One of the biggest problem I had when I taught my first larger classes (like 50ish people) was at times getting all of their attention so they could hear what my partner and myself had to say and demonstrate.

Over the last few years, I have witnessed some instructors creatively deal with this problem in their classes which I will list below.

Teaching Tricks to get Students to Pay Attention

  • Shave and a Haircut: Described on the wikipedia page as a “7-note musical couplet popularly used at the end of a musical performance, usually for comic effect.”
    The way to use it is teach it at the beginning of the class, then you clap out the rhythm whenever you want the students attention and they respond with either a stomp-off or clapping back the “two bits” (Ba-Ba) part. Repeat as necessary.
  • One, Two, Three, All Eyes on Me: Many of you may be familiar with this from grade school, where teachers sometimes employ this. It is a simple rhyme that grabs attention. The way to use it is at the beginning of class go over the rhyme, then during class employ it as necessary. I remember my grade-school teacher would just say the part and have us students reply “All Eyes on Me”.
  • Side By Side: I actually witnessed this for the first time when taking a class from Erik Robison in California. He explains at the beginning of class when he says the phrase “Side By Side” he wants follows to get to the right of their leads and for everyone to remain quiet and watch whatever he is demonstrating. Its great because the phrase initiates movement, so people who might be zoning out catches on they should pay attention and it gets people in a position to immediately start dancing afterward.
  • Observation Goggles: I got this from watching part of one of Mike Faltesek and Casey Schneider’s classes at Jammin’ on the James last year. At the beginning of their classes they explain the importance of paying attention to the body movement (they or other people you are trying to learn from)and translating it to yourself, they refer to it as putting your observation goggles on and demonstrate what they mean. I can only explain what  this looks like with this picture:
    Observation Goggles

    Its goofy but it works like a charm, especially among a younger crowd.

What I Do Personally

Well I have liked everything, so I combine a little of it all. At the beginning of classes that it is students I am unfamiliar with, I explain I have this thing called “Side By Side”. When I say that phrase to make it easier on both parts for myself teaching and students learning I ask them to:

  1. Follows stand to the right of the lead.
  2. Please remain quiet so other students can hear what I am saying.
  3. Put on your “Observation Goggles” and not just pay attention to what my footwork is doing, but my full body movement.

I’ve found combining both of them works extremely well, at least for myself.

If you have any tricks you use in your classes or noticed other instructors using that works well, please feel free to comment about them.

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