By: Brandon Capaletti
How To Keep Kids Motivated To Stay Active
When your students come to physical education class, are they enthusiastic, or do they trudge in, fearing what impossible task they will be asked to perform? Motivating students in the physical education classroom is not necessarily easy, but it can be done! Here are some tips that will help you spark an interest in all of your students, even those who are not naturally athletic.
- Introduce the Unit Well
The key to keeping kids engaged throughout a unit — regardless of the topic covered — is introducing the unit well. Physical education instructors should view the beginning of the unit as their chance to “sell” the content. This involves a couple of steps: First, teachers need to provide an overview of what students will be learning and doing, and why it’s important. Then, the introduction should include what the teacher will be asking the students to accomplish. This helps those who are not naturally interested in physical education become engaged, because they know what is expected of them when assessment time comes.
After the introduction, the teacher should check for understanding. Asking the students what they will do when certain events in the game happen, for example, will show that they grasp the task at hand. The teacher can also check for understanding by asking for a physical movement, such as “show me a defensive basketball stance.”
- Break Down the Skill
Consider a unit on baseball. Perhaps a hitter’s stance and hitting the ball is natural to you after years of playing baseball. That does not mean it comes naturally to your students, however. In fact, many of your students have probably never held a bat.
To ensure that they are excited and engaged, show them the process, then break it down — part by part. Demonstrate where to put the feet, how to position the back, where to place the arms, and how to hit the ball. By going over each step, you improve the chances that your students are able to attempt and achieve success with the task — regardless of ability level.
- Don’t Yell
No matter how frustrated you may feel with your students, avoid the temptation to yell at them. This may appear effective on TV shows or movies, but the teacher who wants to inspire needs to find intrinsic motivators for students, not scream at them.
- Use Cues Appropriately
Cues are helpful in physical education, but they can be overwhelming. When teaching a new skill, provide one to three cues at a time, keeping them short and simple. They should be something students can remember when they are working through the action you are teaching. You can have students say the cues while performing the skill, but keep it as simple as possible — until the skill or task has been fully learned.
- Provide Directed Free Time
One way to keep kids engaged is to give them directed free time. Free time does not mean they can do whatever they want on the field or the gym, but it does mean that they can practice whatever skill, from the skill set or game, they want. By watching your students during this directed free time, you can see what areas of the game naturally appeal to them. You can motivate them by allowing them to pursue excellence in those areas.
- Don’t Overdo Your Instruction
As a physical education teacher, you are probably in good physical shape. That does not mean your students are, however. Your students come from a wide range of backgrounds and family situations, and some will be in poor shape. Teachers who are passionate about health may feel tempted to push these children hard to get them in better shape. This can derail motivation. Physical activity should not hurt your students. While some students do need a push to be active, push gently and with plenty of encouragement for success, rather than making a grueling routine that will cause physical pain.
- Reward All Success
Do you have some students who can’t make a layup to save their life? Then reward and praise them for a solid bounce pass. Find out where your students are, then provide motivators and rewards for the advances they make, even if they are not at the level you wish they were. Remember, encouragement is one of the greatest motivators a teacher has, so use it liberally.
Physical education is unique in the education world because it does not involve studying, letter grades, papers and calculations. It involves the physical body. Ultimately, you will need to carefully prompt your students so they are encouraged to keep striving for success
About the Author:
Brandon Capaletti is the Vice President of Cisco Athletic, a Maryland-based athletic apparel manufacturer of custom uniforms. Cisco makes jerseys for 18 different sports, including volleyball, basketball, and baseball.