Enjoyable


For this post, I’m emphatically staying out of the classroom. I’ve recently fallen into the trap, to which we all seem to have been lured; focusing heavily on our classroom practice and not so much on our bread & butter.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that we teach PE. I’m sure if we look back on our PGCE (or PE with QTS) days, we were motivated heavily by the lure of teaching out on some field with a bunch of kids, whatever the weather. We all used the same lines in our first interviews; yes we are first and foremost educators, but the practical, physical element is what pushes our buttons. Core PE for me is the most important part of the job by a million miles.


Whether you timetable proper rugby (like what I learned thanks Creeky), or posh girl’s Rugby (like I now teach); League or Union for those devoid of humour genes, you will encounter at least one of the situations outlined here:

You will find that some kids are absolutely buzzing about the activity. They might never have had the chance to legally smash people around in their lessons pre-secondary school and are now very happy to be doing Rugby with you.

Some kids will get on with it with a hint of enthusiasm, but not necessarily love the sport.

Some kids will hate the idea of having to lay hands on another human, let alone have someone do the same to them.

So there you have it; we’ve got the jocks, the inbetweeners and the softies. What you’ve now got to do is make Rugby lessons enjoyable for all of them. Good luck.

First things first:

Timetabling is important. If you want your little Year 7’s to take away positive experiences, put Rugby as the 1st or 2nd activity on your curriculum calendar. If you start the activity after October half-term & have never done any Rugby with a group before, chances are the weather will kill you. In the Northeast, once you get to that 1st half term, it’s time to put the shorts away & stop pretending to be hard as nails. It’s Baltic. Imagine how an 11 year old is going to cope with contact skills for the 1st time when his hands simply won’t work in the cold. Leave the character-building & “hairs on the chest” to the private schools.

At our place, year 9 and 10 boys core PE is ability grouped. The bottom sets simply don’t get timetabled on Rugby after half term 1 for the same reasons as above.

Introduce contact work early:

This might sound ridiculous but I think it works. Contact isn’t just tackling, ruck, maul & scrummaging. You need to encourage kids to hit the deck properly, hit contact shields & become comfortable with physical contact with other pupils and objects. I like using contact shields loads in warm-ups. Get kids punching the pads like boxers to warm up shoulders & arms. Lay out as many pads as you’ve got in a grid and get kids to drop onto them “knee, hip, shoulder” as the jog past. In your warm-up, pair kids up – play “follow the leader”. When shouted, ball carrier drops onto ground/shield and pop passes from the floor (union only please!). These ridiculously simply warm up activities all help build confidence.

Relevant Warm up:

Sounds obvious, but there are still times you’ll see a warm up at the start of the lesson with some kind of running around aimlessly, whilst the teacher sets up their cones for activity 1. I know this because I did it on Friday morning.

If teaching contact skills, always try and incorporate some elements of contact in your warm up. Press-up wrestling is one of my favourites (assume press up position facing partner, attempt to get partner to put elbow, knee, torso, full body on ground).


It goes without saying, your kids will almost certainly differ in height, weight & physicality. Kristian Jowett at my school was a 6ft 1inch man in year 7. Imagine being paired with him in your 1st ever lesson (Jon, Tick, you know that he was a big lass as well as I do but we’ll keep that secret).

Encourage kids to work with a pal; someone of similar size, strength or ability. Give choice. You might set up a few different activities or practices with a variable amount of physical contact. Let students pick which one they’d like to attempt. Hey, if they improve, they could move on to the next stage of challenge. Oh is that you Mr Ofsted inspector? Did you see that progress there?


Mix things up:

When introducing tackling, I usually start with a pad/shield-based warm-up. Getting kids adopting good body position (“Aeroplane swoop” – get them to swoop on approach, touching the grass with one hand to get low), make it competitive by putting a cone behind the pad-man – see if you can drive the pad man behind his cone.

Rather than just moving straight onto tackling a partner, stick with the pads. Instead of standing holding the pad, put the pad upright on the floor with pad-man supporting it from the side. Get kids tackling the pad; using all your teaching points, body position, head, shoulders/hips, arms, drive, landing.

Once kids are ready, then move onto 1-1 tackling. Again give three or four different “stages” through which kids can progress/pick a starting point. It’s a bit like if you use SOLO taxonomy in your classroom – you aren’t expecting all kids to start from pre or uni-structural stages, so do the same in your practical.

Switch things up between using non-competitive/passive practices like the examples above and more challenging, competitive situations. Our lads seem to love “Kabaddi” games “Last Man Standing” and “Ball Steal” (examples of these can be seen in the old exemplar scheme linked at the end of this post). These games are great for removing the “Rugby” from the lesson, should you encounter a group of students who are switched off.

