Monday, August 5, 2019

Applying Marzano to Teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Nonlinguistic Representations

In my last few posts, I've been discussing Marzano's nine essential elements of teaching and how they apply to teaching jiu jitsu. In this post, I cover element #5 - Nonlinguistic Representations.

A nonlinguistic representation is an expression of an idea that goes beyond the use of words. It may include graphic organizers, diagrams, pictures, movement, demonstrations, 3D models, role-plays, simulations, or mental images. For jiu jitsu instructors, we're pretty familiar with movement (drilling or rolling) and demonstrations (watching our instructors demonstrating technique.)

The principle is pretty straight-forward - the more ways you represent the idea you're teaching, the more it's going to stick in you student's brains. All of us explain stuff linguistically and show stuff visually. Adding in other representations of the ideas can increase retention by almost 20% (Marzano, 2009), which is a pretty impressive improvement. Here are a few specific strategies that utilize this element:

1. Show a technique before explaining it so students have a context. Any given technique is automatically a nonlinguistic representation because it involves, well, nonverbal information. Namely, physical movement. The point, though, is to give students a context for what you're about to describe. When you're explaining the details of the technique, they will have a frame of reference to help understand it. In a sense, they're getting the "big picture."
3. Demonstrate techniques from different angles and from the perspective of both top and bottom positions. The goal here is to get students to start thinking about techniques as 3D representations in space, not just a checklist of specific details. This was sort of the impetus behind my Eight Points of Attack idea - it gives students a different way of mentally representing jiu jitsu in their brain.
4. Demonstrate the technique on everyone so they can FEEL it. We TALK about techniques a lot. We SHOW techniques a lot. But how often do we let our students FEEL the technique? Of course they feel it when they drill with their partner, but the first few times are going to be a little rough around the edges. It's better if they feel how the technique is supposed to feel when done correctly. An easy way to do this is to just go around and do the technique on everyone in class. Depending on class size, though, this could be logistically impossible. This is a good opportunity to let your higher belts contribute by having them help by demonstrating the technique on the less experienced students.
5. Have students generate mental pictures using VMBR. Visual-Motor Behavior Rehearsal is a fancy term for combining relaxation and imagery. The mental images created via VMBR are a form of nonlinguistic representations. To use this method, lead class like you normally would. After demonstrating the technique and drilling but before live rolling, have students spread out on the mat, lie on their backs, close their eyes, and go through a progressive relaxation exercise. Then have them imagine using the technique they just learned. The more senses they can engage vividly, the more effective this is (what does it feel like, what does it sound like, what do you smell, etc.)
6. Have students doodle what they learned in class in their notebooks. Drawing is an excellent use of nonlinguistic representations. This one's pretty straight-forward, just have students doodle the technique (or steps of the technique) in their notebooks. Here's an example of a judo-based doodle:

Your artwork doesn't have to be this good. The notebook is, after all, for your eyes only.

7. Use graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are a great tool for jiu jitsu students. Instead of attempting to explain them, watch this short vid:

Having students make graphic organizers to represent techniques is effective. It's also effective to use graphic organizers to organize ALL of your jiu jitsu knowledge. Here's an example I believe came from Rickson:

8. Use a anatomical models for demos. This last one's my favorite and loosely based on my aforementioned Eight Points of Attack idea. Having a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology goes a long way towards being effective on the mats. If you understand the structures of the body and how they work, you understand the precise nature of all submissions (and other techniques and concepts.) Using anatomical models, like a skeleton or models of specific joints, you can demonstrate exactly what is happening during a submission. While not all students will appreciate this granularity of detail, your more geeky students will LOVE it.

Try these eight methods. If one or more work well, share your experiences in the comments section!



Friday, August 2, 2019

Applying Marzano to Teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Homework and Repetition

HOMEWORK IN JIU JIJTSU?!? That sounds terrible!

That was the first response I got a few years back when a lower belt training partner asked me what he could do to super-charge his progression in jiu jitsu. Admittedly, getting jiu jitsu students to do homework can be a tough sell given most of us are taught to hate homework based off our formal schooling experiences.

I get it. As a long-time high school teacher, I'm intimately familiar with the application (and perception) of homework. It's almost always mundane busy work with minimal connection to the actual knowledge the student is supposed to be learning. and there's sooooo much of it!

But homework can actually be an enjoyable thing in jiu jitsu! And a little bit goes a long way. As jiu jitsu instructors, we can speed our student's progress by giving them small little "assignments" to complete outside class. Before I get to specific examples, here are the "homework rules" best practices you should be following. 

1. Homework needs to directly support whatever your students are learning in class. If you're covering a scissor sweep in class, don't have students work on a berimbolo at home. 
2. Explain WHY the homework is given. Students need to understand the connection between what they're learning in class and what they're learning on their own at home. 
3. Keep the time commitment to a minimum. Our students lead busy lives; they're not going to spend three hours per night working on shrimping in their living room. If homework requires more than a 10-15 minute time commitment, it's probably not getting done. 
4. All homework should accomplish one of two things, preferably both - deepens understanding and improves skills. When planning what to give as homework, always focus on one or both of these goals. 
5. Make sure the student can actually DO the task. If the student doesn't have the necessary knowledge or physical skills to do the homework, it ain't getting done. As such, homework should reflect stuff they've already learned in class unless what you're asking them to do is within their grasp (refer to Vgotsky's "Zones of Proximal Development.")
6. Make the homework enjoyable. If the homework is tedious or in any way unpleasant, nobody's going to do it. Maximizing compliance with completing homework requires a bit of clever marketing. Don't be afraid to get students excited about the "assignments."

