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Mary Turner 05-23-2013 08:34 PM

Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Hi,
In just 2 weeks I am starting a kids class at our dojo, sharing responsibilities with another student. He is a shodan, I am a nidan. Our dojo cho has given us an outline of a curriculum, so we have a very good foundation to build on, but I'm seeking those things you wish you had been told, special bits of advice, hints on working with kids that will help us succeed. I am a mother of 2 (teens) so I am already comfortable being with kids, but teaching them aikido is a new challenge.

Thanks!

Basia Halliop 05-23-2013 10:03 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
I think it depends a lot on the age group of the kids involved. Teaching 6 year olds is completely different from teaching 10 year olds!

One thing I noticed is that curriculum really does matter even to things like class discipline. It's got to be perceived by the kids as challenging enough to capture their interest, yet broken down into small enough pieces with enough repetition that they get to experience regular success and clearly see that they are gaining skills. Bored and/or overly frustrated kids don't just learn less -- they act up endlessly.

Michael Hackett 05-23-2013 11:20 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Try to keep the parents involved too. Let them know what you're doing and why and they can be very supportive of the class. Your students are sure to get the occasional bump and bruise and that is a good time to interact with the parents. Let them know what happened and what you suggest they do. For example, we had one of our kids sprain an ankle last night - no big thing in any way and probably not preventable. He just stepped wrong and twisted the ankle. We spoke with him, a mature 12 year old, and recommended the RICE process. When Daddy arrived to pick him up after class, we discussed the RICE process with him as well. He went away confident that we truly do care for the safety of our students and want them to be secure of that. If the parents are confident that their children are in safe hands, they will often make referrals to other families too.

philipsmith 05-24-2013 06:50 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Don't underestimate their abilities either physical or mental. Kids like adults need to be challenged and it makes them feel special (in the best way) if they perceive themsleves to be part of an elite group.
Our kids class dropped in both enthusiasm and numbers when we adopted a softer approach - went back to hard work sessions - numbers went up of both returners and joiners and the class atmosphere really lifted.

JJF 05-24-2013 07:13 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
We started a kids class about a year ago. I've learned a lot, and discovered even more things I don't know how to deal with. It's hard work. I would love to say it is also rewarding, and sometimes it is.. but sometimes it is just hard work.

We have kids between 9 and 13 of age. Some are good kids and some are troublemakers. Not by choice but due to varying circumstances. Either lack of contact to adult role models, social or chemical imbalances that would probably lead to a diagnose if a doctor was involved.

Fact is they create a lot of disturbance and sometime even make it hard to run a good class for the rest. The easy thing would be to ban them from class, but I really really believe that they need it more than the rest and that we should do our best to handle them in a good way.

My point is that I spend a lot of time preparing for the introduction of a childrens class. I made curriculum, decided how long to train for each grading and how to connect grades with adult grading system etc etc. However I did not realize that it is even more difficult to plan for children than for grown ups. Reasoning with them is just different and to a certain extend not possible.

I don't want to discourage you. It is great to have such a class. Both for the children, for the dojo and for your own personal growth, but get ready to have a lot of thoughts about how to motivate, teach and in other ways deal with children - not to mention their parents. Sometimes the kids are just there because their parents tell them they have to. Not the best parameter for motivation :)

Lately I have tried to share the hour we have in three segments:
1. Warm up with a lot of small competitions (stand in a circle and see who can stay with one leg stretched out the longest etc) about 15 minutes
2. other games and drills (irimi tenkan / balance a jo between two persons - no hands / stand in a circle and change places without being caught by the 'monster in the middle') about 20 minutes. This include slightly advanced ukemi practice for some - forward ukemi ower a jo, break falls ower a crouching person etc
3. Actual aikido techniques. I teach simple versions. 2 maybe 3 techniques pr. class (mostly just 2).

This makes at least one part of the training enjoyable for most.

We also recap the 3 rules every time a new student joins:
1. I am the sensei - so I get to decide ALWAYS
2. When I clap twice everybody got to the line and sit in seiza
3. We all have to take care of each other.