Do fun stuff:

Use games like Kabaddi or “Escape from…” to make contact fun. I tend to use “Escape from CLV” with yr7’s. Arrange groups of 5; 3 attackers, 2 defenders in a 20 x 10m grid. Set up 2 pairs of cones on the try line as “scoring gates”.

1st defender is a tackler (name them after one of the heads of year/deputy heads etc). This tackler can only operate in 1st 10m. If attackers pass into 2nd 10m, tackler is defunct. 2nd defender is a “blocker” who can stand in either “scoring gate” to prevent attackers from scoring a try (I always get the blocker to be the headteacher – the last line of defence you have to cross in your escape from school). This set up helps you differentiate defensive roles as well as using a game situation to deal with the inevitable “can we play a match?” questions. You can give the blocker a shield and introduce more contact should you wish. Tell the kids that they’ve found a magic egg (the ball incredibly) and they’ve got to bust out of school past the teachers. They can only use the exit doors (scoring gates). Mad, inappropriate, but fun.

I want to assess the kids in a game; it’s the end of the unit

Use differentiated pitches & modify rules. Pitch 1 might be Twickenham (or Headingley if you teach proper Rugby) – this might be “touch” or “grip” tackling. Pitch 2 might be Murrayfield (the Jungle at a push) – there might be tackling but rucks might be uncontested. Pitch 3 – well you get the idea.

You don’t have to play 15 (or 13) a-side to assess kids in game situations. Have you ever seen that on A Level moderation day? Cater for your kids.

Enjoy it

Even if your own experience is crap, don’t pass that onto the kids. Rugby has the potential to offer so much more to kids that things like football ever could. Use it & get your kids to love it.

Sample lesson plans:

Rugby Year 7 Scheme

Rugby Year 8 Scheme

Edutainment – Chat shows in lessons


I’d had a similar idea to this a while back, but had never been able to get any further than that, an idea. It was my old pal Paul Taylor (@ticktock80) who put me onto Kate Bancroft (@klbancroft88) at Penistone Grammar School, who then inspired me to try the lesson I’m about to describe.

Kate is famed at their place for her innovative use of chat-shows/reality TV in creating engaging lessons. I’d read a few bits and pieces about her lessons and started to think more seriously about how I could do something similar. Another old pal, Jon Nicholls (@JonNicholls81) had mentioned on Twitter that he had an idea in the pipeline and this sealed it for me – I was definitely going to give it a whirl.

I had already decided on my reasons for using this kind of delivery method with my AS group; for a while I’ve been concerned about their struggles with extended questions – especially where they are asked to “critically evaluate/analyse/discuss”. I would use this idea to help the kids generate argument, discussion and highlight opposing viewpoints.

Guest Spot: Kate’s Experiences – AS PE: Rational Recreation

Jeremy Kyle definitely got my class buzzing about learning! They took on roles of the working class and it was fantastic to see them using so many key points that we had learnt in lesson during the ‘arguments’! Luckily we had a bouncer to step in when it really kicked off between the couple over the amount of time that he was working in the factories and then watching football on the ‘half day’ Saturday.

