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What Makes a Successful PE Lesson?

Physical Education provides students the opportunity to gain social skills, develop cooperation skills, gain healthy habits, and continue to grow into a well rounded student.

Teaching and Learning

What makes a successful lesson in PE class? How can you get the most participation out of your students while still providing standards, objectives, and assessments throughout a lesson? These questions can be answered by providing a solid structure when it comes to developing a PE lesson. While each lesson will differ based on the skill or activity that is being introduced, some aspects of a lesson should remain the same for each lesson.

Before answering these questions, it is critical to understand the importance of Physical Education and providing it to every child in a K-12 setting. PE provides students the opportunity to gain social skills, develop cooperation skills, gain healthy habits, and continue to grow into a well rounded student. PE is a subject that kids are able to learn in a different way and give teachers the opportunity to teach their students life lessons that maybe are not taught in the classroom. Now let’s discuss the structure of a typical PE lesson.

#1 Warm-Up (3-5 minutes)

It keeps the students in a routine and provides them expectations on what they should be doing at the beginning of class. My warm-up usually consists of Locomotor movements (skipping, galloping, jogging, side Sliding) when entering the gym followed by four exercises that I usually change up. However, once in a while I do break this up into short activities that include tag games or something quick but still keeps the kids activity before the introduction to the lesson.

#2 Introduction to the Lesson (5-6 minutes)

During this part of the lesson, I introduce the skill that we will be working on (overhand throwing, underhand throwing, kicking, cooperation, etc.). This is where I use demonstrations and visuals to teach students the skills or activities we will be participating in. This is a great time to incorporate technology into a PE lesson by using videos, GIFs, etc. to engage all students and allows them to learn in different ways. Having technology in the PE lesson, allows students to engage students that may not learn through verbal instruction. It can be relatable to students that need to learn visually or students that may relate to seeing GIFs, videos that are located on social media platforms. This is also a great time to incorporate an Entry Ticket into the lesson to gauge the knowledge that students have a specific skill.

Entry Ticket for Basketball Chest Passing
Entry Ticket for Basketball Chest Passing

#3 Skill Work (if working on a skill) (3-4 minutes)

During the skill portion of my PE lessons, involves having students practice the skills that were taught during the introduction part of a lesson. This is where I have students partner up or group up and show me the correct cues and techniques of how to dribble a basketball ball or how to pass a soccer ball. I usually use this time to walk around and help students that may struggle with a skill. I also try to reinforce student feedback to one another so students are assisting other students when practicing these skills. During this time, I also will assess students to see what students are struggling as well as students that are showing the correct dues during skill work.

Assessment for Basketball Dribbling: using a Rubric.
Assessment for Basketball Dribbling: using a Rubric.

#4 Introduction to the Activity (5-8 minutes)

After working on skills as a small group I will have a game associated with a skill. This helps keep engagement up while still working a specific skill. If we are working on basketball shots, I will do a game where students are grouped off together. I will have two groups facing each other, there will be Poly spots (these are circle dots that can be placed on the gym floor and can be used for markers or for students to stand on, available in a variety of colors) on the ground near the basketball goals. Students will dribble down and try to make shots while standing on a Poly spot. If a student makes it, they pick up the spot and dribble back to their group and give the ball to the next partner. This continues until time runs out or 1 team has picked up all their Poly spots.

#5 Questioning (3-5 minutes)

The questioning part of a lesson is very important for students because it allows for critical thinking to occur and gives the students to problem solve. Some of the questions that I ask students during this part of the lesson are a lot of What If questions. Such as:

  • What if I threw with my opposite hand?
  • What would happen if I threw further back?
  • What if I used a different sized basketball during the shooting game?

These questions allow for students to think about the activity and how they can modify it to make it easier or more challenging when we complete the activity.

#6 Completing Activity (8-10 minutes)

When completing the activity, students can use some of the modifications that we make in the questioning part of the lesson. This part of the lesson is the opportunity to improve the activity or the skill that is being taught. During this portion of the lesson, I continue to remind students of the cues for the skill we are working on and if sometimes I take the modifications that students have suggested and put them into the game. So if we are working on an Overhand Throwing game and we have two teams that are trying to knock down Hula hoop houses. Maybe a student suggested, if they caught a ball they must join the other team.

#7 Closure (3-5 minutes)

Finally, during the closure I wrap up the lesson by using questioning once again and using some type of assessment to assess their understanding of the skill that was taught. During the questioning portion of the lesson, I will relate to real word scenarios. So what other sports use overhand throwing or when doing a pushup how can that help when you are at home. I will also have students show me evidence of skill work when finishing up a lesson. So if we were working on soccer shots I will have students demonstrate the technique with shooting a ball and will record the students. I will also have students tell me the cues of specific skills such as basketball passing or dribbling. I finally will have students give me a thumbs up or down if they enjoyed the lesson before sending them back to class.

Exit Ticket: Cooperation Activities
Exit Ticket: Cooperation Activities

In closing, a successful lesson can provide teachers organization but in the end I believe building relationships with students is the most important part of being a Physical Education teacher. Building relationships with students, provides students the opportunity to have an experience in the PE setting that they are not going to get in any other subject. They are going to learn athletic skills but they are also going to learn the importance of cooperation, sharing, and the importance of communicating with other students that they may not interact with on a daily basis. The lesson plan can assist with obtaining these skills, having those relationships will build trust. While I take lesson planning seriously, I know my students have learned something from my classes when they come in ready to learn our next activity and leave with a smile because they had fun during my class.

I am in my 3rd year of teaching Physical Education and my first year at West Hills Elementary located in Knoxville, TN. I also have a passion for fitness and have my Personal Training certification through the American Council on Exercise.

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