The 3 Things That Keep Students Engaged During Online Dance Classes
By Erin Pride
We are in a really hard time in our lives right now…
It didn't hit me how difficult this time was until I got on my first live dance class with my students.
My students said that they were sad. They're going through their own things of missing their senior prom, missing their senior recital, missing all of these things, and they really need to be nurtured and cared about....
This hit me right in the heart...
When I went into my dance class, my intention was to deliver solid technique. But what I realized they needed more than technique was a connection.
Now, that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop teaching techniques. The technique is still there. But in the meantime, while we're going through this isolation, while our students are just going through their feelings, and feeling heartache for not having all of the experiences they should be having right now, we need to show up as educators and we need to support them in that!
When we can put the focus on building a connection, getting inside of what's bothering your students, creating an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you about things, that's going to be more beneficial to them, than getting a correct passe.
A correct passe is getting us nothing right now. Our students need to be cared for and nurtured in order for them to stay engaged in virtual dance classes, and that is what I am talking about today.
So where do we begin?
One thing that I noticed when coaching some dance educator clients is there wasn’t such an emphasis placed on caring for the students.
Now listen, and I'm also seeing studios having to close, and I'm also seeing kids not showing up to class, and I'm also seeing directors and owners being nervous about being able to pay their rent. I totally understand that.
But for those still functioning and providing classes, some questions to always ask yourself are:
- What is going to keep your students engaged right now?
- What is going to keep your students paying attention?
- What is going to keep your students coming to your studio?
- And what’s different for everyone?
I’m going to break it up into the 3 things I tell my clients in order to find answers for those questions above…
Start with your backend setup
What do I mean by the backend setup? What do you have in place? What is your structure in place to have your students take a class?
Now, there are so many different ways, but the one thing that I want to share with you today is to take the road that's easiest for you and your studio.
- Maybe that's doing live Zoom classes.
- Maybe that's doing live Google Meets classes.
- Maybe that’s prerecorded classes...
I want you to really think hard before you do Facebook live streaming, or YouTube streaming because it's not interactive with the kids. You can't see the kids, so that takes a part of the connection away.
If your students feel like you're nurturing their needs, then they're going to feel connected to you. Then they're going to want to stay with you, and in turn they will want to engage with you! So making sure your backend is set up in a way that allows for the most engagement!
- Pacing your classes while delivering your instruction
First of all, slow your classes down. Simple is easy.
Don't think that you have to show up and have these intricate bars, and these intricate combinations, and this intricate warm-up. You're going to lose your students...
First of all, they have to get the ratio, they have to listen. They might be on a lag. There are so many different parts, so if you challenged them with all of these hard things, you're going to lose their attention.
My suggestion is, to you, is to simplify. And my even better suggestion for you is to set your warmups.
- If you're doing a ballet bar, set that.
- If you're doing a modern center, set that.
- If you're doing a jazz center, a conditioning center, set that.
Because if you set it, you're giving students an easier amount of time to learn it. Right? They're going to learn it. And then when you come to the next class, they're not worrying about technology and learning everything. Which in turn...Keeps them engaged!!
Nurturing your students in your online classes
What kind of team building activities can you bring into your dance teaching practices?
A great resource for this is Wingman for Dance, where they discuss what’s called Social-Emotional Learning.
It's all about team building for dance, and thinking about what kind of activities can you bring in to connect deeper to your students, and testing what works for your students.
My students for example, LOVE conversation.
They love to tell me how they're feeling and all of the things because that's the kind of classroom that I've built. That wasn't just something I'm throwing on them now. I've been working with them to talk about their feelings and all the things since we stepped into the classroom in September, so that comes easy easily to us. So finding out the right kinds of activities that they need to feel nurtured.
I hope you enjoyed these 3 tips to help student engagement during your online dance classes.
If you don't walk away with anything else from this post, I want to share with you that the biggest thing right now is making an emotional connection with your students. That is what they need in order to stay engaged and get the most out of their dance classes.
Yes, dance technique classes are great. But if they are not feeling like somebody's nurturing them, if they don't feel like somebody's connecting to them, they're not going to want to show up to that dance class, and just watch a screen.
Think about how you can incorporate some activities, some things throughout all of your classes to make students feel engaged, to make them feel like they're a part of a community.
When your students feel like they're a part of a community, they're going to show up for you. When they feel like they're a part of the community, they're not going to want to miss a class!
Struggling to not only enhance your student’s engagement but overall performance? Click Here to listen to episode 84 of the Dance Boss Podcast: The 5 Most Overlooked Coaching Strategies for Enhancing Student Performance with Kristen Hale
Erin is your personal dance coach. Helping you, the fired-up dance educator build an impactful classroom. A Jersey girl all the way, she graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance and received her Masters in Dance Education from New York University. Erin is a dance classroom expert and specializes in lesson planning, unit plan design, and curriculum creation, as well as classroom management strategies. She has over a decade of experience teaching, writing curriculum, and developing programming. Erin is the Director of a High School Dance Program in New Jersey, and the Host of the Dance Boss Podcast. To learn more about Erin visit erindpride.com, and you can hang out with Erin on Instagram and Facebook.