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  1. #1
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    As a New Teacher

    I was reading the teaching thread posted here and it brought up a few questions for me. I was recently asked to take over teaching one of my friend's classes. I've only taught gym classes before this, so am very new.

    What do you teach? Do you all have lesson plans? Do you teach choreography? Do you teach improv? I'm definitely learning as I go. My students say they've been really enjoying classes and learning a lot, but I still feel like I need guidance.

    Any suggestions?


  2. #2
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    I teach in 6 week sessions. Each session has a focus. Usually I create a choreography that covers whatever material I want to cover (Amcab veil work, beledi vs. sharki, finger cymbals, Turkish Romani, Saiidi, use of folklore in an Oriental solo, etc) and I use that as a framework for my lesson plans.

    But sometimes I teach pure technique sessions. Rhythms and finger cymbals. Improv. Creating a solo choreography. Shimmies and layering. Traveling steps. Etc.


  3. #3
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I teach in 6 week sessions. Each session has a focus. Usually I create a choreography that covers whatever material I want to cover (Amcab veil work, beledi vs. sharki, finger cymbals, Turkish Romani, Saiidi, use of folklore in an Oriental solo, etc) and I use that as a framework for my lesson plans.

    But sometimes I teach pure technique sessions. Rhythms and finger cymbals. Improv. Creating a solo choreography. Shimmies and layering. Traveling steps. Etc.
    Thank you! I was teaching in monthly segments, but this time I'm doing a six-week session because I'm doing choreography. I'm working with basic floor patterns, hip work, transitions, and some light upper body stuff. But of course, I'm not sure if that's too much or too little since I don't have prior experience to base it on


  4. #4
    Mega BHUZzer aasiyah's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    for beginners classes this is my setup :

    shimmy drills
    teaching technique/reviewing last weeks
    practising technique/ drilling with music
    playing follow the leader (just basically dancing)
    working on choreography.

    we do a bit of each of these things in every class.


  5. #5
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by maliam View Post
    Thank you! I was teaching in monthly segments, but this time I'm doing a six-week session because I'm doing choreography. I'm working with basic floor patterns, hip work, transitions, and some light upper body stuff. But of course, I'm not sure if that's too much or too little since I don't have prior experience to base it on
    Stay flexible, keep it simple, and you'll figure it out as you go. Pause often and ask if there are any questions. If there are no questions, ask 'What's the hardest thing so far?' and they'll let you know if they need to review something.

    If they say 'remembering the choreography' then you're in great shape, it's normal to have trouble remembering what comes next. So you just say 'Alright then, lets' run through what we've got so far a couple of times to lock it in.'

    When teaching choreo to beginners, I follow roughly this pattern:

    Class 1: Introduce posture & start simple isolations. Review everything at the end. Sometimes we get through the first couple of intro measures in the choreo.
    Class 2: Review posture & simple isolations, add a couple more complex moves, learn the first section or most often repeated chorus.
    Each class thereafter: Warm up with simple isolations, drill tougher moves or anything new that will be introduced today, review the choreo as of last week 2 times, add on a new section.

    If they're baby beginners, in 6 weeks I can easily get them doing hip lifts, hip circles, hip slides, horizontal 8s, ribcage slides and lifts. Moves that are harder for them and have to be drilled every week include vertical 8s, undulations, snake arms, anything traveling.

    My advice for beginner choreos:
    Short -- no more than 3 minutes (I cut songs if necessary)
    Repetitive -- most of mine are in 4-5 chunks (intro, chorus, verse 1, verse 2, end)
    Simple -- do a movement 4 times to the right, then 4 times to the left. 8 counts of this, 8 counts of that. I include a few things I consider more complex in each choreo (traveling steps, snake arms, 3D moves like vertical 8s, mayas or undulations, or more complex combos) but I spend a lot of time drilling those.

    Keeping the choreo really simple allows plenty of time to focus on the technique, which is what they're really learning in my class. I think of the choreo just as a framework to make it more fun for them and let them see how it can all fit together.

    Keeping it simple also allows them to have a great success experience, rather than a frustrating experience. I've been known to cut a song down or simplify a choreo in order to help the students walk out feeling happy and successful at the end of a session.


