Creating Effective Pathways:
Sometimes when we learn a new movement skill, we have busy thoughts that negatively affect the learning experience. This could be described as having a ‘monkey mind’. Sometimes our monkey minds entertain negative thoughts like, “I’m going to fall”, “I can’t do it”, “people will laugh at me”. To calm that monkey mind, teachers can simply pair a task and progression with verbal cues.
For example, when a child is learning how to jump, verbal cues can guide them through the ‘parts’ of the skill, e.g. “crouch, reach behind and stretch”, quietening the monkey mind and directing attention towards proficient skill execution.
Monkey minds can also be calmed by asking the learner to sing – remember, music triggers a different part of your brain that provides a useful distraction from negative or stressful thoughts.
Beyond cue words and singing, we could also have the learner utter a repetitive statement such as “crouch, and JUMP, crouch, and JUMP….”
Monkey minds can make learning a new skill very challenging. During an activity you might consider asking the learner ‘What are you thinking?’. Do not be surprised if you receive a response like, “I don’t know”. So often, learner’s do not internalise instruction. You might think your instructions and feedback have been heard, you might even receive a visual or verbal response from the learner, but has the information really ‘sunk in’?
Spoon on Feeding the Brain
We have to make sure that we spoon feed a learner’s brain until they are used to doing an action or activity the right way. Verbal cues are a great way of doing this. Ideally, verbal cues should become part of teaching culture. They have the the capacity to guide learners towards effective performances and, continuously feed positive pathways.
Be More Jamaican
But what happens when a learner is particularly anxious or even afraid to engage in an activity? Dr Ali, discusses a great verbal cue used to encourage learners to relax – simply tell them to, ‘be more Jamaican’. This cue encourages the learner to adopt a Bob Marley attitude, reminding them to have faith that – “every little thing is gonna be alright”. This shift from being outcome focussed to simply trusting the process is a wonderful life lesson.
Put simply, in order to see effective change in movement behaviors, providing verbal cues that spoon feed the learner’s brain and instill that Bob Marley attitude can make a significant difference– this is my message to you!