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I need help with teaching small children.

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Well I've been instructing for a little over a week now, and I've been able to get my feet wet in a variety of situations.  I was hired primarily as a coach in a season long program that brings children ages 5-12 from skiing easy blues to being able to handle anything on the mountain by the end of the season.  In this role, I feel like I'm doing just fine.  However, with President's Week being one of the busiest times of the season, especially with the conditions we've had here in the Northeast, I've been recruited to help out with group lessons, which range from small children (I had a 3y/o in a group yesterday) to adults, and first time/never ever skiers to low level intermediates.  

 

So far I've done really well with everything thrown at me with the exception of a few of the younger children.  I have had a few small children that I thought were going to be nightmares, but I found a way to get them stopping and turning by the end of the lesson.  

 

Of the lessons that didn't go so well, I think were the result of poor judgement from the parents.  In one case I had a 4y/o that simply refused to do anything.  He was cold, so I took him inside to warm up.  When he was warm again, we went back out to try again, but he shut down completely.  I was able to get him to play follow the leader on one ski for about 30 seconds, but after that he wouldn't do anything for me.  He wanted Mommy.  I don't think he was ready to ski just yet.  He really didn't even seem interested.  

 

Later that day, I had lesson with a 4 1/2 y/o.  It started out great.  She was having a blast.  We did boot drills, one ski, we worked on sidestepping and herringbone.  We did straight runs to a stop, we started trying to use a wedge to stop.  Then Grandma showed up and asked if I could get her skiing on the Magic Carpet ASAP.  I was between a rock and a hard place.  I didn't want to move this student up until she could at least stop herself using a wedge, but at the same time, the customer is asking for a specific service.  I spent a little more time working on stopping until I was reasonably comfortable with bringing her up the Magic Carpet.  Then I stayed in front of her coaching her to stop herself by making the pizza.  She was starting to get it, but all of a sudden she decided that she didn't want to stop.  She told me "No! That's not what the Magic Carpet is for."  Then it turned into "Get out of my way."  All I could imagine was a 4 1/2 y/o missile heading for the lodge at Mach 1.  Luckily, it was our last run when she completely stopped cooperating.  Her parents and Grandma were pleased with what I was able to do.  So I guess it wasn't a total loss, but I still walked away a little bit frustrated and disappointed that she still could barely stop and hadn't learned to turn.  

 

With both of these lessons, the customers seemed pleased with what I was able to do.  I got a pretty good tip from the parents both times.  So I guess that says something.  I just can't help but feel like I could have done more, or done something different that might have kept them interested longer and helped them get a little more out of the lesson.  

 

I'm also a little bit concerned that I don't feel super confident about how to teach things like edging or rotary to a small child.  Even side stepping and herringbone exercises are extremely difficult to get across to children at that age (at least for me).  So if there are any of you that have some good advice for working with small children, I'm all ears.  If you know of any good online resources or YouTube videos on the subject, I'd love to hear about them.  So far the best I could find was a guy recommending an edgie wedgie for kids under 5.  I'm not a fan of using gadgets, and lets face it, if the kid shows up to a lesson without an edgie wedgie, we can't use the edgie wedgie.   

post #2 of 7

TF, your doing great. I've got about 100 hours teaching grade school and younger kids so far this year and haven't gotten a single tip! No I'm not kidding, I do mostly school groups.

 

Your best resource is the PSIA Children's Teaching Handbook.

Another great resource is the USSA  education section on their web site, http://my.ussa.org/aip/alpine/level-100-updates.

They also have great videos, http://www.dartfish.tv/ChannelHome.aspx?CR=p1490.

 

If the kids can stand up but are having a hard time gliding try using a pole to ski them down. It can be a bamboo, a netting pole or a ski pole. This will prevent your 4YO missiles. An alternative to this, if your area allows it, is to use a hula hoop. The kid is inside the hoop and you steer from behind. The down side of this type of thing is it does not promote a good stance.

