Friday, August 28, 2009

Got Teaching Tips?

A few posts ago, I told you how our intermediate kids' instructor asked me to help with the intermediate class to keep the new yellow belts moving along instead of being held back a bit by the kids coming over from the beginning class. I also told you how I was very flattered and honored that he asked me.
Now, my dilemma...
I am not shy. I am a talker. I am outgoing. I usually tell it like it is. BUT...
I am not a teacher. I can usually set my mind to learn something and learn it right. Again, BUT...
I find it hard to explain to someone else. Cases in point - I can play the flute, but years ago when my daughter wanted to learn with my own flute, I could not figure out how to teach her. Math - I hate math, but I can design a quilt w/no pattern and tell you how many square of roofing shingles you need for your roof if you give me the dimension and design a deck for you (from my hardware store employment years), but if I am helping my 11 yo son with a math homework word problem, I cannot for the life of me convey to him how I figured it out.
Last night, I did my first real stint as a teacher for the kids' class. I was surprised that the instructor asked me to work with the new yellow belts and those about to be yellow belts on their first two katas. I thought he would have me helping with the new beginning class graduates with basics. Again, I was flattered. (Maybe not rightly so - he may have figured they know probably as much as I do so I couldn't screw them up too much!) But I had 4 kids - 2 yellow belts, one of which was my 11 yo newly yellow-belted son, "Buddy". The other, a little girl who make my son and I seem positively mute. The other two white belts who are thisclose to testing for yellow belts. I started out with our school's "Basic Number 1" kata - a very simple but fundamental routine. They did okay. I had them do it while I counted out the steps. I had them do it without me counting, telling them to look to the highest ranking yellow belt to set the pace (disasterous!) and even with their eyes closed, which they did better at than trying to pace themselves with the girl who was highest ranking YB.
This little girl whom I have now named in my head as "Chatterbox" was very disruptive. She did not want to stay on task, instead, wanting to comment on every single thing we did or I said. She talked non-stop almost the entire hour. She stopped the class quite a few times. When practicing kumites after they worked on katas, she gossiped with the girl with which she was paired. I think the other little girl was even getting a little aggravated. What this all boils down to was that I felt like these kids - especially "Chatterbox" - did not take me seriously as an instructor. And much of that could be that they sensed I was nervous and it was my first time being totally in charge of teaching. Now, here is where you come in...
I would like some tips for instructing kids. I know many of my many (yeah, right) readers are or at least have instructed children - whether it be in martial arts or as teachers in the field of education. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated.
  • How do you stay focused when trying to count out katas?
  • How do you gain the kids' respect so that they really listen to you?
  • How do you get them to like you as well to make them want to do well for you?
  • And last, just any tips in general that I might use in helping them?

As I said, any tips at all will help me - the teaching challenged!


The Martial Arts Store said...

I'm a 3rd degree black belt and instructor at Korean Karate Academy in PA. When I first started teaching, the kids classes were the most challenging. To have them stay focused during their katas, you kihap (yell) for every step or technique and they must call out together what the technique is called. So if the first move is a low block, you kihap, and they do a low block together and yell out "Low block!". This prevents chattering during katas. Then, if your having problems with the level they are performing their kata, since you have only a few students, have them sit against the wall and call them up one by one to "perform" this kata in front of your group. Then, say one positive thing and one thing that could improve with their kata. And, last but not least, keep them occupied. Between each kata you teach them, have them do a set of 10 jumping jacks, pushups, sit up, swat jumps, or shoulder taps. Then. have them race against each other to see who finishes first. This gives them no time in between exercises to chat or slack off. Then, if they are still being chatty or disrespectful, have them snap their arms to attention and stand "like a black belt" in self control practice. This exercise they need to stand "like a statue" and no moving or talking. -Make it a game! If they even move a finger or toe, have them sit down until the last person is standing.

As for respect, be confident and loud. Strong voice, pose, and high energy. If you give them no energy, they will give you no energy in return. When you ask them a yes or no question, have them answer yes or no mam. If they don't, put your hand up to your ear and ask "Yes mam?" in a stern voice or have them do 5 "spirit" pushups. Explain to them what respect and spirit is and have them give you an example.

If little "chatterbox" keeps being disrespectful, have her sit in the corner. Its embarrassing for kids to have to be in time out in front of their friends. If you have issues with your kids when they are doing partner exercises (like self defense or one-steps) have them line up in front of you and you do the self defense or one-step with everybody.