This particular group got so into character that they did the filming in one take, with no script…and amazingly still hit so many relevant learning points!! Definitely up there with my best lessons. What kids come up with when you give them the chance amazes me!
It really was a hit with my class and I can’t wait to do my next one!”
After a recommendation like that, it was easy to see the huge potential of planning something very similar.
My Lesson:
The lesson focus was on the impact of different factors on Coronary Heart Diseases. I knew I wanted the kids to answer a 10-marker for homework, so I picked the rather challenging “Critically evaluate the effect of lifestyle factors on CHD’s”.
In my planning for the lesson I decided that I’d try and keep things quite structured, rather than go all-out and turn things completely over to the kids to arrange. I wanted each pupil in the group to have a set role/persona and I also wanted to give them the opportunity to plan their response to the homework question during the lesson.
The Plan:
I spent a bit of time looking at the ability of kids in the group along with their personalities. Once I’d got my head round this, I tried to match up kids with appropriate roles. As I’m sure is the case in most groups, there is a good mix of geniuses, numpties, performing seals and kids so introverted you alsmost have to pay to hear their thoughts.
roles and jobs – document. Names in red were the kids I gave the more challenging roles and responsibilities. I emailed each pupil with their own role, with instructions to research their part and, if necessary, liaise with any others mentioned in their part. I gave them a good few days in order to ensure nobody was left with nothing to say.
I used an A3 version of this sheet Exercise and CHD 10 mark planning sheet
As a connect activity, I showed a compilation of the more extreme clips from the show and encouraged the group to attempt to replicate it in their efforts.
I set scene at the start of the lesson in character as Jezza, posed the question they kids would be answering and introduced to group to the horrible charver who they’d be watching/speaking to during the show. He was a guest from a previous episode of the show and was a disgusting looking chap. After hearing from him, I introduced our resident twins who were eating at McDonald’s 3 times each day and they got the ball rolling. In my role as Jeremy, I managed who would be speaking and in what general order. My homemade microphone and boom served as a visual aid to let everyone know who had the floor. Obviously if debate ensued, the structure opened up and a bit of organised madness raged.
The Good Bits:
The main positive of the lesson was the level of engagement. The kids genuinely seemed to love the idea that we were doing something a bit different. Had I simply set some preparatory homework as I often do, I’m sure plenty of the kids would have gone through the motions the night before, found out the relevant information in the course textbook and mindlessly copied something down as a means of answer. However, because each pupil had a differrent homework prep task, they put in some real effort. Some kids had generated pages of notes and scripts. One lad, who played the obese man in his 50’s, had brought in bags of crisps and chocolates to eat throughout his part, whilst wheezing away and simulating chest pains.
The quality of delivery from the kids was unreal. The “doctors” really had a pompous, arrogant air about them and at one point, started arguing with each other as a grudging relationship was hinted-at in their role descriptors. My “antagonist” did a great job of winding people up and making controversial, sweeping statements when other characters were trying to explain their points. We had a couple of characters thrown off the show.
The quality of information shared was outstanding. Rather than simply being just a bit of fun and chaos, the kids had really gone to town on becoming an “expert” in their specific field. There was stuff kids had brought from their Biology backgrounds (I’m lucky in that 16/19 kids do both PE and Bio).
After the “show” had finished, we allowed time for kids to go and find an “expert” in whichever field they still had questions. For example, if you still weren’t sure what the implications of HDL and LDL cholesterol were, you could go and speak to Dan and Luke who could tell you. This was propbaly my favourite bit.
The Bad Bits:
On the day of the lesson, I was already suffering from the Gastro-Intestinal infestation that put me out of school for the next 4 days. Basically I felt like shit. I was sweating like a pig and my guts were killing me. I found out the night before that 2 of my colleagues would be systematically taking kids out of the lesson to do their mock EPIP talks. This really didn’t help with continuity. I had been moved classrooms out of the block for the first lesson of the day, this meant that I had to leg it from main school back to PE to dump my gear, then peg it back outside for my break duty and then back to PE for my lesson. This didn’t allow me time to get changed into my suit. I was gutted about this bit. Having rushed around at the start of the lesson and struggled with the growing nausea, I completely forgot to pick up the 4 video cameras I’d charged up that morning for my film crew to use. Idiot. It was a bit like I’d planned the lesson for over a week and it was going tits-up before my eyes. Once I was chasing my tail, I felt I’d lost a bit of organisation along the way.
Aside from being a bit annoyed with myself at forgetting the cameras and feeling pretty minging throughout the whole lesson, I was dead chuffed with my 1st effort at this type of lesson. There was clear differentiation in the roles kids assumed; the planning sheets and the notes the kids had prepared beforehand showed the progress made throughout the lesson and engagement was through the roof.
Yes, things could have been much better. I would certainly recommend getting more input from the kids in terms of structure of the show – I’d either let things be much more free flowing, or use a panel of kids to direct/produce the show in future. I might even let it go wild and then book the IT rooms (some expert advice) and then let the kids edit a revision video from the raw footage.
I’m already thinking about the next one. I fancy doing a “Question Time” themed show with kids coming up with their own issues and posers for a panel who would be answering in character. That’s as far as I’ve got with it I’m afraid.
The 10 mark question homework was handed in yesterday. At first glance, they look to be pretty good. I’m actually looking forward to marking them – which quite frankly is a bloody miracle.

Sir, Dodgeball’s crap…


Save yourselves! It’s bleaching down out there!

It seems like quite a nice time to write this post as I watch the snow bucket down over the Northeast. We’ve not really got stuck into our boys’ core PE programme for what feels like months now. We’ve had torrential rain, frozen ground and now snow. The only thing missing has been the infamous Cramlington wind; which I’m sure will arrive (and stay) in due course. My earlier post about the opportunities, thrills and spills of delivering Dodgeball as part of your contingency lessons is now going to get hammered. You’ve taught all 11 variations that were mentioned in that post. You’ve added several of your own. And the kids have just told you; Dodgeball is crap. What do you do?

