What Does a Typical PE Class Look Like at My School?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

I am big on routines. They make my day go better, and I truly believe the students participate better when they know what is coming next.

I have the privilege of team teaching at a K-5 school with about 600 students. We see our children every other day for 40 minutes (in previous years it has been for 45 or 50 minutes). Since there are two physical educators in the gym, we team teach and see two or more homerooms during each PE class (40-60 students).

Entering the Gym (1-2 minutes)

The classes literally enter the gym skipping. From here, we move into the fitness section of our class. The purpose of starting each class in this manner is to allow for immediate movement (especially if the second class is late). I once attended a session at a conference where the presenter said he never sat his students down unless they were huffing and puffing. I have since adopted that methodology.

Fitness Section (13-16 minutes)

The classes complete about 4-5 minutes of interval walking and jogging (i.e., the boys walk around the perimeter of the gym while the girls jog around the “track” and then vice versa). The purpose of completing the intervals in this manner is to allow for easier identification of a child who may be “slacking.” I have also found that most children love the opportunity to instantly move and jog. The format of these first few minutes allows for each child to exercise as well as to socialize with their peers.

The students then participate in a variety of instant fitness activities (a different one each day) which are designed to increase their heart rate while engaging the major muscle groups. This may include student or teacher-led activities, partner activities, and/or large group/instant activities.   At this point, the students should have been moving for the first 12+ minutes of class.

We then gather and sit near the stage to have a 2-3 minute health/fitness tip. I typically share a brief tip (e.g., going on an evening walk with your loved ones is a good opportunity to exercise and chat). I then ask the students to share with the person sitting beside them their favorite place to go on a walk. I usually call on 4-5 students to share their partner’s response. Interestingly, I receive more feedback from parents about the health/fitness tip than I do about the skills/activities we are currently working on in class.

Lesson (25-30 minutes)

At the conclusion of the health/fitness tip, the focus of the day is then conveyed. We will spend the next 25 minutes on the daily lesson, which may be working through a skills progression or a large group activity (depending on what unit we are currently working on).

Clean-Up & Exiting the Gym (1-2 minutes)

After the day’s activity, I provide instructions for the students to assist with cleaning up the equipment and then send them to their assigned spots on the floor. At this point, I lead the students through the line up procedure, provide a lesson closure, and encourage outside play as the students exit!

This format helps vary the flow of the day. That is, each class participates in a 40 or so minute PE class; however, the first 15 minutes focus on fitness and the remaining 25 minutes focus on skill instruction/application. This pattern prevents the students from doing the same skill for the entire class and keeps the teacher from doing the same skill (e.g., dribbling) all day long. When the classes were 45 or 50 minutes, each of the two sections (fitness and PE) were increased by a few minutes.

This routine works at my school.

What routines help the flow of your instruction?

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How Do You Improve Your Instructional Methods?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

I began teaching physical education almost 16 years ago and recently found myself in an interesting situation. I was looking through some old VHS tapes and discovered a video of myself teaching a racquetball lesson from when I was student teaching back in the 1900’s. Intrigued by this find, my son and I proceeded to sit down and watch the tape. He found it amusing to see daddy on the TV whereas I found it to be an interesting snapshot allowing me to glimpse back to where my teaching began. In the tape, I had all the main parts memorized and was able to regurgitate them, yet my instruction lacked a certain level of comfort and smoothness. That is, my teaching methods were rough. Watching the video caused me to ponder about how my methods of instruction had matured since the video was recorded. 1

Over the years, I have had the benefit of teaching in environments that thrived on collaboration and have experienced personal growth through regular participation in professional development activities. I regularly seek out and enjoy participating in these activities within my school, district, state, and nation.

One of my favorite professional development experiences is to visit another school. I eagerly arrive to the gymnasium and find myself looking at their floor markings, schedule, and equipment room. I inquire about their routines, particular pieces of equipment, and organization. Each visit provides more insight on how to organize a gymnasium.

What type of professional development activities do you enjoy the most?

Participating in professional development activities does four things for me.

First, they give me the ability to collaborate with other physical educators while having focused conversations on relevant topics. I try to be like a sponge and “soak-up” as much new information as possible. From this, I have learned a wealth of information and strategies over the years that have influenced my methods of instruction. Conferences in particular give me the unique opportunity to gather ideas from and talk one-on-one with various state, regional, and national physical education teachers of the year.

Which professional development experiences have helped to shape your methods of instruction?

Second, they provide handouts that are added to my files. I keep those handwritten notes and all of the handouts categorized by themes. I find myself perusing these files every so often looking for relevant information and ideas that can help me improve my methods of instruction. In recent years, I have found various physical education conferences who post their handouts online.

Third, they energize me! They place me in an environment surrounded by others who are passionate about physical education. I then return to my classroom full of energy and excitement to pass on to my students. In 1999, I met a physical educator by the name of Don Puckett and told myself, “When I grow up, I want to be just like him!” Since then, we have crossed paths numerous times at various conferences, and each meeting is an energizing experience.

Have you met anyone through these activities who has been a positive influence on you as a physical educator?

Finally, I make connections with fellow physical educators. Those connections provide me with a cadre of people to bounce ideas off of or simply to ask for advice. When I have an idea or question, those educators are only an email, text, or phone call away.

Each district varies in respect to professional development requirements. In my district, each teacher is required to partake in eighteen hours of in-service outside of the school day at some point during the school year.

Do you see your district’s professional development requirement as a maximum number or a minimum requirement?

I recently read an article that mentioned one sign of a quality educator is one who is humbled by the notion that they can always learn something new. Participating in professional development activities allows me to be the student while collaborating and learning best practices from other professionals.

I encourage you to be the type of physical educator who is always willing to learn new teaching strategies. I hope you set aside time to review an article, read a book, visit a website, listen to a podcast, participate in a webinar, gather some colleagues for a discussion, sign up for a class, or attend a conference. I urge you to never stop learning and always be willing to expand your instructional methods through professional development activities.

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1 – This first paragraph is reworked from an article I wrote for the TN AHPERD 2009 Fall Newsletter entitled “Designing a Skill Progression That Uses Assessment to Motivate Physical Education Students.”