What to do about students who can’t participate?

I am going to start this blog post off by saying there are very few instances where students cannot participate in any manner in my class. The only situations I can think of would be an injury and their doctor has written them out of PE for a certain amount of time. Other than that situation, I do my best to find something active they can participate in during the class. My view is that all activities can be modified so students can benefit from the day’s lesson.

What if they didn’t dress out?

I know this is a very popular topic in the PE world, with many educators having the mentality to not “make” students dress out. I understand the various reasons behind this thought process, and if I was in a different school setting I may hop on board that train…but I’m not rolling with that yet. Here is why…

I work at a school where there is a dress code, and I teach high schoolers. High schoolers tend to be a little stinky sometimes and I don’t want them to have to worry about that the rest of the day. Our dress code also calls for khaki pants and a polo shirt. I find that when students forget clothes and participate in their uniform they don’t work as hard due to their limited movement (tight, uncomfortable clothes) and they don’t want to get them sweaty. Here is where I can see schools without dress codes not making students dress out. If at a normal school and students could dress knowing they had PE that day, I think I would be ok with that. They may not fix the “smelly” issue, but they could always change shirts or apply extra deodorant.

I do want to make clear I will never fail a kid for failure to dress out. If I notice a pattern of not dressing out with a student I make sure to talk to them and find out WHY they don’t want to. Most of the time I can solve their problem with either not requiring them to dress due to circumstances, giving them a different place to change, or letting them stay in the locker room longer so they are by themselves to change. I have very little problem with students dressing out for me, and I know that I am lucky in that regard.

Unfortunately sometimes it does happen. They forget clothes, or maybe just tennis shoes, they wore a skirt, etc. So when that happens I try to modify the activity so they can do as much of it as possible without risking injury. Most of the time, I can tweak our activities to make it work for them. I try to keep them from sitting out, or thinking they don’t have to participate because they didn’t dress out. It may be that there activity for the day is a different one from the class for a portion of the class period, but my main goal is still getting them moving.

What if they really can’t participate?

Like I said earlier, there are a few times where a doctor does write a student out completely or another circumstance. In those situations I try to have the student by my assistant, or still work with a team/group to referee, judge, keep score, etc. I want students engaged as much as possible at all times. For these kids it may not be in the way I want, but they can still learn and be included by doing those tasks.

Very rarely do I give a student “busy work” to do instead of participating. That makes them feel left out, which they already feel from not being able to participate. In the rare circumstances that I do, I make sure my work for them relates to what everyone else in the class is doing so they are not missing out on the knowledge portion of the activity. I created a few worksheets and activities specifically for instances like this, but my goal is to have to use them as little as possible. I will link a few options of alternate exercises here, just in case you ever need something for them to do when they can’t do anything.

These are just a few options I have used that will relate back to what we are studying in class and allow them to learn along with everyone else, but keep them from the “active” part of it if absolutely necessary.

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