I’ll tip my cap at this early stage to Dave Best and Paul Steanson, who were teaching with me in the lesson I’m about to show off. As soon as Steana saw the activity we had set up he whispered to Besty “I bet he’s doing a blog on this”. He was right. Not to blow my own trumpet; but because it’s something I think might be useful to others (and I’m looking for suggestions for improvements).

Which activities are you already doing?

This was the original question we asked before planning our contingency lesson with a Year 8 boys’ population of around 85 kids. Orienteering (my favourite), Gymnastics and Basketball was the answer. They’re probably not the activities you would choose to put together in a contingency lesson, but as kids seemed to have missed loads of curriculum time already, we thought we’d give it a go. As a boys’ department, we’ve made the decision with all groups to try and either base emergency lessons around physical fitness or around one of the activities that a group would have been doing. We’d already done some 1/2 court 4v4 basketball delivered by our inhouse expert Dave Best (@besty_d) and wanted to try something new.

How did it work then?

I got in early (for once) and set up the sportshall with 16 stations in a circuit format. Stations were a mixture of Gymnastics challenges (vaults, springs, basic movements) and fitness exercises (bog standard burpees, push-ups, dumbbell exercises etc), with instructions on A3 paper stuck next to apparatus on floor. Each station had an Orienteering control punch…

…attached along with an instruction for locating the next checkpoint. Pairs of pupils were given an Orienteering checkpoint card…

…and chose their own start point in the room. After completing the challenge/exercise on the instruction sheet, pupils punched their card and located the next station. Stations were arranged in no particular order, so pupils had to be active in attempting to find them. The obvious flaw would have been that kids might just watch where the pair in front of them went – thankfully, activities seemed to be engaging enough to prevent this from happening. Pupils moved from station to station completing the set activity and punching cards to their heart’s content. Some managed to complete all 16 stations at which point we set them off from a different start point, asking pupils to start from the station they found most challenging (ooh, strangely enough for most of these kids it was the “perform a front somersault” onto the crashmat station!)


Initial plan of stations, activities and clues. At station 3, rather than a clue or question, there

was simply a “Dingbat” of a Belch and some Pod Peas – giving the answer “Burpees”.

Literacy & Numeracy

One of my minor grumbles when talking about Literacy and Numeracy in PE is that we generally tend to dumb things down. I mean no offence by this, but lots of us automatically say “Oh aye, we do loads of that. We put key words up and we’re always getting the kids to sort into groups of x…” Lets be fair; secondary school kids ain’t really going to massively boost their Maths and English potential by looking at some basic vocabulary and splitting into teams of 4. I attempted to make things a little bit more challanging, by getting kids to read and solve the problems on the instruction cards – the answers were all numbers – enabling them to locate the appropriate station. If kids went wrong, they’d eventually realise that they’d worked out a wrong answer somewhere. Could this bit have been done better? Yes, undoubtedly; but the instruction sheets were put together at about 11:30 the night before so I’ve got an excuse.

Right, so how successful was this?

If you’ve read the other blog articles on here, you should know by now that I don’t like to bullshit, so I’ll be as honest as possible. It worked pretty well. Kids were engaged; which was the main aim of this contingency lesson. It was done with a fruity set of our Year 8’s who are often like the proverbial “bag of ferrets” and for all 80+ kids to be active all lesson with no fights or kick-offs, it was a success on that score. Kids worked independently. There were a few occasions where pupils came and asked for help solving a problem, but in general, they were operating without much teacher-input. Being bluntly honest, I despise Orienteering; almost as much as I loathe teaching it. I’m crap at it and need to train/learn/read/steal more ideas in order to improve. This activity however, made me think about how we could use basic Orienteering skills in an engaging way. It’s made me think more about the activity and even inspired me to buy some new gear to set up in the Summer term and get the map guy in to re-map our site.

Could things have been done better? Yes. There was little differentiation on show. We’d have been smashed in by Ofsted had they been there. With more time to plan and create resources, we could have had different levels of challenge on each station. Skills/activities could have been linked to the NCPE descriptor levels and kids could have self/partner-assessed. We could have created QR codes for each station for kids to use their fancy Galaxy Tablet devices to view the problem to solve before finding the next station – this might have increased enagement. Pupils could have taken video footage of one another performing at each station – video analysis software (Ubersense/Coach’s Eye) could have been used to critique technique. These were all observations we made after the lesson, but the main thing was the potential such an activity carried.

There is scope to create similar kinds of contingency plans and this has become a priority in the boys’ development plan for this year. The process has just made us all think a bit more about what we’re doing when the weather’s crap and how we could be doing something better than we have been. This can only be a good thing. Have a blast at something similar. If you’ve got any suggestions, let me know.

