There’s an art to teaching a great group class. However, there’s also a tried and true formula that makes a group class successful. You might hear people say “Jane is a fantastic group class teacher! I learn a lot and have so much fun. Most teachers don’t have a clear system like Jane does!”
While I don’t have the space here to talk about all the procedures in this winning group class formula, I do want to give you some of the key elements to earn you a reputation as a “Fantastic Group Class Teacher”?
Here’s a list of the most important things you can do to have your group classes go well. Can you find the two that don’t belong?
- Be on time
- Be professionally dressed (based on the dance you are teaching)
- Have your music ready
- Warmly welcome your class and let them know about the dance they will be learning
- Introduce your assistant or co-teacher
- Demonstrate the figures you are going to teach
- Play music at a slower tempo than standard, adjusting to the correct tempo toward the end of the class
- Rotate partners frequently and in an organized fashion
- Have any extra Followers (or Leaders) distribute themselves between couples so they will be assured of having a partner on the next partner rotation
- Fill in as necessary if a student is without a partner
- Always teach new figures with students coupled up
- Use humor to help people laugh and have fun
- Never teach technique on the first week of class
- Keep your eyes open and help people who seem frustrated, are having difficulty, or are getting passed over in partner rotation
- Allow plenty of repetition with one figure before moving on to the next
- Let students know about events at the studio, especially those relating to what they are learning
Which did you choose as not belonging? I believe #11 and #13 are incorrect.
I’ve found that separating Leaders and Followers initially to teach a new figure is best. This allows everyone to learn his or her part well before tackling the issues that come up when dancing with a partner. A student of mine once said, “Unencumbered by music and a partner, I can dance great!” Although knowing their part ahead of time sometimes results Followers anticipating or back leading, this can easily be addressed once partners start dancing together.
As for technique, it’s only difficult when explained in a complex way. Teaching people to stand nice and tall, or to observe that the heel hits the floor first when walking forward, helps new students feel more confident. I sometimes think we don’t give our students enough credit. People are smart—just as they’d anticipate being taught technique for their golf swing or tennis backhand during a sports lesson, our students expect to learn specifics about dancing correctly in a dance class.
However, it’s important not to spend too much time on technique. A beginning group class should be fun and light. For easy, playful explanations and exercises to teach students how the body moves, check out Move Like a Champion.
I hope this article spurs you to take your group classes to new heights. A few other ways to improve your group class teaching include making a checklist for yourself, asking your students for feedback, talking to your colleagues, and taking a video of yourself teaching. You can find the entire formula for teaching a great group class in the book Teach Like a Pro.
Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!
Dancers: What things have your teachers done that made their group classes great?
Dance Teachers: What methods have you discovered to help make your own group classes successful?