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Words Matter! Mastering Inclusive Cueing.

Dec 04, 2018

When teaching a choreographed class, the instructors ability to cue to a group of people made up of different learning styles and fitness levels can make or break a class. Most of us aren’t born with the ability to cue beautifully while teaching to music, but it can be learned and perfected! Our goal as instructors should always be to lead classes where our students leave feeling successful and accomplished. This can be tricky when you are trying to challenge one side of the room while modifying for the other.

If taught correctly, it is possible to have a brand-new participant and fitness junkie in the same class and provide both with a fantastic workout! Most of the time, participants will pick a spot in class based on how comfortable they feel. At the front of the room, you have your most confident participants and often the regulars. Next, you have your intermediate students in the middle of the room who feel comfortable in class but aren’t ready to park it in the front of the room yet. Then, there are the new students who are hiding in the back. When cueing, you want to offer the intermediate option first, then quickly go back and offer a regression to those that need it, so they feel successful. Finally, offer the progression for the more advanced students. Most of the time, your advanced students are already performing the progression. We call this the “sandwich method,” and it helps get everyone in the room moving quickly and safely.

As instructors, we want to avoid using terms like level 1, 2, & 3. No one likes admitting they need to do the level 1 option when their neighbor is on level 20. When possible, avoid labeling variations as level 1, 2, or 3, and instead try saying option 1, 2, or 3. Then is sounds like they are just choosing the “option” they like best. Everyone is working at their own level and feel successful.

We want every student to leave class feeling like they worked THEIR hardest. If they are constantly choosing what you call the “easy or easier” option, they are not going to feel like they worked very hard or did their best. On the flip side, some students may feel like they always must choose the “hardest” option even if that’s not the best option for their body which could lead to injury. Try giving cues such as…. “If you need a little less, put your heels down.” “If you need a little more releve´ onto your toes.” “If you’re feeling feisty today try….” “If you’re ready to kick it up a notch try….” “If you need to protect your knees today….” We also want to avoid saying things like…. “If you can’t do plank on your toes, drop down to your knees.” All students hear in that sentence is CAN’T which immediately makes them feel like a failure. Instead we could say…. “If you don’t love how plank feels from your toes, give it a try on your knees.” Then everyone leaves class feeling successful!

Additionally, we want to avoid using the word DON’T. Participants instinctively want to do what they hear the instructor cue. When students hear, “Don’t over arch your lower back,” they immediately think about what overarching feels like. Instead, cue the desired behavior you want. For example, “only lift your leg as high as you can while maintaining a flat back and neutral pelvis.” Cueing in this manner is more likely to evoke a positive response from your students.

These may seem like fairly basic concepts, but small changes in how you say certain things can have a big impact on how your students feel during and after your class! We want all our students to feel EMPOWERED to take control of their own workout and choosing the “option” that works best for them and feeling comfortable doing so, is the first step! I challenge you to change how you offer “modifications” and “progressions” in your classes this week and see if it evokes a positive response from your students.