Creating a Learning Environment FAQs

In a kindergarten class, a student has recently become very defiant, disrespectful, and on the border of violent to the entire class. The student also does this in their classroom and in other classes like art, music, and library. It has only been the third day of this but it worries me because I feel as though I will have to get through this on my own. The classroom teacher wants me to ignore the student when they refuse to do what is expected but I have read it is not wise to just ignore. But if I do not ignore, the rest of the class is being ignored and cannot get through an activity because the interaction with the student is so disruptive. Although I feel a one on one aide would help, I do not think the district is able to do that. What are your suggestions on dealing with this type of student?

This is a tough situation since it appears as if the school district is not supporting your request for assistance.

I think it would be a good idea to speak with your administrator about the child and follow that up with a letter expressing your concerns. Keep a
copy of the letter in case there is ever someone challenging you about not doing enough.

It seems as if the classroom management system is not meeting your needs in the gym. I would ask your administrator if there is a way to have all
intetested parties sit down and develop a consistent behavior plan? This way you are all on the same page with the same boundaries, consequences
and rewards. Then everyone should sign off on the document.

In the meantime, try to be consistent. Perhaps you could call the office if the student is being defiant. I would request that an adult come and
remove the student because he is infringing on the rights of others. I have found that if I bother the office once with problems like this people
will stop and take note.

Our department is looking for a better way to handle students who are missing class because of injuries which don't allow them to participate in a specific activity (i.e. can't play volleyball because of broken arm). In the past, we have assigned a written assignment dealing with the particular activity/skill we are teaching. I had an idea to turn a room adjacent to our gym into a fitness center/adapted PE room, and come up with alternative activities for such students that would be physical fitness -oriented. We've managed to get some fitness equipment and I'm looking to add more. Some members in our department have been unwilling to consider this an option because of liability, even though the room is fully visible from the gym in which the actual class would be going on and we would provide instruction as to what should be done. (No free weights are in the room other than light dumbbells.) I like the idea of having such students around to see what's going on in class and then placing them on a program to do what they can physically in our adapted room. I would like any suggestions to make such a program work, if you view it as feasible.
The idea of providing alternative activities for students who are unable to participate in a certain unit is great. While offering a written alternative can help students accomplish some of the unit's goals, it does not, obviously, have the same benefits as being physical active. Students would, of course, need to have medical clearance to be able to participate in the alternative fitness activities. Hopefully, physicians would cooperate with you and understand the value of engaging students in physcial activities that are appropriate for their abilities. It would be critical that the activities are properly designed to ensure that no further risk of injury occurs.

It is difficult to answer this question directly without seeing the room and how it is situated in relationship to the gym. The issue of supervision is critical. Traditionally, activities of this nature, particularly in the case of individuals with some medical limitation, require direct supervision. Is there room in your gym so that students can work at these activites at another station?

Is it possible that the classroom be modified so that it is incorporated as part of the gym? There are teachers who have removed walls, modified equipment closets, and engaged in rather creative construction work in order to create additional gym space or enlarge their teaching area. Is that a possibility?

Another possibility is to find another qualified person who can provide supervision of that area as part of your program.

Both the medical risks and supervisory risks of students engaging in alternative activites need to be considered. The idea of providing alternative activites to engage the students in meaningful activities is a good one. Perhaps there is some way that you and your staff can can make this idea a reality.

How can I get the administration to quit interrupting our gym (physical education classes) for other things? EX:pictures, changing the lights, fixing the bleachers, blood mobile, etc. Some years it is up to 25 days and it is usually during the winter months!
Administrators spend a great deal of their time reacting to situations which provides little opportunity for taking the time needed to be careful and proactive. Often, decisions are made quickly with consideration being given to a variety of administrative details that you may or may not be aware of. Examples may include the lack of other large spaces for class photographs, the availability of a contractor for repairing the bleachers, or the importance of community relations in hosting a blood drive. Taken separately, the administrator may not even be aware of the negative impact that his/her decisions are having on your program. You can, however, bring this to his/her attention in a very non threatening way. You obviously have good records that outline the extent of this problem. Ask to meet with your administrator at a time that is not related to one of these interruptions. Explain the mission and vision of your program and your own expectations for student learning (you'd be surprised to know how many administrators lack clear expectations for student learning in physical education classes). Share your frustration and offer suggestions for times when the gymnasium could be available for other things. Provide suggestions for communication for times when interruptions cannot be avoided. This is especially helpful when this discussion takes place prior to the planning of these other events. Keep the line of communication open and provide your administrator with feedback - let him or her know how he/she is doing!
I am an after school counselor at an elementary school. I have one kid in my group (second grade) that never listens. You tell him to stop doing something, and then you turn around and he starts doing it again. What can I do to fix this?
There may be many reasons why a student has trouble listening. You may, therefore, need to try more than one approach in your attempts to address this issue. You may find valuable information by talking with other adults who work with this student during the day. Ask them for strategies they use or develop a plan that you can all use. By working together you will provide a consistent expectations for this student which will lead to more positive behavior.

