Elementary Physical Education can be an incredibly rewarding and fun career. It can also be a frustrating one if you have classes which need constant behavior management. I try very hard to make behavior management a top skill of my teaching. If you can be successful using various tools for behavior management then the teaching experience can be more enjoyable for you and the students are more likely to enjoy your class as well. I am going to share few of my tricks to help you become successful at managing a class full of elementary students.
The most important trick is to earn the respect of your students. This may take time, be patient. Earning respect comes from building relationships with students. Getting to know them and their interests inside and outside of school. Having conversations with them and showing them, you genuinely care about their well-being. Fun tip-look at their clothing, more specifically their t-shirts. They usually have a graphic or a location on it. If there are horses or race cars, or dinosaurs on their shirts for example, you can use this as a starter conversation piece. Ask them, “hey you have a dinosaur on your shirt, do you like dinosaurs?” Be ready they might tell you all about different dinosaurs.
Always a priority in your PE class. We never want our student to break a bone or get hit in the head and so on. Physical safety is crucial, but students also want to feel safe in your class. Students need to know you are going to be there for them, take care of them and be the adult in charge to help with difficult situations.
3. Safe Space
Our students come to class with all kinds of social and emotional issues. They may feel anxious, scared, overwhelmed, over stimulated. We do not know what they are going through. Problems arise that have nothing to do with PE classes. However, the student may have trouble focusing or behaving in PE as a result. For these students, I provide them with breaks. I do not announce this to the whole class, I simply ask the individual if they would like a small break in a safe space in the gym away from others and the commotion. They do not leave the gym area. I can see them the entire time. No questions asked, they sit there and when they are ready, they join the group again. This trick works most of the time. Students sometimes need a moment, like adults, to collect themselves and regroup.
4. Door Check-Ins
Be ready at the door to greet your students when they are brought to you. I do a quick scan of the students as they enter the gym. I can get a quick idea by body language if a student might be struggling. Then I also check in with the classroom teacher. They give tips on who is having trouble with another student, who may not be feeling well or who is having an “off” day.
Students want to feel validated and important. When they are struggling or having an “off” day, they do not want to feel worse by being lectured or being called out in class. Showing empathy for the student and showing them you understand their feelings can help the child feel cared about and understood.
6. Seek Help
Never be afraid to ask for help from peers, classroom teachers, counselors, or student support services. They may have some insight which can help you better understand how to handle a challenging child that you may not have been aware of. This can be flipped as well, if you know that something is working for a student don’t be afraid to share it with your colleagues.
These quick tips are not an exhaustive list, behavior management will always be a part of every lesson you teach. There are many more techniques out there. With time you will get better at finding your way and learning what works for you as a teacher.