Ask the Experts: Getting Beginners to Practice

I have a lot of beginners in my class. How can I get them to practice at home?

Getting students to practice in general can be a challenge, but most beginners need to first learn how to practice. Memorizing movement can be difficult for these students, which is why I create video blogs for my classes.  

Each week, I post the most recent version of the combination we’re working on and also offer videos breaking down certain components, per students’ request. (For my tap classes, I include videos of just my feet, too.) As a general rule, I video myself from behind, because it’s easier to shadow movement rather than mirror it. I usually slow down the videos that I post, so that the dance is easier to read, but occasionally that’s still too fast for some students. If you have editing software, such as iMovie, you can make the video even slower. Plus, both iPhones and Android phones have slow-motion capability built into their photo/video apps. The benefit of using software or built-in slo-mo on your phone, rather than slowing a video down manually on your computer, is that the former option shoots more frames per second, so you don’t lose video quality when you shoot it at a much slower speed. 

I use different platforms to publish these video blogs, depending on where I teach. At New York University, I use Google Sites; at another school, I use the learning management software Haiku. I’ve also used Edublog in the past, but any blogging platform should be fine.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

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