It might seem strange, but the kids really love such simple rules. They compete with show of hands to get to name them when we recap, and they all know them pretty much by heart.

I'm learning to teach kids - but it's really difficult. The hardest part for me is to let go of my ideals and teach kids in stead of teaching Aikido. It takes special skills to be a good child instructor. I don't posses them, but I do my best. I have seen my Japanese sensei and his wife teach 100 children at a seminar in Poland. That was great. They had a great attitude of fun and playfulness that I hope to be able to develop.

Final advice: seek out others that have childrens class and pick up anything you can from them. Besides own experience nothing beats learning from others :)

God luck. I hope you get a great bunch of good kids.

JJ

JJF 05-24-2013 07:17 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Philip Smith wrote: (Post 326932)
Don't underestimate their abilities either physical or mental. Kids like adults need to be challenged and it makes them feel special (in the best way) if they perceive themsleves to be part of an elite group.
Our kids class dropped in both enthusiasm and numbers when we adopted a softer approach - went back to hard work sessions - numbers went up of both returners and joiners and the class atmosphere really lifted.

Hi Phillip

This touches a point we have been discussing in our Dojo. The way I teach Aikido I rely on my students wanting to learn so I think it would be perceived as very soft. It works out fine in the adult class though.

However in the kids class I am aware I should probably adopt a harder style - but I have no idea how to do that. Could you explain just a little what you mean by 'Hard work sessions' - especially how you deal with it if somebody slack off.

I hope you can help.

JJ

Susan Dalton 05-24-2013 07:19 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Hi Mary,
I taught the kids' class for several years, so I'll tell you some of what worked for me and some of what our current instructor has done to expand the program. We're also discussing right now adding a "tweens" class for older children before they go into adult classes.

First, I think you're smart to teach the class with another adult. I taught by myself, but my son was 13 or so and he assisted. That way, I didn't feel overwhelmed. I was a brown belt when I took over the children's class (which I started in so it was very familiar to me) but I had never taught any aikido class before. I was very, very glad to have another experienced person help me. The person teaching now has 4 other adults who are usually there.

Kids loved games--rolling to pick up tantos thrown around the mat, aikido tag, aikido soccer, ukemi obstacle courses, etc. We had the traditional class set up and then we finished the last 10 - 15 minutes or so with games and/or jyuwaza, kind of their reward for their serious practice for the rest of the class. When I visited my shihan's children's classes in Japan, he had the kids run for 5 - 10 minutes before class and 5 - 10 minutes after class. That way, they got some of their ya ya's out.

Our current teacher teaches September - through mid-June and takes a break in the summer. That schedule seems to work very well. The group is close--they go out for pizza or some other celebration after class fairly regularly. Parents are always welcome to watch, even join their children on the mat. We now have several regular students who began with their children in the kids class (as I did.) They can pay adult rates ($45/month) and come to both children's and adults' classes or they can pay kids class dues ($25/month) and just come to the children's class.

Just like in all our classes, the two main rules are be safe and have fun. Good luck!
Susan

philipsmith 05-24-2013 08:43 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: (Post 326935)
Hi Phillip

This touches a point we have been discussing in our Dojo. The way I teach Aikido I rely on my students wanting to learn so I think it would be perceived as very soft. It works out fine in the adult class though.

However in the kids class I am aware I should probably adopt a harder style - but I have no idea how to do that. Could you explain just a little what you mean by 'Hard work sessions' - especially how you deal with it if somebody slack off.

I hope you can help.

JJ

Actually the second part of your first post is pretty much what we do.

The kids warm-up with lots of physical "stuff" - jogging around mat, sit-ups, press-ups, general flexibility such as touching toes and so on.
We then do taisebaki following senseis count e.g. we're going to do tenkan 10 times - sensei counts 1,2, etc whilst performing the movement as well
Then technique asking for the name of the attack, technique and if it's omote or ura. So one student is asked "What technique is it?" another "what is the attack?"
After they have practised each technique we get two pairs to show what they have learnt to the whole class.

End of class is kokyu-ho.

