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Possible Learning Activities

Front Float

  • Hold the pool rail with one hand and place the other one against the wall below the water level to push their body into a fully extended and relaxed position.
  • Use both hands on the rail to practise the extended and streamlined body position.
  • In shallow water, use partners to support a front-lying position. Students can progress to one partner walking slowly backwards while supporting the other. The floater’s face must be in the water while exhaling.
  • Practise the extended body position by holding onto a rope that is pulled by another person at the poolside, a hoop, a kickboard, a ball, or some other flotation aid.
  • Practise returning to a standing position from a floating position. The student can place a smallball, such as a tennis, squash, or table tennis ball, under their chin to assist in achieving a streamlined float. They lift their head to drop the small ball from under their chin, push down with their arms, bend their knees to bring their feet to the bottom, lift their head, and stand (1B1).
  • Create moving water and practise all of the above skills.
  • Practise opening their eyes underwater with or without a mask and goggles.
  • Use buoyant objects to help them relax their limb movements and maintain a floating position.

Back Float

  • In shallow water, move to a back float with help from a partner who supports the floater by placing their hands or fingers on the small of the floater’s back (1B1).
  • Experiment with a variety of ways to hold flotation objects above their head, under their head as a “cushion”, in front of their body, and at the side of their body.
  • Talk to their partners while floating.
  • Gradually reduce reliance on flotation aids by using a sculling action with their arms and a light kick with their legs. (To see view these activities related to propulsion click here.)
  • Recover from a back float by pushing down with their arms, bending their knees, and standing up quickly using arm movements for stability (1B1).
  • Create moving water and practise all of the above skills (1B1).

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • use buoyant objects effectively for the safety of themselves and others (2A3)
  • confidently return to an upright position from floating (1B1)
  • demonstrate and maintain a relaxed body position while floating in changing water conditions (1B1)
  • use limb movements to assist and maintain a floating position (2B1)
  • play minor aquatic games using a range of improvised equipment and flotation aids (2B3).


(Particularly taha tinana and taha wairua.)

Enhancing both physical and spiritual well-being by exploring the ability of their body to adapt to an aquatic environment.

Attitudes and Values

Respecting the rights of others and accepting a range of abilities.

Assessment opportunity

Assess each students' ability, in a back-floating position, to:

  • show progress from full support to independent floating
  • confidently return to an upright position from floating
  • float on back or front in "moving water" (1B1).

Teachers’ Notes

  • These experiences help students to develop initiative and perseverance (self-management skills) and the use of locomotor and non-locomotor actions (physical skills).
  • Although the learning experiences have been grouped under the respective headings of front float and back float, this does not imply that one should precede the other. In fact, both can be taught simultaneously.
  • There are distinct advantages to an efficient back-floating position: clear vision, the ability to use the voice, and less likelihood of the swimmer swallowing water. However, a relaxed and extended body position should be developed in both floats.
  • While breathing out is desirable, if not essential, in the front float, regular and relaxed breathing should feature in the back float.
  • Buoyancy may be assisted by a range of flotation aids, but it is not intended that students should rely on these.
  • Considerable emphasis should be placed on each student’s ability to make a speedy and efficient recovery from both the front and the back floating positions, using the upper body for stability.
  • Note that maintaining a buoyant position in the water depends on a number of factors, some of which we have the ability to change and some of which we don’t. As buoyancy requires relaxation, every effort should be made in learning experiences to free students from excessive bodily tension.
  • While motionless flotation is not a prerequisite for swimming competence, the ability to reorient the body from various positions to a safe recovery, either by standing or by holding on to the edge of the pool, is vital. 

Four basic influences are at work on the body when it is moving through water.