18 Ideas to Keep Kids Engaged in a Large PE Class

by SPARK


Keeping kids engaged in a large class of any subject can be difficult. When the subject involves the high energy and movement of a physical education class, the challenge can be even greater. An additional risk is the students feeling disconnected or uninterested in the activities. Finally, budgeting and equipment concerns plague instructors everywhere. Planning, engaging, and creating routines are all ways to address the needs of students, even in a large class.

large class

Before Class Starts

  • Use a standard warmup routine can cut time spent trying to teach a room full of students more information than the original lesson plan.

  • If you can, use aides or volunteers. Even if these people aren’t other PE teachers, they can provide another set of eyes on the students.

  • Consider having signs and posters of physical activities and rules throughout your space to serve as a reminder of what is expected of your students.

  • Designate an area of “time out” for disruptive students.

  • Consider having alternative activities in case you finish early or if an activity is not working.

Separating Students

  • Have a system in place for setting up partners and student pairs. Some teachers use the “count off” method, but there can be creative ways to divide the students into groups, such as by number of siblings or letters in their name.

  • Some teachers may benefit from having groups or partner pairs set up at the beginning of the term to minimize transition time.

  • Allowing students to have groups of two or three helps avoid issues when people are left out or absent from school that day.

Why Separate Students?

  • Using groups allows students to help each other and spend more time actually doing the activity.

  • For team games, separating students allows for minigames that can be played in separate areas. This allows for more activity and practice.

  • This can allow you to see the students more often and around the perimeter.

  • Peers can evaluate each other to give you another perspective on where students are.

  • Some instructors use the “Jigsaw” method. This is where groups of students learn a skill and then demonstrate it to the class. This not only teaches physical activity, but gives the students a responsibility and encourages social skills.

Activities to Consider

  • Creating separate stations of activities can provide a variety of tasks to keep the activities more interesting.

  • Stations can also have different levels of activities, such as a simplified and more strenuous version of an activity. This allows students to learn at their own pace and their own ability to allow them to feel successful.

  • Due to size and equipment restrictions, some schools are moving away from the traditional team sports. Instead, these teachers are focusing on skills their students will be more apt to use later, such as yoga or biking.

  • You can also create a wider approach to wellness when looking at the your national, state, or district standards by including units about topics such as nutrition and ideas such as heart rate monitors.

  • You can also find other activities online (sites such as Pinterest and YouTube are good places to start) for ideas. For example, one teacher integrated moves such as jumping jacks into a dance to a popular song.

Above all, it is a good idea to remember that the aim of teaching a physical education class is to help students become physically literate individuals who have a love and understanding of movement so they can be active life-long. Even in large classes, it is important to remember that children need to learn about wellness and healthy choices that they can take beyond a classroom.  Creativity in how you use resources and appeal to students’ interests is a key method in keeping students engaged in your classroom. Expanding the definition of what can go on in a PE class can help you create a fun and enlightening environment for all students.


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