#11 Keeping Students Engaged & Eliminating Distractions!


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I’ve discussed the positives of technology and the advantages it has when running a business, but on the contrary it has also become the #1 distraction, especially for those of a younger generation. It can be a challenge to achieve the full attention of students, whether at school or in a dance studio, and even after you ban phones from entering the classroom, they still may seem to have them on their drink breaks or between classes. That fact is, even if they aren’t using them at the studio the attention span these days of the generation known as “face glued to their phones” seems to be getting shorter everyday. In order to capture their attention, and keep them interested for longer periods of time, you will have to devise certain techniques within your lesson plans in order to achieve this. In today’s episode I will be giving you an idea of what these techniques look like, so you and your team members can have a stress-free, distraction-free, flowing dance class. Let’s dive into the episode!

So what are the techniques you can apply to create a distraction free dance class?

Keep students on their toes with small surprises

  • A great way to keep the students focused and engaged is to leave no room for distractions!
  • Of course you don’t want to throw too much at them at a time, but keeping them on their toes (pun intended) either musically or technically, while switching things up within the structure of a combination can allow them to focus on the steps and keep their brain active!
  • The key to keeping them engaged is to get them excited and active so that they can focused on what is happening in the moment.
  • This could include a special ‘surprise prop box’ for your younger students. Each lesson once they have completed a set of exercises or your focus for the day, the students are able to open the box and reveal what prop they are integrating. The prop could have direct correlation to the exercise focus for the day to assist with repetition.
  • For older students, This can also involve changing places at the barre regularly, or between exercises. Switch things up from your normal class routine, which will allow them to be more attentive, get out of their comfort zone and more willing to pay attention.
  • Are you always warming up in the centre, followed by corner work and finishing with a routine? Try incorporating a warm up game, obstacle course or a fitness circuit.
  • Also ensure transitions (particularly for younger students) are quick or choreographed. For example, I have recently seen some great videos online recently where a creative teacher choreographed a dance for the transitions You can find them on Facebook at: DiscoverDance Early Childhood Dance Education https://www.facebook.com/DiscoverDance-Early-Childhood-Dance-Education-1779482815646624/

Get them involved

  • Allow the students to take initiative in the classroom.
  • Getting a student/students to lead the warm up, cool down or even add to a section to the choreography, can keep them engaged by allowing them to step up and use their creativity.
  • Even giving little assignments before the class starts, that will be discussed at the end of the class, for example; what are they struggling with at the moment, and how did they overcome their obstacles, will keep them more focused during class, as they know they will be asked to answer questions later. Just make sure you follow through and allow time for each student to answer at the end.
  • Allowing them to play music they enjoy to dance to. For instance, each week a student could nominate the warm up song. Just make sure you create clear parameters for appropriate music that is used. This allows them to feel more in control and that they are not just a student but can teach and influence their peers, which will keep them engaged and boost their confidence as well.

Remind them why they are taking dance lessons in the first place!

  • Allow them to be reminded why they want to be there, and why they started to take dance lessons. Maybe they are more distracted some days than others, but when they are reminded of why they are in the class to begin with, they can have a clear focus on their goals and have more motivation to pay attention.
  • Get them to say affirmations every time they enter the classroom, to start the class off in a positive way. For example, some teachers create a mini little chant for their studio, or for younger students you may want to incorporate a welcome song.
  • Have them choose a move they have always wanted to do (probably something they have seen on Instagram), or sequence they are struggling with and want to get down.
  • At the beginning of each term, allow the class a few minutes to create a term goal sheet. Hang it up on the wall and refer back to it each lesson.
  • When they set their own goals, and understand the reasons behind them, this will also educate them on the importance of integrity.

Encourage critical thinking

  • Instead of presenting students with answers for every problem that may arise, allow them to offer examples, and get the students to draw their own conclusions.
  • Asking lot’s of questions is a great way for them to show an understanding of the knowledge they have,
  • This engages students and allows them to feel like a participant, rather than one who is being lectured. As a bonus, this encourages analysis skills.

Involve a reward system within your classroom

  • This doesn’t always have to mean they get free things, like lollies per say, but children love knowing they if they did something good, they will be rewarded.
  • You can devise your own unique rewards system when they execute a routine, or move they have been working on, answering a question correctly, or taking initiative in the classroom.
  • Although you want them take initiative for themselves rather than just for a prize, this is simply a conditioning exercise, and the rewards can be as simple as, choosing the music for warm-ups, or what they get to work on for the last 10 mins of class, such as their favourite exercises etc.
  • At my studio we have introduced a ‘Student Feature Friday’ where we nominate one student from across the studio each week to be highlighted. They get their photo taken and asked a few questions about their favourite dance style, hobbies, food etc. We also ask them why they love to dance or why the love Dance Energy. This then gets scheduled each Friday on all of our social media channels, emailed to parents and added to the special Feature Friday wall at the studio. As a bonus, these posts help get the name of the studio out there as parents love sharing about how proud they are of their children!
  • We all know the power of a simple sticker also!

Allow them to appreciate technology when it is needed.

  • This means, when the time does come, when you allow the students to grab their phone to record a routine for their friends, or take a picture of them executing a move to see their improvement, this will allow them to appreciate the power of technology and understand when it is just a one time deal.
  • A great tool on all phones to analyse jumps and turns is the slo-mo feature. It can really allow a group to break down the fundamental elements of the step and see where they are needing to work on next.
  • From there you can go back to a strict no phone rule, so they will differentiate the time spent in the classroom focused on their dance goals, and their down time, when technology is permitted.

Create a year overview, term plan and weekly lesson plan or break down

  • We all know each Teacher is different and not everyone requires an extremely detailed lesson plan to follow during class, but by having an understanding of the goals for the year as well as term/season - you will be able to determine the amount of work that is needed to be planned into every class as well as ensure there is a variety of technique/warm up & exercises included.
  • Any more planning tips?
  • As a Studio Owner, creating a term guide or plan with expected outcomes & requirements is a great way to ensure all teachers are on the same page.
  • Studio Owners could also create their own hub or resource library on Trello that has links to videos, resources, lesson plans and ideas. You could really create a beautifully systemated & automated yearly plan to ensure every student at your studio has an exceptional experience.

At the end of the day there may be no silver bullet for keeping students engaged in the classroom at all times, there are many simple techniques educators, like yourself, can apply that will improve their chances of success. By incorporating some of these techniques I mentioned in this episode, you & your staff can achieve the shift to take place for your students to achieve progress in your studio’s classroom.

Be sure to check out next week’s episode where I discuss Starting your studio from scratch: the basics.

For more Business Of Dance please, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram @claieosheacoaching. If you have any questions, topic suggestions or wish to be a guest on the podcast please contact us at podcast@businessofdance.net.

Hosted By: Claire O'Shea

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