15 Fantastic Ways to be a Better PE Teacher
According to the The 2012 Shape of the Nation Report, 38 states (74.5%) mandate physical education in elementary, middle, and high school, but most do not require a specific amount of instructional time and more than half allow exemptions or waivers. Physical education is important, so no matter your state requirements you should achieve to be an engaging PE teacher.
Traditionally PE class was survival of the fittest—literally! If children weren’t naturally athletically gifted then they often left class feeling like they had failed in some aspect. The worst thing for a young child to feel is failure, whether that’s in testing or playing.
It can be challenging for PE teachers to engage students who dislike PE, and some even have a tendency just to pay attention to the children who do enjoy class. This guide is to help you become a better PE teacher and to assist in engaging those children who just don’t want to play basketball and dodge ball!
1. Positive reinforcement!
One of the best ways to engage your kids, and keep them engaged, is to encourage them! Of course those who excel should be celebrated, but those who don’t excel should be encouraged even more. No matter how small of an achievement they make, tell them how excited and pleased you are to see them do it. This is a guaranteed way to engage your kids.
2. Structure classes that foster success
Along with positive reinforcement, create games that everyone can succeed at on some level. For example, if you’re practicing stretching, record each student’s personal best at the beginning of the year, and then record it again at the end of the year. Don’t advertise each student’s personal best—keep it between the student and yourself. With positive reinforcement every student should be able to improve upon their own personal best. Creating moments of success is a surefire way to get those kids who don’t really like athletics to participate more and have a higher self-esteem.
3. Don’t let kids choose their teams
Too often PE teachers let their kids choose teams by selecting two captains and allowing them to take turns selecting students. The problem with this is that the children who are not naturally athletic will typically be picked last. An easy way to solve this problem and to help everyone feel equal is to select the teams yourself. Number the kids off, have them draw straws, or pick teams at random; there are a variety of creative ways to make teams. Whatever you do though, don’t let them choose the teams themselves!
4. Don’t make PE class about winning
You should also not make the point of class to be about extreme competition. If you’re a competitive person then this may be hard. But students don’t always excel in competitive settings, especially those less naturally gifted. Instead, create games that are fun, empowering, and involve everyone—don’t make the point to win.
5. Be in shape yourself!
If you want kids to care about being healthy and in shape, then you should live out the example! There’s nothing like an unfit PE teacher telling students that fitness is important. You should work out at the school, showing the students how you take care of your own body and how you have fun doing it! Students will respect you more.
6. Engage your students in class
Everyone knows that kids have very short attention spans. Don’t let this frustrate you though! Instead, create an environment that engages your students.
- Always have the children in front of you when talking.
- Have them put their backs against the wall so they’ll all face you.
- Speak in a loud “gym voice,” and encourage them to do so too! Kids are told to be quiet all the time in school, but they should be allowed to express themselves verbally. Explain that if they’re quiet while you’re talking, then they can use their own “gym voices” while playing games.
7. Get your students attention
Gym teachers often become frustrated with not being able to grab their students’ attention. Use good techniques to get your students attention. Some examples include:
- Stop activities by using a whistle.
- Lift up your hands for a visual affect.
- Use a loud speaker or megaphone for especially large classes.
- Require participants to move to “open space.”
- When speaking, make a rule that students must place the ball between their feet.
- Ask students to sit down and face you when you’re talking or explaining instructions.
8. Create an environment that breeds movement
PE class should be about getting exercise. Therefore, make an environment that requires students to exercise! Instead of getting the equipment out before class, put it in a place safe for students and ask them retrieve it themselves. When dividing up groups, have students skip to their group rather than walk. There are many creative ways to breed constant movement!
9. Create stations so kids don’t get bored
Making different stations with small group activities will help students not get bored with one game or exercise too quickly. You can blow a whistle to have the small groups move to their next station.
10. Teach health and the importance of exercise
Don’t just give students the opportunity to exercise. You should also teach them health and the importance of exercise! If they understand why they’re exercising then they may enjoy it more. Additionally, students don’t always get health information from their parents. The best way to help students live a healthy lifestyle is by reinforcing it at a young age.
Some schools don’t have enough money to purchase equipment for all students. Instead of having some students use equipment and others watching, make an environment where everyone is involved. Teach students spotting skills, or use those stations so while some students can play with balls, others can lift weights.
12. Teach alternative health activities
We’re in an age of diverse health activities. Instead of only teaching the traditional basketball or volleyball skills, also engage your students in alternative health activities such as yoga, dance, or Tai Chi. If you don’t know how to do these things then take a class! You can learn something, too!
13. Don’t play with your kids
Sometimes teachers think if they play with their kids then the students will be more involved. In reality you may end up losing respect or creating unnecessary competition. Instead of playing with them, show them how excited and interested you are in seeing them play!
14. Better to be safe than sorry
Create a safe environment by instructing students to use proper techniques when executing skills. You should also match opponents with like size, strength and skills. Also, eliminate any potential dangers or health hazards before class.
15. Organize interesting demonstrations
Students often need show and tell instructions. Create interesting and fun demonstrations, such as a mini-play on how to do proper skill execution. You can also provide entertaining video models. Ask the students to mimic what they see afterwards.