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?

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.