by Julianna Hane
I’ll never forget accidentally feeding a whole tortilla chip to a toddler (I was only 7 years old at the time and didn’t know any better). Of course, the child choked. Luckily her mom was nearby and as trained nurse, she administered “back blows” to save her. After that frightening incident, the mother kindly said to her daughter, “take baby bites.” This lesson has stuck with me and still influences my teaching today.
I often see teachers shoving metaphorical tortilla chips into the beginner aerialist’s mouth by teaching way too many steps at once. The funny thing is, I used to teach this way, too. When I was a new teacher, I didn’t realize I was teaching too many steps until the students responded with blank stares, head scratches, etc.
Part of the challenge is that many of us teachers learned aerial arts in environments designed for advanced movers. While a gymnast, dancer, or other high level athlete can process high level sequencing and coordination, the typical recreational learner isn’t prepared for that. They need more incremental progressions leading up to what acrobats classify as “basic” skills.
According to web designer Susan Weinshenck, the human brain can only remember four steps at a time. It’s important to break skills down into small bites so more students from different backgrounds can find success.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, check out the classroom scenes from Sorcerer’s Stone (1st book/movie). Notice how the instructor gives a brief demo and explanation of a single skill. The students then practice that single skill under guidance of the teacher, who offers small corrections and reminders along the way.
An aerial class can run in the same fashion. The instructor models one skill at a time (with a maximum of 4 vital steps or details to remember in the first attempt), and then students practice that skill with teacher guidance. If there are more details to highlight in that skill, the teacher can layer it on during a second or third turn, or save it for another class day.
If you offer “free time,” games, sequence building, or explorations at the end of class, try incorporating the skills learned that day so students can review them more independently. Repetition is key to remembering skills over a longer period of time.
How do you know when a student is ready to move on to the next skill? See the next post on assessment to find out.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinshenck
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.