October 4, 2017

How I Start My School Year: Lesson Two

This is the second of three posts in my “How I Start My School Year” blog post mini-series. Be sure to check out Lesson One to see how this lesson builds on the previous one!

(Update: Lesson Three is now up on the blog as well!)

Lesson Two: Building A Healthy Community Of Learners In PE

Big Idea: We all play a role in each other’s learning.


  1. Review prior lesson’s learnings
  2. Unpack responsibility, respect, and gratitude
  3. Introduce conflict resolution systems

This lesson is all about how we can get the most out of PE by working together as a class.

In order to review what we learned in the previous lesson (i.e. safety rules, warnings, bathroom procedures, behaviour expectations, Adventure Pyramid), I’ll have the students find a personal space inside the boundaries of the gym. Once the students have done so, I’ll play music and have them practice freezing when the music stops/when I countdown (a.k.a. Freeze Dance).

Freeze Dance Physical Education

In between each round, I’ll ask the students to review learnings from the previous lesson. I’ll ask them to name safety rules, or what the bathroom/water break procedures are, or what are the components of the Adventure Pyramid. After a few rounds of this, we’ll get into Giants, Elves, and Wizards.

I’ll layer the game using the builds you see in the video above. After layer two, I’ll ask the students “what happens if everyone just decides to do their own thing when it is time to ‘show’ in this game?” The goal of the discussion is to get to a place where we understand that – unless we play by the rules, play our part, and work together – the activity falls to pieces, the lesson falls apart, and learning cannot take place. This is when I would introduce the first Character Shield which is Responsibility.

Responsibility Character Shield Physical Education
You can download these graphics on the Visuals page.

As a class, we’ll discuss what it means to be responsible (“everyone doing their part”). Students will share their ideas which I record using the Paper app and display on our TV.

Responsibility Reflection Physical Education

After the reflection, we then move onto build three of Giants, Elves, and Wizards (in which we introduce the tagging component).

After a few rounds of build three, the students will be brought back in to discuss how they came to decisions as a team on what to show (i.e. Giant, Elf, or Wizard) and how they managed to do so in ways that were respectful to all group members. I’ll let them know that it is normal for conflicts to occur when having to make group decisions under pressure, but that we should never forget where we are playing, why we are playing and who we are playing with. This is when I introduce the second Character Shield: Respect

As we discuss what it means to be respectful in class, I’ll once again take notes on student responses using the Paper app.

Respect Reflection Physical Education

Following that reflection, I’ll share the toothpaste analogy with my students to help them understand the power of respectful words:

“Imagine you have a tube of toothpaste. Take the cap off and squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube. Wasn’t very hard, was it? Now I want you to take all of that toothpaste and put it back into the tube. Is it impossible? No. Is it difficult? Yes. Does it require a lot of effort? Yes. Your words are like that toothpaste. Sometimes, mean words just slip out really easily. Sometimes, you can fix the situation, but it requires time and effort. That’s why it’s important to always strive to be respectful, so that we can take care of one another and avoid messy situations that can be tough to fix!”

Finally, before sending students into our next game, I’ll share one of my favourite quotes: “the game is never as important as the people you play with.”

You can purchase this poster, and support ThePhysicalEducator.com, in the Shop!

I first heard of the “People Are Important” quote while at the Elementary Physical Education Workshop at CalPoly (San Luis Obispo, CA). Since then, it has become a staple in my teaching and at my school. We have the above poster in our gym and in our school yard to help students remember that friendships and relationships are far more important than scores and championships.

As a class, we’ll take a minute to continue to discuss the quote, respect, and respectful behaviours and then we will move onto Rock/Paper/Scissors Tug-O-War:

Once we’ve made it to build two and played a few rounds, I’ll have the students come in so that we can talk about conflicts. Through our discussion, we’ll explore why it is important to be able to resolve conflicts on our own and come up with a few systems for dealing with conflicts of different sizes in class.

  • Small Conflict (e.g. someone slightly annoyed you): Ask yourself “can I live with this?” If so, you’re ready to move on.
  • Medium Conflict (e.g. you can’t agree who tagged who first): Solve it with a quick Rock/Paper/Scissors (hence all of the RPS games in this lesson)
  • Larger Conflict (e.g. you’ve tried everything else and it’s still bothering you): Go to the Conflict Corner
Conflict Corner Physical Education
You can download my version of Ben’s Conflict Corner poster on the Visuals page.

The Conflict Corner is an idea I got from Ben Landers from his website The PE Specialist. It is a poster that shares a process through which two people can work through a conflict together. I loved Ben’s idea and redesigned his poster to use it in my own classes. We have a Conflict Corner in our gymnasium, but also in our school yard as well as a few classrooms in the school (so that students can use the system both inside and outside of PE).

Following that discussion, we’ll play a few rounds of build three of the game (side note: I’ll usually have a few games going at once at this point) before moving onto our next activity.

Rock Paper Scissors Pep Rally is one of those classic games we’ve all played in our gyms. Students get into pairs, shake hands, and then play a best two-of-three round of Rock/Paper/Scissors. Once a player emerges as the winner, that player puts their hand up and the other player gets behind them to form a train. The train then moves around to find another train to compete against. All members of the train cheer for the player at the head of their train. The game goes on until only two trains remain and play in a grand finale!

I use Rock Paper Scissors Pep Rally to help my students better understand the power of gratitude in class.

Gratitude Character Shield Physical Education

Following the game, the class will sit down and we will explore a few questions together:

  1. How does it make you feel when you know that other people are cheering you on/supporting you in your goals?
  2. How does it feel to cheer on other/support them in their goals?
  3. What would happen if we all always supported one another in class?
  4. How can we let others know that we appreciate them and enjoy being their classmates?

The whole idea of this lesson is to help the students realize and understand that when we all work together, when we’re kind to one another, and when we are thankful for each other, we can get the most out of our community (no matter how big or small that community may be). When everyone works together, we can make this world work. RPS Pep Rally, along with the discussion that follows it, helps students realize that doing good and being grateful for others helps make the class/school/world a better place.

Gratitude Reflection Physical Education

And that is how we lead into the final activity for the lesson:

The Energy Ball

I was introduced to the Energy Ball over the summer by my friend/teacher extraordinaire Kate Cox. It is a small, ping-pong sized ball with two metal strips (electrodes) on its surface. The ball has a light inside of it that will light up only if the electrical circuit is closed (you can find it on Amazon here).

To close the circuit, I have the class stand in a circle and hold hands. I have the energy ball in my hand with a finger on one electrode. The student standing next to me then places their finger on the other electrode. When they do so, the ball lights up and makes a sound. I’ll then have specific students let go of each others’ hands. When they do, the ball loses its light and sound. When they hold hands again, the ball lights back up. We’ll go around the circle like this having fun with the energy ball.

So what’s the point of this? I tell my students that our physical education lessons, our class, our community is just like the energy ball: unless we do things together, they just work. The only way to create a little bit of magic is by each doing our part, respecting on another, and supporting each other in everything we do. Once we can all commit to doing that together, we can achieve anything.

So that was the second lesson of my school year! Although I tailored it for each grade, all of my students got to experience everything you just read. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Lesson One and Lesson Three of this blog post mini-series!

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com.
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