Listening is a skill and can be taught, like any other skill. It is also an expectation for appropriate behavior in group settings. Meet with this student one-on-one and clearly explain your expectations for listening. Be specific and provide examples about when it is appropriate to listen and when it is appropriate to talk. Provide opportunities for him to practice his listening skills and consistently provide him with specific feedback about how he is doing. Find places in your meetings where you can ask him to repeat what was said by you or another student. Use this same technique with other students as they can be used to model good listening skills. If listening skills can be something the entire group values, students can be called upon to help one another to improve. We can all use better listening skills.

I've taught in the middle and high school and have had this problem for years. The majority of the girls do not like taking PE and will try not to participate unless threatened. We do not make them take showers, so this isn't a reason. If they do participate they never "go all out" and really get into the game. Some just stand and want to talk. We change our activities to accommodate different interest.Most girls don't even want to change clothes for PE. The majority of the boys like PE, but very few really seem like they enjoy getting to exercise. We offer a variety of activities from Archery to Volleyball, Fitness to Weights. Any ideas?
If you held a physical education class and it wasn't required... would students come? Would the girls come?If the answer to this question is no -- (or if you do not know) ... then perhaps it's time to reexamine your program. We are in very different times and need to carefully market our programs to students. This means that we need to think about the specifics of our target group (in this case middle school girls) and make sure that we design a program that is meaningful to them. This, of course, is not a quick fix response. For many, it will represent a huge change that will affect not only the activities offered, but also other aspects of your program such as scheduling, grouping of students, teaching methods, purpose of the program, etc. It's not about doing what the kids want -- it is about getting kids to want to do what you have to offer. This requires very careful programming.
What are some effective ways to get the momentum of a class going when you (as the classroom teacher) have to set up equipment? (i.e., activities that require minimal supervision, and little or no organization)
You may want to check out some of the instant activities on PE Central. Students can also be taught a warm-up routine that they can engage in while your are setting up the equipment. With proper instruction, children can be taught to enter the gym, read the warm-up activities posted on a board, and work on these activities until you are ready to begin. Children also enjoy music during these warm-up activities. Also don't forget -- if possible, some of the children can help set up equipment.
I am student teaching a weight training class. How do I deal with students that do not dress out and don't seem to want to participate?
There are several approaches to help students who are not dressing out and participating to be more involved in the classes. One place to start is to structure your unit to provide opportunities for students toestablish their own personal goals. Students can then work with partners to achieve these goals. Some students become more involved in classes when an invitational approach is used. You may also want to look at the quarterly article on the learning environment section -- it focuses on the work of Don Hellison and his personal and social responsibility model. See our Bookstore to get books by Dr. Hellison as well.
I teach K-2 PE and have one aide. My class load is about 65 kids in which I spend one hour. My gym is about 40' X 50'. It is very difficult for me to get the class quiet enough to listen at times of instruction. When I finally get them to listen and we start the lesson or activity, some of the kids are pushing, shoving and horse playing. If it is a pretty day and we go outside for class, the kids become oblivious of class and some run off to the playground. "Time-out" doesn't work for all the students, so if is more than one student in "time-out" they are usually getting up from their assigned area and messing with other kids. I want to teach these students something, but how can I do that when the kids won't listen?
Sixty-five excited and ready-to-move children do present a challenge. It may be time to review your class rules and incorporate them into some activities for the children. Activities that reinforce rules and behavioral expectations, such as stopping, listening, and moving in one's own space can help children learn these expectations.

