Forum: Irish / Irish - Teachers and Assistants

Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By Pantera_Bread
On Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:26 AM

Hello all! I'm starting to teach Irish dance recreationally in my area, and I'm seeking any and all advice you might have regarding how to teach and where to begin.

Here's a quick back story: I started dancing as a teenager, competed for a few years, stopped when I started college. Now that I'm settled down I wanted to pick up dance again, but the nearest Irish dance school is over 3 hours away. Since there is no Irish dance in this area, I thought maybe I could start something. I taught my first workshop at the beginning of the month. 20 people attended and 9 of them signed up for my mailing list saying "yes, we want to learn more!"

So here I am, a group of potential students and requests for more workshops soon. I'm hoping to set up a sort of summer camp for those interested where they will only commit to taking classes over the summer, and if they are still interested, I can set up something further.

Now here's the advice I'm looking for:

-How do you start teaching classes? Where to begin? Jump right into teaching a light jig?

-How do you plan out your lessons? Do you have a set amount of time to work on warm ups, dances, drills, stretches?

-I found teaching 20 people to be a bit overwhelming, how do you cope with a large class size? How do you give every dancer a proper amount of attention?

-And finally, do you have any general advice on how to be a good teacher?

Thanks for reading my long post, I'm eager to hear any and all advice you might have for me as I spread Irish dance to my area!

7 Replies to Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?

re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By byudawn
On Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:56 AM
Edited by byudawn (224140) on 2015-02-08 11:57:46 Add
Edited by byudawn (224140) on 2015-02-08 12:01:04 More
I am a parent, but it seems like the obvious starting point would be skipping, hops and stepping to learn the basic hop-1-2-3 movement and being able to keep with the beat of the Music. Also posture and arms and pointed toes/cross/turn out. Then start adding the other steps (side sevens, points, knees, etc---whatever those very basic steps are called ;) )to learn a beginner reel. And then practice/drill those in drills across the floor and different combinations with music. But don't be afraid to spend time on these basics, because if they aren't mastered properly in the beginnings, I've seen dancers have to go back and start over. Then go on to the next dance with basic steps. I don't think hardshoes till after a year? Always begin with stretches and warm ups and end with some too. It sounds like you're positive and motivated---good luck! :)
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By colgate
On Sun Feb 08, 2015 01:22 PM
How do you start teaching classes? Where to begin? Jump right into teaching a light jig?

Depending on the age of the dancers, prior dance experience etc ... I always start with 'easy skips', skip23s, side 7s, jump23s. Its amazing how people will struggle to keep their arms down at first.


-How do you plan out your lessons? Do you have a set amount of time to work on warm ups, dances, drills, stretches?
Once again depends on the class. I have my classes split up to: 4 & under, 6 & under, 8 & under, 9 & over (I don't have any late teens/adults or I'd have another class) & then advanced. I tend to keep the same routine going with the warmup, stretches, drills, teaching focus, cool down.


-I found teaching 20 people to be a bit overwhelming, how do you cope with a large class size? How do you give every dancer a proper amount of attention?
I tend to not have more than 8 in my classes (they are 45min long) without a helper. It is hard because in each class the kids have started at different times so while some are on the slip jig, others are getting their basic jump23s. I set them across the floor to practice & I do walk between.


-And finally, do you have any general advice on how to be a good teacher?
Be consistent with expectations from day one on uniform, fees, parental behaviour etc. Be organised & positive.
Also, keep learning. Diddlyi is a great online resource if you don't have anyone close by, or look to find a teacher for occasional workshops ... WIDA may be an organisation you will want to look into as they have a really good teacher training program from what I've heard.

GOOD LUCK!
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Feb 08, 2015 08:53 PM
I don't do ID, so my answers are a little more general than ID specific, but I'll give it a shot -

-How do you start teaching classes? Where to begin? Jump right into teaching a light jig?


Start with the basics. Like the basic basics. I teach clogging, and I have my own list of "core" steps, that inside of probably two months, all my beginners know. If the light jig is the first thing Irish dancers learn, then start there.

-How do you plan out your lessons? Do you have a set amount of time to work on warm ups, dances, drills, stretches?


I try not to have specific amounts of times to do things. Like, I have a combination jazz/tap class that dances on Mondays, and I divide it in my mind that it'll be 30 minutes on tap, and 30 minutes on jazz, and I don't plan much farther than that. Because some weeks they'll sail through everything you've got planned, and what was 30 minutes on paper will be 15 minutes in person, and sometimes you'll break down a step they'll really struggle with, and you'll spend a lot more time going over the step. I've got a solo on Wednesday that we just learned a pretty tough step for her solo, and I usually can't stump her at all - it's her first year tapping, she takes to it like she's been doing it her whole life - but I stumped her HARD this week. So the typical 30 minutes of tap blew out to almost a full hour.

-I found teaching 20 people to be a bit overwhelming, how do you cope with a large class size? How do you give every dancer a proper amount of attention?


You control the class size. If you'd rather work with classes that were smaller than that, make them smaller. With few exceptions, our class max is 10 kids, and we stick to it.