With these points in mind, here are some homework ideas you can give your students:

1. Get in the habit of practicing fundamental movements in your daily life. If you're on the floor, use a technical stand-up to get up. Shrimp your way out of bed. When walking down the hall, practice your footwork for shooting, throws, or trips. When you pick something up and hold it, get used to using the minimum grip strength needed to keep it in your hand. If your heart rate increases for whatever reason, practice slowing your breathing and relaxing your muscles until it returns to normal. If your significant other gives you a hug, dig for the underhook. You get the idea. 
2. Find video of the technique or concept we're working on in a black belt competition; share with the rest of the school. Watching high level practitioners executing technique correctly is a sport psychology mainstay for learning motor skills. If we're covering guillotines in class, this one would be a perfect example of a supplemental video that would benefit the entire school.
3. Research the technique we just covered in class by watching three Youtube videos on the same technique; share with the rest of the school. This is sort of related to #2, but has a different application. For any given aspect of jiu jitsu, there are all kinds of opinions on best-practices. How do you do a cross choke? There a probably 1,000 different details taught throughout the bjj world. This particular assignment exposes students to more details than you'd cover as the instructor. Now, this particular one requires you, as an instructor, to put your ego aside and recognize both your students and yourself can benefit from other perspectives. It also requires you to help your students experiment with different details to figure out what works best for them as individuals.
4. Review the material we covered in class and develop three questions related to problems or issues you have with the material. Developing questions is an excellent way to critically think about what you're learning, which helps you learn the material through deep processing. Further, answering the questions in the next class benefits the rest of the students. 
5. Use VMBR to practice technique. Visual-Motor Behavior Rehearsal is a fancy term for combining relaxation and mental imagery to develop motor skills. This is an idea I explicitly teach in class, and it makes excellent homework. Research indicates the method is almost as effective as actual physical practice. In jiu jitsu where overtraining and injuries are real problems, this homework can be a game-changer, especially for older practitioners. 
6. Do solo drills. Jason Scully of the Grappler's Guide (a phenomenal resource itself) produced this short video demonstrating 33 solo drills for jiu jitsu. Assign your students one or two of these per night; have them do 100 reps each. This will help both new and experienced students learn the gross motor skills of the basic movements that make up the vast majority of movement patterns we use in the sport. 

There you have it - some guidelines and examples of homework you can assign to your students to help them process. Have fun!

If you have any other suggestions for homework, share it in the comments section!



Thursday, August 1, 2019

Applying Marzano to Teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

In the last two posts, I covered aspects of Marzano's nine essential aspects of effective teaching, including "Identifying Similarities and Differences" and "Summarizing and Note-Taking." In this post, I'll explore the third of the nine - "Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition."

This one is especially interesting to me because of my background in psychology. Reinforcement (aka a "reward") is a topic we talk about all the time in my psychology classes. Personally, I use reinforcement all the time in the classroom, when teaching on the mats, and in my day-to-day life. It's a wonderfully-effective tool for getting people to repeat a behavior.

The goal of using this strategy is two-fold. First, it motivates people to keep training. In jiu jitsu, the time you spend on the mat matters. A lot. After all, a black belt really is nothing more than a white belt who never stopped training. Both the reinforcement of effort and providing recognition for achieving a particular standard (like promotions) help keep people coming back.

Second, this strategy provides feedback so the students know they're on the right track. As more experienced practitioners, we sometimes forget our students don't automatically possess the wisdom we've collected by OUR time on the mat that tells us we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. Simply rewarding the students for the kind of effort that will make them better, and recognizing when they do something right, provides a powerful guide that will keep their learning on the right track.

Of Marzano's nine, this one is also probably the one most used by jiu jitsu instructors now. Every jiu jitsu instructor I've ever trained under has used reinforcement to encourage effort AND has provided recognition for accomplishments. Unfortunately, HOW these are applied sometimes goes off the rails a bit.

So... here are some tips from your friendly neighborhood psychology teacher:

1. Reinforce EFFORT more (work hard), outcomes less (focus on winning.) Reinforcers increase behaviors. We want our students to work hard, so we reinforce effort. Winning is a natural outgrowth of effort. Or, more accurately, the probability of winning increases as a function of effort. But "winning" is out of an individual's direct control. No matter how much I practice, I ain't beating Mike Jordan in a game of one-on-one.
2. Make sure the reinforcer you're using is actually a reinforcer for that individual. Not everyone wants a candy bar for cleaning the toilets. Reinforcers are personal. What motivates ME does not necessarily motivate YOU. As a jiu jitsu instructor, you have to figure out what motivates each of your students.
3. Make sure the reinforcer is clearly contingent on the desired behavior.  The student absolutely has to understand their "reward" is being given because they engaged in a specific behavior. While this seems pretty logical, if the teacher isn't explicit, the student may think they were rewarded for a different behavior, which they will then repeat.
4. Recognition may be public or private. Some people like to be recognized in front of peers that matter to them. Others prefer to be recognized in private. Most people have a preference; it's up to you to figure out which one is better for each student. 
5. Reinforcement and recognition must be immediate. Or, the sooner either is given after the desired behavior or outcome, the more effective it is. If a student hits that arm bar from guard, recognize it right then. Don't wait until next Tuesday. 
6. Use reinforcement and punishment at a 4:1 ratio. Admittedly, this one's getting a little geeky, but track your use of rewards and punishments. Research indicates this ratio maximizes learning.

Start using reinforcement and praise in your jiu jitsu instruction, and follow the rules above. Let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below!



Jiu Jitsu Three Minute Hack #3: Co-Teaching

Co-teaching is a concept that isn't new in the field of education, but is virtually unheard of in jiu jitsu. The idea is that two...