I'm gradually building up a set of techniques to teach new sets, and
more complicated ones. The methods I have so far are:
- Don't teach anything new in the last half of your class.
- Demonstrate it first with an experienced set that you've either
practiced it with beforehand or are good enough to be able to do it
to your call.
- OTOH, only demonstrate the minimum you have to do show how
something works. Walking and dancing through something will teach it
far quicker and better, and they're more fun for everyone.
- Take it apart and teach small units first. For instance, teach
'slides' as a unit and get the class to the stage where people can do
all of the slides from the single call with no other prompting.
- For 'meanwhile' bits, walk each concurrent part through separately.
Then walk it through with everyone doing it simultaneously. Pause
frequently at logical points (e.g. where everyone swings) to maintain
- Do not allow people to walk ahead of the
call, to talk to their partners while you're instructing the set, or to
'play around' and add stuff in to a set that others are still learning.
No matter how experienced they are, it confuses everyone.
- Once you've taught the 'meanwhile' bit, dance just that bit. If
necessary, dance the first part of the dance, then the second, then
both together, then the third, and so on.
- Once the set(s) can dance the whole figure through, move the
men between the sets. This keeps everyone in their original
orientation but changes partners around so they can't say "I go to
Fred and then to Bill and then to Jim". Dance it again. Then move
the ladies around the circle clockwise, so everyone has a new partner
and half of the people are in a different orientation. Dance
- Swap people in after you've moved everyone on. If two real
beginners are together after all of this, swap people around and/or
swap people in from the sidelines so that you've got a more even
spread of experience.
- Have a break for a drink of water, or tea, or whatever, reasonably
regularly so that people can relax and think and talk. It's a social
occasion, after all...
- Compliment them frequently on how well they're doing. Point out
people who did something particularly well and use that as a lesson
for the others. I know this sounds rehearsed but I usually find this
flows out of me unconsciously - if people are doing the right thing
tell them so ASAP!
- Try to keep correcting individuals to a minimum -
instead tell the whole class of the thing you want them to avoid. But
if someone asks you a question, do not hesitate to answer it and help
them work out the problem they're having.
- Once again, demonstrating something is worth a thousand words.
Walking it through with the other person to show them how fast a turn
is or how to hold the other person, for example, will always work much
better than just telling them what to do.
- Once you've taught an entire set, immediately dance the whole thing
through again from start to finish. Read the top item of this list
- Have a couple of stock dances, like the Caledonians, the
Balleyvourney Jig Set, or the Clare Lancers, that you know everyone can
do to fill in the time at the end of your class rather than try and
teach another set late in the class.
I suppose many of these ideas are useful not just to teaching dancing but
in teaching any new activity.