Back to Basics: Time Management

This post was originally post on the PE Circle on 4th October, 2015

Students need time in PE to be active, to practice, to develop knowledge and skills and ultimately learn. Time is one of the most precious commodities within our subject, however it is also in short supply. Effective PE teachers are ones that are able to not only free up time for students, but ensure that time is then spent on tasks that contribute to their learning. This can be achieved by ensuring their approach is smarter rather than just by working harder.

So how do you go about working smarter to ensure more time on tasks that contribute to the students learning within Physical Education? For me it is about being aware of two key areas, allocation of time over whole lessons and then time no spent being active within the lesson, then trying to improve your time management in them.

The first key area to think about is the allocation of time over the whole of your lesson, depending on the activity you are teaching.  In my school context, for a lesson on our school fields which is away from the school site, I need to think about the following:

Task Time Allocation
How long does the lesson last 120 mins
Changing Time 5 mins
Time taken to get to get to location for activity 10 mins
Warm-up 5 mins
Equipment Set-up Done during pupil warm-up
Collecting equipment and putting it away safely 5 mins
Return time to changing rooms 10 mins
Changing Time 5 mins
Time actively learning in PE. 40 mins

This is where routines  and pupil organisation are important to ensure these timings are kept to and where possible to reduce them. Routines should be designed to ensure these timings are kept to an absolute minimum to allow the absolute maximum of time for being active and learning within PE. If I can reduce my changing time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes and the time taking to walk to the fields safely from 10 minutes to 8 minutes then I have found a total of 8 extra minutes for my students to be physically active. Time reduced on these tasks can have a big impact on learning time. Therefore we must consider how to reduce them whilst at the same time maintaining pupil safety. Here is a list of potential ideas that may help.

The second key area to think about is the tasks or activities that occur during the time students have to be actively learning within PE but where they aren’t being physically active. Examples of these are:

  • waiting for their turn in a drill or on a piece of equipment
  • moving on to the the next task or changing groups
  • listening to a teacher talk
  • receiving instructions
  • watching demonstrations
  • observering peers performances
  • reading tasks cards and working out what to do
  • problem solving or planning in pairs or groups
  • whole class question and answer sessions
  • giving or receiving feedback

Whilst many of the tasks mentioned above can be important for learning, they are nonetheless taking time away from students being physically active. An effective teacher will find ways of reducing the time needed on those tasks, for example using small sided games with specific constraints as a teaching approach rather than drills to ensure all pupils are active or giving instructions to individuals or small groups when needed rather than stopping the whole group and talking to them.

Obviously how you organise your lessons and manage your time will vary depending on your context, however a lesson should have as little time as possible allocated to organisation and management of tasks that aren’t directly related to learning or being physically active. Whether new to teaching Physical Education, or experienced like myself, regularly reviewing your time allocation for lessons will help. An app like Time Motion, although designed to see what students do within lessons, can be very useful review tool for your time management. Anything you can do as to ensure you maximise that precious student time is being spent on task, physically active and effectively learning as much as possible.

3 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Time Management

  1. I am always really conscious of saving time during a lesson or coaching session. Whenever I am mentoring a new coach, I try to teach them to speed up transitions by what I call “count downs” e.g. “When I say ‘GO’, by the time I count to ‘THREE’ I want you to find a partner. Ready? Go! 1…2…3!” I have written a short article about this, with a few more examples, on my blog at at:


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