 

Teaching edging to a small child is difficult. Watch your U6 racers, most of them will use a 'power wedge'. They will get some edge by rocking their body to the inside. However, these kids have probably been skiing for two years. A few will be parallel but not many. If this is a second or third lesson it would be more important to concentrate on just getting them to turn.

 

Playing a game like 'build a snowman' can get them to glide. Have them make a snowball and carry it down hill. Repeat with a second snowball and add it to the first to build a snowman. Then maybe move them sideways a little and have them ski to the snowman to promote turning.

 

If the can somewhat turn, little plastic cones or drink cups  or even balloons can be used to make a small slalom. Include a 'stop box'.

 

I wouldn't worry much about boot work with a 4YO. Show them pizza and french fires without boots then with boots. Move them up the hill even if you have to tow them and have them glide down. If they can glide and do a wedge stop, take them up the carpet.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCC55125 View Post
 

TF, your doing great. I've got about 100 hours teaching grade school and younger kids so far this year and haven't gotten a single tip! No I'm not kidding, I do mostly school groups.

 

Your best resource is the PSIA Children's Teaching Handbook.

Another great resource is the USSA  education section on their web site, http://my.ussa.org/aip/alpine/level-100-updates.

They also have great videos, http://www.dartfish.tv/ChannelHome.aspx?CR=p1490.

 

If the kids can stand up but are having a hard time gliding try using a pole to ski them down. It can be a bamboo, a netting pole or a ski pole. This will prevent your 4YO missiles. An alternative to this, if your area allows it, is to use a hula hoop. The kid is inside the hoop and you steer from behind. The down side of this type of thing is it does not promote a good stance.

 

Teaching edging to a small child is difficult. Watch your U6 racers, most of them will use a 'power wedge'. They will get some edge by rocking their body to the inside. However, these kids have probably been skiing for two years. A few will be parallel but not many. If this is a second or third lesson it would be more important to concentrate on just getting them to turn.

 

Playing a game like 'build a snowman' can get them to glide. Have them make a snowball and carry it down hill. Repeat with a second snowball and add it to the first to build a snowman. Then maybe move them sideways a little and have them ski to the snowman to promote turning.

 

If the can somewhat turn, little plastic cones or drink cups  or even balloons can be used to make a small slalom. Include a 'stop box'.

 

I wouldn't worry much about boot work with a 4YO. Show them pizza and french fires without boots then with boots. Move them up the hill even if you have to tow them and have them glide down. If they can glide and do a wedge stop, take them up the carpet.

Thanks so much for the encouraging words and the info.  It sounds like I'm on the right track.  I like the snowman idea.  I keep forgetting that snow is an extremely versatile tool.  I need to use it as a resource where I can.  

 

I have been trying to avoid using a pole as much as possible, because as you point out, it can create some bad habits.  I'm still trying to get a feel for exactly what this ski school expects in these situations.  I get the sense that we should try to stay in line with PSIA, which makes sense on an academic level, but unfortunately its hard to get a 4 y/o on board with that.  I've been doing whatever I felt I had to do to get a decent result.  I do make a point to minimize the dependence on things like a pole and ween them off as quickly as I can.  Usually after two or three runs on the Magic Carpet they are using a wedge to slow down and stop good enough that I start to use the pole to pull against them.  At that point, I know they can stop.  Then its time to get rid of the pole and start challenging them not to run into me.  Of course this only works if you have one child to worry about.  

 

As for getting tips, I'm already seeing that its hit or miss.  I've had some lessons where everyone was having a blast, they all felt they had made huge progress, but none of them tipped.  Then there were others that felt like total failures and they tipped big.  I would imagine school groups are tricky because the parents probably aren't there to reward you for a job well done.  I just keep looking for a silver lining where I can find it.  With the groups where everyone had a good time, I try to at least recognize that it was because of what I did, and sometimes that satisfaction is better than being handed a couple of bucks.  

post #4 of 7

If you have a private lesson with a very young kid, you can ski them down with you going downhill in front of them, skiing backwards.  Crouch low, and hold your hands out braced against their knees.  They slide towards you with skis parallel as you go down backwards, turning left and right.  Your hands on their knees controls the speed.  Begin turning gently.  

