Elementary School P.E.

Danielle Della Gala shares best practices and tips for anyone wishing to teach Elementary School P.E. (This is the second video of the four-part Physical Education video collection.)

Watch the Video


Danielle Della Gala, teacher leader with the Long Beach Physical Education Health Project and also works in the Los Angeles Unified School District where She teaches fifth grade.


Hello, my name is Danielle Della Gala and I’ll be sharing some important ideas that will help you have a successful experience serving as the guest teacher in the elementary physical education class. I’m a teacher leader with the Long Beach Physical Education Health Project and I work in the Los Angeles Unified School District where I teach fifth grade and classroom teachers provide most, if not all of the instruction in physical education for our student. In this video, we’ll focus on teaching physical education in the elementary grades and share specific actions that will support you as the guest teacher. If you have not yet watched video number one, which is an introduction to teaching physical education as a guest teacher, I would really encourage you to watch it first before you watch this video.

I want to remind you of the three big ideas for your work as a guest teacher in the elementary physical education.

1 – Physical education is a place of learning, just like every part of the school day.

2- Many of the same skills, methods and strategies you use with reading, writing, math, science, social studies, health, and the arts also apply to teaching physical education. So you are ready.

3 – You can be most effective when you encourage student improvement and effort forward that improvement. It’s not too likely that you will be asked to present new learning to students, so take a relaxing breath and focus on the lesson for the day.

Review the lesson plan and the learning outcomes for the day or class.

Locate any equipment you might need and spend a minute thinking about and planning for how you will distribute equipment to the students, as well as collect it. Remember that elementary students will always want to play with equipment, even when you are trying to collect it. So have a good plan in place to keep everybody safe while you collect that equipment. A few ideas: have students carry equipment on a named body part. For example, carry the soccer ball on your left shoulder, using your hands to make sure it doesn’t fall. Or carry the bean bag with two hands above your head. They love that one!

Also visit the space – whether it’s the playground or the field – where the lesson will take place and take note of anything in the space that might be helpful in class management. These might be lines painted on the blacktop, ideal for asking students to stand on and listen, while you give directions. The three point line on the basketball court is perfect. A special note: it’s always helpful to have a few no equipment needed engaging activities to incorporate in a pinch. We’ll provide a few along with this video for you to use. You’ll notice they’re organized in two groups: grades K through 3 ,and grades 4 through 5.

Use your best judgment to make the lessons meaningful. If an activity is not working with a group, move on, but try again with the next group. If something is going well, spend more time on it.

Here’s a bit of helpful information related to elementary students and physical activity. These students are best equipped for short bursts of movement. You’ll have great success with their engagement and completion of activities if you ask them to do short, approximately 30 seconds or less activities, and very often they will want to repeat the activity again.

Based on the lesson and the learning outcomes, it’s a good idea to plan some focused feedback and encouragement you can share with students. So here are a few examples, some specific feedback: “I like the way you look at the ball while your foot makes contact with the ball”, or “Well done on keeping your arms straight while you serve the ball.” Encouragement focused on process and growth: “You are really doing well following directions. Thank you.” Or, “Your good work is showing.”

Be sure to take a few minutes to think about and plan effective feedback for the lesson and the learners. Let’s think about how to remind and equip those learner. Remind students that they know what to do, and that you are counting on them to do their very best. Let them know you are looking forward to a great day together. You can use the call and response strategy: when I, [call], you [response]. Tell the students, your expectations, routines like restroom and drinking fountain procedures, how to get help getting and passing out equipment and what to do when they hear the whistle, et cetera. They may not be the same as the teachers’, but student need to know what is expected.

Remind students of the many values of being an active learner in physical education: get better at the skills; and learning — everyone can!–; feel good with extra energy all day; opportunity to learn with other students, which is always fun; learn outside ,most likely; and always ask the students to add to your list. Because students safety during physical education always needs our attention, review class and school emergency procedures and know who to contact if there is unfortunately an injury. A student who sustains contact to the head should always visit the school health office.

Check the lesson plans and teacher notes for any special accommodations for specific students’ health conditions, and expect to receive notes from parents excusing students from some or all of the physical education for that day. When a student is excused from class activities, it is typically from the movement aspect. It is appropriate to ask excuse students, however, to engage in the learning from a cognitive perspective. You could ask them to observe a classmate or a group and provide focused feedback. It’s a good idea to share some things for them to think about and look for.

We’ve covered a lot. Let’s review the three big ideas for your work: as a guest teacher in the physical education class, physical education is a place of learning, just like every other class at school. Many of the same skills, methods and strategies you use in classrooms also apply to physical education. So you are ready. Because learning movement skills is very individual and strongly influenced by self concept and motivation, you can be most effective when you encourage improvement and effort toward that improvement.

Above all, enjoy. Teaching physical education can be the highlight of your guest teacher experience. It’s a great opportunity to work with students in a different environment with the same goal: learning. You can encourage, support ,and cheer on students and enjoy the conversations and interactions with students about their work and their learning. Good luck to you. You’ve got this.

Accompanying Materials & Resources

Share with Others


At a Glance

Please give us a like if you enjoyed this resource! 

For You

Related Resources


Experts from the California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) share 3 meaning-making strategies you can use to engage students in your classroom.

The Turn and Talk

Daina Yousif Weber, English and AVID teacher in San Diego Unified School District, tells us how to apply the “Turn and Talk” strategy to empower students to make their own meaning by exploring open-ended questions, sharing their thoughts and perspectives, and building upon each other’s ideas.

WOW (Word of the Week)

Kate Bowen, retired elementary school teacher for the Davis Joint Unified School District, tells us how to use the “WOW (Word of the Week)” activity to channel students’ creativity in learning new vocabulary and developing their writing skills.

Scroll to Top

Help Us Improve!

Please help us improve the resources we offer you by answering two quick questions:​