Often when I am teaching  swing dance classes I want to assess how my students are doing or give them tools to assess each other/ themselves. One thing I learned quickly is if I asked the class, “Does anybody have any questions?” I would be met with blank/confused stares and occasionally a brave soul.

Average Student: What is this? I don't even


Often for students something will feel wrong but they sometimes just lack terms to articulate what exactly is ailing them. When a follow tells a lead that a move is being lead wrong, it is useful. However it is far less effective then an answer such as  “You are tensing your left arm so I can’t feel connection.”

What I try to do when asking students a question in a class setting are questions that target specifics. For example if I am teaching a rock step, “Follows did you feel a stretch from a rock step that propelled you forward?” or “Leads were your follows waiting for you to release tension on the rockstep, or were they backleading?”.

This works as well if you are trying to get students to give each other feedback, which I often do in my intermediate and above classes. An example of this is “Okay after you try the move three times to the music, stop and talk to your partner about what made it work or didn’t work. Some potential things to talk about are connection, tension, not looking at the ground, and if it was smooth or choppy.” When I phrase feedback that way, they have four different categories to flesh out their conversations with and this usually results in actual conversations giving vital feedback, versus the chit chat or blank stares I see during some classes during feedback time.

What I plan to try one of these days, is the classroom I teach in has a blackboard. I want to put the words up in chalk and see if visual stimulus would help my students out. Try this out, tell me how it goes!

One thought on “Teaching Tool: Giving Students A Vocabulary

  1. Thanks for this post. I am a veteran recipient of the blank stare response.

    It’s a no-brainer, but I admit, after teaching umpteenth lessons I may have put myself on autopilot a bit too much. It’s a good thing to be reminded of as something I can so easily do for my students. I have only to take a little more care with my explanations and give them the vocabulary they need to articulate what they are (or aren’t feeling).

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