Don't Play Ball With the Mayas

article by Lauri Kubuitsile , photo by Alamy

Learning intentions:

I am learning to create and compile visual information based on a non-fiction text so that my factual writing can be enhanced through analytical images when needed.


Success criteria:

  • I can summarise information from the text.
  • I can make decisions about the appropriate order and inclusion of information.
  • I can create a guide that effectively communicates a set of instructions through visual means.


Essential knowledge:

For more information on conveying factual information in a credible way, watch the English Textual Concepts video for Authority.


After reading the text, ask students to recall some rules of Pok-A-Tok. These may include:

  • It was played on a court with a flat, hard floor and walls up two sides, sometimes vertically straight and sometimes sloping.
  • There were stone hoops as high as 8 metres up the walls.
  • The object of the game was to get the ball through the hoop.
  • Once a player got the ball through the hoop, the game was over.
  • Players weren’t allowed to touch the ball with their feet or their hands, and the ball could not touch the ground.
  • The ball had to be constantly passed between players while they tried to get it through the hoop.
  • The ball could only be moved using players’ thighs, elbows, hips, waist or shoulders.
  • Players wore protective helmets and guards on their shins, forearms and waists.

Inform students that based on information pieced together by historians, it’s extremely likely that the Mayans were playing Pok-a-Tok for hundreds of years before they even had a written language.

Explain that students are therefore to create a visual rule book for the game of Pok-A-Tok that uses maps, diagrams and illustrations to communicate the rules based on what they have learnt from the text. Ask students to suggest ways that this can be done. Answers may include:

  • A map of the court.
  • Illustrations that demonstrate game play, such as players passing the ball back and forth to each other, which may be shown using arrows.
  • A diagram of a player wearing the protective equipment.
  • An illustration of a player with circles on the body parts that players can use to move the ball.

Explain that students may be as creative as they like as long as the information from the text is clearly communicated through their visual representations.