Increasing Student Engagement: 5 Fs = an A+

Most teachers whether brand new or seasoned veterans strive to increase their positive classroom culture repertoire. Positive classroom culture, increased student engagement and maximum participation, what PE/Wellness teacher doesn’t want that?

What better time to test drive or implement some new skills than the beginning of the school year?  I’ve compiled 5 “F’” skills that will help you earn a definite “A+” when it comes to preparation and implementation resulting in a great classroom environment.  The following 5 tips can really help you create a classroom culture that will encourage positive and productive connections with your students.

1. Fair: Treat All Students Equally

Being as equal and fair to all of your students should be the foundation of your classroom culture. Setting expectations and policies that apply to all of your students and then holding EVERYONE accountable creates a culture of fairness. When everyone feels they are being treated equally there tends to be a feeling of safety and trust which then leads to increased student participation. Students will engage when they feel safe and valued.

2. Firm: Create and Stick With Expectations

Holding steadfast to your expectations creates a culture of accountability and engagement. When students know that you have established rules and then consistently hold them to those articulated rules they will increasingly engage in the learning process (activity) in your class, gym, programming area, etc… Being firm with expectations and following up with strong accountability is the backbone of a great PE/Wellness program. When Kids know they are expected to participate and will be held accountable to do so they tend to rise to those expectations.

3. Friendly: The Key is Consistency

Friendly > this “skill” is by far one of the most important and powerful. I’ve found in my 25+ year career that just plain being friendly on a consistent basis is the best bridge to positive classroom culture. Students will love and/or not love certain PE or Wellness activities on any given day, that’s the nature of an active curriculum. However, if a teacher/facilitator is friendly on a regular basis then most students will enter your class with a smile and a good natured approach to anything you want to teach that day. “You get more flies with honey…” so the saying goes.  Being friendly on a consistent basis undoubtedly builds positive classroom climates.

4. Flexible: A Great Way to Build Trust

Yes it is important to be fair and firm with your students and rules, this is critical. However, life can and does throw curveballs and being flexible is a vital skill for us all. Demonstrating and role-modeling this skill to your students can build lots of runway and authentic trust with your students and classes. For example, being flexible once in a while with a struggling student, the planned activity, weather, or a myriad of other speed bumps can be a great teachable moment for your budding pupils. Rules and regulations are important and once in a while it’s acceptable and important to adapt and be flexible when professional acumen calls for you do to so.

5. Fun: Is the Overarching Goal!

Having FUN in your class as often as possible (preferably every lesson) is a critical factor and should be an overarching goal! Learning should be fun and PE/Wellness classes are the BEST place to plan to infuse some fun during class. If students learn to have fun while being active in your class they will subconsciously learn over time that fitness, activity, traditional games, or any movement sessions can and should be enjoyable and fun.  What better life can skill can you impart on your students? Activity should be FUN.

Bonus: Forecastivity

OK, I think I made up this word so that it aligned with my alliteration style for this blog..and I did say 5 tips so “Forecastivity” is #6 and what I will call a bonus recommendation. I’ve found as a student, teacher, and administrator that students appreciate when a teacher will “frame the lesson” or forecast what will occur in today’s class and even the next few lessons. Forecasting allows the student to be less anxious (reducing anxiety is a big help these days) because they have learned that you will tell them early in the class what they/you will be doing during today’s session and ensuing classes. This builds trust and safety which in turn continues to stoke the fires of a positive classroom culture.

So there we have it, 5 (actually 5 + 1 Bonus skill) recommendations that can very quickly help you continue to establish a positive classroom culture at the beginning of the school year. Being Fair, Firm, Friendly, Flexible, Fun, and “Forecastive” can help you to build trust and a safe environment with your students. This growing trust and safety will lead to increased student engagement which springboards to an overall positive classroom culture.  What are your thoughts? Do you agree with some of these recommendations, do you already use some of them? Do you have other skills that you can share? Please let us know your thoughts and enjoy the rest of your summer as you plan to get an “A+” in positive classroom culture while using these 5 “F’S”to your advantage. 

Peter is the Director of Athletics at Milford Public Schools in Milford, MA. Previously he was the Elementary Principal & K-12 Wellness Coordinator in Canton, MA and was the Massachusetts K-12 Wellness Director of the Year in 2011-2012.

Peter is the Director of Athletics at Milford Public Schools in Milford, MA. Previously he was the Elementary Principal & K-12 Wellness Coordinator in Canton, MA and was the Massachusetts K-12 Wellness Director of the Year in 2011-2012.

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