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Go Beyond Talking in Creating Understanding

Think for a moment about the Student Directed Ski Instruction grid. The two activities the instructor must perform are identifying and fulfilling; the three categories of need are movement, understanding, and motivation. This article will focus on fulfilling understanding needs.

The novice instructor often tries to fulfill the need for understanding by providing information verbally - “Find out what they need to know and then tell them.” Though the information provided may be accurate, there are drawbacks to simply talking: first, the student might not truly understand the relevance of the information; second, standing around and listening might not be what skiers want from their lesson. There are clearly times when providing information verbally is valid and effective, but let’s see what can be done to increase skiing time for your students, create the understanding that they need, and expand your capabilities as an instructor.

The skillful instructor knows how to create understanding in his/her students through skiing – “find out what they need to know and then help them learn it while skiing”. Let’s use several examples to see how you can help skiers gain understanding through movement tasks…

The understanding needed:
Speed control comes through completion of turns

Verbal: “Tipping your skis through the end of each turn will keep them turning. Keep tipping them until your skis point across the hill to control your speed.”

Skiing 1: On a slope with even pitch: “ Let’s make turns down this hill. With each subsequent turn, tilt the skis to a higher edge angle so that they aim more across the hill. Keep doing this until you tilt so far and turn so far that you stop.” At the end of the run, ask them if they went faster or slower as they tipped the skis more.

Skiing 2: “Follow me down this slope, and make your skis follow my path. Some turns will be round, while others will have little direction change. Pay attention to how fast you travel while making the different sizes of turns.”
Follow me with a focus

The understanding needed:
Transferring balance to the little-toe edge of the new stance ski prevents a wedge at turn initiation.

Verbal: “ When you transfer your balance to the big-toe edge of your new stance foot, that requires that you open your ski tails, making a wedge. If you transfer instead to the little-toe edge, your skis will need to stay parallel.

Skiing: “Make two series of turns. In the first series, step deliberately onto the big-toe edge of the new stance ski. In the second series, step deliberately onto the little-toe edge. Watch your skis and tell me in which series of turns your tails stay together, and in which one they flare apart.”


The understanding needed:
Leaning the torso toward the outside of the turn helps in balance and engagement.

Verbal: “Lean your body toward the outside of the turn to help you to balance on the stance ski.”

Skiing: “Watch me make several turns, then tell me in your own words what I seem to do with my torso relative to my skis in each turn.”
Demo and describe in their own words.

The next time you’re teaching, see if you can use some of the methods identified in the bold text to help your students gain understanding through skiing tasks.