High School P.E.

Terry Piper shares best practices and tips for anyone wishing to teach High School P.E. (This is the fourth video of the four-part Physical Education video collection.)

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Terry Piper, Hayward Unified School District Teacher, She has taught physical education to elementary and high school age students in Western Placer Unified School District in Lincoln, California.


Hello, I’m Terry Piper and I’ll be sharing some important ideas that will help you have a successful experience as the guest teacher in a high school physical education class. I work in the Hayward Unified School District and have taught physical education to elementary and high school age students. I am also the site director of the Bay Area Physical Education Health Project. In this video we’ll focus on teaching physical education in a high school 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.

High schoolers, just like younger students, enjoy engaging social learning activities in physical education. They are very concerned about what others think of them and both success and encouragement go a long way in motivating them to be active learners each day. Their personal experiences with movement and with physical education instruction serve as powerful reminders and often guide their daily choices in class.

The old idea of “No Pain, No Gain” does not move them at all. Instead, they thrive on genuine positive feedback, meaningful activities, and having the chance to personalize their learning. Today I want to remind you of the three big ideas for your work as a guest teacher in the high school, physical education class.

1- One, physical education is a place of learning, just like every part of the school day.

2- Two, many of the same skills, methods, strategies you use in other content areas and classrooms also apply to teaching physical education. So you’re ready.

3- Number three, you can be most effective when you encourage student improvement and effort toward that improvement.

Now let’s take a look at some key ways to get ready for the lesson, teach the lesson, and equip the learners for success.

You want to review, visualize, and decide. It’s not too likely that you will be asked to present new learning to students. It is common for substitute teachers to teach content that is a review for students, or sometimes not connected to what they did or learned the day before. So review the lesson plan and the learning outcomes for the day.

You might wanna ask a few students how the lesson for today connects with the learning they did the day before. Locate any equipment you might need and spend a minute thinking about or planning for how you will distribute equipment to students, as well as collected in a safe and orderly way. Here are a few suggestions for that:

Distribute by teams, groups, or designate one person from the group or team to come get equipment and return equipment — and student helpers can assist. If the teacher has designated a helper or student aid, use them. Special note: it’s always helpful to have a few no-equipment-needed engaging activities to incorporate in a pinch. We’ve provided one along with this video for your use.

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. Ask students to increase their own involvement in the lesson by helping their partner or by sharing feedback, or even more helpful actions. During the lesson, be sure to circulate among the students constantly. Make it your goal to talk to each student at least two times during the lesson. High schoolers appreciate guest teachers who help them learn and improve.

Also visit the space — the courts, the field, the track, et cetera — where the class is supposed to meet 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. Use attention-getters for transitions or to refocus the class when you share information with them.

And also at the end of class, remember to save at least three to four minutes for class closure. Here are some key ideas:

  • Ask students to gather quickly using a jog or a quick walk.
  • Acknowledge students’ good work and behavior. Tell them what impressed you, or
  • Ask two to three questions for them to reflect on — and be sure the questions are connected to the learning objectives for the day.

Also important to know and prepare for, most high school students change into physical education uniforms for class. The procedures for the locker rooms are usually included in the teacher’s plans. If you are not provided those, here are some simple, common sense things to know about the locker room. Students have a task to complete dressing and don’t need to spend extra time in the locker room. Students safety can be compromised if students stand on the benches, throw objects like locks or shoes, and engage and play in the locker room. Tell the students your expectations, routines, what to do when they hear the signal or whistle. They may not be the same as the teachers, yet students need to know what is expected.

Remind students of the many values of being an active learner in physical education, and always ask the students to add to the list. What are the values that they see? We also want to consider student safety and health because student safety during physical education always needs our attention.

You always want to review class and school emergency procedures. It is common policy for parent notes to be honored for three days and here are a few ways you can safely involve them in the learning. They can 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. They can also be in charge of positive feedback for students helping one another or encouraging one another.

So, 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 classroom apply to physical education, so you’re ready. Because remember 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.

Really, just enjoy! Teaching high school 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 goals: learning. You can encourage support and cheer on students of all ages and enjoy the conversations and interactions with students about their progress and their learning. Thank you.

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