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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Checklist for Folk Dance Teachers
By Dick Oakes

Dick Oakes 2000


Here is a list of questions to ask yourself as a teacher (of a recreational dance group).
Make a checkmark next to the ones to which you can answer "yes."
No teacher of folk dance does all of the following things all of the time,
but all good teachers do most of these things most of the time!

Personal Qualities

Check List for Folk Dance Teachers ▢  Do you have a youthful attitude?
▢  Do you show enthusiasm?
          ▢  about your students?
          ▢  about your material?
          ▢  about your music?
▢  Do you not try to take yourself too seriously?
▢  Do you have a good sense of humor?
▢  Do you see the humor in everyday situations?
▢  Do you convey a feeling of being at ease? Of having poise?
▢  Do you set a good example with good posture?
▢  Do you always teach well groomed? Clean? Deodorized?
▢  Do you arouse the interest and emotions of your students?
▢  Do you conceal your own problems when you don't feel well?
▢  Do you always try to keep your temper under control?
▢  Do you not teach dances that you, yourself, do not like?
▢  Do you have empathy for your students (remembering you were once a beginner too!)?


▢  Do you know the objectives of the group you'll be teaching?
          ▢  Recreation?
          ▢  Education?
          ▢  Performance?
          ▢  Dance ethnology
▢  Do you know the makeup of the group?
          ▢  Experience?
          ▢  Age level?
          ▢  Group size?
          ▢  Ratio of men to women?
▢  Do you know the length of time you have to teach?
▢  Do you know what equipment will be avalable?
          ▢  Music player?
          ▢  Remote microphone?
▢  Do you understand the operation of the equipment you are to use?
▢  Do you only teach dances you know well?
▢  Do you know the music well for the dances you teach?
▢  Do you know how to read dance notes?
▢  Do you understand typical dance note abbreviations?
▢  Do you keep up with the latest trends in dance popularity?
▢  Do you make an effort to never stop learning?
▢  Do you, when the nationality permits, try to teach a balanced mix of
          ▢  partner, non-partner, line, circle, group, mixer, and trio dances?
▢  Do you select dances on a level with the students?
          ▢  Skill level?
          ▢  Purpose?
          ▢  Experience?
▢  Do you know about the costume of the people whose dances you are teaching?
▢  Do you know how the particular costume affects the movements of the dance?
▢  Do you use visual aids and props when available and desirable?
          ▢  Maps?
          ▢  Diagrams?
          ▢  Pictures?
          ▢  Costumes?
▢  Do you use the actual dance name instead of just its translation?
▢  Do you not only go over the dance fully in your mind, but write it?
          ▢  As an outline?
          ▢  On a 3x5" card for quick reference?
▢  Do you make sure partners are obtained and formations set before beginning to teach?
▢  Do you always know how much musical introduction there is before the movement is to start?
▢  Do you know when and how to pick up the dancing when the music is in progress?
▢  Do you obtain the best music available?
▢  Do you practice your teaching out loud before teaching a group?
▢  Do you try to master the different styles of the different nationalities you teach?
▢  Do you try to learn your material from the "source" or as close to the source as possible?
▢  Do you know and explain the differences between movement types? For example,
          ▢  Step?
          ▢  Hop?
          ▢  Leap?
          ▢  Jump?
▢  Do you know and explain the differences between dance types? For example,
          ▢  Two-step?
          ▢  Waltz?
          ▢  Schottische?
          ▢  Polka?
▢  Do you know and explain the differences between meter, tempo, and rhythm?
▢  Do you know and explain the differences between complicated rhythms?
▢  Do you teach with a variable-speed music device when possible?
▢  Do you check to be certain that you have the correct music available prior to teaching?

