Teaching Them to Ask Smart Questions

Asking Smart Questions

We all know there are plenty of unneeded questions. Of course, we want to encourage our students to ask any question they have, but really . . . sometimes the questions they ask are just plain dumb. My favorite one is “Are we doing this one or two at a time across the floor?” Really? You don’t think I am a competent enough teacher to give you that information without you needing to ask? Really? REALLY?!

Of course, I know the students who ask that question have zero intention of questioning my ability as a teacher. They simply want the information and have not yet learned I will always, ALWAYS, give them that information without them EVER needing to ask for it. So, I must teach them this lesson. Along with several others so as to ensure they (almost) always ask smart questions.

Seven Smarter Questions Lessons

Below, find my Seven Smarter Questions Lessons. The questions underneath the lessons are examples of ones we should never hear in any ballet class. Ever.

1. The teacher will do their job. Exceptionally well. No need to worry.

“How many people do you want in a group?”

“How many times do you want us to do the combination?”

“Are we doing the combination again?”

2. You have a brain and you are encouraged to use it. For real. This is very true.

“Which foot do we start with on this side?”

*In the middle of a combination* “Is it ok if I don’t do this side? My left knee is hurting.”

*While everyone is running through the combination quietly on their own, one student steps right in front of you and proceeds to start dancing*  “Like this? Is this right?”

3. The question someone else just asked—you have that same question. You just don’t know it yet. So listen to the answer. Seriously.

This one needs no examples. You all know EXACTLY what I am talking about.

4. Your teacher will NOT demonstrate the exercise again.  

“I was having trouble focusing. Can you show me again?”

“I was in the bathroom when you were giving the combination. Can you show it again?”

“Can you show it again?” — NO!

5. The correction someone else just got—it was meant for you, too. Apply that correction and you will become a better dancer. It is like magic!

Not so much about questions. But so important! Plus, I know I am not alone in having given someone a correction and not 2 seconds later someone else asks a question my correction already answered.

6. Ballet vocabulary/theory is your friend. It will make taking ballet class and learning choreography SO much easier. Like you can’t even know how much easier. Just go ahead and learn it. Even if you don’t want to.

“Which direction do I turn for this pirouette?”

“Does the glissade go to the right or left?”

“Which leg is the arabesque on?”

7. You know more than you think. Find out what you know and then ask a question.

“Can you review the whole combination again?”  — For real? There is no part of the combination that you know?

“Which leg should be in front for the chassé?”  — You know the answer to this. You really do.

*After giving an allegro exercise* “So, should this combination finish with plié or would you like straight legs?”  — You tell me.

Teaching ballet isn’t about giving them choreography and then saying, “Go!” It’s about shaping our dancers to think for themselves, solve problems, and become better human beings for it.

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