Hello fellow PE, Fitness & Wellness Teachers, or aspiring movement instructors! As a PE Teacher of 20+ years who evolved into administration as a Principal and K-12 Wellness Director/Athletic Director, I can absolutely attest that teaching Physical Education Class is an amazing and rewarding teaching position! However, as we all know this Physical Educator position does require a very particular skill set.
Most “strictly academic” teachers shudder at the thought of covering a PE class and most substitutes do not really want to be a substitute for Physical Education. The large open spaces, the students’ ability to move around freely, and the potential for students to jump off task so quickly can intimidate most teachers. This is completely understandable if a teacher has not been properly trained to handle movement activities in multiple large open area arenas (gym, multipurpose room, track, outdoor fields, pool, fitness center, etc…)
So, armed with this information, what are some critical skills or components that a new or even a veteran PE teacher could incorporate to help maximize ALT (Active Learning Time)? I went into my notes and archives to grab the “Top 5” PE class management skills that I share with our K-12 Wellness/PE staff. Take a read and see what you think:
1. Engage immediately and know names
I grouped these together as I believe them to be symbiotic and critical! It is so important to know EVERY student’s name! All current data indicates that students respond so much better when they are directed by name rather than a “hey, you”, “friend”, or any other type of general label.
This can be difficult for elementary PE Teachers as they typically instruct the entire school (which can be as much or beyond 500+ students) however it is still super helpful to know their names. I also encourage the PE Teacher to engage the students the moment they enter the instructional environment (and engage them by name of course.) Immediate warm-ups, some sort of dynamic or static stretch, or a quick regimented sport specific movement sends a message that “what we are doing is important” and “we can’t afford to waste ANY time…so let’s get moving now!”
2. Organization, routines, and start on time
These skill springboard off of #1, as I feel it is important to have a routine opening class exercise/warm-up that is familiar and known to the students. This creates an immediate and specific message that you are starting class and is less intimidating to students of all ages as they know and expect what is coming for a warm-up before any new material/movement is broached.
Another routine that data shows to be important is “framing the lesson.” Quickly explaining the 1-2 or even 3 lesson goals AND the activities that you’ll be using to achieve those goals will decrease student anxiety and hopefully increase enthusiasm related to what is coming next for movement. A skilled PE teacher can “frame the lesson” in 1-2 minutes and then get the class moving. Some teachers even frame the lesson during warm-ups/stretching.
3. Plenty of perfect practice
I remember learning this at Bridgewater State during my undergrad years for Physical Education and I still utilize it to this day. Basically, what we are encouraging is that students should be practicing (“Skill & Drill”) in a fun movement session as much as possible during the class. Maximizing movement (fitness) and skill development is integral in the 21st Century educational world. More student movement and repetition increases the student’s ability to grasp the skill and improve their fitness and skill level which in turn will increase their confidence in the intended movement or skill.
4. Organization! (Color coding and coordination)
This recommendation also connects with Organization (#2) and Plenty of Practice (#3). Organization is paramount to an efficient and effective lesson and it is the one component that if not deployed properly can derail a lesson into the Physical Education abyss. Basically, the more organized you can be with your equipment and the more organized you are with your students then the better the lesson should progress.
I have become a big fan of “color coding” student groups and even equipment if you can do so. This is especially important for the elementary levels where organization can complicate their movements and stunt a lesson. I purchase colored or rainbow sets of equipment for our staff whenever possible to help maximize our efficiency and organization. For example, the “blue team” would utilize the “blue basketballs” while the red team would use the “red basketballs” in a particular lesson. It’s much easier for the students to follow along. Another great example would be color-coordinated cones as this helps frame practices. The options are endless with the colored sets of equipment and being organized in every way imaginable can only increase Active Learning Time for students. For a wide-variety of equipment in Rainbow colors, look here!
5. Have a back-up plan… always!
Having a back-up plan and some ancillary activities ready to go in a heartbeat should be common for every lesson every day. So many PE plans can get disrupted by inclement weather (a planned outdoor lesson that needs to move inside for example), unforeseen speed bumps in the schedule (fire drill), technology not working, and any number of other hurdles that could present themselves. A strong PE Instructor will have back-up plans that coincide with the planned goals of the day to make sure that students are receiving the physical, affective, and cognitive activities that they need and deserve.
How about you and your classroom? What are some other Fantastic PE Class Management tips? I know there are far more than five, what are some that you feel are critical too? Thanks for sharing…