Hope that helps - the competitive elements are learning the names and showing the technique "better" than anyone else.

JJF 05-30-2013 02:33 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Phillip: thank's for the comments. Yesterday I changed the format a bit. After we did the warm up I did some basic footwork (Irimi-tenkan-twist your body all the way and get down on one knee). We don't usually do this type of training in our dojo, as we expect it to develop from understanding of the waza, but it is a great way to make it simple for the kids.

We did the drill for 4-5 minutes (I build it up gradually - first one step, repeat - then two steps, repeat and finally the whole deal). Afterwards they did two techniques that have the same pattern for footwork. I think it worked very well for them. Techniques were aihanmi katatetori ikkyo ura and aihanmi katatetori shihonage ura.

Now I will try to find a similar pattern for next weeks practice :)

Mary: please let us know how what your experiences are :)

JJ

PeterR 05-30-2013 03:15 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Duct tape - lots of duct tape.

lbb 05-30-2013 08:03 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
General suggestion: get some background information on coaching, and particularly coaching kids in the age range(s) you're teaching. It's very helpful. In fact, I'd say in general that this is the sort of approach you want to take in teaching anything to anyone: develop an understanding of the student and move toward your subject from there (if that makes any sense), rather than starting from your subject and trying to figure out how to teach it to your students. Information can always be given, but I think teaching has to go in the other direction -- otherwise it's like pushing a rope.

philipsmith 05-30-2013 02:28 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 327051)
General suggestion: get some background information on coaching, and particularly coaching kids in the age range(s) you're teaching. It's very helpful. In fact, I'd say in general that this is the sort of approach you want to take in teaching anything to anyone: develop an understanding of the student and move toward your subject from there (if that makes any sense), rather than starting from your subject and trying to figure out how to teach it to your students. Information can always be given, but I think teaching has to go in the other direction -- otherwise it's like pushing a rope.

Couldn't agree more. You might find your local college may run coaching courses or your national sports federation (I don't know the structure in Denmark but that's how it works in the UK).

Glad the drill idea helped.

Conrad Gus 05-30-2013 07:17 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: (Post 326934)
The easy thing would be to ban them from class, but I really really believe that they need it more than the rest and that we should do our best to handle them in a good way.

This.

You WILL get frustrated with certain kids. Don't give up on them. Down the road you may realize that it made a huge difference for them.

The neat thing about teaching kids is that for some of them, aikido will be the experience that pushes them in a better direction. Getting a better direction at such a young age makes a huge difference in the final outcome.

JJF 05-31-2013 09:03 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Peter Rehse wrote: (Post 327049)
Duct tape - lots of duct tape.

Peter.. I think you misunderstood... we're not talking about bike repair or the baking a cakes here.. ;)

JJF 05-31-2013 09:13 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Come to think of it... my daughter took Judo for one season. She could have become okay at it, but decided to quit after one season. Mainly because the teacher (a green belt - don't know what kyu) didn't want to be firm towards a couple of young boys who endlessly obstructed the training. Several parents approached after training and said that they would find it okay if she told these kids to behave or stay away - at first maybe a quarantine - later expel them. They definitely did not respect their teacher nor the other students. Really bad thing was that often their parents would stay and watch the training without taking action towards these kids.

I have decided not to send anybody away that I believe can better themselves, but also not to take any c... from these kids. I had one last training who rolled his eyes when I told him not to monkey around fighting with his partner while they were supposed to practice their technique. I got a little strict on him, but I don't want pretend fighting and striking or kicking wildly during my classes.. if that's what they want they can go take up Ameri-Do-Te... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CGMWlXosp4 enjoy)

jurasketu 05-31-2013 09:43 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Here are my thoughts from a lot of experience in general child rearing and training children specifically in Aikido.

Humans are social animals, you need to "train" them with that in mind.

Connect to the students and measure praise appropriate to behavior. Doing what is expected merits "Thank you" or maybe "Good job". Attempting to do the technique or exercise can get "good try" to "excellent". Humans, particularly children, typically want attention. If you don't give them love and positive attention, they will likely seek negative attention.

