Five Ways to Motivate Students in Physical Education Class

There is no shortcut to becoming a master physical education teacher. In order to keep yourself motivated as a teacher you need to motive your students by constantly challenging them and encouraging them to reach their physical goals. A physical education teacher must perform their own professional development to stay current with the times and learn new techniques to motive their students. The five tips below are simple, yet many physical education teachers do not stress on a daily basis.

1. Be Willing to Gain More Knowledge: As a physical education teacher you to be interested in learning about new activities and games, plus incorporates them into their lesson plans. A teacher that is never satisfied with gaining knowledge is a good teacher. As a physical education teacher you should never be satisfied with teaching the same skills over and over again, year after year. You should research and find new games to bring into your class. By bringing in new games it will not only broaden students knowledge of new skills, but they will also have fun learning new and different skills.

2. Be Encouraging: This enables students to help increase confidence and decrease doubt and failure. This is important because as a teacher you should want to build up your students confidence. When you encourage your student and tell them that they did a great job in performing a certain skill, it will motivate the child and help build their confidence and improve their overall self-esteem. The opposite is criticizing a student. By doing this you are destroying a students confidence. If you tell a child they did a horrible job performing a skill, not only will destroy the students self-esteem but you will also decrease their willingness to participate in your gym class. And that should not be the goal of any physical education teacher.

3. Be Passionate About Teaching: It is important to be passionate about what you teach. If you are not passionate and giving it your all, the students will pick up on that. It is important that your students can see how passionate you are about physical education, and in return they can become passionate as well and want to live a active and healthy life.

4. Stay Organized: Being organized is an extremely important skill for a teacher to have. If you are going to teach a lesson on the volleyball set, it is important to have an organized introduction, fitness activity, and at least three setting activities thought out and planned out ahead of time so that the class runs smoothly and effectively.

5. Keep an Emphasis on Safety: The safety of your students is one of, if not the most important thing you can emphasize. A physical education teacher always needs to be focused on injury control []. You want your students to have fun, but you also want them to have fun in a safe and orderly environment. It is important that you establish safety guidelines to your students, and they are aware of the consequences if they do not follow those rules.

Why Today’s Physical Education Doesn’t Make the Grade

Setting the Scene: The first time I ever saw him present was in September, 1983. I had just completed my fifth year of teaching and was one of 200 or so teachers attending the Fall Physical Education Leadership Conference in Reidsville, North Carolina.

The last time I saw him present was 20 years later – the start of the 2003-2004 school year. This master teacher-presenter hadn’t changed much in 20 years; he still possessed his hyperactive high energy levels, his inspiring way of communicating to teachers, and his love for physical education.

“What a wonderful start for our annual district-wide staff development day,” I was thinking to myself. It seemed that almost nothing has changed in the past 20 years with him.

His contagious enthusiasm quickly spread to the 100 or so physical education teachers attending our school district’s annual Staff Development Day. Everyone seemed “pumped” with excitement. Even the older, more reserved teachers didn’t seem to mind doing the “heart-healthy” dances that were presented!

“How many of you have had a good time so far?” the 66-year-old PE teacher-presenter asked as he motioned with his hands for us to sit down. Instantly, numerous folks raised their hands! Spontaneously, one teacher began to clap, then another, and soon the entire gym was filled with applause. Another small group of teachers in the center of the gym started talking and stood up together facing the presenter. In unison, each teacher in the group made a large circle shape with their arms high above their heads. The rest of the teachers in the gym followed the group’s lead, soon everyone was standing – each with their arms in a large circle shape – a “standing O-vation.”

“A Standing O” – It was something the presenter had talked about earlier in the morning as a simple and quick way to recognize outstanding effort. This “thank you” seemed to take him by surprise. You could tell this gesture had a special effect on him, or so it seemed. After a minute or so, everyone sat back down as the presenter regained his composure and started to speak.

“Thank you all very much,” he said walking slowly across the gym floor. “But you know, it’s really like…” his voice instantly tapered off as he grimaced, slightly dragging his right foot behind. Instantly, everyone in the gym sensed something was not quite right. What’s wrong with his leg? He grimaced again. It was as if he had a huge weight shackled to his right leg. Then he stopped and stood silently.

The Chains of Tradition: “You know,” he said with a sly smile, “In physical education, we have been dragging heavy ‘chains of tradition’ for too long. These ‘chains of tradition’ keep us from moving forward, from changing our methods of teaching. They’re heavy and difficult to get rid of. They make us throw up our hands and say ‘things will never change, this is the way things have always been.'”

