Saturday, 7 March 2015

Classroom & Behaviour Management in Gym Class

Managing Gym Class

Do you fear your students' behaviour when you know you are about to teach gym class?  They might be awesome or they might be screaming and running around and completely out of control.

What can you do to ensure a stress-free gym class?

I personally love gym class.  It's fun and I love to participate with the kids.  But I've had my share of chaotic gym classes, so let me share some tips that I use on a regular basis.

  • Prompt your students to come up with appropriate behaviours (when they make the rules, they are more likely to follow them)
  • Ask how you walk down to the gym
  • Ask what the warm up routine is
  • Say: Do we run around the gym screaming?
  • What do we do after we run 5 laps?  (usually they sit on the black circle or black line to wait for instructions)
  • Use a whistle to save your voice (1 whistle = start activity; 2 whistles = stop and look at me; 3 whistles means stop and go to the black line for instructions)

This is an important step.  If your students see that you follow through on your initial expectations (straight, quiet line), then they are more likely to leave the silliness for recess.  When we are walking, I give one reminder to those who talk and then send them to the end of the line.  If I have a group of line talkers, I take the entire class back to where we started and we try it again.  I often talk about putting our finger on our lip to remind us that we don't want to disturb other classes when we are in the hall.


You are bound to have a couple of students who forget the rules once they reach the gym.  They'll start screaming as they run their laps or being completely silly.  I give one reminder of the rules and let them know that if it continues, they will have to sit on the bench until they are ready to conduct themselves appropriately.

You are also likely to have a couple of students who claim they can't participate due to injuries.  Sometimes this is true, but usually it isn't.  If I know a student is full of it, I just state that until I receive a letter from their parents, they are to participate in all school subjects, including gym.  If I'm not sure about possible injuries, then I let them sit out.  Those who try to join back in later during the fun time, owe me a warm up.  I usually tell them that they have to run the length of the gym a couple of times, give me 10 push ups and 10-20 crunches.  Sometimes I'll add or sub in jumping jacks or burpies.


For younger students, I love to go on a bear walk.  We walk in a circle and come across things like tall grass that we have to brush out of our way, mud that we have to trek through, trees that we have to swing through, a river that requires us to jump across rocks, and finally a cave that we have to tip toe through.  I suggest writing the order down on a piece of paper so you don't forget.  After quietly stepping through the cave, we reach our hand out and lightly touch a furry creature with 2 glowing eyes.  I ask them what they think it is.  They love to yell, "A bear!"  We run the opposite way and quickly reverse our way through the barriers and eventually lock ourselves in the house (I usually have them run to a corner of the gym).  I'll quietly say, "Phew, we made it."  The culmination of this activity ensures that I have them in one location and they are quietly listening for our next activity.


Kids love to share their ideas, so I always look for quiet hands to show us a stretch.  I remind them that I only choose people who have a quiet hand in the air.  I love getting student ideas and then I like to add in a couple of yoga stretches.  One that I often do is stretching up like a pencil, then I tell them we are one of those cool bendy pencils and we stretch from left to right and front and back.  


One of the busiest classes I ever had, was quickly organized by a game of Octopus.  This class had students running in every direction.  I told them that I was almost ready to choose an octopus, but I was looking for someone who was standing quietly in front of the wall (choose a short wall).  I take some time to say, "Hmmm, let me see.  Who is standing nice and tall with their finger on their lips?"  They're dying to be chosen, so they try so hard to meet your expectations.  While I have their attention, I quickly explain the rules and then choose 2 octopi.  I like that this game allows for some busy running around, but then it collects all of the students at one end of the gym.  I don't let them run to the other end until they show me that they are ready.

Instructions for Octopus
  1. Choose 2 octopi, they have to chase the fish (all the other students)
  2. You are safe when you are against the wall
  3.  When I say, "Fish, cross my ocean," they can run to the other side
  4. If a fish gets caught by the octopus, they become seaweed (talk about how seaweed has roots, so it can't move, but  water flows, so their leaves (arms) can wave around)
  5. If seaweed touches a fish, the fish becomes seaweed 
  6. Fish must stop where they are touched and become seaweed in that spot 
  7. The last 2 people are either the winners or become the octopi if you play again

 I absolutely love relay races.  The kids work together for a common goal, they cheer each other on, and they have a fantastic time doing it.

Here are my rules for successful relay races:
  •  I usually have 4 teams.  I show the students where each number will line up and then count and point the students off from 1-4.  This usually ensures fair teams, as similar students generally sit together, so it separates ability equally between the teams
  • When students are lined up and sitting quietly with their teams, I give my instructions
  1. I model what the first person will do.  I usually start with running to the other side, doing 5 jumping jacks, running back, and high fiving the next person in line.  The next person cannot go until they receive their high five.  The first person sits at the end of the line
  2. Each team member does the same thing as the first person
  3. When your entire team is sitting, then you have completed the race
  4. If one team has an extra student, I have the first 2 people run at the same time (having the other teams run the first person twice causes too much confusion) 
  5. After the first race, I take suggestions from people who are sitting quietly with their hand up for the activities for the next race
 The best race we ever came up with was with students from grades 3-6.  They spun around 10 times, ran to the other end, did 5 burpies, then crab walked back.  It was super fun, the kids were completely engaged, the team building was incredible, and we even had other teachers walk into the gym in amazement at how great the students were working together.  This was one of the most fun gym classes I have ever had the opportunity to facilitate.


If you have an exceptionally rowdy class that you need to settle down, try playing a game of Silent Speed Ball.  It's great for simmering down a loud, busy bunch, especially just before transitioning into a nice, quiet, straight line for walking through the halls again.

Have fun with your gym classes and if you have an extra challenging class, remember that you don't have to stay in the gym.  If they aren't showing you that they deserve to be in the gym, then don't keep them there.  Safety and making good choices come first.  You can simply walk them back to class and have some quiet time.  Talk about why you returned to class early and what your expectations are for next time.