  6. #6
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Thank you both. I feel better after hearing that. I picked a song that is just over 3 min (maybe 3:10) and has lots of repeats. So I choreographed repeat combos to go with.

    I've spent the first half of the class warming up, going over isolations and drilling them, along with teaching specific moves we'll use in the choreography. The last half I've been reviewing what we previously learned and then adding on. Then of course a cool down with stretching.

    I think, after reading your posts, I've been trying to add too much at once though. I'm so excited to teach them this dance that it may have gotten the better of me. Last class someone did say "wow, this is harder than I imagined, but so much fun." So maybe I should keep it simpler? Also, though I don't count when I perform, I do count out loud for them. Is that normal too?

    Thank you again for all the great advice!


  7. #7
    Mega BHUZzer kashmir's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    I have a range of classes - some concentrate on technique, others choreography, others a style or a prop (I've tried offering improv classes but there is resistance so I just sneak it into "normal" classes). People generally know ahead what the next block will be.

    I plan 4-8 weeks in advance. The depth of planning depends on the class - some are quite tight (specific goals for each class, time breakdown, music suggestions, extensions, supporting material - such as videos or costume examples), some are loose (major movements or choreography goals, some music suggestions). With the loose class I usually review in the week before the class - taking into account what we covered the week before and any issues that arose.

    With most classes the important thing is flexibility. You need to read your students and be ready to change your approach. More breakdown perhaps. Or a different approach. Change between visual and kinesethic learning. Have extensions available for the quicker students.


  8. #8
    Official BHUZzer misha's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    I teach in 8 week courses, with two different tracks (for oriental/cabaret style bellydance). Classes are divided into an absolute beginner's course and a mixed level class.

    The Basics course is always the same 8 week format. It's a curriculum I developed a while back that features new moves each week. Students learn 5-8 new moves a week (and review old moves) and then string them together in either simple combos or a "follow the bouncing butt" dance. So we do heavy technique and then fun dancing. I keep it simple and fun but also make sure that the students REALLY GET THE TECHNIQUE. Don't sacrifice good dancing to make your students feel like they're getting to do a bunch of dancing. You don't have to drill the heck out of a move, but do make sure your students have really learned and understand the technical aspects of it. There are lots of moves people really shouldn't try before they have a good understanding of the foundational moves that make up a harder technique.

    For the mixed level course I change the topic every 8 weeks. I save special topics and the more interesting aspects of the dance for this class as I feel that, for beginners, it should be the simplest, clearest format possible. So for mixed I'll do things like zils, specific styles and variations, rhythms, taqsim, drum solo, folkloric technique, props, etc.

    Lauren gave you some GREAT tips! I'll add these:

    give handouts! ;) (see below)
    pick music that's fairly simple, too. a nice 4 is much easier than a 9/8
    consider adding in simple traveling, like walking boldly to one place or another, in order to add a familiar task to the choreo...everyone knows how to walk and if you add in a proud walk it usually makes students feel quite comfortable
    break it into smaller chunks, like combos, that can be practiced on their own...a lot of times we teach the different moves of a choreo then just string them all together. try instead to separate it out into combos - students will frequently drill a combo a lot more readily than the entire choreo, which can be quite daunting

    Ok, here goes - I highly recommend handouts! ALL of my classes receive an in-depth (sigh. sometimes several pages if I get really excited about the topic) handout, every week. Before I started teaching, I did a graduate project on bellydance classes (yes, really! ;) ) and surveyed over 100 dancers to find out what they liked/disliked about classes and what they would want in the ideal class. You'd be surprised how many students indicated that they felt like they couldn't remember the info when they went home. Many of my students say that handouts are one of their favorite parts of my class and that they find them extremely helpful. It's a little more work on my end, but I think it benefits both the teacher and the student.


  9. #9
    Master BHUZzer beafarhana's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by misha View Post
    give handouts! ;)
    Save paper, use electrons instead... Put the handouts on your website. It helps to promote your site.
    If you don't want the handouts to become "public property", there are ways to keep the document more private.


