What Do My In-Person PE Classes Look Like During This Pandemic?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Like many of you, I spent a decent amount of time last year planning and adjusting my instructional practices to teach PE during a global pandemic.  All of a sudden, there were new guidelines and constraints.  At times, I felt like a first year teacher all over again.  Now that we are half way through the year and worked out some of the kinks, I thought it may be helpful to share some of the processes that have worked for our program as they may be useful to you as we begin the second semester.

The new guidelines and constraints have required me to make some changes to the way I teach.  Most notably, I have temporarily switched from a skills-based program to a game/activity-based program.  I also spend part of my time traveling around the school to provide PE lessons in the classroom and or outside.

As the 20-21 school year approached, I was pleased when our district released specific guidelines to help me in my planning.  The main limitations included not using the gym and not being able to share equipment (at all).  If equipment was used then it either had to be sanitized or quarantined prior to re-use.  Thankfully, our district did specify that equipment could be re-used without chemical sanitization if it was quarantined for 72 hours.  Please note that this was the same time frame established for library books.  Since our PE classes are back to back, I wanted to develop a system of rotating the equipment which would minimize the amount of time spent sanitizing.  More specifically, I wanted to develop a plan where I could use the equipment for one class and then set it aside to quarantine while still having another set of equipment ready for the next class. 

Thankfully, some of these initial limitations were eased as the first semester progressed.  We can now use the gym and can also share equipment within a cohort (i.e., a homeroom).  However, the equipment must still be sanitized or quarantined between cohorts.

Below, you will find the methods that are working for us.  I hope you will find them beneficial or that they will spark an idea to help you in your specific teaching situation.  Even though we are a large school, I believe some aspects of this plan could easily be used at a smaller school.

Classroom PE

The district initially determined that all instruction would occur in the classroom.  Thankfully (and weather permitting) we could also take the homeroom class outside.  Their goal was to minimize movement within the building as well as the congregation of large crowds.  This prompted us to use some PE funds to purchase wagons.  This would allow each of us to wheel our supplies all around the building and grounds.  We also bought mini Bluetooth speakers which would allow us to take our music with us for classroom PE. 

Our school is quite large and has a 6-day cycle for our related arts classes (i.e., S-A-N-G-O-!).  Within those 6 days, each homeroom will see art, music, and library once.  Thankfully, they see PE three times during that 6-day cycle (i.e., every other day).  We do have three PE teachers and during a normal year will combine homerooms in order to team-teach large PE classes in the gym. 

Our classroom PE plan still provides for the students to receive PE every other day; however, each PE teacher travels separately and rotates through a grade level much like the art, music, and library teachers.  This means each homeroom within a grade level only sees each of the three PE teachers once during the 6-day related arts cycle.  In this example, Homeroom #1 will have one PE teacher on S-Day, the third PE teacher on N-Day, and the second PE teacher on O-Day.

This schedule allows one well-planned lesson to be used multiple times (i.e., 6 days).  Building on that idea, each PE teacher developed 6 lesson plans.  Each one was color coordinated (i.e., red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) and included a K-2nd inside, K-2nd outside, 3rd-5th inside, and 3rd-5th outside element.  Each element was also designed to help meet our new 2020 goal of getting the students out of their desks and engaged in an age appropriate game/activity even if we were confined to a classroom.  Since each plan has an indoor and outdoor element, we know what we are doing each day regardless if we have to stay in the classroom or get the opportunity to go outside.  For instance, I get all of my red lesson supplies that morning and place them in my wagon.  As the day progresses, I have everything I need in case the weather is or is not cooperating (i.e., starts/stop raining) and can make the necessary adjustments.

The key to the plan is rotating the color lessons.  In the example below, the homerooms that have PE on S day will have the red lesson on 9/2. Orange lesson on 9/11, yellow lesson on 9/21, and etc. 

After each lesson, the equipment is quarantined (i.e., set aside for 72+ hours before being reused).  During the next 6-day cycle, the color lessons are rotated.  This means that the same 6 lessons from the previous cycle can be reused as each homeroom will receive a different lesson during the second cycle.  This process of teaching, setting the equipment aside, and rotating the lessons each cycle allows the same 6 colored lessons to last for 36 school days without the classes repeating any lessons!  Rotating the lessons also helps to reduce the redundancy of teaching the same lesson for multiple days in a row. 

This plan called each of us to construct 6 well-designed lessons and pre-sort the needed equipment.  Please note that we do have to have a different set of equipment for each homeroom we see each day and that is why K-2nd and 3rd-5th have differing elements within the plan. 

In order to facilitate this plan, my colleagues and I did have to co-plan to determine who would use which equipment and what games/activities.  This helped to ensure there would not be any overlap.  At the end of the 36 school days (i.e., 7+ weeks), you can hit the repeat button or develop another set of 6 lessons.  With this plan, all of the work is front loaded.  Each morning, I simply grab what I need for the color lesson, place it in my wagon, and wheel it around the school from classroom to classroom (or outside).  At the end of the day, I return it to be quarantined.  The next day, I repeat the process with another set of equipment in my wagon. 