Reward behavior you want. Ignore behavior you don't want and redirect without scolding or punishment into behavior you want.

For dangerous/abusive bad behavior, intervene and redirect quickly. If needed, explain why the behavior is dangerous or wrong, but explain what you WANT them to do INSTEAD. "Stand here when waiting your turn to avoid getting injured" is more effective than "DON'T LIE ON THE FLOOR!". Show that you are completely aware of the mat (you are a martial artist after all) so they are less likely to think you aren't watching them and can do what they want.

Adult helpers (15+ years old ) can be really valuable at keeping everyone safe and on task. A ratio of 1 helper to 4 to 6 children is very helpful. They need to understand the rules outlined above for handling behavioral issues.

Conrad Gus 05-31-2013 11:18 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: (Post 327075)
Come to think of it... my daughter took Judo for one season. She could have become okay at it, but decided to quit after one season. Mainly because the teacher (a green belt - don't know what kyu) didn't want to be firm towards a couple of young boys who endlessly obstructed the training. Several parents approached after training and said that they would find it okay if she told these kids to behave or stay away - at first maybe a quarantine - later expel them. They definitely did not respect their teacher nor the other students. Really bad thing was that often their parents would stay and watch the training without taking action towards these kids.

I have decided not to send anybody away that I believe can better themselves, but also not to take any c... from these kids. I had one last training who rolled his eyes when I told him not to monkey around fighting with his partner while they were supposed to practice their technique. I got a little strict on him, but I don't want pretend fighting and striking or kicking wildly during my classes.. if that's what they want they can go take up Ameri-Do-Te... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CGMWlXosp4 enjoy)

It sounds like you're going with the firm approach. If that is true to yourself then that is probably the best course. Kids are walking lie detectors.

I'm probably way too soft on my kids, but I have a very small dojo with only 8 kids in the class, so I can afford to be. I made it that way on purpose because I personally can't stand having to discipline and wrangle 30 kids into doing what I want them to do. I just don't like yelling and being forceful with little ones -- it feels "un-aikido" to me in some way.

I really do believe that there is no one right way to do things. All we can do is our best and learn from our mistakes. In a year or two you will have settled into whatever works best for your group.

Patience!

JJF 05-31-2013 11:41 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Conrad Gustafson wrote: (Post 327083)
Kids are walking lie detectors.

That is so correct.

I feel just like you - and I would prefer to have my students practice with me because they want to, but if those few that really misbehave seem to have a contagious effect on half of the rest of the class then I would love to be able to handle it up front. If one way to do this is introducing a little more discipline - like actually checking whether they do their push ups or not - then that may be the way to go.

I will never run one of those "I yell and you duck" dojos.. it's not my style, but I have to find the right mixture of system, discipline, fun and ... well.. other ingredients... that will work for me and allow me to contain all students.

However.. yes... I do believe in being consequent. Kids seek contact - but they also test their boundaries and if you are not ready to tell them what is okay and what is not okay in the dojo, then they will keep pushing until they find a boundary. At least that's what I think.

So.. I create rules that make good sense and that are easy to remember, and I expect them to be followed.. and then if somebody continuously break the rules... well then I will have to find some way of letting them know they crossed the border.

Only thing that can make me really angry is if they deliberately or by gross neglect and against better judgement hurt others or bring them in a dangerous situation...

Anyway.. I seem to have occupied this thread.. Would love to hear from the original poster :)

And thank you all for a great debate.. I am learning a lot.

JJ

philipsmith 06-01-2013 03:46 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Don't want to be a pain but just share experiences.

In terms of discipline we have a "sin-bin" for unruly kids. They sit in it either in seiza or cross-legged for 2-3 minutes (no longer than 5) and that usually modifies their behaviour.

They have two warnings but no more if they misbehave then are binned.

hughrbeyer 06-02-2013 10:42 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
When my kids were young I had good success with self-timed timeouts. Go to the timeout bin and come back when you're ready to be civilized. How long is that? As long as it takes. Not a classroom situation, but it might work there also.

