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!