J Miller's picture

 I got my first teaching job out of school in March of 2007. It was odd to find an elementary PE opening in the spring and even more odd at a new school in its opening year. Most of the elementary Physical Education jobs in my district open when the teacher retires. When I came in for my interview, I was asked about my classroom behavior management. I told the hiring committee that I would continue using what the current PE teacher had in place, think about what needed changing, and then tweak it to fit my style starting the next school year.  

Within the first two days, it was apparent that there was no system to take over! There were no behavior expectations at all and the students just wanted to play games. I might have been a recent grad, but this was far from my first experience with kids. At this point I had a degree in Coaching & Sports Management, a degree in Physical Education, and I had worked with kids at a summer camp for 7 years. After the 1st week on the job I abandoned my plan to use what was in place and spent the weekend creating a behavior management system that I still use today.  

Positive Behavior Systems

I had learned about positive behavior systems in school and thought that it simply meant, “tell them what they should be doing.” I started by listing all of the things I wanted my students to do so they could be successful in my new program. I measured their success through time on task.  

The first rule to be tackled was listening, without knowing what to do, how could the students be expected to do anything. I broke listening into 2 parts: listen quietly, which was self explanatory and listen carefully (think carefully might be a better descriptor looking back) which turned out to be the biggie.  The students hadn’t learned what active listening was so I began telling them to “look at me and think about what I am saying”.  I continue to use this catchline today. 

10 Ways to Be in PE 

I added: follow directions, be respectful, talk it out, keep it safe, encourage others, wear PE clothing, and wear PE shoes. That brought me to 9 signs. I wanted a fancy title for these rules, elementary kids love titles and every activity has to have a name in PE. 10 ways to be in PE jumped to mind, but I only had 9 signs. I created a title sign and under it an acronym for TEN. Try your best, Enjoy every minute, and Never give up.  

The last sign I made is the sign I talk about the most to this day.  It’s about attitude.  If a student is a great listener and a rule follower but gives up when things get hard then they will never reach a high level of success.

  1. Ten Ways to Be in PE: Try your best. Enjoy every minute. Never give up.
  2. Listen carefully 
  3. Listen quietly 
  4. Follow directions
  5. Be respectful 
  6. Talk it out
  7. Keep it safe
  8. Encourage others
  9. Wear PE clothing
  10. Wear PE shoes
  11. It’s about attitude.

The signs were then blown up to 24 x 36, mounted, and laminated.  Our school gym is the size of a high school gym so it was necessary for the kids to be able to see them from everywhere. These expectations have been glued to my gym wall for the last 6 years. This system has worked very well for me.  My first year kindergarten classes grew up with these principles and by the time they hit 5th grade, class runs smoothly. 

Do you have a behavior system that works well for your classroom? We’d love to hear about it!