Post navigation

The Boy Who Learned To Fly

Posted on August 23, 2016 by kierandonaghy


This ELT lesson plan is designed around the theme of the Olympic Games and a short film based on the life of Usain Bolt film created by Moonbot Studios and commissioned by Gatorade.

In the lesson students speak about sports and the Olympic games, watch a short film, retell a story and write a summary of a story.




I would ask all teachers who use Film English to consider buying my book Film in Action as the royalties which I receive from sales help to keep the website completely free.



Language level: Intermediate (B1) – Upper Intermediate (B2)

Learner type: Teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Watching a short film, speaking and writing

Topic: Usain Bolt, sport and the Olympic Games

Language: Vocabulary related to sports and the Olympic Games

Materials: Short film

Downloadable materials:    the boy who learned to fly lesson instructions


Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment


Step 1

Write “the Olympic Games” on the board. Pair your students and ask them to come up with as many different Olympics sports as they can in 3 minutes.


Step 2

Get feedback from the whole class and write the sports on the board. Go through pronunciation.


Step 3

Ask your students which sports they watched in the Olympic games in August.


Step 4

Ask your students to tell their partner about an athlete from their country who won a medal or did well at the Olympics in Rio.


Step 5

Put your students into small groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:

  • What characteristics does an athlete need to become an Olympian?
  • What does an athlete have to do to become an Olympian?
  • What do you think the life of an Olympian is like?


Step 6

Hold a plenary discussion based on the questions in the previous stage.


Step 7

Write “Usain Bolt” and the following questions on the board:

  • What do you know about him?
  • How many medals did he win in Rio?
  • How many Olympic medals has he won in total?
  • What do you know about his character?
  • What do you know about his childhood?
  • What do you know about his life?


Step 8

Hold a plenary discussion on what your students know about Usain Bolt’s life based on the questions from the previous stage?


Step 9

Tell your students they are going to watch a short film titled The Boy Who Learned to Fly, based on the life of Usain Bolt. As they watch the film they should check if any of the facts about his life they discussed are shown in the film, and try to remember as much of the story as they can.

Show the film.



Step 10

Pair your students and ask them to retell the story of Usan Bolt’s life to each other.


Step 11

Get the whole class to reconstruct the story in as much detail as possible.


Step 12

Tell your students they are going to watch the film again; this time they should concentrate on the internal struggle which Usain experienced, and the advice his mother gave him.

Show the film again.


Step 13

Elicit or explain that Usain experienced internal struggle when he found it difficult to cope with the expectations of his fellow Jamaicans and feared failure. His mother’s advice was “all worries do is weigh you down”, and “you always go faster when you keep it light”. Her advice helped him to overcome his fears and the pressure of performance to ultimately become the fastest man in the world.


Step 14

Ask your students to discuss Usain’s mother’s advice.



Give your students the link to the film; ask them to watch it for homework and write a summary of the story it tells.


I hope you enjoy this ESL lesson.

Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment



22 thoughts on “The Boy Who Learned To Fly

  1. If I were to use this film in class, it would be as a starting point for a discussion about character, humility and the Olympic spirit. It would be about athletes who shamelessly and unselfishly help others, like the 5000 Metre runner who stopped to help another. In this film you show Bolt as selfish, and later as arrogant. Hardly, a role model.

    • Dear Bill,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. However, I have to say your comments leave me rather baffled. You say “you show Bolt as selfish, and later as arrogant.” I do no such thing- I don’t show Usain in any light, I only design a lesson plan around a film based on his life. Perhaps you meant to say that the film director shows him as selfish and arrogant which is one interpretation, but I’m sure lots of other viewers would see him in more positive terms. You also say that Usain Bolt is “hardly, a role model”. Nowhere in the lesson plan do I present Usain Bolt as a role model of any sort – I only use the film as a prompt for students to talk about characteristics and attributes of Olympic athletes in general, and to say what they know about Bolt and then to watch the film and to discuss and retell the story of his life.

      As I don’t charge anything for the lesson plans I create, you are, of course, free to use the lesson plan and film in anyway you which or not use it at all. If you don’t like the lesson plan, I suggest you create your own lesson plan designed around the film and set up a blog or website so that you can share it with other teachers. Good luck with that!


      • Hi there!

        I loved the movie and your ideas on how to make the most of it. I don’t agree to what Bill said. It is up to us to decide to see and judge Bolt’s actions. Anyway, keep it up Kieran, you are awesome!

          • I think that aspect, whether or not he’s admirable (and how he comes across in the animation) actually adds a huge amount to this lesson. As always, a great choice of film!

            The “making of” is also interesting.

          • Hi Tom,
            Yes, I agree that the Bolt’s character adds something to the film and the lesson, but I leave that up to the students to decide how they think he comes across and what they think of him. Yes, the making of is great too.
            All the best,

  2. Hey Kieran,

    Thanks for a great lesson plan based on a useful film. I especially enjoyed reading you comments above, ha, reminds me of when people critises my book. Anyway, look forward to some more films on English.


  3. Hi Kieran-

    My students always enjoy the lessons you have put together. Thank you! This film was a great way to start discussing plot structure using a current topic.

    Thanks again!


  4. Great lesson plan! Let´s see if my students also enjoy it!
    Hope you carry on with your work.

  5. Hello Kieran.
    Once again you offer us another great lesson plan and short film.I’ve shared it with my colleagues and we agreed to use it in our first class.
    Thank you for your suggestions, help and kindness.
    All the best,
    Ana Paula

    • Hi Seyma,
      I’m sorry, but I haven’t got time to transcribe the films. Selecting the films and writing the lesson plans takes up a lot of my time – on average 8-10 hours. As you know, the lessons are completely free, and I can’t afford to give up more of my time to transcribe films. If you want the transcription, you’ll have to do it yourself.
      Best wishes,

  6. Hello Kieran

    I personally used the film to get students to work on personality adjectives and basic information questions ,by groups ,since they are second year .They loved it.

  7. Hi Kieran,
    My students and I loved this. My students liked the way he was encouraged by people to do well and believe in himself. We’re following it up this week with them choosing an Olympian from their own country to present to the class.
    Btw have bought your book as I use your site a lot.
    Best wishes,

    • Hi Fiona,
      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment and for letting me know how the lesson went – sounds great! Thank you too for buying my book – much appreciated 🙂
      Best wishes,

  8. Hello Kieran.

    I used the film in writing test (elementary level). I asked them to rewrite the story and they had to mention internal struggle Usain experienced and the advice from his mother. The film is interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    Best regards from Indonesia.