Friday 28 January 2022

Teaching Elementary PE During the Pandemic

 Submitted by: Jillian Shaw, HPEC Secretary

This may be a huge challenge for several people as you are working with a population that is still trying to understand the world around them. Constantly repeating yourself saying things like: hands out of your mouth, don’t touch that, hands to yourself, etc. and on top of what we were originally worried about regarding germs were being shared, now we add COVID-19 on top of it. 

I am a K-4 PE teacher in Calgary. My school has roughly 400 students who get PE 4 or 5 times a week. Each class I teach is 30 minutes long and has anywhere between 40-60 students. Since two classes are in the gym at the same time, I teach with the divider down so students stay within their cohort. This has created some challenges but after teaching like this for 2 years, I have developed some strategies to make it more manageable. Here are some tips that I have implemented in my elementary PE program to assist in sanitizing, minimizing contact, and maximizing the fun!

Establish Routine

Since my classes go by quickly I need time to sanitize equipment before the next class uses the equipment. I have set up a routine with my students, so they are engaged in an activity while I finish sanitizing equipment. Each week we have an exercise of the week. This exercise can be anything (lunges, plank, burpees, etc.). At the beginning of the week, I will go over specific things to look for in the exercise (flat back, arm or leg position, etc.). Students partner up and provide feedback to their partner about how to improve their form. Throughout the week the partnership will develop goals for each other and work on their functional fitness. After that warm-up activity, we will move on to the game which is focused on our unit at the time. This is where most of the equipment will be used. To wrap up the class students will place the equipment in the “yucky bucket” to get sanitized and then we will play a tag game. To avoid tagging each other, we play “everyone is it” and kick hula hoops along the floor to tag people. If a hoop hits your foot then you are tagged. While students are playing tag I can begin sanitizing the equipment for the next class.

Don’t cancel just modify

The pandemic has made us rethink how we teach and has potentially led to the cancellation of activities. One thing that I have challenged myself to do is not cancel PE or school activities, just rethink and modify how we go about them. For example, I know my students love tag but we were unable to play it the traditional way. By adding in the hula hoops my students almost prefer it to traditional tag. It allows them to jump, dodge, and add a different type of strategy. For our year-end play day, we did a “choose your challenge”. As a staff, we created a list of challenges for classes to perform on our play day and a folder where teachers dropped photos in. The following day we had a virtual assembly and shared a video that had all the pictures that were taken throughout the day. By doing this students/classes were given choice in what challenges they wanted to dive into and do it at their own pace. It did not look like our traditional play day but the feedback from students and staff was remarkable. 

Go easy on yourself

If you are anything like me, there have been several times where you have gotten frustrated because you think the program you are offering isn’t that great or you know how awesome your program/games were pre-pandemic. The thing that I remind myself of during these times is thinking about what is important. The first thing that is important to me is relationship building. Even though my programming may look different, am I still able to build those meaningful relationships with my students? Second, I look at the programming and think of the big picture. Are my students having a positive experience in PE and feeling safe? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, then we are in great shape! I prioritize these questions and the rest is just me being hard on myself. So take some time to reflect on your students and how they are reacting to your program rather than focusing on yourself and how you feel about the program. 

These 3 tips have helped me navigate teaching PE during the pandemic and I hope they have sparked some ideas for yourself or at the least made you feel like you are not alone in navigating how to teach PE during the pandemic.