…now, where did I put those pink dodgeballs?

Back to School

If you’re reading this, you probably either; a) have experienced initial teacher training in the past or b) are currently going through the process. This blog post is predominantly directed at those wonderful people currently grafting their way through category b). However, some of us category a) lot might appreciate a few little reminders of what we set out to do all those decades/years/months ago.
Now I really wanted to start things off with a nice, inspirational quote from the Capel & Whitehead classic “Learning to teach Physical Education in the Secondary School”. I can’t do this however as the minute I eventually got it back from last year’s ITT student, the current one got it. So I’ll start with my own…
“I teach because I love kids”; Chris Horner, 2004 on his 1st public speaking engagement as an NQT (Wath Comprehensive School Sports Awards).
Now this bold statement raised a few eyebrows. Mainly because lots of the 300 or so parents were not quite sure if that meant this baby-faced, hair-straightener-abusing prettyboy was fiddling with their kids. Of course not. I meant it then and I stick by it now, I love kids. If you don’t, why are you reading this? And what’s more, why are you interested in teaching?
I wanted to teach because of Steve Creek. Because of Steve Cooksey. Dave Ridley, Rob Moxon, Ian Evans, Sil Williams, Dave Bestford, Liz Hague and Eric Sampson. We all had our inspirational teachers at school. We’ll all remember them for the rest of our lives. These people inspired me and countless others in and around my generation and help shape our futures from a young age.
All of the staff listed above were/are fantasic teachers in their own right. All of them managed this without having instant access to ICT. None had an iPad. None of them used technology other than perhaps an overhead projector with acetates – remember those?! (The only one of them who used the term “app” was Liz Hague; simply because, as a cockney, it was her way of pronouncing the word “up”). These guys were/are good at doing their jobs and became good at doing so without the use of the technology we now make use of every day. It is with this in mind that I wanted to try and strip teaching back – and PE in particular.
Before I upset everyone, I’d like to mention that I really like technology. I like gadgets. Be it for personal use or in the classroom, I like things that can do fancy stuff – it’s great when some of these toys are useful in lessons. I tend to use some gadgets on a regular basis in order to enhance the learning experience for the kids I teach. Having said this, I am a little concerned that all I seem to hear about lately is technology in PE. At a recent PE teachmeet, I would estimate that around 30-40 of those 120 in attendance, were ITT students. I couldn’t help but feel that some of them might have gone home feeling a little bit baffled that they’d just sat through a few hours of PE specific CPD – without one single mention of a practical/activity based idea. They must have thought they’d stumbled upon an ICT convention rather than the collective bunch of jocks they were hoping for. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite having myself presented on the use of video analysis software, when really this kind of stuff is what I’d call the “icing” rather than the “cake”. Now this blog post isn’t about lesson plan ideas, activities or drills. It’s about the basics of teaching that those wonderful people listed earlier practised so well.
So, with this in mind, what can I pull together to offer unto the next generation of PE practitioners? I thought back to all those lessons I’ve been in throughout my youth, along with quite a few since. (I also enlisted the help of four of our most recent Northumbria University SCITT trainees.)
Relationships with kids
I can always remember a guy who taught me shouting “I’m not here to be liked!” Fair enough, but it doesn’t half make it easier if you are. Kids will respond much better to staff they like. If you don’t form positive relationships, you won’t teach well. PE obviously lends itself well to relationship building; extra-curricular activities are a great way of meeting the kids and finding out something about them. Oh and if you don’t like kids – don’t be a teacher
Class Management
I put together a class/behaviour management session with our ITT students this September. It’s not on every school’s priority list at the moment but it absolutely baffles me when I hear members of staff giving it “the big one” about their pedagogy-this, unpacking-that, scaffolding-t’other; when the kids are running rings round them because their class management is weak. Sort this out early doors (future blog on its way). Yr 11 were highlighted by ITT students as being a tough group of kids to crack. They’ve been at the school a lot longer than you, they know what they can/can’t get away with – it’s important to follow school policies and procedures.
Beg, Steal, Borrow, Observe
One of my biggest worries when I went through PGCE (and NQT) year was “What if I run out of ideas?” Most PE trainees will have shown a modicum of sporting prowess in at least one field. You will probably have done some kind of Level 1 coaching badge in order to blag your way onto the course. At some point however, you will either a) exhaust your “drills bank” or b) be asked to teach something you know nothing about. For me, this happened in Rugby Union. I could teach League standing on my head, but having despised the “other” form of the game for the 1st 22 years of my life, I had no idea what I was doing. What do you do? Get out of the office/workroom and watch others. Everybody. Watch as many teachers as you can; teaching as many different activities as possible. The vast majority of my lessons will contain something that has at least in part, been bastardised from something I’ve watched somebody else doing. As highlighted by Pete Hall (thanks Pete), nobody minds sharing their stuff with you. Whether it’s a lesson plan, an idea, a paper resource – people are there to help you during your early career – if they’re not helpful, they want sacking.
