Friday, January 21, 2011

Pre Class Routine

Have you ever noticed that what happens before class can set the tone for the hour of training time. I have tried many different routines, but the one I’ve used for the past few years is to sit everyone in a circle 10 or 15 minutes before class and talk. Children will talk about anything and everything. They will want to tell you about their day, or the latest movie, or an upcoming trip. You never know.

My experience is that by bringing all the kids together before we start training I accomplish four things:
1. Everyone has a chance to drop the distractions in their heads and mentally prepare for training.
2. Kids want to come early to talk and laugh. Therefore (theoretically) I have less late arrivals.
3. Kids LOVE to talk about themselves. (So do we, so we should understand that, right?)
4. Everyone feels inclusive. As kids arrive they join in. Even new students feel like part of the group before class starts. Some of their first day jitters disappear during this talk.
Usually one of my helpers begins the pre class talk time while I’m organizing for class; each teacher has an individual way of coordinating this time. One thing we all agree on is that only one person should talk at a time. That is a challenge. It comes, like most things in karate, with patience, reminders, and repetition. Recently I had 7 new students arrive before class started. I used the pre class talk to have everyone introduce themselves, say how old they are and what grade they are in. I could see the kids noticing when they were in the same grade, or the same age. I realized that bringing up things newcomers and old timers had in common made everyone more comfortable and therefore less distracted at the beginning of training.

One other thing I’ll do during talk time is move the conversation over to karate ideas. As we get closer to class time, I’ll start asking karate questions and see who remembers what.
That is a perfect segue to the “Line up.” command.

As I stated, I’ve been using talking in a circle for a few years now. Recently, one of my students, who is a school teacher, brought in a document from her Montessori program reinforcing what we had already seen. Here are a couple of the bullets from her paper.
[Bringing kids together to talk in a circle}
Unifies the group
Makes everyone feel like they belong
Lets everyone express themselves and understand what they have in common and how to be friends with differences.
The teacher can use this time to review rules, expectations.
This time is perfect to move from one type of activity to the next.

As always, let me know your thoughts.