In my nearly twenty year career, I have found that most people I have worked with thrive in structure. For students (both P-12 and university), structure provides familiarity and comfort, two essentials for learning. Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way. I remember teaching a Kindergarten class that exemplifies this well. Early in the school year we established that upon entering the gym they were to move around the teaching area using a locomotor movement I gave them. Their little minds and feet worked diligently to make this a routine. On this particular day we were not going to follow that routine because we had a guest performance with some equipment set up. Being a young, naïve teacher I simply met the class and said, “Today we are going to walk in and sit down on the circle.” Well, this class did what they were taught to do, they jogged in the teaching area, and then they ran….and ran….and ran. Despite establishing “Freeze”, when placed in this environment that was new, only half froze as they had done for months. Needless to say I was frustrated, embarrassed, and sweaty. That taught me that kids like structure, need structure, and if anything goes outside the realm of the established structure, great care must be taken to avoid chaos.
Besides consistent management, another strategy to provide student structure is a lesson plan template. This template provides structure, sequence, and continuity to a lesson. The structure I use is a four part lesson starting with an introductory activity, followed by a fitness activity, a lesson focus, and then a game/closing activity.
Introductory activity: Sometimes called an instant activity, this activity is used immediately upon entering the gymnasium. No sitting in squad lines for me. This activity prepares students for the lesson by getting them moving and establishing management protocol. There is limited instruction during this portion of the lesson which typically takes 3-5 minutes of a 30 minute lesson.
Fitness activity: This portion of the lesson is designed to expose students to a variety of fitness activities and teach them fitness principles. This component nor any component of my physical education lessons, is not designed to improve fitness levels in youth. Typically the activities are interval in nature with students alternating between cardiovascular activities and muscular strength, endurance or flexibility activities every 30-45 seconds. Examples include obstacle courses, jump rope, circuits, and teacher lead routines. Fitness activities typically last 7-8 minutes in a 30 minute lesson.
Lesson focus: The focus of the lesson lasts 15-20 minutes and includes skill instruction. The emphasis here is repetition and refinement of skills to provide successful opportunities for students. Care is taken to ensure students understand the process of performing the skills so they can comfortably engage in physical activity throughout the lifespan.
Closing activity: This is a great way to end a lesson. Often the closing activity is a game that ties to the lesson focus, but not always. Students have the opportunity to apply skills learned during the lesson or previous lessons during this component. I always end my lessons with a game and avoid using the game as a bribe. I want the lesson to end with something fun for all students.
In addition to providing structure, this template allows me to address multiple standards every lesson. For example, I have found addressing fitness during a one-time-per-year fitness unit does not allow the content to “stick” with students, thus I integrate fitness content in every lesson. I encourage you to use this concept or create your own lesson plan template and use it every lesson to provide structure and ultimately student success. Thrive!
The four part lesson described here is based on the template described in Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (17e). Pangrazi and Beighle.