Experiment/take risks
Once you’ve been doing a job for a while, it can be difficult to keep reinventing yourself, your approach, methods or style. To be fair, we could all take a leaf out of Kylie and Madonna’s books here – if we can be as fresh and innovatve at 65 as those two, we’ll be OK. During PGCE year and into NQT, you are in a perfect position to have a go at something weird and wonderful. If it dies on its arse, so what? “Take risks, there’s no better time to do so” (Graeme Seddon). As we get older, we tend to stay well within our comfort zone – it’s an age thing, don’t play it safe during ITT.
Get kids active
Why do kids tend to enjoy PE? Because they’ve been cooped up in a classroom all day, listening, answering, writing. They want to run, jump, throw, kick, catch, hit things and move. A few years ago I was heavily criticised by an HMI (another bought-in mini-inspection) because my lesson was simply not active enough. I’d gone ridiculously overboard, trying to incorporate loads of paper-based thinking, planning and peer assessment into a Yr8 Basketball lesson. She came along, observed 20 minutes and hammered me because the kids weren’t getting a sweat on. I completely agreed with her and haven’t made the mistake since. PE is a practical subject. We do (like it or not) have a responsibility for getting kids active and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Some of our kids will use their PE lessons as their only form of activity in their lives. With this in mind, use lesson time appropriately.
Be Creative – make things Engaging
One of my pet hates is seeing a lesson on (insert generic invasion ball game here) – it’s on passing by the way – two lines of kids, standing still, passing the ball between them. I mean, come on; would you want to do that?! Do something different; think of what happens in a game situation. What could you do to make it more interesting? When I plan an activity, I’ll usually think “right, if I was a kid, would I enjoy doing this?” If the answer is “No”, scrap it because the kids will hate it. This obviously doesn’t just apply to practical lessons – if you’re trying to teach a theoretical concept, how could you make it more interesting? Think back to your science lessons with Sil Williams; what did you always ask? “Miss, can we do a practical?” Kids like to DO stuff, not just sit, read, listen and write. To quote my enigmatic friend Paul Taylor (and Confucius) “tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand…”
Decide who you want to be
One of my 1st bits of advice to ITT students is “don’t copy me or anyone else”. I even put it in the CLV SCITT Student’s Placement Survival Guide (available on request). It’s not like I’m the character-plagiarism police or anything, but you’ve got to find your own style. I cannot teach like Dave Paterson or Paul Steanson, so I don’t try. Likewise, if a student tried to emmulate my own bizarre mannerisms, the kids would probably wonder what the hell they were doing. As one of my informants tells me; “it’s important to feel relaxed” in lessons. You can’t do this if you’re acting like someone else. Try to pick out key characteristics of good teachers (people paid a lot more than me would call them “Effective Teacher Behaviours”) and assimilate them into your own personal style.
Use a structure and teach to it
I’m lucky teaching at my school in that the “Cramlington Cycle” has been around for several years. I can use the same structure in lessons as the rest of the staff. Kids get used to this and it makes it easier to establish routines. Sounds ridiculously simple, but at our place all lessons start with a “Connect” activity – a “bellwork” activity if you like. If kids have something engaging to do when they enter the room – it’s a nice little set-up for the rest of the lesson; not rocket science (unless you’re teaching rocket science). If your school (or placement school) doesn’t have a structure to lesson planning, maybe they should get one; you’ll have to establish your own. If they have a set structure, teach to it, it’ll probably make a big difference.
Get some strings for your bow
If you’re on an ITT programme right now, you got it more difficult than anybody who trained before ever did. When I trained, jobs were plentiful and you could almost take your pick. Naming no names, but some absolute nuggets from my course got jobs. In recent years, I’ve seen some of the best students I’ve encoutered struggle to land a permanent position. With this in mind, you need to be looking at what else you can offer. Do you know anything about educational issues? Do you critically evaluate your teaching? Do you blog? (There’s a few guys out there who do who aren’t even qualified yet). What can you offer a school that’s over-and-above your job description? In a world where jobs are at a premium, you’ve got to make yourself stand out. It’s not about being a bullshitter or a yes-man, it’s about being a desirable prospective employee.
Having just looked back at the points above, I genuinely could argue that most of it would be as applicable to qualified teachers as it is to ITT students. Maybe in the 21st Century climate of “embracing technology”, we shouldn’t neglect our bread and butter. Let’s use tecky stuff wisely eh? It can be so useful and make good teachers great. But if you’re not effective, it isn’t going to do it for you.
The best bit of advice I received from our ITT students-past was “enjoy it”. How apt that I finish with this then; we got into this profession because “we love kids”. I didn’t get into teaching because of anything else. If you enjoy working with kids and educating them – keep enjoying it. The minute that you stop – look at why you aren’t enjoying it and fix it – or get out.

