Teaching health in a gymnasium can be quite the challenge. It’s a space where learning takes place through movement and play with loud music and chatty teens. And transitioning to a more traditional classroom experience can take some work.
I’ve been super lucky to have a designated health classroom the last few years. However, this year (while I’m on maternity leave) I’ve been teaching health at my husband’s school, and he doesn’t have a separate classroom. So I’ve quickly had to adapt. After a month and a half, I have a few tips to share…
Five tips for teaching health in the gym:
1) Consistent Routines
I’m all about routines. Some may say I’m a bit obsessive. But I find that my students thrive when they know what to expect. Here are a few of our routines:
- Example #1: Every Wednesday is a health class. Every single week. If it’s Wednesday, students know that Mrs. Kay is teaching, Mr. Kay is watching Koen and they’re learning about a healthy skill. It’s consistent and predictable.
- Example #2: Each class period starts with an overview of the day’s healthy skill and why it’s vital. Then students write a journal entry or have a short discussion connected to the healthy skill. We then proceed to the meat of the lesson.
2) Create a seating chart
Like a routine, I love a seating chart. They’re effective and efficient. And I use them in all of my PE and health classes. My students are more well behaved and ready to learn when they are evenly spaced out around the gym (and away from certain classmates). They tend to listen better, stay more focused, and transition more smoothly.
3) Use your inside voice
Whether I’m in the gym teaching PE or Health, I always try to use my inside voice. Students generally match your voice level. So the more I speak in a calm, controlled voice, the quieter students are and the better they listen.
4) Take Advantage of the space
Even though I miss my health classroom, I love the extra space for things like learning stations and group activites.
5) Lean into the fact that it’s gonna be a different experience
Even with the most consistent routines and engaging lessons, teaching in the gym vs. a classroom is going to be
For example, my students are constantly laying down. When they don’t have desks, and they’re sitting on the floor, it’s inevitable. Rather than fight it, I just made the class rule that if you’re doing independent and group work you can lay down. But when I’m giving instruction or another student is sharing, you need to sit up and actively listen.
>>> Bonus Thought: You just can’t beat consistent routines and expectations. My husband and I both run a tight ship for P.E. and so our students are very well behaved. This just primes them to easily transition from P.E. to Health and from activity to activity.