Why Is the Beginning of the Year so Important?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Each year, I am eager yet anxious to start each PE class. I can’t wait for the doors to open and see the smiling faces as the students enter the gym and start skipping. I am excited to see how much we can cover within each lesson and how far we can go with each unit. I always find it fun and exciting to discover the personality of each class. Will they be rule followers, or will they push the boundaries? Will I be able to step back and give them more freedom, or will I have to “keep my thumb on them?”

I am fortunate to see our students every other day for 40 minutes. Additionally, my school is not very transient which equates to us keeping about 85% of our population from year to year. This means that on day number one, most of the students already know the routines. Those who are new, follow along pretty well.

I hope you know I am only talking about 1st-5th grade. Kindergarten is an entirely different story! I will talk more about them at the end of this post.

The beginning of the year is your chance to set the tone for the rest of the year. It is your chance to outline the procedures and routines that will help your class run smoothly. It is your opportunity to set the expectations for student behavior. To me, the first couple of PE classes are the most important ones of the year!

Here is what works for us at my school:

PE Class #1

During the opening 3-4 minutes of the first class, I have two goals. First, let them come in moving (i.e., skipping) around our “track.” Second, let them socialize. Since I team-teach, we have 3 classrooms combined for one large PE class of 60-75 students. If you watch, you can see their faces light up as they see an old classmate for the first time in 2 months. I purposely give them a chance to chat as they move around the gym. That is important! I want the first impression of PE to be about movement and socialization. After all, isn’t that what we want our kids to do for the rest of their lives?

After 4 or so minutes, we get down to business, and I pull out the whistle.

The Whistle

Some folks frown on it; however, I find the whistle to be a highly effective stop signal since we have upwards of 60-75 kids in the gym at a time. I almost always have music playing, which along with the student voices and sounds from the equipment can be quite loud.

A simple “toot” of the whistle is the stop signal. If the music is playing, I try to stop it simultaneously. When the whistle is heard, the expectation is for everyone to “Stop & Drop.” That is, they stop whatever they are doing, sit down, hold their equipment (or set it on the floor), stop talking, and look at me.

I expect this to be completed within 3 seconds. If it takes longer than 3 seconds, we immediately practice until we get it right. I pair the expectation with the following explanation:

We only have 40 minutes together. The amount of movement you get is dependent on your choices and your behavior.   The quicker you “Stop & Drop” equals the quicker I can talk. The quicker I get to talking and the better you listen equals the faster you can get back to moving.

This is how I begin to build mutual respect with the students. I remind them that we have a mutual goal (movement) and that they play a major role in achieving that goal.

After meeting the “Stop & Drop” expectation (whether on the first or third time), I introduce all of the PE teachers. I then allow them to start moving and skipping again.

I allow them to do some interval jogging. The boys walk around the perimeter of the gym while the girls jog on the “track.” I switch them every 30 seconds for about 3 or so minutes.   After walking to cool down, they execute a crab walk to engage their shoulder muscles. We then gather at the stage to sit and chat.

The Beginning Routine

I explain how they will enter every single class. They will skip, interval jog, crab walk, participate in an instant fitness activity, and gather for a daily health tip. Please refer to the following previous article for more details: How Does Your #PhysEd Class Begin?

I also tell them what I hope for us to cover that day and that I plan to end with an instant activity. However, I remind them that the amount of time they get for that activity is dependent on how well they listen and follow directions. Every time we have to stop for poor behavior takes time away from their movement time.

The Paw Prints & Ending Routine

After the first health tip, we assign their paw prints (floor spots). These are their assigned seats in PE. We use them during some fitness activities, individual/partner practice, and during our line-up procedure. After assigning their spots, we practice the line-up procedure. Please refer to the following previous article for more details: How Do Your Students Exit the Gym?

After successfully practicing the line-up routine, we gather back by the stage to discuss all of the rules, expectations, and consequences with the students. Please note, we also send a letter home to the families that introduce our program and details the same information.  P.E.Parent.Letter

The Rules

The rules fall into three categories.


  • Keep your hands, feet, and objects to yourself
  • Do not horseplay or slide on the floor
  • Do not leave assigned area without permission


  • Show respect and listen during instruction
  • Take care of the equipment
  • Leave the gym in a quiet and orderly manner
  • Keep inappropriate and unkind words to yourself


  • Follow all rules and directions for each activity

NOTE: Other inappropriate behavior will be discussed and disciplined as needed.

The Expectations

  • Exhibit Sango P.R.I.D.E. (Positivity, Respect, Integrity, Determination, & Excellence)
  • Wear gym shoes
  • Have a great attitude
  • Do your best

The Consequences

If a student chooses to disobey the rules, the following disciplinary action will be taken:

  • 1st OFFENSE – Verbal Warning (given to an individual or the entire class) &/or Time-Out
  • 2nd OFFENSE – Extended Time-Out
  • 3rd OFFENSE – Prolonged Time-Out & move a clip down

After doing all of the above, the 3rd-5th graders usually have about 8-10 minutes left in class. Therefore, we end class with some type of instant activity just like we started with skipping. I want the last impression of the first class to be movement! The lower grades (1st-2nd) may only have 5 minutes left so they participate in a freeze activity. When the music is on they can move, and when it stops they have to freeze like a statue. 

PE Class #2

We follow our same beginning routine. We then go over our safety drills.

The Drills

As shared in the How Do Your Students Exit the Gym? article, our line-up procedure is very orderly. At the end of each PE class, the students end up in classroom lines right in front of the exit door. For consistency, they urgently move to these same classroom lines during our fire and tornado drills. After arriving in these lines, we exit the gym and proceed outside (fire drill) or into the hallway (tornado drill). Our lockdown drill is a little different.

The Other Stuff

We cover anything else we did not get to on day #1 (i.e, bathrooms, space awareness, etc.).

The First Large Group Activity of the Year

After completing everything on our PE orientation checklist, the students get to participate in their first large group activity of the year. I usually select one that is simple, familiar, and takes very little equipment.

When this is all said and done, we are ready to start the next class with the first unit of the year – Line Dancing!


Our kindergarten (K) students only come once a week for the first week. This enables each K classroom teacher to work in small groups (i.e., only 5 students per day). On that day, they help the students become acquainted with the school, and they use that time to assess each child. During this first week, each K teacher combines their small groups to come to PE for about 10-15 minutes. During this time, we walk around the gym, introduce ourselves, and practice finding a few floor markings. The sixth full day of school is the first day that all of the K students come! Having 45-60 K students on the first day is a site to behold! Starting on that day, we teach everything we outlined above; however, we go MUCH slower and spread it out over a few PE classes. We introduce a little bit more each day coupled with simple opportunities to move.

How do you begin your year?

Do you establish procedures and routines to help the rest of the year run smoothly?

Do you set high expectations for student behavior?

How do you begin to build mutual respect with your students?


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3 thoughts on “Why Is the Beginning of the Year so Important?

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for this detailed information! I’m brand new to teaching PE and my first day is tomorrow! I love the flow you have and will be adding in a lot of your tips! Thank you for sharing,


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