You may also want to carefully look at your rules and your routines and see if you need to make any changes in them. What are your rules? What are the class routines for entering the gym? moving outside? Can you develop a routine for entering the gym that allows students to start immediately on warm-up activities?

What role does your aide play in your class? Is he or she willing to take a larger role? Can you incorporate stations into your class or use other teaching styles that involve more children in activity?

Many teachers have found time out an effective way to help children learn self-control and the importance of following class rules. What are the consequences if a child leaves the timeout?

It appears that your children love to be physically active --- and perhaps reteaching some of your rules and routines would help you and the children have a better experience.

Sixty-five children are a large class size for physical education. Is there a way to reduce the class size? Would it be more beneficial to have fewer children in physical education for a shorter period of time, perhaps a half hour?

Although you may feel that things are not going right, don't forget to focus on the positive. Recognize students who are behaving according to the class rules, try hard, and are following directions. Praise the class when they listen, let them know they did a great job, and thank them for lining up quickly, etc.

You may want to consider developing a reward system (see PECentral for some ideas about this). Rewards could be choice of two favorite activities or free time.

How to create a positive learning environment, focusing on the layout and appearance of the primary school classroom?
Use a multi disciplinary approach to create a positive learning environment in the primary classroom. Make an attractive poster of the class rules. Place posters on the walls of adults and children participating in a diversity of physical activities.

Involve students in creating the environment. Have students write or dictate to an adult stories about sports and games that they enjoy. Once these are written, children can illustrate their work. Post these on the walls as well.

Bulletin boards can be used effectively to reinforce learning. Changing themes, such as sportsmanship, respect, cooperation, different muscles and bones, and different activities.

I student teach at an Elementary school that has very large classes. The classroom I help teach has 56 students. The problem I have is that some students in the class have trouble getting along. When I have them divided in groups, I try to keep these students apart. However, more problems arise because other students are not getting along with their group. What can I do to have them get along with one another?
Learning to participate and get along with others is often cited as an important objective of physical education. From your description, it seems that there are many students who are not getting along. There are several approaches that you may want to consider and several questions that can help you identify the source of the problem. First, review your class rules. What do the class rules say about cooperation and respect? You may need to review the rules with the class, highlighting examples and "nonexamples" of cooperation. You can have students engage in a short discussion about feelings, cooperation, and respect. Second, you may want to try to incorporate some activities that promote cooperation into your lesson. There are many examples of these games in physical education textbooks and also listed on the PECentral web site. Third, what approaches are you using to group students? Students can be grouped quickly by using games or other strategies that have them in groups ready to go for activities. Fourth, what are the consequences for not following the rules and not working together as a group? And, are the consequences consistently enforced?

You may also find some helpful ideas and suggestions from the work of Don Hellison and his personal and social responsibility model. There is a short description of his approach in the featured article on this site.

How do you deal with and respond to an elementary child who does not want to participate, and always responds "I don't care"? It is frustrating that these children are unmotivated to do whatever the class is learning and performing. What do I do?
It is frustrating when children choose not to participate and respond by saying "I don't care." The first step is to determine the reason for "sitting out."

Here are some questions that you might ask yourself to help understand the child's behavior and to arrive at a solution:

