September 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Vocabulary Boards and Flash Cards

By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
The start of a new dance season is a perfect opportunity to spice up your tap program with new ideas that will reinforce your lessons and inspire students to practice.

Try the do, see, write, and say method: dedicate a bulletin board or wall in the classroom to tap vocabulary and rhythm phrases. As students learn to do a new step, let them see the word, creating an immediate mind–body connection. Have students write the word in a notebook or on a worksheet, further sparking the memory process. And have them say the word repeatedly as they do the step.

As new vocabulary is added, your tappers will be able to draw on it when prompted to make their own choreography. Older students especially benefit from seeing the written names for classic steps such as waltz clog, Irish, varsity drag, time step, Maxie Ford, and essence, and they often respond enthusiastically to quizzes. Share the history of these steps to further engage students in the learning process.

Tip 2
Flash cards with one-bar rhythm phrases can provide a wealth of teaching moments. Whether dancers are novices or experienced tappers, the clarity of their sounds depends on their ability to reproduce specific rhythms, and seeing a phrase in addition to hearing and doing it will help bring success. In particular, when dancers see the rests, or silent notes, in a rhythm, they are more likely to respect them and produce accurate footwork.

Try these activities or make up your own. Play a rhythm by clapping, tapping, or scatting, then have students identify the card that matches. Or show a card and ask students to create choreography to match the rhythm. A varied approach will help you engage all your students in the joy of tap dancing.


Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.