Motivating all your diverse students can seem like a daunting task. But identifying the different “types” of students that make up every class can simplify the process: It allows you to use a few broader motivational techniques, rather than attempting to tailor your class to the needs of each individual. Here’s one junior high school teacher’s system for identifying students’ learning preferences. (Though C.M. Havens is not a dance teacher, he frequently uses dance to help his students learn academic concepts, and he’s become involved in the dance community.)

 

In my years as a junior high school teacher, I’ve learned that pinpointing a child’s inherent motivation is one of the best ways to keep her engaged and focused. But no one has time to take an entire class just to figure out what motivates a student. Based on my own experience, I’ve developed a way to identify the four different types of students—each of whom responds to specific kinds of motivation—that only takes about five minutes. Here’s what I’ve discovered, and how dance teachers can use it.

 

It all boils down to two questions. The first question is, “Who likes to play on teams?” Your “yeses” form your first group: those who like to work with others. The “no’s” are your second group: those who prefer to handle things solo. Now you can further delineate these two groups with the second question: “What’s more important, winning or just being involved?” Those more interested in winning are your competitive students, while those who just enjoy being involved are considered hobbyists.

 

Based on these questions, you can divide your students into four groups, each of which presents its own set of challenges. A hobbyist may not feel the need to push and prove herself the way a competitive student would. Conversely, the competitive student, if relegated to being just one more member of an anonymous group, may very well stop caring. A team-oriented student’s self-worth is tied up in the success of the group, and she often forgets to analyze her own performance, while solo students are sometimes so focused on themselves that they’re willing to let others suffer for their own success.

 

So how can you avoid the pitfalls and motivate these very different groups?

 

The competitive student will be better off if you reassure her and identify specific ways she can shine. If she’s a strong turner, for example, be sure to tell her so, and add that it’d be great if she could master her triples.

 

Similarly, the solo student needs goals, something to accomplish or overcome. Help her set benchmarks—i.e., being able to sit in a split by the end of the month—and track her progress.
A team-oriented student works best when she understands how her work is benefiting the group, so point out the reasons she’s important to the team. During rehearsal, emphasize that the routine doesn’t look right unless she nails her own part.

 

The hobbyist is a bit trickier. Hobbyists come to dance for a variety of personal reasons—including the dreaded “My parents make me.” You need to tap into whatever it is about dance that they like. When dealing with the “My parents make me” situation, you may have to start small, with a question like, “What about dance don’t you hate?” and slowly work from there until you find some personal reason for her to enjoy dance.

 

Ultimately, we all want to have classes filled with students who share our passion for dance. By tapping into each student’s personality and finding what motivates her, such a class is within every teacher’s reach. DT


C.M. Havens has taught social studies and science to junior high school students in New York City for the past 11 years.

 

Gardner's Theory

 

In his seminal work Frames of Mind, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner describes his theory of multiple intelligences, which identifies the different ways people learn. (Gardner updated his theory in Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons.) Here, C.M. Havens helps us understand the seven types of learners articulated by the theory and gives greater insight into how to motivate each.

 

Linguistic learners

* Learn best when: Something is described to them.

* How to identify them: They’re good listeners and often think out loud.

* Help them by: Allotting enough class time to discuss an activity before they attempt it.

 

Visual-spatial learners

* Learn best when: They can associate mental pictures with postures and movements.
* How to identify them: They’re often daydreamers, caught up in their own heads.
* Help them by: Developing imagery to accompany each step (i.e., describing a jeté as “jumping over a puddle”).

 

Bodily-kinesthetic learners

* Learn best when: Moving!

* How to identify them: They have a keen sense of body awareness and pick up on body language.

* Help them by: Having them learn a combination by following you as you dance it.

 

Interpersonal learners

* Learn best when: They can interact and empathize with others.

* How to identify them: They’re highly social, with many friends.

* Help them by: Balancing their desire to help others with their own personal development. They enjoy standing near their friends at the barre, but make sure they try new spots occasionally, so they’re not distracted.

 

Intrapersonal learners

* Learn best when: They’re allowed to work independently.

* How to identify them: They’re highly motivated but tend to shy away from others.

* Help them by: Giving them space to figure out steps or combinations on their own. But make sure you’re available if they have questions.

 

Musical learners

* Learn best when: Music is involved in some way. (Luckily, that’s not difficult in most dance classes!)

* How to identify them: They’re highly sensitive to rhythm and sound.

* Help them by: Giving them a CD of the music you use in class, so they can listen to it and practice on their own time.

 

Logical-mathematic learners

* Learn best when: They’re experimenting or solving puzzles.

* How to identify them: They think abstractly and are able to quickly identify and remember patterns.

* Help them by: Giving them “brain-teaser” exercises that involve tricky sequences of steps—a tendu combination that rapidly alternates feet, for example.   

 

—Margaret Fuhrer

 

For more information, go to howardgardner.com.

 

Illustration by Emily Giacalone

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox