The Human Brain is Built to Mimic or I Talk Too Much

I just had one of the most successful in-class sessions of my entire teaching career. Why? What did I do differently this time?

I shut my mouth!

Before I get into the details let me give some quick background:

We were working on Waltz Clog Pullbacks. I have explained to the class before how to do these and the kids have had mixed levels of success with them (some get them, many don't). Usually I will explain how to do it and then give them all time to work on it while I go around giving individuals pointers to help them get it. The results of this are usually some slight improvement.

This time I did it differently. I had a contest with the kids based on them mimicking me. Basically I did a waltz clog pullback then counted them in and they all did one together. If they all do it right (for the most part) and most importantly if their sounds are all together, they get a point. If their sounds are almost all together it's a tie, and if their sounds aren't together I get a point. No it's not remotely fair and I tell them this up front (don't worry about that, their competitive spirit will kick in anyway).

In the interest of full disclosure I have taught them these before and we have worked on them before but the level of success I had this time is unlike any success I've had ever. And we're talking in 27 years of teaching.

I had nearly every student doing the step exceptionally well with the proper timing and separation of sounds. And it was all based on them seeing me do it correctly, then trying to match it - rhythmically. It worked. It actually worked - better than anything I've ever done. Maybe it was a fluke but if it was it was a most glorious one.

What I didn't do this time is explain it to death. I didn't tell them how to fix this, or adjust that or anything. Either they sounded like me and got a point or they didn't. And just having that feedback of "it sounds good you get a point or it sounds bad I get a point" was enough for them to unconsciously make any and all adjustments they needed to do it right.

I'll have to try this again with a different step, but I may be on to something here!


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