Research clearly shows that teachers who establish routines and rules early in the school year enjoy more success in managing their active classrooms, fewer discipline problems, and students who learn more. Remember that your time in the gymnasium may be limited, so effective use of that time is essential to maximize student activity level and learning. Routines are procedures for performing specific behaviours in class, such as getting changed, bathroom breaks, equipment storage, dismissal, etc. Rules identify general expectations for behaviour that cover a variety of situations (“pay attention when the teacher is talking”). (Siedentop, 1991) Be sure to take time to plan how you wish to manage your gym time based on school policies, facility lay out, as well as your personal commitment to reinforce the rules and routines throughout the year.

Classroom management is essential in any classroom, but is perhaps even more important in the gymnasium. Without rows of desks, students have much more freedom of movement. With effective gym management, students will learn appropriate behaviours based on your expectations. This will make your job much more enjoyable and effective! The ideas in this section will hopefully aid in your health and physical education planning. Consistency is a key! Be sure to apply your expectations frequently and positively for all students, particularly at the beginning of the term. Continue to reinforce these behaviours throughout the year.

The following table summarizes some of the most common routines used in organizing an active gym class. These were adapted from Siedentop, 1991.

Pre-Period (entry) What to do when entering the gymnasium, which may include a warm-up, practice activity, or a specific place to go
Warm-Up A specific warm-up to perform without teacher prompting or supervision
Attention/quiet A teacher signal for attention and the expected student response
Home base A specific spot on the gym floor that the student goes to when instructed
Gain attention An appropriate way for the students to gain attention of the teacher
Gather An appropriate way to gather in a central location when directed by the teacher and the formation to gather into
Disperse An appropriate way to disperse from a central location to a more scattered formation
Equipment Appropriate ways to obtain or put away equipment
Retrieve An appropriate way to retrieve a ball when it has invaded the space of classmates during a game or drill
Start A procedure for initiating activity quickly on a signal
Boundaries Specific procedures for staying within defined boundaries
Finish A specific procedure for ending a lesson that typically includes a cool-down and a closure to the lesson
Dismissal A procedure for leaving the space and returning to the classroom or locker room
Housekeeping All procedures for dealing with things like getting changed, using the bathroom, drink breaks, leaving the space, safety, etc.

Siedentop, Daryl. Developing Teaching Skills in Physical Education, 3 rd Edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1991. (Nipissing Library Call # GV 363.S5)


Students may or may not enter the gymnasium at the same time. If they do, you have an opportunity to instruct the students before they enter the gym what they are to do or where they are to go when they do enter. Remember that the gymnasium is a wide open space that can entice students to run or play in an inappropriate or unsafe manner. This energy is a good thing, it just needs to be directed in the right manner! If students do not enter at the same time, it is worthwhile to give those students who arrive early an appropriate activity to perform before the class begins.
  1. Posted task or tasks (eg. Blackboard, poster, etc.)
  2. Fitness activity as a part of ongoing fitness program within the curriculum (may be specific fitness activity each week, so no instruction necessary as students enter)
  3. Basketballs available for shooting practice
  4. Fun activity to reward those who arrive early. Those who are late miss out.


Depending on the time you have available, the warm up should be an essential part of your gym class. The benefits of a gentle, active warm up are many, and should precede flexibility or stretching exercises. The number of different warm up activities is as broad and varied as your imagination. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Relays (teams) – competitive, non-competitive, cooperative
  2. Tag games
  3. Activity stations (circuit style) – posted around gym
  4. Individual activities (skipping ropes, various types of locomotion)
  5. Use music - aerobic-style, marching, musical mats or variations
  6. Games of low organization – dodge ball type games, handball type games, etc.
  7. Sport specific – basketball dribbling, badminton give and go, etc.


How are you going to get the attention of your students??? Remember that your voice could be strained if you continually try to call for attention! Do you have a “gym voice”? Some common ideas are:

  1. Whistle blows – one, two blasts
  2. Clapping once or twice
  3. The word “freeze”, or some other single word
  4. Lights on or off – may not be feasible depending on type of lights in the gym
  5. Stop the music
  6. Hand in the air – requires students to pay attention visually, which may not always be appropriate
  7. After an activity – once you have done this a certain number of times, sit quietly in your groups

How do you want your students to respond when you do get their attention? Most PE teachers just want students to stop, place the ball or implement at the feet (or just simply hold on to it), and turn to face the teacher. If you do not have a voice that projects around the gym, call the students in for more instruction.


This spot may move depending on the position of the teacher or the particular activity in question. When a teacher calls for "squads", students are to sit in assigned groups, in straight rows, in front of teacher. Teachers may want students to stand along a line in the gym, or in a particular corner, etc.


How do you wish the students to address you or get your attention? For example, do you want them to approach you and ask you one on one, put a hand in the air and wait for you to acknowledge him or her, or simply call out? This depends on the situation, whether or not you are talking at the time, or if students are on task.


Teachers use various formations to speak to students. There is no question that it is more appropriate to talk to students while they are seated on the gym floor and you are standing. That way, you can make more effective eye contact, and determine when students are not paying attention or those who have questions.

  1. Squads are used to aid the teacher in organizing the class during attendance taking, team formation, instructions at beginning and end of class, etc. Students can choose their own squads, or the teacher can choose the groups based on skill level, alphabet, etc. These groups are maintained throughout the year. Variations using squads are very helpful as well (eg. all students at the front of their squad are on Team A, second in line, Team B, etc.).
  2. Semicircle - used for instruction during class time
  3. Scatter - used for instruction during class time
  4. Lines - used for instruction during class time
  5. Partners- used for organizing activities


These routines are often sport specific, such as doubles badminton, four on four volleyball, etc. You should think in advance how you wish to form your groups or teams, and how you want your groups or teams to move to different areas of the gym. For example, "Group A goes to Court 1, Group B goes to Court 2, etc. You may just want them to spread out (eg. at least 3 steps apart, arms width apart, etc.) Be as specific as you can before you give the command to "GO", otherwise, students will start to move before they receive all the instructions.


Storage of gymnasium equipment is often a challenge for most schools! Most gymnasiums have equipment cupboards or storage areas under the stage. It is worthwhile to determine how you wish to access this equipment, as well as to train your students how to properly get the equipment, set it up, care for it and put it away at the end of the period. It is always a good idea to organize your class so that equipment set up is orderly and that all students eventually contribute to equipment set up and take down. You may wish to assign certain squads for set up, then the other squads for take down. You could use equipment set up as part of the pre-period activity, however; those students who continually arrive early are always setting up the equipment! Just make sure that these students are not the ones to take it down. STUDENTS SHOULD NOT BE DISMISSED UNTIL ALL EQUIPMENT IS PUT AWAY TO THE TEACHER'S SATISFACTION!

If simple equipment is required, you may wish to send one student from each squad to get what is needed. If badminton or volleyball is the activity of the period, use the satisfactory set up of equipment as a motivator to get the badminton racquets or volleyballs.


Often, errant volleyballs or badminton shuttles veer off course out of the play area, and these tend to land in another court. Coach your students how to appropriately retrieve the item in question by never entering the playing area of another game in progress. They should be instructed to detour around the boundaries to retrieve, politely ask for the implement once play has stopped, or warn the classmates of the potential danger of a rolling ball.


Choose an easy command that you will apply consistently throughout the year to permit play to commence. Some teachers use a whistle command, while others use a verbal command (eg. "Ready, Go"). Be sure that students wait for the command!


Be sure to be specific in your instructions to students. They will try to bend the boundaries! This is particularly important if you take the class outside. You do not want students spread all over the field so that you can't keep track of them or can't communicate with them. Use cones or borders if necessary.


In fairness to all students, dismiss all students together. This will require you to call the class together at the end of the lesson or practice time or game. The use of squads is helpful for this. The orderly formation of students will help to ensure their attention and allows for the completion of equipment take down. This will also give you time to take attendance and account for all equipment, as well as allow you a brief period of time to give positive feedback about the class, future class plans, announcements, etc.


Establish a procedure for leaving the gym and returning to the locker room or classroom. If space is limited, or you don't want students to charge the door, have them leave by squad, or some other orderly arrangement.


Changing: You should build in time for students to change at the beginning and end of class. Some students may wish to shower, which will require more time. Usually these students identify themselves to you once asked, and you can choose to accommodate these students. Boys tend to be able to change very quickly! Girls like the social aspects of the change room, so it is more difficult to speed up the process. Be sure to give specific times for them to be in the gym ready to go. For example, 3 minutes after the second bell you should be in the gym.

Some schools have a strict gym uniform policy. If not, consider safety, practicality, and appropriateness of indoor wear, and outdoor clothing considerations when necessary. In other schools, particularly the elementary schools, changing is not possible or reasonable. You might consider appropriate footwear to prolong the life of the gym floor.