 

They don't need to be told verbally how to turn in the direction you are going.  Their bodies will figure it out.  Their knees will be supported by you, and their stance will be good.  They will be turning with parallel skis.


Repeat, and begin pulling away a little from the skier.  Have them see if they can catch up with your hands.  When their knees make contact, praise them and repeat.  You can begin to turn in a new direction and ask them to catch up with your hands, and voila they will turn in your direction.  

 

Doesn't work in groups, of course.  

 

If you have lots of time with them, you can use poles.  You go backwards, holding horizontal pole out.  Skier holds onto pole.  You pull away, they catch up to your pole.

Advance to you skiing in front of them with two poles pointing towards skier, tips in your hands and grips back behind.  Skier holds onto both poles.  You make turns; they follow, with parallel skis.  You might be in a wedge, or not.

 

You never have to tell them how to turn.  Works with adults too.  Especially good for students of any age who don't speak your language.

post #5 of 7

The problem with young children is that there are those who are physically and mentally ready to ski and those that are not.  I think the younger they are the more diverse they are, particularly emotionally. It is a challenge.  Individuals are usually easier because you only have to consider their individual needs. Groups can be more of a challenge and a group with diverse maturity levels can be a nightmare.  It's an experience for sure.  

 

Good luck. 

post #6 of 7

From the other perspective, I put two kids in ski school, one I knew wasn't really ready to ski for more than 10 min stretches (not enough leg strength to pizza).  I knew the school had a movie going inside with its own supervision for cold or disheartened kids, and I wanted to ski, not spend my day on the bunny hill.  I basically treated ski school as child care :)  He learned a little, had fun playing with the other kids inside, and I was happy.

 

I'm no instructor, but I did do a lot of teaching from 4-10, and something that struck me was how easily kids got the theory.  Concepts like edging, angle to the fall line, ski loading, they picked this stuff up really fast when I setup the examples well.  I could take two small mounds of snow and use it to show ski loading and edge curve and they instantly got it and put it to use, or have them check the fall line with a chunk of snow.  I also had an interesting experience where I couldn't get the youngest to turn at the right times, so I just started cutting him off so he turned around me (safely of course), and it worked pretty well.  It only took me a few days of doing that before he started naturally picking appropriate lines and I didn't have to bother anymore.  I imagine this might terrify some kids though.  I imagine you get some that you have no chance with.  I certainly recall times from my childhood where circumstances outside of an activity caused me to be a pain in the ass to some poor professional who was unlucky enough to have to deal with me that day.  I imagine most of us were the same at one point or another, whether we realize it or not.

post #7 of 7
4-6 year olds don't talk theory, they just move on skis. Chose fun things to get the movements and skills you want to see. One example when you're starting to put on skis is have them put on one ski in a flat area. Look at them seriously for a moment until they wonder what's up, then smile and say, "I bet you can't catch me!" In about 3 seconds you'll have your gaggle chasing you on one ski... edging, gliding, stepping, moving forward, using rotary movements, etc... And most importantly, having fun.

Simon says, red light green light, dancing, singing, and all combinations of the aforementioned, etc... again, don't explain the 'how' and the 'why', show them the 'what' and then just 'do'.... over and over. With little guys, the biggest deal is simply to get them to feel comfortable and confident moving with their skis. And yes, not all 4 year olds are ready to ski. It's also very helpful to tell parents that their tyke's progress won't be linear. They know it's not as it won't be at home either, but many parents forget this because there's money looking for an outcome. My little guy started full on this season. Day one was a bit tough, but in the end, he wanted to go more. He's going great now, and honestly I'm very happy to have waited to make the bigger push to ski until he was five. As an instructor myself, some had asked why I wasn't trying to get him out earlier. The answer was easy. He just wasn't ready. smile.gif
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