I hear these words far too frequently in blues classes. We demonstrate a move or explain a concept and then tell the students to simply "try it." However, when we give such vague instructions, students don't know what is important or what they should be focusing on or where the lesson is going next and so we start to lose their concentration.
With just a little bit of extra structure, we can give students a solid framework of understanding which will allow them to take charge of their practice time. Instead of using 'try it' to kick off an exercise, try to include these four pieces of information:
1. Time Limit
Giving students an explicit time limit helps contextualize the exercise and lets them plan how to use their time to switch roles or swap couples. It's also helpful to give them updates along the way, especially towards the end.
"We're halfway through! Switch roles if you haven't already."
"One minute left!"
Should students be working solo? In partnership? Small groups? All together? Teachers often leave this one vague and students are often confused.
Especially for intermediate and advanced students, it can be incredibly powerful to break up into small groups and have couples work on tasks together.
"Break up into pairs of couples. Couple A is going to dance and couple B is going to watch and give feedback."
What answer should students have by the end of the exercise? What should they now know or be able to do? The more specific you can be, the better.
"Figure out how to generate enough momentum to carry this move to the end."
4. Next Steps
To help make the task even more clear, it's helpful to be explicit about what you're going to do with the knowledge gained. This creates consequences if students don't accomplish the task and helps motivate them to stay focused and use their time effectively.
"After the exercise, you're going to show the best variation you came up with to the rest of the class."
This framework is especially effective when combined with "when I say 'go'".
"When I say go, we're going to break up into groups of four. Couple A is going to dance and couple B is going to watch and suggest ways couple A could more efficiently generate the momentum required for this move. I'll give you about 5 minutes and we're going to switch the dancing couple and the watching couple about halfway through. When we're done, each group will share the techniques they discovered with the rest of the class. Go."
by Paul Mandel