Setting Student Expectations to Start the Year in PE!

Podcast Transcript:

At the beginning of the year, I like to ask my classes. What does it look like to me, an exemplary student in physical education? I’ll explain why.

Welcome to the PE Express podcast. Two to three times a week, a PE expert will share a tip, activity idea, or teaching strategy to help you become a better PE professional. Today’s host is Dr .Aaron Beighle. He is a coauthor of Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children and a contributor to He also publishes extensively and presents for Physical Education professionals.

Early in the year, a major part of successful teaching is establishing a learning climate for all students to thrive in. One component of any safe place for learning in any classroom are the rules and some call the rules, the expectations, but basically there are expectations for physical education with respect to student behavior. So to establish these rules, I have a short discussion with students that are guided by a couple of questions. Things like what does it look like to be an exemplary student? What does it look like to be a role model in physical education? What does it sound like to be a student you would be proud of and these are words that come out and they start thinking about what does it look like and they can see these expectations and they can start to hear these expectations and this just really gets the ball rolling.

Going into these discussions, I have a few guidelines for the expectations that I established. I usually don’t tell the students these guidelines but I do have them in the back of my mind. The first one is that rules should be general and cover many areas. Three to five rules tops is all I like to have in my classroom and I think if we get too many rules, students become rule specific and if we have rules like no taking equipment or no chewing gum in the gym. If we go outside, does that mean I can have gum during physical education? And I think this causes students become to rule specific and they don’t start thinking about what the rules mean and what their behaviors should be. Another guideline I have is that they should be clear and phrase positively and concise. One of the all time classics of this is at a swimming pool in the summer where it says no running.

That’s concise and it’s pretty clear, but does that mean I can skip to? So the rule should be walking and it’s phrased positively, it’s concise and expresses the expectation. The last expectation or guideline that I have is the rule should teach being kind, being a good human being and reflect the teacher values. They should be observable as well. And I used to, I used to have the, the rule “try your best”, but I started getting away from that because it’s not really something that I can observe because I really don’t know if that’s the students’ best that day. I can look at a student and think, wow, they’re kind of loafin, not real sure. But I don’t know if that’s the best. So I really don’t want to have that as a rule.

So over the course of the first few days of physical education, I call it my orientation time. I would have a few short discussions interspersed with activities and I want student input. I want student buy in and at times I really want their language. When I say what I think the rule should be, it might be phrased differently for a third grader and I like to use their language and I also like to display these rules. So I like to really spend some time early on so I can get the rules made and displayed so others can see them and I can refer them throughout the school year and say, remember those rules we discussed earlier in the year? We need to be following those rules or expectations. Frankly, the more I’ve done this, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that one rule tends to work and you have enough discussions with students and you say, okay, so you shouldn’t kick someone else’s ball and you shouldn’t make fun of someone and we shouldn’t pick the foam balls apart and we shouldn’t kick the mats. What does all of that come into conclusion or down to one to two rules and I’ve found that respect yourself and others tends to take care of everything. How you explain it to kindergarten and how you explain it to seniors may differ, but it really does take care of most issues that I’ve seen in physical education. But I’d love to hear what your physical education expectations are. Thrive.

One Response

  1. Hi Aaron, great article and very helpful for the start of the year ! Now I’m looking for consequences to go with the rules !!!
    Any ideas or thoughts???
    And what about rewards for the class or individuals???

    Thanks for your help !!!
    George Kelley. K-5 PE IN Haysville KS
    Freeman Elementary

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