“And the people who are saying ‘things will never change’ are right! Things will never change as long as you and I continue to drag this ‘chain of tradition’ around with us.”

He continued, “Now, before we break for lunch at 12:00, I would like each of you to get into groups of threes and discuss among yourselves what ‘chains of tradition’ you have been dragging around.”

What happened that day was a revelation to me!

You see, I now had a way to explain why Physical Education still seems to cling to the traditional ways of doing business. As I looked around to find two other teachers, I knew exactly what my ‘chain’ was and still is — it’s “grading.”

Why Today’s PE Doesn’t Make the Grade! In my 35+ year career as a physical education teacher, state-level administrator, and local Central Office Supervisor, I have one major regret – “I have done little to change the way we grade students in physical education.” For me, physical education will finally “make the grade” when we begin to do the following four items:

1. Transition from traditional grading practices (ex: dressing out) to a standards-based model.

2. Re-design individual state standards so that there are no more than 15 “core outcomes” per grade level.

3. In the re-design effort, create a K-12 scope and sequence that is sequential, easy-to-understand, and simple to articulate.

4. Involve higher education – the colleges and universities that are preparing the next generation of future teachers.

The Virtual PE Administrator: Over the past 2-3 years, I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of progressive school districts in addressing the above items. From this collaboration, we have been able to develop and create a new web-based physical education assessment and tracking program called the Virtual PE Administrator. These school districts are now starting to implement a program that will track and monitor individual student progress aligned to 12 grade-by-grade “core outcomes” from the time they enter kindergarten to graduating high school.

Why Is Physical Education Class Only Directed Towards the Small Percentage of Athletes?

In traditional physical education class, educators are only teaching how to stay physically active through basic sports, which is great for the athletes, but what about the students who do not become professional athletes? The NCAA posted data on the probability of a high school athlete playing in college and eventually going pro. Comparing men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s soccer, football and men’s ice hockey, the data shows that the easiest sport to turn pro in is baseball. For baseball approximately 0.44% or 1 out of every 225 high school participants reach the professional ranks. Since that number is so low, why are physical educators continuing to teach these sports? There is a small future for these sports and the obesity academic is growing at a fast pace.

Elementary physical education should be focused on learning the basic fundamentals of each sport to help the children develop physically. There are many youth leagues for children to get involved with and stay active for that age. You always see many children involved in sports in youth leagues, but the number dwindles immensely as they get older. We need to stop teaching traditional sports in secondary education and provide the students with knowledge of lifetime physical fitness in order to be healthy. There are minimal amounts of adult leagues for sports, so teaching to the small percentage of athletes is not going to help America with the obesity epidemic. Physical education in secondary school should emphasize different kinds of exercises that are needed to stay healthy such as exercises that improve muscle and bone strength, exercises that improve joint and muscle flexibility, exercises that improves endurance and stamina, and exercises that enhances balance and coordination. The students should be able to understand and demonstrate different work outs to improve and maintain their health as they get older.

The teachers should give the students a variety of fun ways to work out. One way of exercising may appeal to one student, but not to another. They should start the quarter off by doing a preview of different ways to exercise and then give the students options on what they feel best suits their needs. Some options could be zumba, weight lifting, circuit training, boot camp, yoga, kickboxing, resistance training, track workouts, marathon workouts, etc. All of these options can be used lifetime and the physical educators can make it fun to show the students that working out does not have to be dreaded. Many of these suggested workouts are also great because the student can perform based on their physical abilities. Both, students in bad shape and students in great shape can do these workouts and make it as challenging as they want. For example, in circuit training if you have a student doing mountain climbers for 30 seconds, the student in great shape may be able to do it for the entire 30 seconds while the students in bad shape may only be able to do it for 10 seconds, but both still get a work out from it. Also, students would be less embarrassed because everyone would be focused on their own exercise they are performing and would not have time to look up and worry about what other students are doing.

All in all, changing the way secondary physical education is taught can help change the obesity epidemic by giving students practical exercises that they can enjoy and perform for the rest of their lives, whether it is at the gym or in their own homes, to stay healthy. Many students are not educated on different workouts that they can do and think that exercising means vigorous activities that they could never perform or want to perform. Physical educators have a chance to teach students how to stay healthy and active throughout their lifetime, while facing reality that all the students are not going to become professional athletes.