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3 Smart Tips for Space Management: Organizing a Versatile Learning Environment

Students using technology during Strategy SidelineBeing able to organize my learning environment effectively helps lessons run more efficiently. An important part of this is being able to organize the environment to be as versatile as possible. My students are learning about fitness, lifetime activities, team sports, and health and nutrition topics. The variety of learning targets combined with three classes running simultaneously and coordinating with colleagues sharing the same space requires creativity, patience, and flexibility. Three “Smart Tips” that help me organize a versatile learning environment include:

  • Smart Small-Sided Games
  • Smart Sidelines
  • Smart Students

Smart Small-Sided Games:

I’m a huge believer in small-sided game play. This is a smart teaching strategy that pays big dividends in student growth. Break down larger games and activities into small-sided games where the learning environment is broken into smaller areas. This allows you to move from group to group to provide feedback and assess students easily. Small-sided game play also allows students more opportunity for greater skill acquisition because smaller teams means everyone must participate in order for the activity to go well. You do not need to have the same activity for everyone in one main space. For more on small sided games, see webinars on this topic. The diagrams in this blog are from my Gopher Sport webinar on Small-Sided Games. You can also read more in my past blogs or view the webinar handouts.

Diagram 1: Instead of 30 students playing one large game, create 4 or 5 lanes of small-sided games where students are on teams of 3-4 players.Diagram 1


 Diagram 2: Do you use traditional two-team games with position play? These can be played in the same area but divided into two different games.

Diagram 2

Smart Sidelines:

When it comes to large class sizes and/or small spaces, using smart sideline strategies helps. If one game is in the main activity area with two teams playing, I can have one team act as a “live sideline” where students travel side to side as they watch the game and can act as a passing outlet to any students who get stuck and can’t find an open teammate. I can have another team (or multiple teams) at the end lines, and this area can be used for a variety of learning activities that enhance my lessons. This includes a “strategy session sideline” where students discuss as a team, “What is going well? What is one thing we can do to improve?” They can watch the current live game and assess the current team play identifying opponent strengths and weaknesses. A “fitness center sideline” provides simple fitness activities or stations students do while waiting to return to game play. Having students use pedometers or strapless heart rate monitors to self-monitor their intensity levels improves student accountability at this station. The diagrams below from my webinar highlight how to set up these sideline ideas.

“Smart Sidelines” Setup Ideas

Smart Sidelines PE Space Management Idea


 “Smart Sidelines” can also be integrated during small-sided game play.

Smart Sidelines and SSGs

Incorporate technology with a “video analysis sideline” where students use an iPad with a video delay app to watch their performance when they rotate from “on” (game play) to “off” (rest and review video). This blog’s feature image shows how I do this without a video delay app during Omnikin ball games by dividing each team into two shifts, shift-A and shift-B. When shift-A is playing, shift-B is recording. Game play occurs for approximately 4-5 minutes. When teams switch at the end of this time, the team rotating off watches their game play for two minutes and discusses what they see. Then they record the current game for two minutes. This allows teams to see at least two minutes of their own game play while also recording their peers for two minutes.

Smart Students:

Rainbow Cadet Stand-Up BagsStudents enjoy helping with setup and take down. For example, I task students with simple setup and clean up routines as well as equipment management responsibilities during golf, volleyball and softball units to maximize lesson activity time. The Sport Education Model influenced this teaching tip, and it helps make learning task run more smoothly. I try to color coordinate teams and their equipment so that I am able to do a quick visual check if all the equipment is taken care of appropriately. For example, the purple volleyball team has a purple bucket or bag and has all purple volleyballs. If any equipment is left out or not taken care of properly, I know by the color whose responsibility it was. The many color-coded equipment options available from Gopher makes this easy.

Rainbow SofFelt VolleyballsI admit I can be one to ‘geek out’ on organization and curriculum development. I love to find solutions for storing and organizing things in my program. I am constantly reflecting upon my lessons and fine tuning my curriculum. I also love using technology as an organization tool. In fact, I’ve addressed these topics in previous blogs – check them out using the links below. I thought it was worth linking back them here as they support this blog’s theme of space management nicely.

May these “Smart Tips” help you manage your learning environment wisely. You can reach me on Twitter via @JessicaShawley to continue the conversation and share your tips for space management. Thanks for reading!

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for the great ideas. The only problem is, I have almost 80 students at a time in a 1/3 gym. A lot of waiting at times, but we have a great time anyway.

  2. Thank you for reading, Bruce. Happy to hear you enjoyed the ideas. Your numbers definitely bring different modifications to all ideas. I’m glad you’re having a great time with students. That’s important! Thanks again for your comment.

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