As we began the year, the district eased the restrictions and allowed one homeroom at a time to use the gym.  As a result, my colleagues and I made some small modifications to the plan.  For instance, we determined it was my turn to use the gym every time the above schedule called for the red and green lessons.  This allowed me to modify those two specific lessons to use the gym while keeping my other four lesson plans geared for the classroom and outside. 

This plan really helped to streamline our instruction, minimize the amount of time we spent sanitizing, and achieve our 2020 goal of having the students standing and engaged no matter the location of our class.  It required a lot of work on the front end which translated into making each day of instruction much easier.

Limited PE in the Gym

By fall break, the district said we could have two homerooms in the gym as long as they stayed on separate sides.  Essentially, two simultaneously functioning PE classes.  They also agreed that equipment could now be shared within a cohort (i.e., a homeroom).  These two items greatly increased the number of games/activities we could use.  This also meant the previous plan would be mostly scrapped and we would make a new plan.  With this new plan, each homeroom would get 2 days in the gym and one day of classroom/outside PE during the 6-day related arts cycle.  We also developed a plan for us to switch who was in the gym and who was in the classroom.  As a result we were able to retain some of the equipment/lessons from the previous plan to continue to be used for classroom PE.

This 2-class set up was a blessing as it meant we could mostly return to our home space.  The lead teacher runs the entire class with the non-lead monitoring their half and keeping them on the same page.  Please note that we did have to slightly alter how we line up for safety drills and had to re-practice them. 

We compiled a list of 24 games/activities that have been color coordinated and separated into four days.

The games/activities are rotated over the course of 4 days.  That is, each PE class participates in a different game/activity each period and each day.  We worked ahead and organized the equipment for each of the 24 games/activities in our equipment room (one set for each side of the gym).  Since we see our classes every other day and we rotate the 24 activities each class, it takes 48 schools days to rotate through all of the activities with each PE class only participating in each activity only ONE time.  Let me repeat that, four days of plans lasts just over 9 weeks of school!  Like the classroom plan, rotating the lessons helps to reduce the redundancy of teaching the same lesson all day or for multiple days in a row.  In the below schedule, October 19th would be day one and each of the grade levels listed would participate in the game/activity that corresponds to the color (as listed in the above image).  That is, third grade would participate in bottle knock down, second grade in individual jump rope, kindergarten in rock paper scissors, and so on. 

During the next 9 weeks, we can organize 24 more activities or simply hit repeat knowing there would be several weeks in between them repeating an activity. 

Each morning, we pull out the pre-sorted equipment for that day.  To help keep this organized, we did order some new bags which allowed us to store the equipment in color coordinated bags that matched the schedule (i.e., bottle knock down is stored in a red bag).  During each class, the students complete the warm-up as we quickly set the equipment up.  At the end of class, we clean up the equipment and then set it in the corner.  The same process occurs during the next class with a different game/activity and equipment.  At the end of the day, all of the equipment is placed back in the equipment room to be quarantined.  In fact, each of the four days has an assigned area in the equipment room which helps us to keep things organized.  Everything else was stacked and packed away in every nook and cranny to ensure we had an easy and unobstructed process of grabbing the items we needed each morning and returning them each afternoon.  We purposely selected activities that the students love, have minimal to moderate amounts of equipment, were easy to set up, and could be taught with little explanation.

Like the classroom PE plan, this plan really helps to streamline our instruction, minimizes the amount of time spent sanitizing, and helps to achieve our 2020 goal of having the students standing and engaged no matter the location of our class.  It required a lot of work on the front end which translated into making each day of instruction much easier.

These plans are working for us and I hope they can work for you!

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4 thoughts on “What Do My In-Person PE Classes Look Like During This Pandemic?

  1. Hey Mark,

    I wanted to let you know that I attended a session of yours at Jekyll a few years ago. You showed us how to teach 4 square. We are just now to slowly be using any equipment here in Greenville County. I have taught the kids your way the last two weeks. I love how you showed us how to let them play and slowly introduce the rules. It has been a FUN 2 weeks! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!! It is much appreciated:)!

    Swanna Hart
    P.E. Specialist
    Rudolph Gordon Elementary

    Phone: 452-0200
    E-mail: sehart@greenville.k12.sc.us

    ” The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra effort” – Unknown


  2. Mark,
    Thanks so much for your artical. Your situation is very similar to mine with the exception being U am the only PE Teacher in our building and I see students twice a week on a four week rotation. Also, like you I have shifted this year to an activity based program with some skills splattered on here and there. My current problem exists, due to sanitizing requirements, with not having enough equipment to use to support the current programming. I especially was impressed by your schedule and was wondering if you would be willing to share the 24 game activities your team decided to use. Recently, my school district has allowed me the use of the gym and my class sizes are pretty small. Any help would be greatly appreciated.. My email address is custer@portlandschools.org.



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