-And finally, do you have any general advice on how to be a good teacher?


Mean what you say, say what you mean, and let everyone know that you care about them. You don't have to be their best friends, or whatever, just let them know. If one of the kids says they've got a project at school, ask how the project went. If an adult student says they missed cause they had a sick kid, ask if the kid is feeling better. You endear yourself to people that way, and people that are loyal to you will not only stay with you, but recommend you to friends!
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By Pantera_Bread
On Mon Feb 09, 2015 02:22 AM
Wow! Thank you so much for your quick replies! Such great advice so far! I should have mentioned in my first post that right now, I only have adult students, but I would like to be able to teach all ages.

Again, thank you for your comments so far, I look forward to reading more!
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By califeisgirl
On Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:11 AM
When I had new adults, I would always teach them skips and sevens and then the whole class would do a ceili dance. That way they felt like they accomplished something at the end of the night. Sometimes it would be a dance the rest of the class didn’t know, so they would all be in the same “learning something/ no clue what to expect” boat. Since your group is all pretty new, you could teach skips and sevens and walls of limerick, which is a relatively easy dance. It’s a little more engaging than just learning jump23s like the little kids do for their first class.

On big classes, I think it is balance. You might teach everyone someone all at once, then break them down in groups of four or five so you can give them personal comments. If classes have a lot of levels, it makes breaking them up easier. Just make sure you look at every dancer at least once a class and let them know you saw them.

I think as for being a good teacher, just love what you do and be focused on spreading your love of dance. Strive for your students to be their personal best, and leave class feeling like they accomplished something.

I would love to know how you set up your workshops!
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how? (karma: 1)
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:18 AM
I think the most important thing I've learned from well over a decade of teaching Irish dance is that teaching is a lifelong learning experience. It requires you to be adaptable, open, have a keen eye for detail and for sensing what a student needs. It also helps to have in your back pocket approximately 27 ways of describing, say, a syncopated treble rhythm, because different students will respond to different methods of teaching. That's the biggest challenge.

I have found that adult students in particular are looking for the perfect mix of being challenged and having fun. And they can be pushed more than you might think. Many adults are nervous about messing up and a bit timid at first, especially in hardshoe, but with some gentle encouragement they can open up and become more confident fairly quickly.

I encourage you to instill good technique in your dancers. Irish dance has never been good about this, historically, as there is no official syllabus in place for teaching good habits. But committing to spending a good chunk of your class on warmups and drills is a great place to start. The more time you spend on this stuff, the more your students will come to recognize how important it is, that all the "bits" that make up the dancing are just as important as the dancing itself.

And with adults, you can talk with them at their level, obviously, and it's easier than kids to explain good technique. So I go over turnout exercises with them, and check their points to make sure no one's sicking their feet, and where possible describe what muscles they should feel as they execute a certain movement. I spend a lot of time on stuff like this because I want them to develop good habits and prevent injury.

With complete beginners, definitely start with sevens and skips and so on. And the suggestion of using ceili dances is a good one, as it will make them feel accomplished to use their newfound skipping skills to do a whole ceili dance.

I start my adults on hardshoe quite early, as I find it's helpful to just have them working on treble drills for a while before teaching an actual hardshoe dance.

It's difficult if you're having 20 beginners all starting at once, but eventually you'll start to see natural group divisions among people who pick up the dance form quicker than others. You can then start to get people working together in ways that benefit each other -- asking a student who really understands a particular hardshoe rhythm, for example, to help another student benefits both of them. Otherwise, give them one thing to work on (4 bars of a reel or whatever), and then visit each student individually to make sure they're getting attention. Or watch them in groups of 2 or 3 at a time, and give feedback to each one quickly.

I also find being open helps, realizing that sometimes you'll get into class and you'll have a plan but your students will guide you elsewhere. Maybe everyone's having trouble with a step, and you'll spend most of the class breaking it down.

Finally, I like to encourage creativity where possible, to ensure you get the students thinking about what makes Irish dance, well, Irish dance. I gave 4 of my students the challenge of choreographing a bit of movement into the St Pat's trad set, to make it more interesting for a performance, and they came up with their own moving lines thing that looks quite cool. Giving them ownership over something can make them feel accomplished, especially in a recreational class where they might not ever be measuring their success through competition. Organizing a casual recital or a performance opportunity for them might also be a good goal to work toward.

Anyway, I've blathered on long enough...Good luck with your classes!
re: Getting Started - Where to begin teaching and how?
By CarleIrishDancer
On Tue Feb 10, 2015 06:27 PM
Have you taken your TCRG exam yet. As a current dancer, I have no idea what you have to learn, other than sets, tempos, ceilis, and gaelic. If you've already taken it and are interested in starting a competitive school, I recommend teaching the basics. The students will probably be disappointed if they don't learn a dance right away, so maybe teach them an easy reel or something with point hop backs or skipping. Pointing your toes and proper stance are also two important things you should teach at the first class.

ReplySendWatch

Powered by XP Experience Server.
Copyright ©1999-2019 XP.COM, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
XL
LG
MD
SM
XS
XL
LG
MD
SM
XS