  10. #10
    Established BHUZzer LeylaFahada's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by beafarhana View Post
    Save paper, use electrons instead... Put the handouts on your website. It helps to promote your site.
    If you don't want the handouts to become "public property", there are ways to keep the document more private.
    IAWTC. So many people never look at them, lose them, or throw them out. Don't waste your resources. And it's a great point that it will increase web traffic!


  11. #11
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Great advice Misha (and everyone!) I've given them the choreography handout and then asked them to take notes to help them remember moves. I have broken down my beginner's choreography into 4 combos, and I teach one a week. Then the last two classes are learning the finale, putting it all together, and polishing it up.

    I like your idea about having a set class for absolute beginners though. I'll have to work on a lesson plan of what I think is crucial to new beginners and then incorporate that into a new schedule. I think that's a great idea!


  12. #12
    Official BHUZzer misha's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    OOOPS! totally should have mentioned the eco-friendly aspect of doing e-handouts (the girl who's currently presenting at "restore america's estauries" conference hangs her head in shame!). you all are right, electronic are much better for the environment. i still print some out, on recycled paper ;) , as I find that my students are really good about keeping them. but you're right about the fact that most throw them away. also it really is a nice way to get more hits to your website - thanks for bringing it up!

    I also like the suggestion of telling students to keep their own practice journal. this is a great way for them to learn!


  13. #13
    Mega BHUZzer kashmir's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by maliam View Post
    I like your idea about having a set class for absolute beginners though. I'll have to work on a lesson plan of what I think is crucial to new beginners and then incorporate that into a new schedule. I think that's a great idea!
    Take your time over this. Your beginner course is the foundation for the rest of your teaching. Now is the time to fix good posture, technique and habits. It is also the best time to dispell those belly dance myths that drive you nuts.

    For a one hour class, you will have time to introduce one or two new moves max. (Remember, you also have warmup, cooldown and drilling existing moves)

    Also keep in mind you will have a range of physical abilities at this level and many students who will never be professional dancers, so make sure anything taught at this level is very safe. So leave the undualtions and vertical figure eights until you are sure they can handle them - ie at least 6 months down the track.


  14. #14
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by maliam View Post
    I was reading the teaching thread posted here and it brought up a few questions for me. I was recently asked to take over teaching one of my friend's classes. I've only taught gym classes before this, so am very new.

    What do you teach? Do you all have lesson plans? Do you teach choreography? Do you teach improv? I'm definitely learning as I go. My students say they've been really enjoying classes and learning a lot, but I still feel like I need guidance.

    Any suggestions?
    What are the friend's current classes like?

    When I first started teaching on my own, rather than reinvent the wheel, I went with how my mom taught her classes for the most part -- including my own stuff here and there -- because it was something I already knew and it worked. Within a couple of sessions, I began to tweak my lesson plans a bit more and have continued to develop my teaching style and philosophy over the past 12 years.

    Maybe your friend has some ideas about how to run a class that, if they work with your style, might be a place to start.

    Good luck!

    Deborah


  15. #15
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Oh, and get your own liability insurance, even if the venue doesn't require it!

    Deborah


  16. #16
    Official BHUZzer taaj's Avatar
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    Re: As a New Teacher

    Hi,

    Yes, I always teach from lesson plans. This keeps things moving in the direction of goal attainment. If the goal is to learn a choreography in 6 weeks, putting it out on paper makes it much more likely because it creates a visual road map. This doesn't mean that you have to stick rigidly to the lesson plan, but have it as an outline so that you don't get to the end of 6 weeks and not know what you accomplished.

    Putting it on paper can also help you to see if your goals are realistic. If you are starting from scratch and want the students to have good posture, good technique, be warmed up and cooled down, is it realistic to do a choreography in 6 weeks? Is the point of teaching choreography to give students something to show as a finished product? Or is it to give them ideas of how moves could be strung together? The first goal implies that you will spend more time working on the technique that goes into the choreography while the second seems to indicate that you will spend more time on the choreography itself. See how that might make a difference in how you structure your class?

    For me, "basics" include learning basic movement vocabulary, being able to combine movements in a simple choreography and improvisationally, and being able to play a triplet on finger cymbals. That is what I cover in my beginners class. It doesn't all get done in 6 weeks though. ;)

    Taaj


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