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Teaching Kids

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
This is one of my big weaknesses, as I see it. I seem to do OK, the kids seem to enjoy it, but I could do a lot, lot better at this.

People often say to me "just be a kid again". Well that's no bloody good if you didn't play those types of games as a kid!

There is some massive talent and experience on this forum, both in ski teachers AND in consumers of ski teaching.
So please, can you share some of your approaches, tricks, games etc? I am sometimes quite puzzled by stuff I've observed kids' instructors doing. One guy would tell the kids that there were monsters in the trees...I dunno, wouldn't that scare them?! They didn't appear to be scared, so hence my puzzlement.
post #2 of 14
Forget about games unless teaching 4-6 year olds.Take them skiing. Put on the miles but don't overski them terrain wise very often. Teach them control of speed through turn shape, not braking.Kids like speed so find an area where they can straight run with a safe runout(an occasional reward). They love to jump and will drive you crazy looking for jumps, make them aware of the difference between good and bad jumps. Bad =flat landing or obstacles in the landing area. I can't emphasize the importance of appropriate terrain enough. Inexperienced kids instructors will often brag about the blacks and double blacks that they took their classes down. Unfortunately all they usually create are incompetent,braking skiers. Reward a class with a more difficult run when they are really ready for it. Dangle the black diamond like a carrot to get them to make good turns. Remember 1)turn shape 2)Turn Shape 3) TURN SHAPE. Keep it simple. You can't BS kids with a lot of technical jargon. I have taught skiing for 30 years. 15 years exclusively with kids and teens. BTW this approach works equally well with adults.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
argh, DonnyB! You've described what I already do!

I'm glad someone with your experience (and boy, what a lot of it you have!) is doing what I do, but it's just I always think I'm missing something.

A few times I've got them imitating me, doing silly things going down the hill (digging the snow like a dog, jumping and yelling, using arm as a tail etc) and I've noticed the kids get a lot more animated and start really laughing and carrying on, so it's evidently something they enjoy.

Likewise, if your resort has forts and stuff hidden in the trees, they love finding those.
And the dreaded jumps! Oh yeah, do they love those.
And of course, every resort has a "black" run, which seems to be a blue run with a black sign on it, and these are perfect as rewards!

Guided Mileage is a big thing with teaching kids, not too much teaching but good stuff to keep them improving...but that big "fun" thing keeps rearing its head.

I'd love to hear peoples' approaches to this, as teaching kids is still a big part of my outlook.

And what do you do with 4-6 year olds?! I'm bound to have plenty of those.
post #4 of 14

It does depend on the developmental age of the child. The 4-6 year old is often into fantasy, so weaving fantasy into the lesson works well. You might have to do a bit of research to get the insider information on Star Wars, SpiderMan, or whatever is hot with this set. The nice thing about American kids, from a fantasy standpoint, is that they all seem to love the same stuff at the same time [bless the media], so you just need to have a few informants in this age group to get the lowdown on what's hot and what's not.

I think the golden age is 7-10, when kids are respectful of the teacher and the accepted school behaviors. I coached the development squad, 7-12 year olds, on our local race team for many years. Kids of this age will respond to a schedule of activities and having team rituals. We had Joke Time, Jolly Ranchers for rewards and solace, run-rotation (who gets to pick the run), special achievement rewards (stickers, scrapers, key rings, chapstick, etc.), FoxTail (one throws the foxtail down the hill while the other scoots down in time to catch it), synchro, one-ski (their favorite thing to do), tree runs, runs on the public race course, runs on the race team's practice courses, etc. Put whatever elements you have available to you into a reasonable sequence and stick to it if you have a recurring class. This will remind them of school: reading time, arithmetic time, recess...

Middle school age kids are going to respond best to peer-to-peer activities. It's important that you find the natural leader in the group, because that person has more credibility than you do. If you can win that person over, you will have the rest of them. The converse is also true. Kids of this age are starting to develop their BS-meters, so be scrupulously honest and don't think you can put things over on them. It's better to enlist them than to try to control them. Kids in this age group are testing their limits, so don't abdicate your responsibility as the brains in the bunch, but let them enjoy a few consequences of poor judgment so they don't feel personally challenged to prove you wrong. Help them connect cause and effect and you will give them a gift that will keep on giving in many areas of their lives. Let them do the thinking. Adolescents really hate it when an adult does their thinking for them. They would prefer adults behave in an advisory capacity only when specifically asked. Because telling is such a sensitive issue, I find it is better to approach just about everything as if I was Pat Morita working with the Karate Kid.
post #5 of 14

I can not offer any advice regarding tips or tricks, but I do work with children aged 5-17 with youth soccer, and I have my own three youngsters
First is FUN! I believe "perfect turn" is strong there. You are familiar with that program.
Even more is respect. Demand it and GIVE it. These are small people not "units".
Look at the person you are speaking to. Consider their perspective on the mountain with a new group.
Lastly, don't you lead them all down the slope with the last in line struggling to even find themselves in the correct place, much less experiencing good skiing. The view for the last is just some struggling kid ahead. Send them down to a stopping point. Use the leader.

