Off to Rio with Ellwood Community Primary School, Gloucestershire!

Well, it was a bit of a double act today; working alongside the fantastic Sarah Shaw, a local AST in primary dance, to deliver a cross-curricular themed workshop, centred upon Rio 2016, to Key Stage 2 pupils at Ellwood Community Primary School in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

The day began with us all convening in the hall for formal introductions and some initial activities.  Firstly, pupils were asked to form small groups and given a set of images to explore together.  They had to look at these very carefully and consider where they might have been taken.  Pupils were encouraged to give reasons to justify their thinking too.  When asked a few minutes later, all guessed that they were taken within Brazil and I explained that we would soon be heading off to the country for the remainder of the day.  We also mentioned various issues, such as deforestation and urbanisation, including the growth and permanence of the favelas (squatter settlements), as well as emphasising the huge differences that exist, e.g. between the few rich and many poor and urban and rural areas.  Pupils again worked in their small groups for our second starter activity.  Each group was given an envelope containing a number of letters.  Not only did pupils have to rearrange these to form a word (SUSTAINABILITY), but they then had to see how many smaller words they could make from this bigger word within the allotted time (five minutes).  A few ground rules were put in place: words had to be of three letters or more, letters could not be used more than once and bonus points would be awarded for any words with a strong geographical connection.  A whole class discussion followed, which enabled groups to share the words that they had discovered and explored the concept of sustainability further.  This also proved to be an effective means of introducing topical vocabulary and developing literacy. Pupils were forthcoming with their contributions … SULTANA, ITALY and ITALIAN were my favourites!

After outlining the learning objectives and the structure of the day, pupils were placed into two groups, namely A and B.  These were then sub-divided into smaller groups, named after cities in Brazil, which will be hosting sporting events as part of Rio 2016.

Group A accompanied me and we moved between a classroom and the ICT Suite to undertake a series of activities.  Using my large world map pinned to the wall, we discussed Brazil’s distance and direction from the UK, where it is located within our big, wide world and identified some of its key physical and human features.  Pupils were asked if they would like to pay a visit to Brazil and to give reasons to support their viewpoint.  Many were keen to experience the delights of the Amazon rainforest, take a trip along the Amazon river, participate in Carnival with all its vibrancy, sample typical Brazilian fare and watch some of the events linked to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  A few stated that they would not wish to live there permanently, however. Those that did not wish to visit cited reasons, such as the high crime rate, poverty and dangerous/scary animals.

The children continued to work in their city groups.  Each group was given an envelope containing the names of key cities in Brazil and a large outline map of the country.  They were challenged to place the city names in their correct position.  There were a few quick maneovres when their locations were revealed on a more detailed map of Brazil!  The final activity before break saw pupils working in pairs or threes within their city group.  They made use of the school’s PCs to access the official Rio 2016 website and rose to my three challenges very positively:

  • How many days, hours, minutes and seconds are there left until the Games begin?
  • When do the Olympic Games start and finish?
  • Where was the Olympic Torch yesterday, where is it today and where will it be tomorrow?

After break, Group A explored the sustainability of Rio 2016 with me.  With such huge numbers attending the various events held over the space of 45 days, we considered the impact this might have on the consumption of natural resources, such as water, energy, food and raw materials, as well as waste production.  The Rio 2016 Organising Committee has risen to the challenge of changing this impact into an opportunity to adopt and share sustainable practices, hence its sustainability brand ‘Embrace’.  Pupils were required to match each challenge with its suggested sustainable practice/s.  This introduced some quite complex vocabulary and innovative ideas.  Next, each city group was given a set of character profiles.  They had to read about ten, very different individuals and then decide whether they might be for or against Rio hosting the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, putting the card in an appropriate place on the Venn diagram.  This led to a discussion, which addressed the following two questions:

  • Do you think more people in Brazil are for or against the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games?
  • Can the country really justify spending so much money on the Games when there are still millions living in poverty in favelas, both in Rio de Janerio and other cities?

The youngsters gave some really thoughtful and detailed comments.

Meanwhile, Group B worked with Sarah to experience the opening ceremony of Rio 2016 as Brazilian music, flags and carnival blended together through dance.  They also imagined that they were meeting the athletes as they arrived in Rio and discovered the colour and excitement of a samba based on the tradition of the Goddess Yemanja.  The huge smiles on the children’s faces and their enthusiasm to become involved said it all.


Getting ready for action!


Lovely to see dance appeal to both boys and girls alike.


Working together as a team.


Developing observational skills too – needing to watch each other carefully.


Clearly enjoying themselves!


Putting themselves in role well.


Showing their samba moves!


Getting in the mood for Carnival!


What an energetic bunch!


And, now, to get the surf boards out!


Certainly getting in the groove!


Getting to grips with ribbons/streamers too.


Building up …


Coming alive …


The hall was totally transformed.


Dancing with pride and showing respect.


Amazing what stunning effects can be achieved with just a number of fabric flags.


This brought back memories of the incredible opening to the Olympic and Paralympic Games back in 2012 in London.


The grand finale to the opening ceremony of the Games.

A much needed lunch break ensured that we were revitalised and refreshed to repeat the above activities with the opposite group, namely Group B for me and Group A for Sarah.  As the session was slightly shorter in the afternoon, we had to compress the activities somewhat, but at least we managed to offer the children a range of experiences throughout the day.

Half an hour in the hall towards the end of the day ensured that the children were able to perform their dances to each other and their teachers.  In addition, my plenary dice came out to promote a degree of reflection.  The children were very willing to contribute and enjoying tossing the dice and challenging their peers.  When asked to sum up today’s workshop in five words, we received some very heart-felt and touching responses:

Amazing; enjoyable; fun; educational; challenging.’

‘An amazing day; thank you!’

‘An awesome and fun day.’

Students also undertook an element of self-assessment as they showed a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ when each learning outcome was addressed.  Encouragingly, all pupils had more ‘thumbs up’ than ‘thumbs down’, revealing to staff and ourselves that the day had been worthwhile and enjoyable.  Even the teachers admitted they had learnt something!  Feedback from staff after the event was extremely positive:

‘You beat me to it as I was going to write and say an enormous thank you to you both – the children thoroughly enjoyed their day and were still talking about it on the way out of the classroom. I am sorry about the technical issues, but luckily they did not seem to impact on the day at all. It was great to see your activities in action – sorry I could not be in two places at once!  Good luck for the end of term and look forward to seeing you again at Ellwood.’

Sarah and I, along with Kathryn Minchew, a former MasterChef semi-finalist and now professional chef, look forward to returning to Ellwood next academic year to deliver one of our newly planned and exciting, cross-curricular days.