In the spirit of Nathan’s fireworks comparison, I have notes from Zumba. Zumba is a dance form that a lot of health clubs have been teaching for a while, and I attended my fifth or sixth lesson today (in Virginia, far from home).

I promise that this will be at least partly relevant!

I’ve gone to three different kinds of Zumba lessons. One is by local Russian ladies. They have incredible belly dancing moves. Lots of guys attend these classes…it’s worth it just to watch the teacher dance! I would compare the Russian-teacher classes to being in a traditional language class; any beginners marvel at the teachers’ skills, but don’t necessarily pick up steps unless they’re already skilled in other dance forms.

The next type of teacher uses fun music, and is skilled herself; she tells everyone not to worry if they aren’t up to speed, because it will just take some time. “Keep coming back to the class, and you’ll get it.” This kind of class seems to me to be like an immersion class; eventually you’ll probably pick up some dance moves, because it’s so much fun you’ll sway along with everyone else.

Finally, there are the teachers who break down the chorus so that even a beginner can follow the basic moves. At the same time, those teachers tell the advanced students how to crank up the steps. The chorus breakdown reminds me of an embedded reading; it’s simple for the beginners, and they can all “get it.” The “crank it up” part is like Carol’s “impress me” vocabulary on the board. And the way that those teachers point in the direction of the next few steps is like any good TPRS teacher, scaffolding the steps for the beginners to hang on, while the advanced folks put in their own shimmies.

This morning, I had the “immersion” Zumba teacher. I had a whole lot of fun laughing at myself. I heard some great music and saw some amazing moves by other students, but I did find myself wishing for a little more support. Like a kid who has had a TPRS teacher (or a teacher who has had Laurie as a coach!), I have had great Zumba instruction, so I know I can do this. I’ll be back. If I hadn’t had that kind of support, I would probably figure this just isn’t for me. I am inspired again to show kids from the first day of school onward that they can do this.


4 responses to “Zumba

  1. Haha, I definitely tried Zumba a few times and figured I was just bad at it! Think I had that traditional teacher!


  2. LOL I think maybe this is one of those cooperative thingies….I’ll teach the “moves” if you teach the steps Michele!! ;o)

    with love,


  3. My friends would be amazed to hear that I went to a yoga class yesterday. Once again, I couldn’t help thinking about how all teaching principles are the same across disciplines. This teacher repeated a new mantra for me: “It isn’t the destination, it’s the journey.” She kept remarking that it took her 15 years to be able to do one move, or seven to do another, and she said that the “crow” pose scares her even now. These remarks made me secure that my inability to do almost anything was going to be forgiven. She made me feel like trying just a little harder. If I can make my own students relax on their language journey, expecting that they will meet interesting people along the way even when facing occasional travel obstacles, it will mean success.

    I’m in the Richmond airport (free Internet, whoo hoo!), trying to get myself to focus on some lesson plans I owe around music and maybe to think about the two inservice presentations I volunteered for.

    I’m not taking the new job, Laurie! Your advice was sound.

    Now…work!! I won’t be doing another post until I’ve at least drafted the next lesson plan.


  4. What a great reminder to intentionally remember to stand in my students’ shoes and attempt to experience class from their point of view, to take time to check in with them frequently (especially with those quiet, non-advocating types)–noticing their eyes, their body language, their comprehension, and to slow down my agenda and really “BE” with them in their process! Thanks, Michelle.

    I wish I’d been at Laurie’s and your reading workshop. I love Laurie’s description of how slowly you had to go to get comprehension and how all any student really wants is to UNDERSTAND what is going on.


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