An annecdote:

Several years ago I took myself and my two boys to Stratton for the purpose of a
"Lesson" for us all. My boys were strongly opposed. 'Bad past experience I can assume.
Even as we waited at our stations, the boys were objecting to the anticipated dissapointment. They wanted only "to ski with dad".

My youngest (5 at the time, second year on skis) was sitting in the snow in the "kid corral".
The young instructor assigned to that small group came forward as I nodded my association with my son. He took one look at the boy and read the dissapointment on his face. He then walked directly over to my son Gray, and dropped down prone on the snow face to face, and they exchanged some small words. My boy was smiling and away in less than 30 seconds. I hardly was able to tell him I would meet him back at the start when we had finished. A success!.

My elder son was in no better humor. I saw him go off with the young instructor showing a sad face. He later cheerfully filled me in, that on the way up the chair, the instuctor asked what he wanted to do. My son had no preference, and is the type who wouldn't say if he did. The instructor siezed the moment and responded. "You are a kid, Kids like to jump, let's go to the Park (reportedly forbidden by the SS The combination of adventure and intrigue was a real opener, and he had a good time and learned a bit.

My time in lesson was a dud, and not a story.

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Some excellent stuff here. It's confirming stuff I already think and do, (thank god!), but there's some really valuable info and new things to think about, too.

I'm not really a "kid" person, woudldn't be caught dead talking baby talk, and in that regard I relate to the kids "on the level". I've never had discipline problems (not even with 18 8-9 year olds during teh X-Games!), and prefer to discuss stuff with them rather than talking "at" them.

The Fantasy thing is where I'm really weak, Nolo! Thanks for the hints there.

I like the anecdotes...Cal's kid instructor was better at that stuff than me. Kids always come out of their shells, but it usually takes a bit longer with me.

Now, how about the rest of you? Kids make up a huge part of ski school business, yet this is where the least experienced and/or skilled instructors are teaching. I'd love to see some thoughts on the subject aired here, for readers who will benefit and pass it on. I reckon that experiences of ski school from consumers like Cal are so useful, too, as they show it from the other side.
post #7 of 14
Ant - if you get up to Thredbo at all then try chatting to Angie beresford - I was always impressed by Angie's handling of kids when I helped in Thredboland
post #8 of 14
Ant- I don't teach kids a great deal, however, have to tell about two situations.

I worked with an eight year old girl last winter. The kid was locked in a wedge. I started to do a little "thousand steps" with her and boom. I turned it into a game I named "chase the puppy" Yes, I was the puppy. We went some place empty/safe very early and I skied backwards telling her to chase me. The rule was she had to step to turn. It was almost instantaneous that she began skidding little parallel turns. We had fun.

My daughter had the most "breakthroughs" at Keystone two years ago with a level II whose name eludes me. Here was the deal. My daughter was seven and her dad was well......a greying,overweight, dork. This girl was twentysomething, pretty, and cool. My daughter watched this girl like a hawk and did everything synchro with this young lady. I'm talking on skiis, eating, walking, etc. The girl had her hair in a braided pony tail, and guess how my kid wore her hair for the next two weeks. I can still see my kid skiing a few feet behind her intently trying to mimic every move. My kids turns got very good!

I know there is nothing earth shattering here, however, I think there is an underlieing lesson to be learned.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Nifty stuff! Into the bag they go.

I think kids are more watchers/doers. some adults are too (I seem to relate better to the adults who are feelers/understanders though).
I had a couple of kids at Mt Snow who were in my various groups throughout the week. They started as strong 3's (strong wedge turns) and ended the week on our icy black terrain, imitating my carved turns! It was excellent to watch them. One very shocked dad found his daughter on his favourite run, ripping it up. To say he was delighted would be an understatement: now he could ski with her and ski "his" terrain!
post #10 of 14
Last winter at 3 and half our daughter had her first couple of lessons. Initially she was not sure about leaving but with Mum or Dad watching from a distance she went through her paces with Cinnamon at Cardrona. Started on a see-saw device, got twirled around on a circular top set into the snow, slid through the doors of an ice castle before tackling the magic carpet.
At the end she got a report card saying she could do wedges and turn and for the next week we heard nothing else but Cinnamon this and Cinnamon that.
There was a young women (they are all young to me) who seemed to have the rapport necesary to work with young children - certainly with our daughter.
Following on from your other thread about ski lessons, ant, I would be looking for Cinnamon at Cardrona again this year if we were going back.
Having worked with children for many years, I think it is something that develops or can be developed but rarely can be forced. There is always the "kid(s) from hell" but generally if you find what makes them tick and stay within your own comfort zone (don't try to be something/someone you are not) then it all works fine. And I was reminded only this morning, you always have to ready to modify a programme quickly to accomodate a fluid situation - keeping ahead of the game.
My son and I were most impressed when after a lesson in which he had been inappropriatley placed the instructor took him for a couple of runs on his own (Dad was invited but they could not find him!). Cardrona again I think.
(Is'nt terrible how we associate things with the Field not the person.)
Above all else, if YOU enjoy working with children, they will ENJOY having fun with you. The force is with them and they can sense these things!
post #11 of 14
Originally posted by nomad:
...My son and I were most impressed when after a lesson in which he had been inappropriatley placed the instructor took him for a couple of runs on his own...
The same thing happened to me.

