‘Every student comes every day motivated and excited for class.’

If you think that statement rings true, then you can probably stop reading. If you are a teacher and found this statement almost laughable, then keep reading. 

Any class or subject is going to have its group of students that need a little nudge. Physical education class is no different. 

Molly Collins takes a positive approach when thinking about the challenge of motivating students in her weight training and fitness classes. Check out the full article below.

Molly Collins

Meet the Author: Molly Collins

Motivating Students In PE – 5 Tips From Molly Collins

Motivating students in Physical Education class is tough. It is something as a PE teacher, I honestly struggle with quite often. When you are teaching upwards of 50 students at a time, there are a lot of different variables to try and manage when it comes to motivation. 

As a teacher, one of my main goals is to help students develop intrinsic motivation. (Easier said than done when working with high school students. Trust me, I know.)

Try these five tips to help instill intrinsic motivation in students during Physical Education class.

1: Create A Welcoming Environment

As teachers, we need to create a welcoming environment by having a clean and safe space. Is the room boasting with color, light, and energy? No one wants to be in a space that is dirty, blah, or dull.

Students benefit from a clean facility that has structure and flow throughout the space. Having little things like phrases, pictures, or branding on display shows what you are striving for. 

For energy, is music playing to set the tone you are looking for? Go grab a speaker and get your kids feeling excited. 

While the space and music can be electric, we still need to meet the students as individuals. 

2: Establish A Relationship

As teachers, we should strive to greet each person by name each day.  A name is one thing that characterizes a person, so calling students by name is the first step to establishing a relationship. 

A lot of students feel a bit of anxiety when entering a physical education environment because they think they don’t belong. 

Let each student know that they belong here. Having someone welcome you and converse with you instantly can help put any student’s nerves at ease. 

3. Start With The Basics

No matter what level of students you are teaching, everyone should have a solid foundation of the basics. Starting with the basics sets the students up for success right away. It gives them that instant satisfaction needed to build confidence. 

From there, students will progress at the pace they are ready to challenge themselves. From this foundation, students can set their own goals for what they hope to achieve next. 

Goal setting helps to build confidence in a way that only they will understand. The goals should be driven by the student and no one else. As a teacher, you are there to help and guide. As they get some self-satisfaction within their goals, it will hopefully leave them wanting more. 

4: Think Outside the Box, Change is Key!

After that foundation is built, challenge your students to step outside the box. Once students are ready to step outside their comfort zones, growth and development can really flourish. 

I think about it like the muscular system and training. Anyone doing the same exercises or weight day in and day out will reach a plateau. When we look for muscle confusion by switching up exercises, weights, or style of training, we can see that muscle growth happen. 

That same idea of switching things up is what we are looking for with growth and confidence in different physical education activities.  To change it up, we do game days, obstacle course challenge, or team workouts. Sometimes different military branches come in to do cognitive and physical challenges with the students. We even just take breaks from the workouts to talk or watch a video. 

Being able to read your students need for change, but also know when to stay the course and challenge them is a balancing act. This balance will help your students remain motivated throughout the whole year. 

5: Find the ‘Why’?

It is not for you, it is for them! So, what type of activity is going to engage the intrinsic motivation to give them a ‘Why’ to pursue a healthy lifestyle? Is it a way to manage stress? Could it be a way to prove obesity or diabetes wrong? Do they want to make a sports team? Are they wanting a career in Kinesiology? Maybe they have been wanting to join a fitness center or a fitness class? 

Everyone’s ‘Why’ is going to be different, and it’s our job to help direct them to their why. PE is meant to engage and motivate students in a way that allows them to have fun when doing so. (Check out my breakdown of “Why” in my New Age Of PE Article)

For example, take the softball player doing weight glute bridges. I explain it so that the softball player in PE sees that strong  glutes will help transfer to a powerful swing. Something so simple, that ties the days activity or movements to the ‘Why’ goes a long way for each student. 

Patience is a virtue

Our goal as physical educators is to promote a positive, healthy lifestyle. A lifestyle that is healthy in all aspects including physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

In a society where instant satisfaction is constant, PE trains our students that patience is genuinely an important virtue when trying to be healthy. A healthy lifestyle is contagious. Once you take a bite, it leaves you wanting more. 

Its hard work to motivate students to participate and be motivated, but isn’t it ironic that it takes hard work to achieve success.