These things help you gain control because believe me, it's hard to connect with children in the beginning.

Remember to have fun Here's a great game I play with them- Sensei Says. It's like Simon Says but you have them perform their techniques they need to know for their next rank. Tell them this game works on focus and control and their techniques for their next belt. They will be thrilled!

And it's not a matter if they "like you". Make them respect you, be stern, but allow time for fun, and they will like you for the instructor you are. Good Luck

(I also posted this comment on my blog today. Maybe others will be interested). Feel free to contact me with other questions.

KKA and the Martial Arts Store

Martial Arts Mom said...

Wow Lynn - you have some great ideas! Thanks so much!I'll be visiting your blog from now on. Thanks so much!

Becky said...

Well, I was going to offer some advice, too, but I see Lynn pretty much covered everything I was going to say.

Just one thing I do differently is when working kata with children, I often do the kata with them instead of just counting it out. Another thing we do is like Lynn said, I have them come up one at a time and do the kata in front of the group, but we pretend we are at a tournament, and I am the judge. They love doing this.

I'm not sure of the ages of your students, but when I have older students, I'll let them critique each others kata. Obviously, this doesn't work with real young students, so I usually limit it to 12 and older. This helps them pay attention and focus on the details.

When students misbehave in class, they do pushups. If I have a student who is continuously disruptive--and has done more than one set of pushups but still doesn't settle down, that student gets a time out--5 to 15 minutes depending on age. If I have to remind him or her again, he is excused for the remainder of the class and has to explain to his parents why he was.

As for the students liking you, don't worry about whether they like you or not. You are there to be their teacher, not their pal. When I was teaching, I didn't give one whit whether the kids liked me or not. I just taught them the best I could, and found that most of them liked me anyway.

Also, remember that kids have a short attention span. Keep things fairly fast paced and moving. Try to move from one activity to another quickly and without a lot of lag. That's where you are going to lose a lot of kids. We play Sensei Says, too, but with basics, jumping jacks, and such. When a student messes up, he isn't put out of the game, he just does 5 pushups and continues. This works better with the younger kids.

We also played one called Sensei May I? Sort of like Mother May I, but with karate related stuff.

There are other games, too, but I don't remember a lot of them. It's been a long time since I've taught kids--since my own son was old enough to move to the adults class.

Good luck and it does get easier.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Wow - Lynn just got another new reader here, too.

Teaching kids is hard for me in the beginning. Each new child is a separate challenge until I get to know that individual child and what particularly motivates them. In a larger school, I suspect a different approach would be needed - ours is tiny (about 12 people total, including black belts). In a place like ours, you just try to get to know each individual student, and what works for them.

My son is a chatterbox. For him it's important to not give him a chance to get going verbally. As long as he's got something specific to do right now he does pretty well. Giving him some responsibility also works well. He's not quite to where I would let him critique another student, but having him call out the count, or calling out to freeze action when we're practicing our placement in sparring will usually keep him focused rather than chattering.

Michele said...

Excellent comments.

My best word of advice for teaching kids is have a plan. I made sure I was ready for class. I new what material I wanted to cover. It is also important to be flexible and move on when something is not working.

With very young kids (4-6), the class needed to be creative and fast paced. I used small squares (or mouse pads) and assigned each child a spot. I made sure the squares were spread out and this reduced talking and the occasional stray punch.

If the kids are a little older, I keep them busy by helping count. If the class worked hard, I made sure there was a fun drill to end each class. They loved karate obstacle courses, "hajime/yame", moving drill races, etc.

I am sure you will do great!

Anonymous said...

If I can be of assistance, I recommend my posts:

1. Learning karate through play and fun

2. Why karate is suitable sport for children

3. How we can motivate children to keep in karate

4. Karate training for children
Good luck!

Martial Arts Mom said...

Wow - talk about some invaluable info! You guys and gals are tops! I will incorporate alot of this into our class and I'll definitely check out those links, Sensei! Thanks everyone - I'll post next Friday after I teach again and let you know how it goes!

Amy said...

I know this was a month ago, but I'm going to chime in with a little different view. I'm starting to instruct more and more. It is MUCH different being in front of the class than being in the class. You yourself will learn a lot more when you are put in a teaching role.

