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Beginnings of propulsion

Possible learning activities

  • Students walk across the pool blowing a ping-pong ball across the surface of the water.
  • Throw a rope to a student in the front-floating position and smoothly pull the student towards land. (The student should exhale during this activity.)
  • Repeat the same exercise with the student lying on their back and holding the rope close to one shoulder.
  • Students exhale while using a kick board and gliding.
  • Students explore the effect of resistance by comparing what happens when they:
    • push off from the side and glide on their front in an extended position across the pool
    • repeat the exercise but lift their heads while they are gliding
    • repeat the exercise but bend their arms across their foreheads.
  • Other activities to explore resistance include:
    • spreading a number of small balls around in shallow water for students to try and kick up and away while keeping one foot on the bottom of the pool
    • in the front-breathing position, students practising a leg action by holding on to the side of the pool and then repeating it with a kickboard (2B1)
    • students floating on their backs and kicking while holding a kickboard above their thighs. Their legs should remain straight and not touch the kickboard.
  • For freestyle, students can:
    • using a regular kick and holding onto the top and middle of the kickboard, drop one arm into a trailing position, lie on their side, and breathe (2B1)
    • repeat the previous exercise but introduce an overarm recovery to the kickboard
    • pull on a rope anchored to the side of the pool (They should pull the rope tight and then use a hand-over-hand action, with a high elbow recovery, to pull themselves to the pool edge.)
    • use whole-stroke co-ordination to demonstrate first six, then eight, and then ten efficient stroke cycles
    • seek, over a set distance, to progressively reduce the number of strokes to an optimal number for efficiency, for example, twenty-five strokes over 15 metres (2B1).
  • For backstroke, students can:
    • while sculling on their back using a light kick, pull both their hands up level with their shoulders, with their elbows bent at a 90° angle and their fingers just below the surface of the water, and push towards their feet
    • repeat this exercise without any leg action
    • repeat both these exercises while balancing a partly filled plastic cup on their forehead
    • rotate their upper body to practise the rope catch-and-pull sequence described above – this leads to the “push” that forms the backstroke arm action
    • practise a one-arm cycle interspersed with sculling
    • use whole-stroke co-ordination to demonstrate first six, then eight, and then ten efficient stroke cycles.
  • If masks or goggles are available, students can work in pairs or small groups to observe the underwater stroke movements of others, from both side-on and approaching positions.

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • exhale while gliding on their front and their back (1B1)
  • explore how the water provides resistance to propulsion (1B1)
  • use a leg action while swimming on their front and their back and exhaling (2B1)
  • use a regular breathing cycle while swimming on their front and their back using a leg action and flotation aids (2B1)
  • use a regular breathing cycle while swimming on their front using single arm action and flotation aids (2B1)
  • coordinate their limb movements and breathing in two different strokes (2B1).

Health Promotion

Moving confidently and efficiently in water to enhance survival skills.

Assessment opportunity


  • the body in an extended streamlined position
  • the kick initiated by the hips with flexibility in the ankles
  • a controlled and regular breathing cycle
  • a side rotation for efficient freestyle breathing (2B1).

(Specify the number of continuous arm, actions, for example, six, that qualifies for competency.)

Teachers Notes

  • These experiences develop the specialised physical skills needed for sporting and recreational activities.
  • Before beginning to teach formal strokes, experiment with a variety of propulsion activities to practise such essentials as a relaxed and extended body position, relaxed but regular breathing, and extended limb positions with alternating movements. Time spent on the preparation stage will be rewarded.
  • In all strokes, students should have:
    • an extended body position on front and back
    • when kicking, flexible ankles, an extended leg position, and the kick movement coming from the hip
    • low, controlled exhalation when swimming on their front and on their back
    • slow breathing in a side-lying position.
  • For freestyle, students should: use a high elbow position both through the water and in recovery; pull down the centre line of the body with their hand entry a little short of full extension and their palm facing 45° outwards.
  • For backstroke, refer to recent aquatic manuals for changes to this stroke technique. Students should have:
    • a comfortable head position
    • a bent-arm pull showing catch, pull and push, and throw down phases
    • shoulder roll and body rotation
    • a high hip position.