Classroom teachers typically do not receive training in managing students in an active setting. This can be intimidating! Thoughts of students running everywhere haphazardly and their voice levels becoming uncontrollable make me cringe! But don’t fear… using physical activity behavior management strategies can not only help “keep the peace” as the kids move, but it may provide a valuable opportunity to collaborate with the physical education teacher(s) in the school to support their teaching strategies as well. Here are two tips for maintaining student behavior in an active classroom setting: (1) starting and stopping activity and (2) grouping.

Starting and Stopping Activity

Establishing starting and stopping signals is imperative for effective management, no matter what the setting. Typically, something as simple as saying, “Go!” or starting music should work to direct the students to start Be sure to use something different for them to know when to stop moving. This can be another verbal phrase such as, “Freeze!” or you could use other signals such as turning the music off, or turning off the lights. It is good to give the students something to do when they stop, such as cross arms or put hands on knees. Practice starting and stopping the students frequently, and expect them to stop within five seconds. If not, have them walk around and practice again until they get it right. Offering positive feedback to those students who follow directions helps tremendously to pull other students on track. “I love how Juan is standing still with his eyes on me. Thank you. Let’s see who else can do that faster next time.”

One equipment-free classroom activity to practice starting and stopping (along with personal space) is called Bubbles.


  • In scattered formation, students move around the room on the teacher’s command (e.g., start signal) as if they are inside their own personal bubble.
  • When the teacher uses the stop signal, the students must freeze as quickly as possible.
  • The object of the game is to move around the room without touching other students, thus popping their bubble.
  • If a student touches another student, he or she receives one point. The goal is to finish the game with as few points as possible.


In the classroom setting, the most common types of grouping will be partner activities or two teams. When discussing partner selection, it is important to emphasize that students should pair up with the person closest to them or the person with whom they first make eye contact. If someone does not find a partner quickly, designate a place near the middle so you can make the decision on whether that person can select his or her group of three or if you would be better off deciding for him. In no instances should you partner up with a student. This forces you to be anchored down to that one student. It is your job to be able to monitor all students.

One classroom activity that helps work on grouping students is Partner Mixer:

Partner Mixer

  • Students walk around the classroom in scattered formation.
  • The teacher stops the class using his or her designated stop signal.
  • Once students are frozen, the teacher calls out, “Toe-to-toe!” Each student then quickly finds a nearby partner and stands toe-to-toe with him or her.
  • Students without partners move to the designated place near the middle so the teacher can place him or her with an existing group of two.
  • Repeat this process with students finding different partners each time.
  • To split into two equal teams, have one partner move to one side of the room and the other partner walk to the opposite side. Two teams are formed.

Ask the physical education teacher(s) what strategies they use to maintain student behavior in the gym. If you adopt the same “language” they do, this should make maintaining student behavior easier while your students move.