Doubled-up Dodgeball anyone?


Is Dodgeball any good? Well let’s be honest, how many wet-weather PE toss-off activities have a film made about them? You didn’t go to the pictures to watch “Danish Longball; the Motion Picture” did you?

All joking aside, after the great evening of shared teaching & learning in PE at the CLV Teachmeet last week, we came back to work this week faced with rain of biblical proportions. As good as we might think we are as PE teachers, we’ve never really solved the issue of what we do when it pisses it down. For our recent whole-school 2 day review, I’d planned a couple of wet-weather contingency lessons; all singing & dancing. But would they really be practical when faced with the mad rush of 90 kids piling into a sportshall? I think not. And more importantly, would the kids enjoy them?

So is it OK to use Dodgeball as a wet-weather activity, or is it simply sacking it off?

Well we do like our Dodgeball at Cramlington. The activity forms part of the “Games for Understanding” unit in Year 7 and reappears as one of the 18 options available for Year 11 to choose in their core programme. If we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, it started off as a bit of a fun, engaging activity, in which you could pay lip service to a few games principles – but really it was just something the kids loved.

The problem with any “fun” PE activity however is that if there’s no real substance to it, it can get tedious – both for you and the kids. Because of this, we started to come up with a whole variety of dodgeball based games. I’ve tried to outline these below:

1) Elimination: in its most basic form – if you’re hit or caught, you’re out. Keep this quick (2 mins max). Good for decision making like when to try & catch/when to dodge

2) Regeneration: more like the Dodgeball from the film. Make a catch and one player comes back in Good for encouraging players to attempt catches in order to bring back teammates

3) 4 Corners: rather than playing one team against another, split area into quarters. Teams then play opponents adjacent, opposite & diagonally across Good for encouraging spatial awareness & principles of attacking multiple opponents

4) Backboard Team Regeneration: if like us, you have basketball boards on your Sportshall wall, use these as “Regenerator Boards”. When a team is left with “x” number of players the team can attempt to hit to regenerator board to bring back their whole team. Good for; continuity of games, teamwork & more controversial tactics like sacrifice (deliberately “getting out” to enable your best thrower to have a shot at the backboard, bringing back the whole team.

5) Terminators: as in the 80’s classic, Dodgeball terminators are difficult to get rid of. Each team has one Terminator. They cannot be “killed” by being hit with the ball, only by being caught out. I usually give each Terminator a Rugby contact shield for protection (if it’s with the littlies I give them some of the Velcro-on body armour & a cricket helmet as well – they love it). If your Terminator gets caught, they lose their powers – the player can be regenerated but the team no longer have a Termy. Good for team decision making, defensive tactics, positioning skills.

6) Kings/Queens: sounds like it could be a bit camp but disappointingly not. As in chess (highbrow eh?), the King is the key to your team’s success/failure. Bib up a player (or 2) from each team. If they are hit/caught, the whole team is out – this could result in instant win for a team or see no. for an alternative. Good for; team decisions, team defence, attacking strategy

7) Take-over: I usually use this in conjunction with 4 corners. If you allow the game to go on long enough, a team might be completely eliminated. Should this occur, the team that hit/caught the last player out takes possession of the defeated team’s quarter. Good for; adapting tactics to a larger playing area, spreading play, attacking from different angles.

8) 2-in: if you’re not playing “take-over”, this game gives you an option once a team has been eliminated. Two players from the eliminated team remain on court. If they hit a backboard other than their own, all players on their team are regenerated. Good for; decision making, individual target-striking skills

9) Skittles: as a by-product of an experience week project (ask @paulsteanson for more details!) we ended up with about 100 bowling pins. Any kind of object with the capacity to stand up/be knocked down would substitute nicely. Teams get a number of skittles which they must place around their court; they must be free-standing and away from walls etc. If a team has all their skittles knocked down, all players are eliminated. Good for; thinking skills, linking to other games above, group decision making, team defence.

