How to Start the Year in P.E.
Updated: Aug 9
The school year is about to begin. Unreal, right? Knees are weak, palms are sweaty, the first lesson plan isn’t quite ready. Is that Eminem song stuck in your head yet?
Whether you are a first year out teacher or have 20 years’ experience, the first day always brings around a lot of emotion. Depending on where you are in the world, this year could be starting like no other. Excitement, nerves and that overwhelming sensation of, “Am I ready?”. The answer is yes. The nerves and excitement just show how much you care.
I have found that starting the year in PE is way different than starting the year as a general classroom teacher. Instead of having one class of kids to get to know, you generally have a whole school of names to learn and students to understand. You may see these students once, maybe twice a week for no more than an hour each time. And this year, you may have to worry about social distancing or on-line learning.
I have seen a lot of teachers make the push and jump right into curriculum. I wouldn’t recommend this. In Australia, a recent study was conducted amongst a pool of primary and middle years students asking them what they saw as positive traits in a teacher. You know what the #1 response was? Students identified a great teacher as someone who said good morning or good afternoon AND used their name.
My advice would be to learn your students’ names. Spend at least the first week with your classes (I’d even go two) getting to know your students, establishing expectations and rules before jumping into your curriculum. I always start the year with Ice Breaker and Get to Know You Games. Kids love them and they have helped me a lot understand how each class works… and learn names. Even if you are performing social distancing, some of these can be modified accordingly.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE. This is also a must and should be done from day one. Students are so much easier to manage if they know what is happening. The last thing you want is an out of control class in an open space. My lessons are always broken down into segments:
1. Instant Activity/Warm Up
2. Circle Time (Go over Learning Intentions/Success Criteria of lesson)
3. Skill related to topic
4. Core of lesson/game
5. Cool down
6. Closure (Revisit Learning Intentions/Success Criteria)
This may not work for everyone, but some established routine should be present for students to follow and know what to expect when they enter the gym.
Once you move on from Ice Breaker Activities/Getting to Know You Games, I would start your curriculum with Initiative Games & Team Building Challenges (for Primary) and a “Welcome to PE Unit” for Early Childhood. Both units should focus on team-work where the emphasis is on working together and solving challenges that you set. It is only when students are comfortable with one another that you will find they reach their full potential.
Within these units you will also find it is a great way for students to challenge themselves and do things they normally aren’t used to doing. It is a good time for students to reflect on their learning and establish a skill/goal they would like to work on for the year. Goal Setting goes a long way in helping students break down barriers and aim for new heights. I always remind my kids that goals are meant to be set, they don’t always get reached. And that’s OK. The best part of having a goal is the learning process in trying to get there.
That’s it – starting the year is that easy. 😊 Hopefully you gained some insight or a couple of ideas on how to start the year right. The energy at the start of the school year is amazing. In some parts of the world, that energy may be more nervous than usual – and that’s OK. Enjoy the moment. Your knees may be weak, palms may be sweaty, but hopefully that first lesson plan is one step closer to being ready. All the best in your new school year.