Keep Your PE Students Engaged with These 5 Tips


Kindergarten students sitting on the floor

It doesn’t matter how many activities you dedicate to building muscle groups or motor skills if you can’t get your students to care about doing them. If your kids seem to be going through the motions in your PE class, but aren’t really excited or engaged in learning the fitness concepts, they’re not going to take away long-term benefits from your lessons. Helping your students stay on track with fitness goals is a whole lot easier if they are actively engaged in your class.

If you notice students showing less interest during PE, the swiftest way to get their attention is to do something unexpected — switch up their routine. Through the use of invigorating warm-ups, creative fitness circuits, and innovative activities, you can get students amped to participate in class. Here are five tips for keeping your students engaged and active.

1. Divide Students into Groups

Managing a large group of students is a challenge for any teacher, but especially in PE where kids are up and moving for most of the class period. In a large class, your students may be more likely to get distracted, and you are probably less likely to notice. Try dividing your students into smaller, more manageable groups when focusing on an activity. If splitting up your class will result in too many groups to monitor closely, consider utilizing aides or nominating student ambassadors to keep groups on task.

2. Implement Creative Warm-Ups

Before you begin the day’s activities, lead a creative and high-energy warm-up. Not only will your students reap the physical benefits of stretching their muscles before they begin the day’s work, but an interesting warm-up helps students get focused and engaged. Aside from stretching, warm-ups can include dancing, jumping in place, and other movements that get blood flowing. Think outside the box to stimulate their muscles and pique their interests right at the beginning of class.

3. Create Fitness Circuits

Fitness circuits are a great way to keep small groups of students focused and challenged during PE. To set up circuits, you’ll need enough space to spread each student group into a large circle, some cones, and flash cards with instructions. In this activity, students will move at your cue from station to station, engaging in a different exercise at each station. To set up fitness circuits:

  • Place the cones, equally spaced, in a large circle. Attach an instruction card to each cone, describing the activity for that station.
  • Alternate high-intensity and low-intensity cone stations around the circle.
  • Decide how long groups will stay at each station (no more than a few minutes).
  • Use a whistle or music over a speaker system, so you have an audible cue to let students know when to move to the next circuit station.

You can set up all types of circuits, which is another advantage to the system. Popular types of circuits include:

  • Track and field circuits (for outdoor classes). Stations include long jump, sprint, and triple jump.
  • Learning and fitness circuits. Combine stations featuring endurance exercises with stations where students must answer a series of questions about healthy diets.
  • Muscle building circuits. Alternate stretching and weight lifting stations.
  • Play Music: Adding music can be a great way to encourage students, and dancing is a great workout!
  • Make it fun: Fun should be at the core of all of your classes, so always remember to emphasize having fun!

4. Provide New and Challenging Activities

Keep your classes feeling fresh and intriguing by adding new activities periodically. When you keep your students on their toes with new challenges to navigate, they are more likely to pay attention in class. Challenges may be related to building varied skills, or advancing the level of difficulty of your previous activities. Keep the new challenge in your schedule for a month or so, and then start rotating in new exercises or levels to give your students both mental and physical stimulation.

5. Get Feedback

Perhaps the most important way to figure out how to get students engaged is to ask them for honest feedback about class. A lack of engagement in class may be fixed with a solution you didn’t think up on your own. Ask which parts of the fitness circuits your students enjoy most. Are they more interested in organized sports? Do they enjoy setting up drills, splitting into stations, or pairing mental puzzles and challenges with physical exercises? Your students may give you some great ideas for activities they want to do. Plus, gauging the interest of your students on a regular basis will help you monitor when their engagement is dipping, giving you a heads up about when to switch the routine again.

Improving Student Engagement Benefits Them Outside of Class, Too

As much as you can plan well-balanced activities to teach your class about fitness and nutrition, it’s the student engagement that makes or breaks any PE class. Stimulate your students’ brains by introducing fresh activities, crafting challenges that require mental concentration as well as physical skills, and switching up the routine periodically so it doesn’t feel boring.

Not only will students enjoy better fitness outcomes when they are fully engaged, but they may gain an interest in athletics that transcends PE and leads them to join in a sports team, new school activity, or active hobby. Remember, one of your biggest tasks as a physical educator is to not just make your year with them an active one, but to help give students lifelong knowledge and appreciation for fitness.

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