  • Does this child typically sit out? or does the child sit out only when the class is working on certain units?
  • Is the child high - or low -skilled? Does the child need extra help with some of the skills?
  • Does the child get along with his or her peers?
  • Is "not caring" really a way for the child to hide feelings of inadequacy? Are there certain practices in your physical education class that contribute to this feeling, such as the way in which teams are picked or situations in which the child frequently finishes last or is put out?
  • What do your class rules say about participation? What are the consequences of not participating? What are the rewards of participating?
  • Is the child gaining more attention from you by sitting out than he or she gains from participating?
  • How does the child behave in the classroom setting?
  • Does the child have any special needs or learning disabilities that contribute to "sitting out"?
Some questions that might be helpful to ask the child are:
  • What activities do you like to do outside of school? at lunch? or recess?
  • If you could change one thing about physical education, what would you change? How would physical education class be different if you were in charge?
There are several solutions to this problem, depending in a great part on the answers to these questions.
  • Meet with the student and his/her parents/guardians if this is a chronic problem. Elicit support from the family.
  • Develop a behavior contract with the student that rewards participation. This could involve giving a certain number of points each time the child participates. Once a certain number of points is reached, the child can have "free choice" or be allowed another privilege.
  • Carefully rethink/redo the consequences associated with sitting out or emphasize the rewards associated with participation.
  • Thoughtfully consider what the student would change about physical education. Reflect carefully on your practices. Does the manner in which your classes are conducted enrich the child's sense of self-esteem?
  • If the problem is associated with poor skill development, the child may need some individual help to learn fundamental skills and concepts or to develop them to the level of his or her peers.
  • It may be helpful to incorporate some of Don Hellison's ideas regarding the development of personal and social responsibility into your teaching. (See the January/February article on the PECentral Learning Environment site).
Once the child begins to participate, be sure to reinforce positive behavior. Recognize the child's steps in the right direction.
What are some techniques or lessons that teach students to be self-disciplined? This is a question that stumped me at a recent interview.
Teaching self-discipline is an on-going process. The process starts with high expectations for student behavior, the belief that students can learn, and the willingness to hold students accountable for their learning and behavior. Start off the school year sharing your goals and objectives with students. Be sure to establish clear rules and expectations that help establish a positive climate for learning. Involving students in rule setting helps students feel ownership. Hold students accountable for their learning. A variety of informal assessment strategies can help you track student progress and give students a clear idea about what they should be doing and the progress they are making. Gradually introduce teaching strategies that require students to assume greater independence and responsibility for their learning. Move from the direct or command style of teaching to the task style of teaching, reciprocal teaching, and other teaching approaches that enable students to take a greater role in the learning process.

You may also find it helpful to read the PE Central article on Promoting Responsibility.

What is a good way to deal with the changing situation in the locker rooms? The majority of my discipline problems occur in the locker room because I cannot see what is going on.
Supervising the locker room and preventing discipline problems from occurring is a challenge because teachers can not see what is going on. Because in many situations the locker rooms are not directly supervised, it is of paramount importance that students have a clear understanding of the expectations for behavior, procedures to be followed in changing, the consequences for not following the rules, and understand the safety issues involved. Be sure to spend some class time discussing these items. Use vivid examples to illustrate your points, especially the safety consequences if the rules and procedures are not followed.

Addressing this question is difficult without knowing the types of behavior problems that are occurring. Are problems associated with horseplay in the showers? or pushing and shoving during changing? or name calling, put downs, or fights? What are the consequences associated with these behaviors?

In some school situations, aides are hired to directly supervise the locker rooms. In other situations, teachers limit the number of students that can be in the locker rooms at a given time. You may want to consider have a "leaders club for physical education" that would not only assist during class, but can provide some degree of supervision in the locker room. In other settings, teachers directly supervise the locker rooms, either through a window in their office that provides a view of the locker room or by actually staying in the locker room during use.

I have recently graduated with a degree in Physical Education. I am currently planning on substituting at a local high school. I am concerned about the respect students have for substitutes, and for student teachers. What can I do to prepare myself so that I can handle a classroom that does not belong to me? I would also like to know if there is any way I can receive situations that first year teachers have come across, and how they have dealt with them?
If you are planning to substitute at the local high school on a regular basis, it may be helpful to visit the school, observe a class or two, and meet the teachers. This would help you find out what the class rules are, become familiar with the procedures, and determine whether there are lesson plans and activities left available for the substitute teacher.

As a substitute, be prepared. What rules will you have (if you are not familiar with the school's rules)? What will be the consequences for not following the rules? It is also important for you to look students in the eye as you talk to them and get to know there names as soon as possible. This is crucial so visiting the local HS will be really important for that reason.

Have a substitute teacher folder. In this folder, have some instant activities, a few lesson plans for various games/sports/fitness, and activities for students who are not participating. Try to think of some fun, high involvement, and perhaps novel activities that would capture the students' interest and, at the same time, promote the goals of physical education. Not all teachers leave plans for substitutes, so be prepared. Check the lesson plans on PE Central for some ideas.

Introduce yourself to the other teachers at the school. Ask for their assistance in identifying rules, procedures, etc. In some schools, when a teacher is absent, the classes are combined with another teacher's class and the substitute and regular teacher actually team team.

