Tips for PE Substitute Teachers

Swing EducationClassroom Management, Teaching Strategies22 Comments

PE substitute teacher

So, you’re stepping into the world of PE class, tasked with wrangling and holding the attention of students who have been behind a desk since arriving at school.

Don’t fret. There are some very simple guidelines that will help you succeed as a PE substitute teacher by crafting a safe and fun environment for students of all ages.

According to SHAPE America, there are three grade-level groupings for Physical Education: K-5, 6-8, 9-12. Each grouping brings its own unique characteristics, challenges, and goals. We’re going to discuss safety, activities, and dos and don’ts, broken down into Warm Up (“Prep”), Game Time (“Class”), and Cool Down (“Follow Up”).

Do not worry if athletics is not your thing. Today’s modern gym class is more about helping students stay active and interactive. There may be a quiz now and then about the specifics of a sport, but no deeper knowledge or experience is needed. So, stay comfortable — wear sneakers/clothing appropriate for movement (and bring sunscreen if you’ll be outside) — and be confident in your ability to lead a gym class for any age group.

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The First Rules of Subbing in PE

First and foremost, and this goes for all age groups, know your school’s safety protocol — i.e. nurse’s station, concussion protocol, CPR/AED, etc. If this information is not given to you by the absent teacher, then make certain to ask a school official prior to your first class. Remember, the students’ safety is your primary concern.

Additionally, if it’s not specified, seek information on how students (especially the young ones) are supposed to “play.” For example, some schools have strict guidelines around running.

For all P.E. classes, makes sure to provide clear and concise directions for the activity. It’s even better if you can model how the activity should work as well as any time constraints. For example, you might say, “We are only playing this game for 15 minutes, so freeze and look at me when the timer goes off.”

Second, and this is a modern issue, know your school’s phone policy. Some schools allow students to access their phones freely throughout the day, while other schools have stricter rules regarding usage. It’s best if you know so that you can nip any potential issues in the bud.

Subbing in Elementary School PE Classes

Warm Up

  • Young children crave structure, but they also thrive when they feel included, so consider giving the class a choice of games to play.

Game Time

  • Two tried-and-true favorites are crab soccer and good ol’ fashioned kickball. They’re easy to set up, and they keep the kids engaged and moving.
  • Getting children of this age on the same page can take a while, so you’ll probably only have time for one game.

Cool Down

  • Have stickers handy for each of the kids. Tell them they earned it for doing so well.
  • Leave a note for the teacher with updates on student behavior, participation, and any other important/relevant feedback.

Subbing in Middle School PE Classes

Warm Up

  • Surprisingly, this age group will probably be your rowdiest bunch, so be ready. Have your class plan at-hand and get everyone settled and playing quickly.

Game Time

  • Sharks & Minnows and capture the flag are two extremely enjoyable games for this age group, and you’ll probably be able to get through both in a single class.

Cool Down

  • In a show of good sportsmanship, have all students line up and high-five each other.
  • Leave a note for the teacher with updates on student behavior, participation, and any other important/relevant feedback.

Subbing in High School PE Classes

Warm Up

  • This time should be spent explaining expectations for the day.

Game Time

  • It’s difficult to go wrong with indoor boccer (yes, boccer!) and kickball (still a favorite).

Cool Down

  • Leave a note for the teacher with updates on student behavior, participation, and any other important/relevant feedback.
  • Also, let the teacher know if anyone stepped up as a leader to help you with the class. The teacher can choose to thank that student for their maturity.

These simple guidelines should help you succeed as a PE substitute teacher for any age group, regardless of your experience level. And remember, above all else, your job is to keep everyone safe and give them the opportunity to have fun.

Happy subbing!

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22 Comments on “Tips for PE Substitute Teachers”

  1. Although I am a fairly active person, I absolutely cringe when asked to sub. Unless the teachers here usually have the lessons laid out, but if they don’t, I am definitely going to use crab soccer!

  2. Good to know you need to be aware of protocol for certain instances, including how the kids should “play”.

  3. I appreciated the information given.
    I thought it was great that game titles were offered.
    I did however notice that although stickers and high fives were mentioned at the elementary and middle school levels, no sportsmanship or positive verbal interaction was mentioned for the high School level. As a High School coach i assure you, they don’t stop needing guidance for positive reinforcement at that age. I would recommend adding that to your instruction.
    A thought.
    Thank you
    Coach Bishop

  4. The variety of activities for students at different grade levels is great and has given me ideas to develop lessons. Thank you

  5. Good advise here PEClasses can be scary because they are usually larger classes (From my high school experience)

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