Basia Halliop 06-02-2013 07:09 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
For discipline one of the more important things I would say is that it's important to mean what you say if you say you want a particular behaviour or say there's a particular consequence for breaking a rule. You can say it pleasantly and follow through pleasantly, but don't make rules you're not ultimately willing to enforce. You can choose to be strict about some things and not about others, but try to make your actions match your words.

Jorge Garcia 06-02-2013 09:52 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: (Post 326934)
We started a kids class about a year ago. I've learned a lot, and discovered even more things I don't know how to deal with. It's hard work. I would love to say it is also rewarding, and sometimes it is.. but sometimes it is just hard work.

We have kids between 9 and 13 of age. Some are good kids and some are troublemakers. Not by choice but due to varying circumstances. Either lack of contact to adult role models, social or chemical imbalances that would probably lead to a diagnose if a doctor was involved.

Fact is they create a lot of disturbance and sometime even make it hard to run a good class for the rest. The easy thing would be to ban them from class, but I really really believe that they need it more than the rest and that we should do our best to handle them in a good way.

My point is that I spend a lot of time preparing for the introduction of a childrens class. I made curriculum, decided how long to train for each grading and how to connect grades with adult grading system etc etc. However I did not realize that it is even more difficult to plan for children than for grown ups. Reasoning with them is just different and to a certain extend not possible.

I don't want to discourage you. It is great to have such a class. Both for the children, for the dojo and for your own personal growth, but get ready to have a lot of thoughts about how to motivate, teach and in other ways deal with children - not to mention their parents. Sometimes the kids are just there because their parents tell them they have to. Not the best parameter for motivation :)
include slightly advanced ukemi practice for some - forward ukemi ower a jo, break falls ower a
JJ

I think JJ has some good advice here, I started teaching kids at the YMCA in 2004 and have done so continuously since. We now have oour own dojo space in a shopping center. We started here again from nothing and now, 5 years later, we have over 50 active children in our program. We offer 4 childrens classes a week and have an average attenbdance of 25 to 30 in each class. The curriculum is at this link.
http://www.shudokanaikido.com/docume...tsChildren.pdf
We run the class like a normal class - warmup (5 minutes), some limited tai sabaki (5 minutes), ukemi practice (5 minutes), then tachi waza - techniques (30 minutes), Modified freestyle practice (15 minutes). No games (except on Fridays), just mostly learning to have fun while training. We start at age 6 and go to age 13. All train together in groups. Each level has it's own group and they stay on that level until they complete all classes for the level, test and go to the next level. Higher rank kids teach lower levels (15 minutes) and then practice their next level (15 minutes). Lower ranked kids do their level twice in the 30 minute period of tachi waza. Adult volunteers help but no one is conscripted. Two Intructors are the regulars and adult volunteers show up when ever they are able to (at will). The class is always disciplined and reasonably quiet except for the freestyle but everyone has to stay under control.

The children love the discipline and they keep coming. More and more are reaching the highest levels and graduating into our adult program. It is possible to do it long term but it is a lot of work, there are many unique problems and no one should go into teaching kids blindly. Investigate first because if you go into it with the wrong philosophy, it will be difficult. Others have been successsful with teaching Aikido through symbolic and application exercises and games but we have way too many kids for that so we actually run an aikido class. The techniques are modified for the kids and many adjustments have to be made.

Best wishes,
Jorge

Conrad Gus 06-03-2013 06:51 PM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Jorge Garcia wrote: (Post 327111)
The class is always disciplined and reasonably quiet except for the freestyle but everyone has to stay under control.

The children love the discipline and they keep coming.

You're doing something right! I'd love to come and watch your class to see how you accomplish this extraordinary feat. :D

Jorge Garcia 06-04-2013 11:02 AM

Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom
 
Quote:

Conrad Gustafson wrote: (Post 327135)
You're doing something right! I'd love to come and watch your class to see how you accomplish this extraordinary feat. :D

There are photos and videos at this link as our classes were 3 years ago. They are much larger now. It's an issue we are trying to solve by creating new classes.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shudo...45597635453596

Best wishes,
Jorge


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