11 Dec How to keep (dance) students motivated
Keeping your students motivated can be tricky. It is something that every teacher should aspire to do, but it takes time to develop this teaching skill. I’m also still learning with every new student I get. There are a lot of different types of students and teachers. So some of the following pointers may not work for your students or for your style of teaching.
Questions you need to answer for you students.
Why am I learning?
This question is not about why they are learning dance. They are learning dance because they love to dance, or at least that should be the case. This is question is about why they are learning specific techniques or specific moves. It’s about presenting your student with the bigger picture.
Example: You are learning a simple bounce now so you can apply a bounce in more advanced moves later.
What am I learning?
Tell your students what they are doing instead of just making them follow. Explain where they are in the learning process. If they have an overview of what’s in front of them, it’s easier to finish small task in order to reach their goals.
How do I learn?
A question a lot of student ask themselves. How is what I’m doing now teaching me anything? So explain to your students how it is that they are learning. One of the most important ones is to practice techniques till perfection. But give them small tasks to begin with. It’s impossible to go from 0 to 100 real quick. So give your students physical and mental resting platforms.
What is my short term goal?
You could divide this into different kinds of goals. Maybe there is a goal they have to reach in the next 15 minutes or you have a goal for an entire hour. Whatever it is make sure you students know this. Let’s say you want them to get better at waving. The first goal can’t be ‘get better at waving’. The short term goal should be something like ‘learn to isolate your wrist, elbow, shoulder and chest’. You can add more divisions as you see fit. For example I also tell them to control the transitions one by one. When I teach an entry wave going from the wrist to the chest it may look something like this.
Isolate wrist and elbow
Transition from wrist to elbow
Transition from elbow to shoulder
Transition from wrist to elbow to shoulder
Transition from shoulder to chest
Transition from wrist to elbow to shoulder to chest
What is my long term goal?
The long term goals are what makes student driven by a purpose. It can also be separated. What is something they have to be able to do after a few weeks, after a month or at the end of the year? To build on the example of waving. One long term goal can be to have good control over entry and exit waves in your arms. Another one could be to control body waves as well, and to transition arm waves into body waves. And of course controlling body waves requires another set of short term goals as mentioned above. All this depends on the motoric and cognitive level of your students. Younger students have a harder time understanding how their body moves than older ones with more experience.
A motivating way of teaching
Give specific instructions
Students that know exactly what to do and what is required will approach a challenge with confidence. Keep initial instructions brief and simple. It’s better to divide them into multiple tasks, remember the short term goals.
Hard work and fun
It’s not only about working really hard. If your students don’t enjoy what they are doing they will leave, no matter how much they learn. And if they have fun but don’t learn anything, the same will happen. So you have to find a nice balance between fun and work. But let it be clear there is a time for jokes and a time for work. After all, you are their teacher.
Stimulate creative and critical thinking
Students will engage in a more active way when they can experiment. But it is the teacher’s job to set the rules and boundaries for the experiments. Let them experiment on 1 subject at a time before going into more advanced training. Of course not all experiments are good, especially with younger students, so it is your job to point out the flaws. Begin with pointing out big mistakes. Let’s say you want them to experiment with sliding and somebody is just stepping. You obviously have to tell your students that this is not the task. This will keep them thinking about creating new things in a critical way.
Give your students something to look forward to. You can do this by leaving them with a cliffhanger for next class. Also make sure they stay on track of their goals. Keep their eyes on the prize. When students really want to learn, they also want to accomplish tasks in order to satisfy their curiosity.
A big mistakes I used to make was pointing out the negatives. This will leave your students with the feeling that they don’t do anything right. And of course that’s not true. Even the simplest thing as bending your knees to perform a bounce can be a positive thing. This is why we, teachers, have to know what the short term goals for our students are. Sometimes you also have to point out flaws when it is necessary. A simple trick is to tell them it’s something that requires extra attention, instead of saying it was wrong. The thing to remember is that working with the positives increases motivation and working with the negatives can decrease it. This also depends on your students. That’s why it’s important to stimulate critical thinking.
Power in unity
Give them task to work on together. When students work together, motivation will rise. Also make sure there is a nice vibe in class, nobody likes hostility. The teacher should also be part of the unity. Students will work harder if they look up to you, want to impress you, or get the feeling that you like them.
These were all just pointers. Don’t feel obligated to use everything in one class. A lot of these things come with time, but you have to work on them. Find your own methods, every class is different.
Thank you for reading and have fun dancing guys!