Lesson Planning 101 – Level Up Your Lesson Plans by Lottie Sanders

Whether you are a brand new pole and aerial instructor or a seasoned pro, a fundamental part of teaching life is lesson plans. A lesson plan is a key part of keeping your classes on track and ensuring that you have a framework to follow – after all, so much of pole and aerial can be quite unpredictable, it’s nice for us teachers to have at least some predictability in our busy schedules. But the question is, are you actually utilising your lesson plans to the best of their ability? Let’s sit down and have a little chat on how to maximise the effectiveness of your lesson planning, and ultimately, how to make your teaching life easier.

Regressions, progressions, alternatives and everything else in between – This may seem like an obvious one… but is it? Let’s take the humble Fan Legs move. This is a staple move featured in beginners classes everywhere, as it’s a great foundation for so many more advanced movements. That being said (as much of pole and aerial is), it’s actually quite tricky, and can take students quite a while to master. Within your class plan, it is so important to make sure that you’ve catered to every single one of your students as best you can, not only making sure that you’ve got challenges ready for your students who are effortlessly executing their Fan Legs, but you’ve also got something equally as interesting and fun for those who aren’t quite there yet.

Do not just prepare your progressions and regressions as simply ‘something harder, something easier’, and give no further thought. You might have a student who has done that same regression a thousand times over, and they deserve something a little special every now and then, right? Don’t allow yourself to be put on the spot through lack of planning – if you know you’re doing Fan Legs, make note of a few combos, creations and alterations you can throw at your students. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too many notes!

Make a note of your extra hints and tips – we all have those little ‘tricks of the trade’ secrets with certain moves, you know, the knowledge you simply soak up from repetition, experience, and to be blunt, getting everything wrong before you get it right. As you’re jotting down your next lesson plan, cast your mind back to all the times you’ve trained those moves, and think of any extra tips that might be useful.

Of course, as instructors, we will always be moving around the room and troubleshooting as we go along, but if there is a fundamental, universal tip that helps beyond your standard teaching points, it’s useful to have that reminder jotted down somewhere. By implementing this strategy in your class planning, it also helps us to reflect and be more mindful within our teaching practice. Think a little deeper about not just what it is you’ll be teaching, but how you’ll be teaching it too. By casting your mind back to your own journey, it’ll help you get into the mindset of how your students might be feeling as they give this a go too, which ultimately will make you a more understanding teacher.

Repetition is more than okay – this can be such a common insecurity amongst teachers. This is the thought that we must always come up with something brand new every single class, with the fear that students will get bored with what we have to offer. Fundamentally, we all know this isn’t true, as otherwise choreography classes spanning four to six weeks simply wouldn’t exist and no-one would book on. However, this knowledge won’t necessarily change that worried mindset as we approach our drop in classes.

Fundamentally, repetition is a good thing. There are certain moves in pole and aerial that we just need to keep working on in order to progress. Routinely remind both yourself and your students of this fact. On top of this, repeating stuff can actually be quite fun and satisfying – yes, we come to class to try something new, but equally we come because we just enjoy pole and aerial. We also come to class because it’s a bit of ‘me time’, an hour or two out of our busy schedules to dedicate to feeling good. What better way to celebrate yourself than to practice a move that you’re absolutely amazing at? By factoring in a few familiar favourites within your lesson plans, you’re giving your students a little slice of consistency which will ultimately not only help them reach their goals, but will also allow them to feel good about themselves with a ‘oh, I’ve done this before, I can do this!’ mindset.

Always plan extra, just in case – it happens to the best of us, sometimes it’s because class is quieter than expected, maybe it’s hot outside so motivation levels are a little low, or sometimes your students just give you that look of ‘can we move on now?’ Unfortunately, an inevitable part of teaching life is sometimes we will fly through our lesson plan and things will all feel at a little bit of a loose end. The trick to conquering this dreaded lull in the class? Pre-empt for it.

As you write out your lesson plan, pop in an extra trick or combo just in case. By having this in your back pocket, you know you have something to fall back on, instead of having to think on the fly. And if you don’t use it – it just means that you’ve already made a start on your next lesson plan already, as you can simply incorporate that trick or combo into your next class.

Your lesson plan can be a tool – realistically, our lesson plans are a tool that can just keep giving. They’re useful for the class you make them for, and they are helpful for future classes too. For example, within the ‘Pole Instructor Plan Book’ delivered by XPERT (I can highly recommend this product for keeping your lesson plans all in one place) – there are whole sections for reflection. Effectively, by writing down what we’ve taught, we can then look back on what went well, what didn’t go quite as planned, and consider what we can do moving forward. And also – who’s to say we can’t repeat lesson plans in the future? No-one, that’s who! By having a record of what you’ve done in the past, you can improve on, and just copy over the best bits of your previous lesson plans.

So there you have it! Five whole ways on how to make your lesson plans work better for you. I hope you have a great week of training, and look forward to chatting with you again next month