Biz Tips


15 Tricks to Achieving Disciplined Fun
By Pamela Evans, Ph.D.


The true test of an extraordinary teacher is the ability to effortlessly keep a class under control – focused, safe, and productive. The answer is to implement good teaching practices. Below is a list of fifteen of the most tried and true tricks.
  1. Enjoy your job. If you are the most exciting entity in the room, the children will hang on your every word. Because the students are listening to everything you say … be sure to always be nice, especially when disciplining them. Talk about the undesired behavior instead of chastising the child. “We need to keep our hands to ourselves” rather than “Do not hit him!”
  2. Know everyone’s names and use them often. Calling the children by their names makes them feel cared for and valued. No matter how many friends are in their gym class, kids stay because of their coach. One trick is to challenge yourself to say every student’s name at least once in every rotation. This practice will let the students know that you are watching; resulting in both keeping the class focused and making the children feel that their work is being acknowledged.
  3. Keep the class moving. Waiting too long causes fidgeting and misbehaving. Gymnastics cannot be taught in a book. You must practice thousands of handstands, before you master performing a handstand.
  4. Establish a home base. Even if no one is in front of the child, insist that the students stop at the first piece of equipment in a circuit to listen to instructions, corrections, or simply avoid spinning out of control. If the class starts to become over-energized, have everyone stop and “huddle up!” Instructions seem much cooler when delivered in a huddle.
  5. Use verbal, visual, and kinesthetic cues. Say what you want them to do. Show what you want them to do. Physically adjust them to achieve the correct positions.
  6. Add variety to a set structure. Everyone finds comfort in routines, in knowing what to expect. At the same time, novelty is the spice of life. Balance the two in your lesson plans. Have the same general outline but alter the focus. Every week the class warms-up on the preschool floor, then visits two events, ending back on the preschool floor for a game. It is Straddle Week, and so the drills will be concentrating on cartwheels, straddle rolls, and sole circles.
  7. Be consistent. Clearly explain the rules of the class, and then apply those rules in the same manner to all students. Repeat the rules often and loudly. Assume that the children want to do the right thing, they might just not know what that is.
  8. Implement equal turns. Be diligent about making sure that everyone has the same amount of time of the equipment and attention from you. Never play favorites.
  9. See the children as individuals. Talk to them about their day. Remember their interests. Notice when they are absent. Conduct these conversations without slowing the pace of the class. Remember to keep the kids moving.
  10. Focus on the desired behavior. If you tell the children, “don’t fall”, their mind is visualizing falling. Instead tell them “try to stay on the beam”.
  11. Make sure that the students feel successful. About three-quarters of every class should be material that the students have mastered, and the remaining one-quarter should be challenging. When too much of the material is difficult, the children will become discouraged. When they can already perform too many of the skills proficiently, the class will seem too easy. Either situation results in discipline problems.
  12. Do not give children a choice when there is no choice. If your next event is trampoline, avoid saying, “does anyone want to go to trampoline?” Instead, provide choices within a structure. After giving instruction on several basic jumps and how to safely freeze on a trampoline, give the students a “free choice” turn allowing them to choose from one of the jumps they have just practiced.
  13. Focus on individual improvement. Have the children try to beat their last score instead of competing against each other. For example, on Star Bars have a class of eight students organize themselves so that two children are on each bar. Then have them count how many times they can jump to a front support in 30 seconds. After a short rest, repeat the game but ask them to try to beat their previous score.
  14. Catch the children doing something right. Compliment good behavior. “Look how well Jane is waiting in line” rather than saying, “Susan please come back to the class and stand in line.” Even when delivering corrections use the age-old compliment sandwich. State what they are doing well, what they now need to work on, and your expectations for their success. That vault had a lot more power than before. Now try to tighten your legs in the air. If you can put as much energy into the next vault, while staying tight, you will really fly.
  15. Be the adult. Take responsibility for your class. Your job is not to become the children’s friend; your job is to protect, guide, teach, and mentor. If necessary, take away gymnastics. Avoid using flexibility or strength as punishment for undesired behaviors. Try having the child sit out and take ten deep breathes. If their behavior negatively impacted someone else, insist that they apologize. Courtesy is a sign of respect.