This post was originally post on the PE Circle on 27th September 2015
Organising pupils during a lesson is an essential skill that needs to be developed by the PE Teacher. There are two main types organisation of pupils within PE lessons; grouping and transitions. Ensuring these are well planned helps to keep disruptions to a minimum, allowing for less time for pupils to be off task and more time to be active and participating. Wherever possible organisation in lessons and between tasks should be kept to a minimum. This is especially important when teaching activities with a higher element of risk or when outside on cold days.
You can group pupils in many different ways. Mixed ability, similar ability, contrasting ability or social friendship groups. Think carefully about your pupils prior knowledge, the activity and the learning outcomes when selecting your groups. For example I find similar ability groups very useful for when teaching swimming as I can give different tasks to different groups related to their ability, where social friendship groups can be useful in motivating pupils who don’t enjoy rugby.
Selecting these groups can be done in many ways:
- Number students and ask them to get in that group. (Mixed Ability)
- Ask pupils to get into groups of 4. Number themselves 1 to 4. 1s make a group, 2s make a group, 3s make a group and 4s make a group. (Suggested by @PE_TotD)
- Appoint a group leader. Ask them to select. (Friendship Groups / Similar ability)
- Ask pupils to self organise. This can be done in many ways from completely giving pupils freedom (Friendship Groups / Similar Groups) to explaining that different groups will have different tasks (Similar ability).
- Draft system where pupils are selected from small groups (Mixed, contrasting and friendship)
- Ask pupils to pair up with a friend or someone of similar size or ability. Join these pairs up into groups.
What ever method you use, it should take as little time as possible. Personally I would recommend not getting pupils to choose the groups as this takes up far more time, but it can help in certain situations. My preference is to choose my groups in advance and have a range of abilities and friendships in them, based on my previous knowledge of them. Keeping these groups together throughout the year increases organisational efficiency especially transitions within lessons.
Transitions are when you need to change group structure and size. You may need to do this because you are moving from drill to game or unopposed to opposed practice. Transitions, if not planned carefully are where disruptions to your lessons can occur, possibly leading to poor behaviour or lack of focus. If you are going to have transitions in your lesson they need to be carefully planned. Even as an experienced teacher, this is one area that I still always consider in my planning. It is essential to know the numbers in your lessons so you can ensure smooth transitions when teaching:
- 1s can move to 2s and 3s
- 2s can move to 4s and 6s
- 3s can move to 6s
- 4s can move to 8s
The system I have used for organising groups and transitions is based on 32 pupils in a class. I arranged them in 4 groups of 8, which I choose based on prior knowledge. In the groups I ensure I have 2 high and 2 low ability pupils with the rest of a spread ability. For Year 8 to 11 they are given these groups at the beginning of the year in their first lesson, Year 7 after the first half of term. This helped the organisation of my groupings and transitions, creating a flexible system that allowed me to adapt to the activity and task I am teaching, with the minimum amount of time and fuss. However my recent experiment with the Cooperative Learning Model, groups based on learning teams (of 4 pupils each with a given responsibility during the lesson) will be the predominant way I organise pupils in the future.
What methods do you use?