Be a Sensei of the Classroom: 5 Lessons Teachers Can Borrow from Martial Arts

Be a Sensei of the Classroom: 5 Lessons Teachers Can Borrow from Martial Arts

Practices that Make Classrooms More Engaging

Believe it or not, a successful martial arts class or program shares the same attributes as a successful classroom. Below are a few practices used in martial arts classes which can be used to make your classroom more engaging for students.

There is a predictable routine.

Students should know exactly what to expect in your classroom daily. This doesn’t produce boredom, it promotes predictability.

Your classroom, like a martial arts class, should have a defined beginning, middle and end. It should be challenging, and students should strive for mastery every day. In your classroom, perfect practice makes perfect just like in martial arts.

Incentives exist for mastery of standards.

In martial arts classes, student receive colored belts once they master a certain number of standards. In many classes, along the way, they may receive stripes on their belt for acknowledgement of great improvement.

You can provide incentives for mastery of standards as well. Don’t hand out too many incentives too often, though. The students will become desensitized and may not appreciate the special moment.

Make sure the incentive is honestly earned and adds value. Free time, play time, computer time, etc. are all great rewards. You can even set up a classroom store where students earn classroom money to buy treats and decorative supplies.

There should be occasional surprises.

Once in a while, in martial arts classes, there will be a special guest instructor, a game-like exercise or something else amazingly engaging. You can do the same thing in your classroom, but don’t do it all of the time for the same reason you don’t incentives too much.

Use sources and activities outside the classroom.

Through my daughter’s martial arts class, she has had the opportunity to attend conferences and training on occasional weekends with hundreds of other children and adults. These experiences motivate and round out her martial arts training and experience, build motivation and create memories which will last a lifetime.

Work on taking your students on field trips that relate to your classwork. Include assignments which are tied to your school improvement plan or subject area standards. Always include open-ended, higher-order questions that make them think and write.

Parental involvement is crucial.

Make sure your parents are signing something your student brings home every week. Send home newsletters and assignments, which must include parental involvement for success.

You may encounter the student whose parent won’t or can’t participate. This is an opportunity to contact the parent and see how you can support them. It may also let you know who may need the most support in your classroom.

Martial arts is designed to create stronger, disciplined, more confident and thoughtful practitioners. It’s not something you do and put away; it’s a life-long journey.

Academic achievement is the same way. With the right combination of elements, you will create life-long learners.


Photo Credit: Jaap Arriens via Compfight cc

About Jeff Davis 10 Articles
With 14 years of experience in education in Florida and Tennessee, Jeff Davis is a middle school administrator, speaker and blogger whose passion is building lasting connections among teachers, students, parents and the community.

1 Comment

  1. Traditionally, sensei never points out errors, but shows how to do it right and repeats until student gets it. If sensei were to tell students they were wrong, students would remember the reprimand and the wrong way. So, only show the right way.

    The system only works if both teacher and student understand and embrace their rolls: Teachers teach and students learn and both try conscientiously.

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