Sunday, October 14, 2012

Do overs

Alexander Lacey and lions
Last week, I saw Alexander Lacey's mixed lion and tiger act for the first time. Wow. I've seen a lot of really good lion acts and I can say this is one of my favorites.

One of the things that struck me about Lacey's act was that one of the most impressive behaviors--a series of cat-over-cat leaps around the arena--took two tries.

When they tried it the first time, it fell apart almost from the start. I thought, wow, that one didn't work and sort of expected him to just move on to the next thing. Circus acts are often timed so tightly in the program that taking a lot of extra time can really throw things off for the rest of the show.

But Lacey did NOT just go to the next thing. He put the cats back on their seats, called them down again, and then started them on the same trick. And wow, did it pop the second time. Over and over and over again the cats leapfrogged each other. I could hear folks saying, "look at that that!" to their parents . . . or their kids.

I thought to myself at the time, "good choice!" in starting over. For selfish reasons, I'm glad I got to see it done right. But I also realized that if he didn't make them do it again, the cats may get the idea that they only have to do it when they felt like it. And eventually, they may never really want to bother with such an energetic trick. You know how cats are . . . especially when they realize that you're going to love them and feed them and rub their ears no matter what.

One CAN let it go, then later have a practice session in which it gets repeated over and over and over until nobody thinks it's okay to just skip it. But it works much better if you have a do-over each and every time it doesn't work.

Likewise, in classroom teaching, a series of do-overs is just about the only way to eventually achieve mastery. Remember my previous post Practice, practice, practice?

Sometimes it is inconvenient, even frustrating, to stop the flow of things and work on something that you thought your students had already mastered. One COULD just let it go. Perhaps make a note to practice that part again some other time. But it's much more effective if you just stop at that moment and correct it. And maybe, just maybe, all it takes is that second try. Not a whole afternoon on some other day. And maybe, just maybe, this'll be the time they finally "get it" and it's a finished and polished "part of the act."

Want to see Lacey's act? Check out this video.

You won't find the wonderful leapfrog trick in the video.  The video was published just a few months ago, so I'm thinking that the leaping trick is new to the act.  So I guess it'll be a while before mastery is acheived, eh?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is awesome! It made me think of how we help our students push beyond what they would "normally" do and on to things they've never achieved before! Wish it had showed the do-over bit. I'd like to see how another master accomplishes that!

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