Sunday, September 26, 2010

Five Simple Tips for Making Each Lesson Different

Often one of the biggest challenges for a martial arts instructor is coming up with different ways to present the same material and create varied lessons each week.  Finding a good balance between teaching the required content and making your classes fun and different is not always easy.  Have you ever felt like you’re teaching the same thing over and over again?  Have you been frustrated by using the same old practice drills each week?  Even worse, do you sense that your students are getting bored and are losing interest?  First of all, rest assured that you are not alone.  All instructors at some point in their development feel the need to take their classes to the next level and change things up a little bit.  So if you are at this point but are unsure how to inject some fun and excitement into your classes, then start today by implementing these 5 simple tips for making each lesson different.
1.       Brainstorm all of the different training drills and teaching methods that you currently use in class and write them all down.  Now you have a starting point for organizing your content and your delivery methods.  Next organize these drills and methods into similar categories such as basic training, kata training, sparring drills and additional content.  From here you now know what your base content and methods are and you can gradually begin to build your teaching repertoire and incorporate new drills.
2.       Make a monthly schedule of what needs to be taught each class and then plug in your training drills to each lesson.  By making a monthly teaching schedule of which content you will cover in which lesson, you now commit yourself to focusing on different content for each class and you will not allow yourself to fall back into the trap of teaching what is most comfortable to you.  This method still gives your students what they need and it also forces you to stretch your content knowledge and overall teaching skills.
3.       Change the order of lesson components.  If you have done step one and two and you still find that you have several lessons that cover the same content, a simple way of making the lesson different is to change the order in which you present the content.  For example if you are used to beginning with a warm-up, then teaching basic techniques, then going to kata training and finishing with some partner work drills, why not begin by using kata training as a warm-up, then move to partner work drills and finish with basic techniques.  There are several ways that you can change the order of your content and consequently make each lesson appear to be different despite essentially teaching the same stuff.
4.       Adjust the pace and focus of the lesson.  Another easy way to make your lessons different while covering the same content is to first change the pace of your lesson and then adjust the focus.  For example if you want to teach punches in two separate classes, the first class could focus on being a detailed explanation and practice class on the fine points of each punch and the second class could be a fast-paced workout with multiple repetitions of each punch.  To adjust the focus you might want to use line drills in your first class and pads and targets in your second class.  There are lots of additional ways to adjust the pace and focus of your lessons.
5.       Alter the context in which you teach your content.  A simple change in the context of your lessons can very easily make two lessons that appear similar have a very different theme.  Let’s take kata training as an example.  In the first lesson your context could be to teach Heian Sandan and to focus on the performance of the movements and relate this to tournament participation and demonstration.  In the second lesson on Heian Sandan your context could be to look at the sets of movements within the kata and apply the different sets to self-defense situations.
So as you can hopefully see, these five simple tips can dramatically help you design multiple lesson plans for your students that focus on similar content but which are delivered in different ways with interesting and varied approaches.  These types of adjustments in your overall teaching methods can also lead to increased student retention and improved skill levels for all of your students.