The Teaching Process

▢  Do you start the teaching on time?
▢  Do you start with warm-ups, warm-up steps, or a warm-up dance?
▢  Do you always use starting cues, such as "Ready, Go!" or "Ready, And!"?
▢  Do you keep starting cues at the tempo the movement will have?
▢  Do you say "Just watch" or "Don't do it yet" when demonstrating to eliminate confusion?
▢  Do you verbalize your teaching cues in different ways for different students?
▢  Do you use the name or type of step motif ("grapevine" or "hop-step-step" for example)?
▢  Do you break steps down into their component parts (instead of just demonstrating)?
▢  Do you teach in units (phrases, motifs, patterns, sections, figures, etc.)?
▢  Do you emphasize the importance of completing a step or figure before going on to the next?
▢  Do you teach "transitions" from one step motif to the next, to the next, to the next?
▢  Do you give some background material on the dance without making a long speech?
▢  Do you not talk excessively or unnecessarily?
▢  Do you write the name of each dance, say on a chalkboard?
▢  Do you write the country of origin and a translation, if needed?
▢  Do you always, when writing the name of a dance, add the correct diactitical marks?
▢  Do you know why diacritical marks on words are important to their pronunciation?
▢  Do you make yourself aware of your students' progress during your teaching?
▢  Do you teach to the point and concisely?
▢  Do you keep a continuous but stimulating pace to your teaching?
▢  Do you avoid simple repetition and try to deal with your students' difficulties?
▢  Do you use adequate repetition, when necessary, for the difficult portions?
▢  Do you quickly follow your demonstration with student movement?
▢  Do you use imagery to get movement qualities across (such as "sore toe" for a limp step)?
▢  Do you call out step motifs and figures before they are danced, rather than as they are danced?
▢  Do you use verbal cues in time to the music?
▢  Do you taper off on the cueing and demonstrating so students can go it on their own?
▢  Do you teach men and women separately if their couple dance steps are not identical?
▢  Do you allow men and women to join in segregated teaching so teachers can learn both parts?
▢  Do you emphasize the difference in men's and women's styling within the same dance?
▢  Do you stress the importance of the differences in ethnic dance styles?
▢  Do you accurately mimic the differences in ethnic dance styles?
▢  Do you know when to take breaks so the students don't become exhausted?
▢  Do you frequently ask if there are any questions?
▢  Do you project your voice so that all can hear?
▢  Do you enunciate properly?
▢  Do you use your teaching time well and keep track of elapsed time?
▢  Do you have students clap difficult rhythms and even step them out in place?
▢  Do you teach a complicated step pattern slowly at first and then build the tempo?
▢  Do you keep the proper rhythm of the steps, even when teaching slowly?
▢  Do you slow the music at first to match the tempo at which you were teaching the steps?
▢  Do you hum, sing, or whistle the tune while you are teaching?
▢  Do you use a logical and consistent set of signals for communicating with the "sound engineer"?
▢  Do you credit the original source person who researched and introduced the dance?
▢  Do you say what you do and do what you say (such as not calling a leap a hop)?
▢  Do you show your students what you're going to teach first, then teach it, to make learning easier?
▢  Do you try to have a teaching assistant (when possible) for large groups?
▢  Do you try to have a teaching assistant of the opposite sex when a partner dance is being taught?
▢  Do you try to have a teaching assistant when men's and women's dance styles are very different?
▢  Do you select a partner other than your teaching assistant from time to time?
▢  Do you have couples change partners so experienced dancers can help beginners?
▢  Do you allow extra individuals into a group of partners so that everyone gets a chance to learn?
▢  Do you have original partners do the dance after it has been taught?
▢  Do you teach the style of the steps and not hope it will rub off with enough demonstration?
▢  Do you teach your students how to be less non-ethnic in their dancing?
▢  Do you try to be patient with slow learners, especially in a beginners' class?
▢  Do you limit the attention you pay to beginners so your teaching doesn't become boring to others?
▢  Do you keep aware of the speed at which you are teaching – not too fast or slow?
▢  Do you change to something else if a dance proves far too difficult for the current group?
▢  Do you teach the different arm and hand positions correctly?
▢  Do you point out unique features of various dances to help students differentiate among them?
▢  Do you teach the leaders of open circles and lines how to keep from spiraling in on themselves?
▢  Do you teach dancers to move toward the outside of a circle to keep the circle at optimum size?
▢  Do you teach men how to lead partner dances?
▢  Do you position yourself near the side of a circle so your voice will reach the most students?
▢  Do you change your position in the circle so all students have a chance to dance in back of you?
▢  Do you have students line up in back of you, when practical, so learning becomes easier?
▢  Do you covertly try to teach more in front of those who are having the most trouble?
▢  Do you turn the circle inside-out and have them do the dance without looking at you?
▢  Do you single out students for special attention only when you know they will appreciate it?
▢  Do you use a microphone, when necessary, and not pop your Bs or Ps, nor hiss your Ss?
▢  Do you teach students dance etiquette (such as, when, how, and where to join a line or circle)?


▢  Do you "review" a dance well the following session and do a "walk-through" in the third session?
▢  Do you spread the teaching of lengthy or complicated dances over more than one session?
▢  Do you talk and dance with students after the teaching sessions?
▢  Do you accept requests for teaching?
▢  Do you not lead every dance, thereby giving others a chance to display their leadership qualities?
▢  Do you help students learn the song words to which they dance?
▢  Do you prepare song sheets for your students?
▢  Do you prepare dance notes for those who want and need them?
▢  Do you keep a list of when dances were taught for future programming reference?
▢  Do you prepare students for a large portion of dances on programs of festivals they attend?
▢  Do you build students' repertoir of steps so future learning is easier?
▢  Do you help students understand that with practice most folk dances are possible for them to do?
▢  Do you encourage students to perform dances periodically to demonstrate their skills?
▢  Do you encourage students to attend workshops, even though they may learn dances you won't know?
▢  Do you teach other prospective teachers how to teach and allow them to develop their skills?
▢  Do you encourage students to branch out into other enriching areas of the ethnic experience?
          ▢  Costuming?
          ▢  Languages?
          ▢  Performing?
▢  Do you praise students when they do well – even fairly well?
▢  Do you accept criticism good naturedly?
▢  Do you admit your mistakes and correct them as soon as possible?
▢  Do you know that one who knows all the steps to all the dances is not necessarily a good dancer?
▢  Do you recognize that a good dancer is not necessarily a good teacher?

Used with permission of the author.