Components of a Physical Education Class

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the activities commonly included in many physical education curricula and how each one contributes to the overall physical health of each student.

Physical Education

Physical education, or P.E., or sometimes even just referred to as 'gym class,' is often overlooked. Most classes in school, after all, are geared toward students sitting in class memorizing facts and figures or learning skills and techniques. P.E., on the other hand, can sometimes just feel like an extension of recess.

Physical education, however, is an important component of any child's education. They learn skills and spatial awareness that can help them later in life as well as keeping them physically fit.


Physical education is more than just a series of dodgeball or basketball games. There are important parts to each well-run P.E. class, and we will discuss each one in detail.


Each physical education class will include some light activity in the first 5-10 minutes of every class. Though it is short and often an afterthought, the warm-up can be incredibly important for each child. Just like pro athletes are always out on the field warming up before their games, students engaging in even the most mundane of physical activity should spend some time warming up.

Warm up should almost always include stretching. Various stretches, like touching your toes, butterfly stretch, and others are proven to improve flexibility and prevent muscle strains, tears, and other injuries that are common during physical activity.

In addition to stretching, warming up can also include any other type of light activity, such as jogging a few laps around the gymnasium or track.


Calisthenics are often performed immediately after warming up and are part of any physical education curriculum. These can include common workout activities that do not involve weights such as push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, jumping jacks, pull-ups, and/or jumping rope, just to name a few. These improve motor function and can also be used to test a student's physical fitness and aptitude.

Indeed, students should keep track of their progress (e.g., how many sit-ups they can they do in a set period of time, total number of push-ups they can do before resting) and aim to improve throughout the term of the physical education class. In concert with their teacher, students should set realistic goals for themselves and make steady progress toward these goals.

Health Education

Unless being handled in a completely separate course, students should also receive a firm grounding in health education and possibly in the workings of the human body as part of their physical education. This component is usually done in a classroom setting, either on paper or via presentation. When it is completed is usually up to the discretion of the teacher. Some prefer to do it before or after warm-up, while others choose to devote one day each week where students spend one entire period in the classroom.

The content of this curriculum will be heavily dependent upon the structure of a school's other courses and the grade levels of the students. However, it can include anatomy lessons, especially the anatomy of muscle groups and how each interact with one another. Instruction in this area should be relevant to the other activities in the course; for example, if the class is also playing tennis routinely, it would make sense for the class to be taught a unit on muscles in the hand, wrist, and arm and common injuries they develop.

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