As far as the chatterbox. Keep reminding her of the rule to not talk during class. Just be firm and try not to engage her if possible. I find that the chattery kids like to brag, ask questions, talk about other sports they are doing, etc. It can be a challenge to keep them on task, but I usually say "Remember, there is no talking during class", or "Yes, but we are working on (karate, kata....)".

Good luck!

Amy said...

I also wanted to add to what Perpetual Beginner said, give them something to do, even if it is counting or holding a target. And try to get them to talk only about karate by asking questions about what you are doing "Which way do we turn next?" What kind of block do we do?" "What stance should we be in?"

In our school, the way the kids line up there is always someone in the front of each line. If the kids cannot stay still or silent, they are given one warning that if they don't stay quiet or stand still that someone else will have to be line leader.

Diver Daisy said...

hey girlie! good to hear from you too! just checking out your posts and the comments :) I've been thinking and wondering about you . . .glad to hear everything is going so well!

Thoughts on teaching kids just off the top of my head . . .
they really do like to have boundaries and know where you stand, what you will allow and won't, and where the line is that they just can't cross. And have a plan in your head to know what you will do when they cross it :) (it needs to be something within your power)

Natural consequences work best. Think of real-life situations and you will see how this works. If you distract everyone from doing their job, what will your boss do? If you do x in the real world, what happens to you? Etc.

Students are ALL different, no matter what age. Figure out what motives EACH one and works with EACH one. In classes that don't meet very much (when I taught adults computer) I asked them what they were really there for. You can do that with child students too. They often have a reason you might not have thought of.

Finally, treat them like little adults. Give them respect and expect it in return. Be honest with them. If they are not being nice to you, tell them. If they are disrupting the class, tell them. And if you can't figure them out, ask them. Then again, don't just assume they know how to act because they might not if no one has ever told them the expectations.

I think those thoughts would apply to any educational situation, whether it is karate or 4th grade :)

Oh yeah, and never give up on them because if you do they will know it.

I sure do love my job :) Been teaching 11 1/2 years in elementary school and wouldn't trade it for anything!

Anonymous said...

I’ve got a tip for you: get a higher belt than the audience you’re supposed to be teaching. That way you’ll actually gain some respect and hopefully more insight into the material you’re supposed to teach. People of the same rank trying to teach each other is like two blind men stumbling along while supporting each other. I’m sorry but the fact that you’re even allowed to teach is crazy and it doesn’t bode well for the quality of training at your dojo. A yellow belt is by definition a beginner irrespective of the time spent training and you should be focusing on getting better yourself (actually gaining confidence, competence and skill) before assuming teaching-responsibility, however minute. To me this reeks of a mcdojo: do you really have that many students or alternatively so few competent, high-ranking instructors that you have to resort to promoting lower belts to assistant-teachers? Where are the ‘many sensei’ you speak of, on vacation? In any decent dojo students are only allowed to start teaching upon reaching 1st kyu and even then it’s usually under supervision. This ensures a high standard of instruction and provides the lower belts and beginners with role-models to look up to and emulate. First you’re a beginner (totally clueless), then you become a bona-fide student, then an advanced student, then a master (black-belt level) and finally a teacher. Not the other way around.

As to that little girl you refer to as chatterbox: good for her. I would be pretty pissed and disruptive too if I wasn’t taken seriously, even a child instinctively resents being told what to do by someone without the proper authority (natural or official).

The Martial Arts Store said...

Let's not be to critcal here Anonymous. Everybody has to start somewhere, and helping one of your senseis teach a group of students is a great way to help yourself learn as well. Good for you Martial arts mom that you were chosen to teach a group your same rank. You have the a similar understanding of the material because you and the group of students are around the same rank. An instructor looks at the material differently because they are of higher rank and may not have your same introspective about how those of your same rank understand it.I admit, as a full-time karate instructor, sometimes I (and every instructor does this at one point or another)tend to overlook that the material may be tougher to your students than you think because it may be "easy" to you. Your students are being exposed to many different outlooks of the material and this can help both you and the students have a different way of understanding.

In my classes, when I split the groups up into rank and have them do their onestep sparring and forms, I always endorse the students to help, correct, or say "good job" to their fellow teammates during the workout. The students become leaders and most importantly--teachers. Congradulations on being able to teach these students, as it will benefit the students and yourself. Anyone who says otherwise never had the chance to teach before black belt.