10) Spies: teams nominate one player who will be the Spy. When in possession of a ball, these players can enter opponents’ area and attempt to tag opponents with ball. If they throw their ball of lose possession of it, they must return to their own area. At any point, the defending team can eliminate the Spy by the usual methods. Good for; sneaky tactics, planning, deception/faking, good teams will realise early that if they are in possession of all the balls, they are pretty much guaranteed to win

Bonus 11) Extreme Dodgeball: god knows why we call it this. Basically we use Gymnastics apparatus for creating barriers, crash mats for landing areas (the older kids get all Matrix when we play this version), springboards for extra height and so on. Good for; allowing teams to plan and position their own barriers/defences, introducing/linking jumping/rolling/diving skills

NEW! 12 – Ghosts: Can be played as 4-corner or (as we’ve recently done) in 6ths of a Sportshall. Teams have a skittle to defend. If this is knocked over, all players in a team are out. One player (the Ghost) remains in the game. The Ghost cannot be killed (he’s a ghost, he’s already dead), the Ghost cannot kill other players (he’s a ghost after all). The Ghost’s job is to hit a target (we’ve used the Basketball backboards again) to regenerate all his team. Nice to ensure continuity & avoid players sitting out for prolonged periods.

New! “The Stuntman”

Best when combined with 4-corner as it makes the playing area smaller. One player on each team becomes “Stuntman”. Give them some sort of protective equipment – we used Rugby contact armour & a cricket helmet. The Stuntman actively tries to take hits from opposition throws. If he/she is hit, the thrower is out. I found this made throwers more selective in terms of where they were throwing – not simply trying to chuck the ball as hard and fast as possible. Also good to encourage defensive play as Stuntmen could help protect weaker players. Ridiculous fun.

So why bother?

There are a ridiculous number of variations, combinations and mash-ups that you can create. The point of this post is simply to make you think about how one simple activity can take on a whole new purpose if you put a bit of thought into it.

Dodgeball has often saved us from the Crammy weather, we repay that debt by trying to use the activity for learning and not just playing.

Hopefully the games briefly outlined above will let you start thinking about how you could use Dodgeball in order to develop skills and attributes other than dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.


A, B, C


Right, first things first; I pinched the vast majority of this from the excellent post below…


I have often been left frustrated at the fact that in several lessons, I’ve been unable to get information from the kids without “spoon-feeding” them. This can be painfully apparent when questioning a group and trying to think up challenging, probing questions and being met with flat responses. You often end up giving away cheap answers after panicking that the lesson has lost pace and you need to get a shift on.


Some might suggest that the solution to this is to pre-plan structured questions, to pose at specific points in the lesson. This is certainly a good habit to follow and questions to specific groups/pupils should be made explicit in lesson plans, but it doesn’t help when a kid stares at you blankly after exhausting their response-capacity with a 3-word answer. You could then get after the kid and ask “why? How? Can you tell me more about…?” But it’s now up to you to painfully draw out some form of communication from the kids. And if we’re genuinely honest with ourselves, we can get a bit bogged down at this point.

Enter the stolen idea

So, here’s where the idea of using A, B, C comes in. I’ll admit, after reading the article above, I scrapped the idea of using the ball. I’ve often seen or read about throwing the ball/bit of paper/other inanimate object to designate the next speaker – it all comes across as a bit like a cheesy sales rep training course to me, but hey, whatever works for you.

I also changed the meaning of A, B, C to “Apply, Build, Challenge”.

In Practice

I introduced the A, B, C activity with my AS Anatomy & Physiology group a couple of weeks ago. I’d set a 10 mark question at the start of the lesson, then taught the lesson as usual; reviewing at 15 (ish) minute intervals allowing the kids to bullet point more ideas for their answer.

During these mini-reviews, I asked a simple question simple, leading question to a lower TG student like; “identify a positive effect of aerobic exercise on Osteoporosis”. After allowing the student time to respond, I then directed the spotlight on another student, asking them to Apply this idea/concept, Build on it/expand the previous answer or Challenge it – this fitted in nicely as the 10 marker required the kids to “critically analyse”. By moving from student to student, the questioning/conversation was able to keep developing as the kids could pick what they wanted to talk about next. The only times I removed this choice was when I really wanted to bring in an opposing theme/idea; I simply picked a higher ability student and asked them to challenge what had just been said.


The great thing about using A, B, C is that you can adapt the requirement of each letter to suit your goal that lesson; A could be Adjust, B could be Because? C could be Create Hypothesis (for really bright thinkers!). It is simply giving your students focus when being asked to respond.

All I’m after now is a nice display to put next to my board that I can keep pointing to…