How to Organize Physical Education Lessons

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Physical education can be a lot of fun, or it can be drudgery. It is up to the gym teacher to foster a positive environment while, at the same time, challenging students. In this lesson, we review how to organize physical education lessons through time management, grouping and team selection, nutrition, and promoting lifelong fitness.

Organizing Lessons

Do you remember those fun, but sometimes trying, days in gym class? As an instructor, organizing physical education lessons to make them enjoyable, and more importantly to benefit the health of the students, requires implementing carefully thought out methodologies.

Organizing successful physical education activities takes careful planning

Time Management

One of the most important factors in managing a physical education class is time management. Experts have found that students spend only about one-third of a physical education class actually being active. The other two-thirds is spent setting up, moving equipment, picking teams, and so forth.

This means, in a 50-minute class, the students are only exercising for 17 minutes or so. If the class is only one-half hour, they are exercising a paltry 10 minutes. There are several ways to improve time management, mostly involving the coach taking control of the situation instead of allowing the students to control the classroom.

  • Entering and Exiting: Try to reduce student socializing and have a fast, set routine for going in an out of the gym or recreational area outdoors.
  • Grouping: Once again limit socializing, have a signal, and specifically designate where the students should group.
  • Handling Equipment: Have the equipment prearranged, and have students know their roles in advance.
  • Stopping and Starting: Use a loud voice and a whistle. Stopping and starting delays can waste several minutes in a short time span.
  • Transitions: Make the switch between activities quick, otherwise there will be socializing.

Teams and Grouping

It used to be that the instructor would assign two team captains, and they would choose teams in front of everyone. Of course, the kids who were not as good had to deal with being picked last. Today, many instructors use one of three methods instead:

  • Alphabetically pick names
  • Privately meet with team captains
  • Use a hat to select names

One nice thing about physical education classes is that the instructor has a lot of flexibility as to the size of the groups of students. It is quite simple to break a larger class up into groups of three to eight students. Many educators feel that smaller groups are advantageous. One group could play dodgeball, while another plays basketball, and so forth. The groups could even switch their activities every fifteen minutes, which is what many experts recommend.

Creating a Positive Environment

Many students are completely intimidated by gym class and even dread it. Part of the instructor's role is to make everyone feel safe and a part of the experience. For example, while dodgeball can be incredibly fun for some students, it can be very intimidating for others. This is where the concept of breaking a larger group down into smaller groups can be beneficial, making the activity less overwhelming and/or allowing alternative activities.

The Dreaded Rope Climb from Gym Class

Remember those funny, old movies about high school where the coach blows her whistle and yells and screams at the students? While each coach has her own style, and sometimes tough love works, many coaches are now incorporating more of a positive reinforcement approach into their instruction. Encourage both the good athletes and the not so good athletes. Through careful management and grouping, the coach can make sure the more popular kids are not picking on the shyer kids and will encourage the good athletes to cheer for the less talented athletes.

Set a good example. Participate with your students, modeling positive support and good fitness. A coach that jogs with his students and has a lot of positive energy will be a good role model and an inspiration for his students.

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