Be confident. Enjoy the opportunity to meet new teachers and students. Many substitute teachers have very positive experiences. There have been many long term substitutes who have ultimately been hired by the school system.

You may also benefit from reading a book entitled "The First Days of School" by Harry Wong. Although not specific to PE it is great for any new teacher and can be valuable to any teacher regardless of content expertise.

How effective are required PE uniforms? We have had a hard time selling our students and parents on this idea.
The effectiveness of required uniforms is a hard question to answer. I do not know of any research on this topic. However, here are some thoughts and questions.

An increasing number of schools across the United States are requiring uniforms for their students. This is being done in hopes of reducing discipline problems, decreasing the incidence of violence, alleviating comparisons/competition between students regarding dress, setting a tone of purpose, and promoting pride. School districts who have adopted uniforms generally report that parents are satisfied with the decision.

In the area of physical education, uniforms are typically required for reasons of safety, hygiene, discipline reduction, and pride. What are your reasons for requiring uniforms? How will you deal with issues of compliance? cost concerns?

If uniforms are required, consider involving students and parents in the selection of the uniforms. Also consider allowing multiple options with regards to uniforms. In one school, a child was penalized for not wearing the required shorts -- he wore sweat pants instead. He had severe scars from a burn and was uncomfortable wearing shorts. There was little flexibility in the requirement.

Consider offering a choice of shorts or pants and t-shirts in several different colors and styles. Students can wear clothes that are comfortable to them, offer some degree of individuality, and yet meet your concerns regarding uniforms.

The custodian had stripped the floor before lining up the repairman to replace some hardwood flooring. No one as yet is willing to do a small area. They want to do the whole gym. Well, school starts Wed. with the children and the gym floor is unprotected. I have two questions. 1. How much damage will be done if we allow the children to play on the bare wooden surface? 2. I have alternative plans for good weather days, but I anticipate a long wait period for repairs and floor protection. Our physical plant is quite small and every space is used (the dining hall is the music room). Any ideas?
Well, I am not an expert on floors, but generally most people recommend that students do not play on unfinished floors.

It sounds like you are really pressed for space in your school. You may want to see if the classroom teacher would let you use the students' classroom for some activities. Otherwise, it looks like you will be out in the hallways.

You may want to try some activities with the students that will be somewhat quiet and safe for a limited space. You could introduce some novel activities to the upper grades, such as Thai Chi or yoga. Dance is also an activity that works well in a limited space. Students in the younger grades could participate in activities that build on your work on movement concepts, perhaps a series of balance challenges or acting out a story. Students could also break into small groups and make up routines; you could videotape these routines and have the students watch their performances. Rainy days may also provide an opportunity to cover concepts pertaining to fitness, such as the effects of different types and intensities of movement on heart rate (stairs versus walking versus relaxing). Or, you could create a diagram of a heart in a hallway and have students move through the heart and discuss different concepts related to cardiovascular endurance. Create an outline of a person's body and cut different bones and muscles out of paper. Have students place the bones and muscles on the correct place on the body and identify them. There are also several methods books that have classroom activities for physical education.

If you have access to the Internet(students can go to the library or computer lab for the period), you may want to use it as a basis of some assignments. Students could make a list of their favorite fast food and research the fat content. OR, students could research the history of their favorite sport. Or, find a coaching drill that their team can use next time when class meets outside.

Does someone have different ways of saying "good job." I know that there is a list of comments that a teacher can give a student about feedback, rather than saying good job.
I have a list of 101 ways to praise kids which I got at a national convention - it was distributed by the Association for Leisure and Recreation. Here are some of their ideas:
  • That's incredible.
  • Outstanding Performance.
  • How extraordinary!
  • Far out!
  • Marvelous
  • Terrific
  • You tried hard.
  • Remarkable!
  • Thanks for caring!
  • You are a great kid
  • You're super!
  • Fantastic!
  • You are on target!
You may also want to ask the students what are the ways that they can say "good job". That way, you will have a current perspective about what the "right" thing to say is... and it will start the kids thinking about praising each other (as well as giving themselves a pat on the back).
Do you have any suggestions to grade "effort" in your high school PE class?
There are many different points of view about grading effort and how effort is to be graded. One member of the advisory board writes, "I think it is a good idea to give some credit for effort. You should have a system to measure lack of effort and good effort. You can measure knowledge and sportsmanship also. Skill performance and just being dressed should not be the only variable measured. Effort in my classes is measured by the use of the heart rate monitor. It may be up to the student to decide what intensity level they would like to participate in and why, but the final grade is from the results of how hard they worked in my class."

