My Foolproof PE Lesson Plan to Start the Year


When I think back to my first day of the school year as a student, I was super excited to get back to school, see my friends, make new friends, and being a bit of a nerd, I looked forward to learning. My excitement was also tempered with anticipation and nerves. The reality of the first day of school inevitably disappointed me, not enough time to talk to my friends, still feeling a bit disconnected from my new classmates, and on top of it, every teacher going over their expectations or their syllabus. This practice sucked the excitement and anticipation right out of me. So, as a teacher I vowed to always start the year with a bang!

What Needs to Happen the First Couple Class Periods?

The first few days with my students are critical for success throughout the year. My students need:

  1. To know my expectations.
  2. To practice routines.
  3. Time to interact with each other in a safe environment.
  4. To move.
  5. To understand the gym is a safe space.
  6. To know they can count on me to be consistent with the rules, routines and expectations.

As the year builds, each class builds social contracts for how we want to treat each other. But the first few class periods my students practice my expectations for how I want them to treat each other, move as a group and individually, and basic routines.

Sample of my Back-to-School Lesson!

  • I invite students to come into the gym and begin walking while music is playing.
  • Freeze practice using various locomotor skills (run, hop, skip, gallop, leap, carocka, dance, sideslide, bearwalk, crabwalk, etc.)
  • Find a partner practice.
    • Find a partner.
    • Add-on discuss favorite summer food, summer activity they enjoyed, what they like to do when the weather is hot, etc.
    • Add-on discuss the policy around choosing a partner. Please show me what it looks like for you and your partner to do a “Walk and Talk.”
      • Must say “yes” to the first person who asks you.
      • Must have a different partner each time we partner up during a class period.
    • Ask a few students to share out from their conversations.
  • Find a new partner.
    • Add-on “Walk and Talk” how our partner rule makes the gym a safe place.
    • Ask a few students to share out from their conversations.
  • Find a new partner while practicing the rules and expectations of working with different partner.
    • Add-on “Trot and Thought” the rules about using the drinking fountain. When I moved to this school I wrote a grant to have a drinking fountain installed in the gym.
      • Drinking fountain is open when the music is playing.
      • Drinking fountain is closed when the music is NOT playing.
    • Ask a few students to share out from their conversations.
  • Courtesy Tag
    • Everyone is it, vary locomotor skills.
    • First round
      • When tagged, sit down frozen.
      • Play until about ⅓ of class is sitting.
    • Round Two
      • When tagged, do Rock Paper Scissors.
      • Loser of Rock Paper Scissors sits down.
      • Play until about ⅓ of class is sitting.
    • Round Three
      • Same as Round Two. Add-on when sitting down, any classmate may help you back into the game by shaking your hand, helping you up, and saying “I’m so glad you’re in my class.”
    • Round Four
      • Can only tag someone you have not already tagged.
      • Can only help someone up you have not already helped up.
    • Round Five, Six, Seven, and on.
      • Vary what students need to say to stand back up in the game, favorite physical activity outside of school, favorite vegetable, where to go in a fire drill, where to go in a lock down, rules around the bathroom usage, what to do if they bump into someone, etc.

Ideas to Remember:

Go Slow to Go Fast. The more we practice routines and expectations, the less I will need to revisit them in the future.

Imbed routine and expectation practice into fun and engaging activities.

How do you start your year? I’d love to hear about the fun activities you do to teach simple expectations and routines.

One Response

  1. Safety drills and building g/gym security is a priority and needs to take place with each class until all have gone from tbe gym to those locations. Since PE is 3x a6 day cycle it takes a full cycle to get all these practices in place. Pre-k to 3 rd graders need to actually visit these locations in and out of the building. Time is of the essence. Sometimes FUN can be included with these safety priorities but 40 minutes makes it a tough time when names are not known yet.
    Movement is happening but securely!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Featured Resources


5 Ways Small Sided Games Make a BIG Impact

Author: Jessica Shawley

The Role of Pedometers in Physical Education

4 Activities to Celebrate Native Heritage Month

Author: Mike Chamberlain

16 Parachute Team Building Activities

Author: Tim Mueller

Motivating Unmotivated Students​

Author: Dr. Robert Pangrazi, Jessica Shawley, and Tim Mueller

Promoting Activity and Success Through Adapted PE

Author: Dr. Robert Pangrazi, Marci Pope and Maria Corte

Bin Ball

Author: Randy Spring



Sign up to receive the latest physical education resources, activities, and more from educational professionals like you straight to your inbox!