Why Document Your Tango Curriculum

Originally published at: https://blog.awakentango.com/why-document-your-tango-curriculum/

There are lots of different perfectly valid ways to teach the first 30+ hours of tango – and beyond. Each teacher experiments and finds a way that works best for them.

You’ll probably have your own opinion on when it’s “best” to teach the cross, close embrace, inline walking, ochos, music. And probably you’ll also adapt and tailor your plans to different learners’ needs and interests. But, even if your curriculum is pretty fluid it’s still a good idea to document it. Here’s why.

Benefits of documenting your basic tango curriculum

  1. You will learn a ton by doing it. Actually writing down what you teach, in what order, will cause you to think freshly about your teaching strategy and what’s behind it, reflect on what’s worked in the past, and get clearer about your POV.

  2. You’ll create valuable shared language in the process. When you and your community have common language for techniques and movements, it’s much easier to work together. This shared vocabulary will help students learn and retain ideas.

  3. A documented curriculum makes it easier for people to help each other learn. Helpful and skilled dancers who are willing to help build community can help beginners more effectively if the curriculum is clear and available. Having a documented curriculum facilitates peer-to-peer learning, which has always helped tango thrive.

Here’s the thing as you’re getting started: your documented curriculum doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s okay if it evolves — expect it to, quite a bit, for the first few years! Frame it as a continuous work-in-progress that your community has special access to.

How to document your tango curriculum

There are a few different ways to go about it:

  1. Use brief, memorable names for exercises, movements, techniques, concepts. Invented language is fine if you need it, but no need to invent new words when there are already good words for something, like “crossed system” or “sacada.”

  2. Describe the movements. Write blurbs to explain what happens in the movement verbally, or use a tango notation system of your choice. (Or create one!) Reference the names of techniques and concepts in these blurbs.

  3. Capture the element visually. Photos aren’t great for documenting a curriculum, unless, say, you want to show different kinds of embrace. Instead, I suggest brief videos, like we did in the Tango Manual, or even GIFs like Oxygen Tango uses for the Famous Tango Learning Lab.

  4. Make the curriculum available. You can publish it on a private page of your website, in a shared Google doc, on an Airtable. It can be great to have a written version at the studio – you can make an abbreviated one and print it with one element on each card, or simply as a poster or on a whiteboard. You can even self-publish a little workbook if you want!

Once you’ve shared your curriculum, talk about it! Use it in class titles, reference it in classes, point toward it in emails and social posts. This helps reinforce the concepts and the importance of having shared language.

Does this sound too difficult? If you are new to curriculum writing, it’s a great idea to start by working with other people’s curriculum. For a long time I worked with Jaimes Friedgen’s excellent beginner curriculum, while simultaneously learning as much as I could about other ways of approaching beginner curriculum. Talk with people who have been doing this awhile, practice, test stuff out, and eventually you and your community will have a wonderful curriculum as a reference point that will support amazing tango learning and growth.

Mitra Martin has been exploring tango since 1998. She is the co-founder of Oxygen Tango.

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