Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Four-Step Formula

Ideas and advice from teachers

Classroom Connection: Four-Step Formula

How do we effectively address technique challenges while keeping students engaged, interested, and enthusiastic? During one class, as my teen jazz students struggled with piqué turns, I devised a four-step solution that works in all my classes.


Step 1. Create a basic exercise to fix the root of the problem. For example, with the piqué turns, the students’ biggest issue was a lack of energy. I had them work on stepping up from a preparation to a piqué passé without turning and with more attack. As they did, their previously sluggish approach disappeared.


Step 2. Engage students by turning the exercise into a game. I created a contest to see which dancer could get her leg to passé the fastest. I divided the class into small groups: the first student in a group to get to a turned out passé at the end of “5 6 7 8” was the winner. The first student to win then served as judge to pick the quickest in the next group, and so forth.


Step 3. Explain the importance of the concept. I asked the dancers to explain why we want to arrive at our passé quickly during turns. For comparison, I demonstrated a sluggish passé and a high-energy passé.


Step 4. Involve students in the teaching process. After the class practiced piqué turns, I asked two dancers to demonstrate. “Why did I choose these dancers?” I asked. The other students mentioned the dancers’ good spotting, pointed feet, quick passés, and other points. When they didn’t hit upon the right answer, I said I would spell out the answer by making shapes with my body. By the time I got to the letter “v” they had guessed it—“traveling.”


The students improved their technique, engaged with the lesson, and had fun. Success!

—Holly Derville-Teer


Holly Derville-Teer is the owner/director of Hillsboro [OR] Dance Center.