Bathroom/drink breaks: Consider how you will deal with bathroom requests. Remember you are responsible for all students in your care, so you have to keep track of all of them. It is common practice to allow only one or two students out at a time for washroom or drink breaks. If you allow more than this to go, it could break down the game in progress, or cause potential problems in other areas of the school, depending on the location of the fountain or washroom. If school policy permits, students may bring a plastic, sealable water bottle into the gym for their use. This will reduce the need for drink breaks. Be sure to warn students not to share water bottles!

Injuries: Any injury, no matter how slight, should be reported to the teacher. If an injured student needs to leave the gym for a drink, or medical attention, do not send him or her alone! Depending on the severity of the injury, you must use your judgment to determine the steps to take to seek medical attention.


Rules are different from routines in that they specify behaviours applicable in various situations. You will want to establish rules in the gymnasium that are consistent with classroom rules. However; the gymnasium environment generally lends itself to the following categories:

  • Safety
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for the learning environment
  • Support the learning of others
  • Effort

Be sure to enforce rules consistently and fairly on a daily basis. Consequences for violation of rules must be clearly established. Remember to keep your list of rules simple and specific as possible. Your students will push the limits of the rules, and you have to decide how you will respond!


Making or forming teams can be a big challenge for you, particularly if there is a wide range of abilities within your class. Here are some ideas for forming teams quickly. A variety of methods over the course of the year will ensure mixing of students and avoidance of lopsided teams. Consider how you might use established teams for several days to save precious gym time! NOTE: Please try to avoid choosing two captains and allowing the students to choose team members one by one! This always results in the weaker students being chosen last - not a good situation for building self-esteem for these students!

Teacher Directed Methods:

  • Numbering (eg. 1, 2, 1, 2, etc.)
  • Give everyone a number, then split in a variety of ways, e.g. odds & evens; 1-10, 11-20; sums, etc. (keep students guessing!)
  • Names (eg. apples, pears, bananas, etc.)
  • Colours of shirts, shoes, hair colour, eye colour, etc.
  • Students choose a partner, then partners split to opposite teams (can work well for defense/offense partners)
  • Students choose a partner, teacher assigns both to the same team
  • Birthdays, Zodiac sign (e.g. January- June on one team, July-December on the other team, etc.)
  • Use squads, combine squads
  • Draw names out of a hat
  • Teacher simply balances teams by assigning students to particular teams
  • Teacher might consider joining the weaker team once the game is underway and a mismatch is apparent

Student Centered Methods:

  • Choose own groups of 4, 5, 6, etc. (can result in lopsided teams, often 1-2 students left out)
  • Ask two or four of the less skilled players to be captains, choose two players at a time
  • Choose a partner, partners move together to one team or another
  • If games or activities are lopsided, have a draft! One representative (or a captain) from each team chooses one or two players from the other team to join. Losing team picks first. Representatives/captains cannot move, and they cannot choose their own players to come back.
  • Students make two equal lines; one or two "judges" (assigned by teacher or volunteers) determine if teams are fair, if not, they determine who moves. The judges tell what students to move to what team. All students must respect their choices, no disputes!

I Lost My P.E. Suit!

For twenty-one years I've taught P.E.
And I'm crusty and hard and I'm mean;
Come ready to dress-out every day,
Because every excuse I have seen:

I've heard about notes forgotten at home,
And you think I'll excuse you no doubt;
I'll listen politely and then shake my head,
And sternly command you, "Dress Out."

On mile day you'll tell me your head hurts bad,
And you feel running would be child abuse;
Don't come to my office, save strength for the run,
Cause, I'll just say, "No excuse":

I've heard about gym suits left on the bus,
And washing machines that had broke:
I've been told about suits left at Grandma's.
But believe it? Surely you joke:

Or, "My brother threw up on my gymsuit",
And we washed it, but it's still very wet;
Or, "My Mommy won't let me run today,
Cause it's very unhealthy to sweat",

I left my suit at a friend's house,
I looked hard but it couldn't be found;
My Dad said not to weightlift again,
Because I will get all muscle bound:

It's, "My gymsuit was stolen,"
Or, "I'm feelin' real bad";
Or, "My Grandmother died,
And I'm ever so sad";

Or, "Me muscles are sore,
'Cause I ran so far",
And "My Dad backed over,
My foot with his car":

So before you knock,
On my office door;
Please remember that,
I've heard it before.                   Dr. Jim Riley

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