Another advisory board member writes that grading "effort" is closely tied to the goal of the physical education program at this level. For example, if the physical education program is moving towards a personal improvement scheme, especially since at this age the students can keep track of their own work independently (through self-assessment/portfolios/team charts etc.), effort can be viewed as the progress throughout the semester, over the various units of work. But if, for example, the physical education program is one focusing on the "game" with an emphasis on the score without drawing out the role of the students, the educational experiences (not only in term of games tactics but also social, self-assessments and self-improvement lists and team checklists, etc.) the grading on effort here will be more difficult to be "evaluated".

To grade "effort" there needs to be some sort of formative profile. Take the student who works hard at his PE practice and even practices during out-of-school hours -- but in the game it is the number of baskets that count to determine the effort this student if putting into doing this, and this particular student in a game situation is not able to do this throw in successfully. But over time, through self-assessment, he can be made aware of the progress he has achieved since the start of the semester. On the other hand, you have a the "lazy" kid -- the kid who is naturally talented but fools around during the lesson. He does not progress much in terms of attitude, social skills, etc. during the semester. In both cases the effort is I guess it depends very much on the program goals and teaching goals of the physical educator.

What do you do in your high school PE classes for make-up work for kids who miss days of class?
If the purpose of the make-up work is to give the student a chance to achieve the standard that you set, you should give an alternative assignment that allows the student to work on the skill, knowledge, or level of fitness outside of class time. This assignment would vary depending on the unit of instruction. I would have the same philosophy for any type of class for students missing work due to missed days. You could have handouts for studying rules or sportsmanship and give practice drills for students to work on at home. I am not against fitting in the missed work during class but it is difficult to complete other work while also completing the work for the day. I would prefer that the student work on the same work as the other students during that particular day.

Another member of the advisory board sends home a heart rate monitor and has the student return it with data. Depending on the unit we are on, they can or can not pick the intensity. Students can also make up work by accessing a specific website with several links for reading in the content area they can choose from.

Students can also be provided with choices in how they can make up the missed work.The choices available to the student depend on the content being taught and the material that is missed. Some choices are a) Invite peers to teach the kid who missed out what were the skills worked - e.g., if peers/team volunteer to teach the youth who was absent, during recess or after school time. You can then provide a "Youth Leader" certificate to the ones who went out of their way to "teach" the absentee. b) Develop a contract with the absentee that encourages Self-practice - perhaps also giving a handout with the lesson teaching points so that the youth will know exactly what it is that he/she should be working towards in the "extra" practice schedule. c) Since some high school students would be interested in a personal fitness/improvement regime,they can choose task/activity related directly to the lesson content, that is done as part of the extracurricular sports program or personal program done on an individual level at home (for those that are not on the "team" and would prefer a choice of doing their own "thing" at home).

Question: What would be a good protocol for creating a friendly class climate, encouraging no teasing?

Answer from Dave:
You have hit on the most important aspect regarding the learning environment. If children feel as though they will be ridiculed or teased they are not as willing to take chances and therefore do not benefit from your program. This is not just in Physical Education but in all aspects of life.

I use the work of Don Hellison (Teaching Responsibility Through Physical Education) to create four levels of responsibility for children grades 2-6
to work for during class. Level 1 is irresponsibility (this is damaging equipment, touching others, blaming others or making excuses), Level 2 is
respect (working without interfering with others), Level 3 is self-direction (being able to work with direct supervision) and level 4 is caring (where
you help others or share knowledge). At the end of the class I ask students to assess their personal level of responsibility. I don't assign grades
based on their self-assessment. These are the basis for creating a safe environment. However, then there has to be follow through on your part. If
you catch someone being unfriendly or unkind you need to stop the class and remind the students that this is not respectful (not level #2).

Another aspect in creating a positive atmosphere is to choose different children to answer questions or demonstrate, not always the "best ones".
This will encourage everyone to contribute.

