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Teaching with Commands, Echoes, and Sound Effects

Posted 3 years ago - by Shannon Jarvis Irwin

When thinking about all the great educators I have come across in my short career (9 years), I think about what makes them successful. How have they molded me to be the educator I am today? What do we have in common? Management. Classroom/Gym management. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching a math class of 22 or a gym full of 88 students, if the teacher lacks management skills then learning may not take place or perhaps not be at the desired level of learning compared with a teacher who is very skilled in managing.

As I reflect on my own gym management, I realize I teach with commands, echoes, and more recently, sound effects. I find that having a set of key words and teaching students how to react to those key words, allows us to use our time effectively. I am able to transition my students from one activity to another quickly with a series of short phrases. This gives us the opportunity to spend more time in moderate to vigorous physical activity because time is not wasted during transition.

Commands are words that I use to move my students in and out of different formations for various activities or games. When giving a command to my students, I state the command first, allow a second for them to process how to react, then students began to move into action when I say, “go.” For example, if I need students to all have their own space in the gym I would say, “Scatter like Ants, GO!” followed by a short countdown for them to be in a spot ready and spread out. Some commands are used to get their attention, or to start and stop an activity. For example, to get my class’s attention I might say “Hey Hey Team!” and they would respond, “Hey Hey Coach!” and give their attention to me. Below is a list of commands that I use with my students and how my students respond to those key words or phrases.

  • “Homebase” …Students go to their given seat or squad line
  • “Peanut Butter and Jelly” …Students find a partner quickly and stand face to face
  • “BLT” …Students find a small group of three
  • “Short Stack” …Staying in their squad lines, students make 8 lines on one side of the gym leaving a large gaming area
  • “Banana Split” …Splitting their squad lines in half, students make a total of 16 lines, 8 on each end of the gym leaving a gaming area in the middle.
  • “Scatter like Ants” … Student spread out all over the gym
  • “Face Off” … Students stand face to face in parallel lines
  • “Circle Up” … Students get in one big circle in the middle of the gym
  • When I want to start an activity: “All Set?” …They respond, “You Bet!” and starting playing
  • When I need them to stop: “Freeze, hands on top,” …They respond with their hands on their head and say, “that means stop

Echoes are very similar to commands, in that students complete an action upon hearing them. Although with echoes, the students repeat back the command while completing the action. I find echoes to be a great tool for teaching younger elementary students, PK-1st grade especially. I find that teaching with echoes keeps their attention and engagement, while helping those lost ones to follow suit. We have all had experience with students who may zone out or tune out the teacher’s directions, but when you have a whole gym full of students repeating them, it is a nice way to reengage or redirect negative behaviors. Below is a list of echoes I use with my students.

  • “Stand up and freeze”…Stand up and freeze (with hands on top of head)
  • “Rotate”… Rotate
  • “Turn and Face”… Turn and Face (students go from facing one direction to another, south to north, etc.)
  • “180”: 180 …same as turn and face, but with a jump spin
  • “360”: 360 ... Just to for fun and to reengage students.
  • “Eyes on me”… Eyes on you
  • “Hands”… Hands (students show their hands), “Together”… Together (students inter lock them together), “Lock it”… Lock it (students place their hand in their lap)

Sound effects are a recent addition into our gym and I am having so much fun learning how to teach using them. Sound effects make for a joyful and amusing environment. They also help to keep students engaged and energetic about moving. Sound effects are when I move my hands a certain way and the students will respond by saying or doing a sound effect. It’s so FUN! When teaching the students the different ways to respond to my hand gestures or movements, its brought new energy into the gym. Below is a list of hand motions I do, followed by the sound effect my students say.

  • Spiral my finger upward to the sky: “Whhhooooo Hoooooo!”
  • Move my hand across the front of the body: “Whoooaaaa!”
  • Fist Pump (waist high): “Yesssss!”
  • Hands on face: “Gasp!”
  • Hands move up and down three times: “Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn!”

Here is an example of dialog and how I used Sound Effects the other day when teaching a Christmas Dance. “Great Class, you just learned part 1 of Christmas Cookies.” (Whooooo Hooooo!) “But there’s a second part” (Whooooooaaa!) and it’s kind of hard (Gasp!) “If you don’t pay attention to the beat you’ll be lost” (Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn!) “Now let’s try it to music!” (Yesssss!)

By teaching with commands, echoes, and sound effects, I am able to capture and keep my students attention and most importantly, not waste time. My students know I am a mover and I am a doer. They know when I say or do certain things, they need to respond quickly so we can do more. They are proud we spend most of our time together active and moving.

To sum up great advice I was given by amazing educators: make your expectations known, define them and then raise the bar. I believe the more you expect, the better your results will be. I would love to hear your fabulous ideas and great managing tools used in your gym in the comments below or send to Shannon King


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