Two seasons ago, they placed my (then) 8 y.o. daughter in an all adult group. Apparently, she outskied everyone and felt very embarrassed and unhappy about the whole situation. The misplacement muat have been obvious to the instructor, because he offered to give her (with me tagging along) an hour long private the next morning b4 lineup.

My daughter was extremely enthusiastic about this (I think she thought he was really cool), so we accepted his offer. It was a *great* lesson. Afterwards, the instructor steadfastly refused to accept any tip from me, and even seemed ill at ease accepting my profuse thank-you's. I don't think even he realized how unusual his action was.

In all my years of skiing, I can not tell you how much this incident impressed me & has stood out in my memory from most of my other interactions with ski schools. To me it demonstrates the highest degree of professionalism and responsibility on the part of the instructor. Needless to say, I complemented his behavior to the SS supervisor at the lineup after her private was over.

Even at 8 y.o., she was impressed by what happened. She periodically mentions it, even tho at her age, it is extremely unusual for her to bring up *anything* from two years ago.

Tom / PM
post #12 of 14

It has been mentioned earlier, but I beleive that the importance of treating kids of all ages with respect and interest for their concerns is paramount. I try to never do the samething twice, it might get boring( for them and me). I make it a point to frequently ask what they want and to show interest in giving them what they want. (Even if I have to get my point across I try to do it in response to their goals.) I take great pains to avoid presenting anything that looks like a prepared lesson plan. Remember that they are on vacation therefore they are not at work or school.
post #13 of 14
With kids I try to use terrain as a teaching tool a lot. Certain terrain features have a tendency to cause certain things to happen with skis. For ex. skiing up a sidehill, then turning back down it helps the skis match in a natural fashion. It may not work instantly, but will eventually. Especially if you make sure you do the moves in front of them without explaining it first. Simply do the thing you want them to a few times. THEY will make the CHOICE to copy you without prodding. Some kids take longer than others to copy, or less depending on how outgoing they are.

Turning right on top of a bump can work much like a sidehill, helping the skis match as they slide down the bump. Concave and convex slopes offer much in the way of terrain teaching. Every mountain is simply a huge terain park.

If you take some time to experiment with terrain features yourself, you may discover links between terrain and movement patterns you were not aware of before. A good thing to do to help devlop this kind of approach is to, on paper, take an imaginary wedge turner from where they are, to dynamic parallel turns without using ANY tasks or drills. Vary ONLY Terrain, Speed and Turn Shape as teaching tools/situations. You will probably come up with some ideas you are not sure will work and will have to go out and experiment with them yourself, and with students. Try it. You'll like it.

I actually have several routes around the mountain I work at with 'terrain feature progressions' I use to develop skills with kids. It is an adventurous way to work, and like nolo pointed out with developmental ages etc. the approach can be tailored to whatever developmental stage/age I am dealing with although I might be skiing through the same features.

One thing I use a lot is the Play, Drill, Adventure teaching model. Play for awhile as an asssessment period, this allows you to take stock of your kids in a natural setting for them. A short drill or task period which develops something. then a long adventure period in which they get to experiment and apply whatever the task was for. Often times I arrange this process around a particular terain feature, like a simple bump or jump. We play around and on it. Then I give tham a task oriented around it (walk around the bump, walk up and over it etc.) for a minute or two. When they all acheive the task I send them off on an adventure. The nice thing is, that since everything has been oriented around the feature, they naturally keep it that way. Kids will adventure in different ways, which allows you further opportunity to assess learning style, personality, athleticism, attitude etc.

It is important to offer the adventure period which is where they begin to take ownership of what they are learning. If the kids have been well attended to, they will develop a conne\ction to you and begin to tell you and show you what they can do now.

I love teaching kids. It's way better in many repects, than teaching adults.
post #14 of 14
Originally posted by Roto:
When they all acheive the task I send them off on an adventure.
What happens if they don't ALL achieve the task - ie if one of them is UNABLE to achieve the task????
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