I also talk about my students being on Mrs. So and So's team together. Teammates encourage each other so that the whole team can be successful.

Finally, it is important to provide a program where there is a lot of variety. If your program is based on team sports. Who will thrive? The most skilled will feel validated. A program with a lot of variety allows all children to find something they like.

I congratulate you on your initiative and desire to become a thoughtful teacher. If you need clarification or have more questions...please feel free to contact me again.

Answer from Ulrike:
I believe that classroom management is the first thing you need to address at the beginning of the school year. For me it is important to establish an atmosphere of trust and respect for one another. Therefore, I start out with cooperative activities such as "Team Juggle". Most students don't even know each other's names and this is a great game to get to know names.

The next step is to start talking to your classmates in a polite, respectful manner. I engage the students in an activity called: "Meet the Peeps!" I will demonstrate how to appropriately introduce oneself ("Hi, my name is Rike; my partner will respond with his/her name. We then shake hands and say "Nice to meet you") Then I have students move around general space and meet as many people as possible. (Sometimes I will ask them to meet x amount of boys and x amount of girls). Students really enjoy this formality and respond very well to it. I will move around with them to make it enjoyable. At the same time we will review our locomotor skills as we move around safely.

Another way to perform a similar activity is to "Share compliments". I will tell students that sometimes people show up to class feeling bad about something that happened at home and, that all it takes to make a person feel better, is a compliment. I will then give some examples and have students move around giving compliments. Again, we acknowledge the positive in one another, and, students enjoy hearing and giving compliments. These are just a couple of practical ideas you can implement any time during the school year. I use the compliments activity several times throughout the year.

Question: I have a group of students who do not seem to want to participate in any activity. Everyday I hear "I don't like this" or "Why do we have to learn this?" I explain the why prior to each unit and lesson along with an explanation of why the particular activity is good for their
health and well being, but it seems that no matter what I say, they don't like the answer. Any ideas?

Answer from Ulrike:
Well, I think I would put the "ball" right back into their court! Ask them what kind of activities they would like to engage in to reap the benefits that your choice of activities will provide. If the activities are comprised of "appropriate practices", I would give it a chance. If they don't meet the criteria of appropriate practices, tell your students that certain parameters need to be met to qualify for their choices. Empowering the students to make choices, will hopefully lead to greater participation and enthusiasm. Also, you can provide some resources for them to come up with ideas that will meet your expectations.

Question: I recently was hired as part time physical education teacher in inner city Baltimore. The school district has been so poor that John Hopkins University has stepped in and that is who my actual employer is. With this being said, the students are extremely unruly, and disrespectful. I am having a hard time with these students because they do not care about any discipline that I apply. If you have a chance do you have any advice for me?

Answer from Dave:
This is a hard one. You have found yourself in a very difficult but potentially very rewarding situation. There is no quick fix because you are dealing with a culture of low expectations. You must think outside the box as the traditional approach does not appear to be working. I would
recommend that you watch a couple of movies that I have found inspirational. Mr. Holland's Opus and Freedom Writers are great movies about teachers (not PE) who enter very difficult inner city situations and their children thrive because the teachers do not give up on them. My immediate suggestion would be to set clear expectations and boundaries. I wouldn't set the bar too high at first as this will just cause friction between you and the students. That being said focus on the carrot not the stick. You can either penalize students for not following directions or reward students who do. It sounds as these students will not respond to the traditional methods of time out or reducing a grade for non-participation. Therefore, do you have a way to reward the students who are meeting your low but clear expectations? My first impulse would be to invite those who participate productively to join you in the gym for an additional class doing something that interests and motivates them. Or since you are part-time...could you come in during your off-time and reward those students? Juggling the school schedule might be difficult but I believe you could make the case with your administration that you want to reward the students who were being positive. Wouldn't that be a jolt to the student body if the you had the principal read the names of 10 -15 kids who should come to the gym for an extra class?

If tinkering with the schedule is too difficult...could you open the gym on a Saturday for some pickup games of basketball? Or would John's Hopkins help you provide transportation for a small group of your students to use one of their gym's on a Saturday?

I admire your desire to improve in a very difficult situation. Jason, if for some reason these suggestion will not work, please write back as the last thing you want to do is give up on these children. They are as difficult as they are because the adults around them have already given up.