Learning to Swim


  1. Remind children that when in the exercise they are connecting with the ‘present moment’ through the sense of sight, that ‘shapes’ are not just geometric shapes, but the shapes of anything and everything that can be observed – people, furniture etc. Practise the exercise, then ask what was
  1. Read the story ‘Learning to Swim’.
  1. To see who has been listening well, play ‘True, False, Can’t Tell’. In this, the teacher reads a series of statements about the content of the story and pupils have to decide if they are true, or false, or if there is no evidence for their decisions. (If you want to make a bit of fun, let children show their decision in different For example, true by putting hands on heads, false by . . . )
  1. Working in pairs, get the children to decide on a theme for the Some of these can be put on the board, with lines joining linked ideas. Children should give evidence to support their reasons for linking.
  1. Move to the ‘Questions for Thinking’ to begin the
  1. To close, ask for volunteers to sum up the ideas that have been discussed. Let several children do this, with each adding one thought.
  1. Discuss the ‘Thought for the Week’.

Learning to Swim

Patience can be used not only for one’s own benefit, but also for that of others, as Jamie finds out in helping his brother. Curiously, he finds there is also something in it for him!

Jamie was a champion swimmer. In fact, his ambition was to swim in the Olympics one day. He competed in all the swimming competitions at his local sports centre. Like a duck in water, his mum always said.

And she, was like a cat in water, she hated it. In fact cats could swim if they had  to, whereas she couldn’t. She often said that her brother had ducked her when they were children and she’d hated it ever since.

Today Mum was taking Jamie and his young brother Brad to the swimming pool.

Jamie had a practice session later.

‘Teach me to swim,’ said Brad in the car. He was just five and had recently started school. ‘I want to swim like you, Jamie.’

Jamie laughed. ‘You’re afraid of getting your face wet. You always cry. You have to put your face under water to swim properly.’

‘I will put my face in,’ said Brad, but he looked at their mother apprehensively.

When they got to the pool the two boys went to put on their trunks and their mum went to sit in the spectators’ seats.

Jamie really wanted to dive straight into the big pool and carve swiftly through the water with his strong crawl. There weren’t many people and the empty lanes looked really tempting.

‘Another time, Brad,’ he said.

His brother pouted. ‘Please, Jamie. I want to swim like you.’

What if he did teach Brad? What if Brad became a better swimmer than him? Reluctantly he gave in.

‘Okay.’ Jamie went to the small pool and slid in off the side. Brad hesitated on the edge. He looked up at their mum, then back at the water.

‘Come on,’ said Jamie, impatiently. ‘Do you want me to teach you or not?’ ‘Don’t force him,’ called out Mum. ‘You might scare him.’

Jamie wished he’d said no at the beginning.

Brad ran to the steps and climbed down into the water. It came up to his waist. ‘Right,’ said Jamie. ‘Hold onto the edge and kick your legs. Like this.’

But Brad couldn’t get his feet off the bottom.

Jamie sighed. ‘You can’t swim with your feet on the bottom,’ he said. This was wasting time. He thought of grabbing Brad’s legs and lifting them up. He’d heard of people who threw young children into the pool so that they had to swim. That way they learnt quickly.

‘I’ll hold you round the waist,’ he said. ‘You’ll be all right.’

‘I might sink,’ wailed Brad. Jamie saw the fear in his brother’s face and he softened a little.

‘No, you won’t. I won’t let you sink.’

Slowly Brad lifted one foot off the bottom, then the other. Finally his body floated while he held the side of the pool. By the end of the session he could do it without Jamie holding him.

But then he let go with one hand to wave to Mum and his face went under and got a mouthful of water and came up crying. Mum came running down and lifted him out.

This is hopeless, thought Jamie. Crying just because he got a mouthful of water. ‘Brad,’ said Jamie.

‘Don’t be such a baby.   I sometimes get a mouthful of water too.’

‘He got a fright,’ said Mum, soothingly, stroking Brad’s wet hair. ‘I got a fright,’ echoed Brad.

‘I’m going to practise,’ muttered Jamie. He was fed up with both of them. He didn’t care if Brad never learnt to swim. What did it matter?

Nevertheless, the next week he began to teach him again. During the week he had remembered being afraid himself. It had been when he had dived to the bottom to get his locker key, which had slipped off his wrist. It had been quite shallow but had seemed a long way down and he had almost panicked. The water had gurgled loudly and had stung his eyes and he had wanted to breathe. His lungs had been bursting. Then there was the time he’d suddenly found himself out of his depth . . .

‘Now you have to learn what to do with your arms,’ he said to Brad.

Brad started churning his arms round like windmills, slapping the water with open palms.

No, no,’ said Jamie. ‘Your hands have to be paddles and push the water away. Like this’ He cupped one hand and pushed it through the water. Brad tried again.

‘That’s better. Now, I’ll hold you and you try to swim.’

Later they practised putting their heads under water. Jamie showed Brad how to hold his nose until he got used to it and the little boy managed to dunk his head under quickly and come up smiling.

‘Very good,’ said Jamie.

Soon Brad could swim on his own for a few strokes and the day he did a whole width Jamie felt really proud. Brad’s style wasn’t great but Jamie could work on that.

All his patience had been worth it. Maybe he’d even persuade Mum to come and have a lesson.


1.                 Why didn’t Jamie want to teach Brad to swim?
2.                 Why do you think he changed his mind?
3.                 Using evidence from the story, would you say Jamie was patient or not patient?
4.                 Was he patient right through the story?
5.                 How did Jamie feel, having taught Brad to swim? How did this compare with his feelings at the beginning of the story?
6.                 What are some things that would make you patient when dealing with a younger brother or sister?  What are some things that would make you impatient?

7.                 What are the reasons why we get impatient with people?

8.                 Do you like people to be patient or impatient with you?
9.                 What would the school be like if everyone was impatient? Patient?
10.             Does being ‘awake’ and in the present (such as when we practise the exercise) affect whether we are patient or not?
11.             What is patience?