By Angela D’Valda Sirico of Dance Teacher Web
Class plans for teachers are almost always used but practice plans for students are not so common. So why are they necessary? I have always found that students really need help with organizing pretty much everything and not too many of them are motivated to set out a plan for themselves as to how they are going to practice. Of course there are always the few who are so self- motivated, but the vast majority really do need guidance. Between school, homework, dance, and social lives, the majority of students today are totally stressed out and cannot imagine how they could possibly find time to practice which causes more stress to appear.
We all know that we don’t just teach dance. We also help these children in so many other ways, and one of those habits that we can instill in them is to be organized.
In many instances the parents do not help because they themselves are so stressed about their kids that they forget that they need to give them the confidence to be able to manage things on their own.
It really is all about finding solutions! I have found that by sitting the students down in class and having them come up with a practice plan that works for them, they have been able to see that there is indeed time to practice, and of course by doing that they start to see the obvious results of their work. What I have done in the past is make up a daily, weekly and monthly chart that they can either use as is or change to fit their needs. At least it gives them something to work with. I then ask them to look closely at their schedules to see when they could fit in a time to practice. It could be 10 minutes, half an hour or an hour. Whatever works on any given day!
Maybe they can only start with once or twice a week or perhaps they can do 10 minutes five days a week. Whatever they choose to start out with can only be positive! Once they have established some kind of pattern that they feel they can handle, the next step is for them to make a list of steps or stretches or anything else that they know they need to work on. They could do ankle strengthening exercises three times a week, practice their balance daily or look at themselves in the mirror as they practice making good shapes with their arms. Of course this list is probably going to change frequently because they will have corrections in class and have new things that they need to fix constantly, but the key is for the student to feel in control and to also feel that there is hope for them to improve. Unfortunately we live in the age of instant gratification but we all know that the body doesn’t work that way! We need time to train our bodies and our minds and once the student sees that by being organized and actually practicing each week that they are advancing in their groups they will start to appreciate your guidance.
Motivating the students to develop a lifetime habit of allocating time to do what they need to do will benefit them in whatever career they choose to follow and will give them the confidence to know that they can find time to what is important to them and not be stressed out about it.
I also like to do a monthly review with them to find out what they feel they have accomplished and where they think they need more help. This is also a good way to encourage both them and their parents to take an occasional private class with you to help them specifically with whatever they continue to struggle with.
Another approach has been to practice with a friend. Often a student has a close friend and it really helps them both if they can practice together and keep each other motivated. They can make up a joint practice chart that works for both of them and it can be very helpful when one is having a down day if they have their friend to lift them up and keep them on track with their goals.
All students feel really great when their teacher praises them in front of the class and if they are practicing on a consistent basis they will hear their names called out frequently in a positive way.
Plus the obvious benefit for a teacher is that the students will be progressing all the time because they really are listening to your corrections and doing something about them.
Try it with your students and see how much they get into the idea, let them know the benefits of making a plan and sticking to it and give them the praise when they are able to do the technique you are teaching them and are ready to move on to the next level.