Teaching an adult dance class will take patience and planning. Many teachers, both new and experienced can make mistakes with their lesson plan and their teaching method. Every instructor will have his or her preferred method of teaching, and what works for one teacher will not necessarily work for another. The following are a set of tips that are intended to be recommendations and not concrete rules. We are all working on becoming better teachers and we all have room for improvement.
Remember the big picture.
When teaching a class, it is easy to get caught up in the details of the patterns and steps and overlook the student's motivation for being in the class. What are your student's hoping to gain out of the experience? How is the dance relevant to their lives? Try to address these questions in the class and see it from their perspective. Think about these questions before you begin and you will see a noticeable improvement in the success of your class.
Thoroughly plan your lesson.
Plan every aspect of your class. What you are going to cover and the order in which you are going to cover it. Plan how long you are going to spend with each part and how the lesson will relate to the material you have previously covered.
Develop back up plans. What materials should you have ready if your students are slow non-dancers? What material should you have if your students are mostly experienced quick-learners? What material should you have if your class is a mixture of both? You need to be prepared for this eventuality and have the relevant music for both.
How to break down a dance for teaching.
You may be so skilled in dance that you have difficulty remembering what it was like learning as a beginner. A useful practice is to make yourself heavier and clumsier when you try to break down a dance and observe when you stumble. This may help you relearn the basic weight changes and articulations that make the dance possible.
Another useful tip is to learn the dance steps you will be teaching in mirror image. Use the opposite feet and turn in the opposite direction. You may find parts that you thought were easy, that are actually difficult for a beginner.
Timing your lesson.
Watch the clock. Be sure to start and end your classes on time. Many of your students will have places to go after your class and will not take kindly to you going over time.
You may think that going over time demonstrates your enthusiasm for teaching, but it will only make you look like you are disorganized.
Always bring your class to a satisfying close.
If you are teaching an all-day class be aware of your students energy and attention levels. Plan the most challenging material for first thing in the morning. Be aware that the student's attention will begin to wander at the two-hour mark.
Pacing your class.
Don't rush your class. Make sure they have a solid understanding before you move on to the next topic. If you worry that you are boring them, find other ways to entertain the class rather than standard description of the steps.
Keep your class moving. Your students want to move and not stand listening to your descriptions.
If you have something important to tell your students, let them sit down and listen.
Move onto the next topic of the class when 90-95% of your students understand the step. The remaining percentage will be helped out by their partners or may be aware that they are slow learners, not want you to draw attention to this fact, and would prefer for you to advance with the class.
Presentation of yourself.
Your authority in the class is directly related to your student's perception of you. Let your students know that you are knowledgeable and taking your class is worthwhile for them. Being overly modest can be just as damaging to your reputation as being boastful.
Your body language should covey confidence. Don't loose your class my stumbling with your words. If you make a mistake, be good-natured about it.
Balance authority with a relaxed atmosphere.
Speak loudly and clearly without shouting. Try to animate the tone of your voice. Annunciate your words and don't mumble. A good idea is to do voice exercises before you begin your class, this will preserve your voice.
Choose your words carefully and try not to talk too much. Your student's need to process the information and a few effective words are far more beneficial than a long speech.
Arranging your class.
Be sure to show your steps from different angles. Those in the corner may not be able to see the important detail.
For many teachers, mirror image is a problem. If a student is facing you they may have difficulty copying your movements. A solution to this to mirror the step yourself, gesture to the left when you say "right".
Another possible solution is to have an assistant by your side, facing you. Ask your students to follow your assistant and they will find it much easier to follow the steps.
Always warm-up and stretch your class.
Always be generous when mentioning other instructors. Everyone knows that this is a small community and it pays to be charitable.
Hand out information and music when appropriate. You may consider making a syllabus and emailing it to all your students. Handing out additional material will make your students feel even more involved.
Have greater concern in your student's progression than your own reputation. Good teaching is for your student's progression, do this right and your reputation will naturally grow.