Fostering Relationships with Students

Have you ever wanted to connect more with your students or have students connect with the content of your lesson? I have a few ideas I think you want to hear.

Use P.R.A.I.S.E to Motivate Students

As a way for teachers to apply motivational theory to practice. The acronym P.R.A.I.S.E. can help. It stands for perceived competence, relatedness, autonomy, individuality, social support and enjoyment. And really the purpose is to help teachers motivate their students during physical education lessons and beyond. I’m going to focus on the R or relatedness.


Another way of saying relatedness is connection and specifically it’s the connections that we create during our lessons or during our physical education programs. And these connections can happen in one of three ways. The first way is teachers connect with students. Another way is students connect with peers, and a final ways students connect with the activity. So here’s a little bit about each way that we can connect in physical education.

How to Connect with Students

The first way is the teachers connect with students. This starts with management and if you can establish classroom protocol and expectations that make your lessons really efficient, this will provide you more time to really connect and get to know your students, and I mean really get to know them beyond the standard, oh he’s a second grader, she’s quiet, she’s in Mrs Lang’s class, he has older siblings. Oh she has lots of behavior issues… Really knowing your students and this takes time and frankly lots of effort.

Ask students questions about themselves, how their evening went, what their siblings are up to, what activities they like, what other activities in class do they like. And as I usually say, if you think you really know your students, sit down with a roster or just scan during a lesson and really say, what do I know about that student? What do I know about that student? And really make sure you know them on an individual basis because building these relationships will serve you well, but most importantly it’s going to serve your students well and it shows that you care. And you’ve all probably heard the saying that kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Students Connecting with Peers

The next way connection can happen during a physical education lesson is students connecting with their peers. Teach students how to work with everyone. At the beginning of the year, when you go with your protocol, how to find partners, teach them that the person closest to you is your partner. We don’t look at people and look away. Look at people with disgust and look away. We work with people with different ethnicities, different genders. People we mat not, but we have to work with everyone and we learn that early in physical education. Early on in the year also helped them connect with each other, teach them how they are similar and how they’re different with activities like commonalities where students get with a partner and they find three things that are like and three things that are different. We have to be intentional about them to show, these connections with similarities and we’re all going to be different. Encouraged them to get to know each other, ask each other questions, help each other. An activity early in the year that can convey this is called Helped Me tag. I’m usually not a fan of freeze tag, but in this case when you’re tagged, you’re frozen and you raise your hand and you say, help me, your peers come around and give you a high five and you say thank you. And they say you’re welcome. So this teaches students that it’s okay to ask for help and it also teaches a little bit of manners. So we want them to know that asking for help is okay, so is helping others and we’re all gonna need help at some point during the school year and during physical education and in PE we can be anything and we’re going to choose to be kind.

Students Connecting with Activity

The final way connection can happen during a physical education lesson is students connecting with the activities. It’s difficult to get to students to connect with activities if they’re not relevant to them. And it’s really tough to find out what’s relevant to them if you don’t get to know them. So we’ve already covered that. But once you connect and find out the information, you can make lots of connections with students. For example, you find out that students like Ninja Warriors, so your fitness challenge course becomes a Ninja Warrior course and you set the stage with a story and you can just see their minds getting excited about being a Ninja warrior. This doesn’t happen if you don’t get to know them. Ask them to make, how to make physical activity more enjoyable. I just went on a walk with my daughter and during the walk she said, you know what? Physical activity is more fun when you talk to people and it’s with people that are having fun and I guess I’m still cool enough to go on a walk with her, but more importantly her PE teacher had talked about that and had talked about physical activity and ways to make physical activity more enjoyable. And when the why of an activity is taught and is relevant, this is a way to motivate kids. So think about the urges and desires of kids. What do they really like? They like excitement. They like adventure. Some of them like to compete, some of them like cooperation. Some of them like to create and express themselves. We can find this out by talking to them and helping them connect with the activity. Most kids are not going to say, oh, I want to be active because it’s good for my blood pressure, or it’s good for heart disease, but we can find out what really makes them tick and use that as their why and help them get motivated and be motivated for our physical education lessons because it’s relevant to them and it’s meaningful.

So whether you use the term relationships, connection or relatedness? Try some of these ideas and let us know what to think.

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