- Bring a question
- Take notes
- Cool down
Some students are able to take more advantage of their time in tango class. Over the years, I have observed how week after week in class, the difference between these students and others grows wider. We often say that it is because these people are better dancers. However, I believe that it is often because these students are better learners. In most cases, being a better learner is not due to a unique gift a certain student possesses, but rather their ability to know what helps them learn and having the determination to use this knowledge in class. This ability can be developed over time. I will call this ability having a learning strategy.
A learning strategy is a learning plan that a student has ready for when they show up in class. During the majority of our education, we leave this to the teacher. However, any student can develop their own personal learning strategy that will help them learn better and faster. With the goal of helping all students begin to take advantage of this tool, I have put together a short list of tips. These tips are inspired by a few good habits that I have observed in good learners over the years. You can also see these habits as a routine to use in every class.
- Warm-up: give your body ten minutes to prepare before class. Arrive a bit earlier, get settled, and simply begin warming-up your tango body for the dance. Make this warm-up your own. You can warm-up in many ways, be creative. You can begin by using your favourite preparation moves, whatever these are. It can be as simple as taking a tango walk around the dance floor, doing a few simple and gentle mobility drills for your joints, mild stretches, or routine balance exercises. I learned this from taking other dance classes over the years. Remember that a tango class is also a dance class, and your body and mind needs time to transition between activities in order for them to work at their best.
- Bring a question: on your way to class or during your warm-up, find one or two questions your may have about your previous class. You can also bring some unrelated or general questions about tango. This will help you get motivated and focused for class. Know that a good teacher loves questions, so don't think you are bothering them when you ask.
- Take notes: good learners take notes during class. Filming a review at end of the class does not give you the same benefit. Note taking is a whole different exercise. When you take notes, you are putting into your own words what you are learning, and this is one of the keystones for recalling later. When you don't remember you have not retained what you learned and you cannot retain or reinforce it.
- Cool down: conclude your tango class with a nice five minute cool down. This is when a good stretch will help you rebalance your body and find your self again. You can simply sit down for a minute and rest as you bring to mind what you have learned, or you can do something more active like a targeted stretch.
I am offering these tips as a suggestion and for you to use as you would like or to inspire you to create your own learning strategy. While I have never seen a student practice all four of these, I have seen the improvements in students who do use one or two of these strategies. I'm hopeful that you will see the benefit of developing a learning strategy for your own tango learning improvement.