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 Working With Kids  

      “We have good news,” said Mr. Groth,  “April is in The 20 Club!”  The fifth graders erupted in applause, and he continued, “she did 23 throws.”

      “I put my name on The 20 Club list,” April said with a smile. “That’s why I came to school early. Now I am going to make the 50 Club! ” 

      “Congratulations, April,” said Mr. Groth, “here’s your first certificate.”

      Concrete recognition, applause and “belonging” motivate young jugglers.  Invite a beginner and a few of his or her friends to commit a few hours per week.  Those hours and these twelve tricks for working with kids will help to create the newest generation of manipulators of gravity.

      SHOW OFF!  “The best way to motivate kids is to show off some of your own juggling skills first,” says Mike Vondruska of the Illinois Juggling Institute.  “They get excited and want to try, too.”

      PROVIDE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT   Jugglers learn best with proper equipment, not with rolled up socks or tennis balls.  Make sure there is enough equipment for all. Find equipment suppliers who will provide discounts.

      TEACH THAT DROPS ARE A SIGN OF PROGRESS   A writer’s group in Minneapolis starts each session with applause for everyone who brings a fresh rejection letter.  These letters are to writers what drops are to jugglers, a sign that risks have been taken. A drop is a sign of progress. Teach your students that we learn to juggle drop by drop.

      AFFIRM LOUDLY AND OFTEN (tosses and drops!)   “Nice drop” is a comment frequently heard from adults in the Oregon Juggling Club, asserting that jugglers value gravity  and admire the perseverance of beginners. A correct toss with one beanbag merits as much praise as a juggler’s first five-ball flash.  “Way to go!”  Who knows, the five-ball flash may not have happened without the earlier affirmation?  

      ENCOURAGE PARTNER WORK   Ask a new juggler, “Will you please show Jimmy how to start with one ball?”  Though that new juggler may not yet have mastered the cascade pattern, his or her confidence and understanding of juggling will be reinforced.

      Encourage jugglers to work on partner tricks, which are fun and a good way for more confident jugglers to help reluctant jugglers.  Front steals, side-by-side cascade with three beanbags and one ball take-away are not difficult tricks. Bud Markowitz, who works with the Special Olympics, shared that side-by-side is especially helpful for beginners with special needs.  

      PRESENT CHALLENGES   As soon as a beginner has a solid cascade, encourage a throw off-the-knee or under-the-leg, then move on to juggler’s tennis and columns.  Before a juggler has imagined he or she is ready, push for four balls and five.  The suggestion to add balls to a pattern is a compliment and spurs focused effort.

      BAIT WITH CHEESEBURGERS AND ICE CREAM CONES  Set personal goals and provide rewards. Local businesses may be glad to provide delicious incentives for jugglers.  It may be easier for a youthful beginner to practice with an ice cream cone in mind than just for the sake of learning columns; small treats make a big difference.  

       PUBLICIZE PROGRESS   Laminated progress charts are on the doors of the juggling equipment storage cabinets where Paul Arneberg works with Minnesota’s Jugheads.  Updated by the students, they record personal endurance records and milestones.  Remember the power of pictures.   The Flamingo Club, (www.juggler.net/flamingo) has a page where youth pictures may be posted.   Also, acknowledge accomplishments by listing names in a juggling or school  newsletter.

       APPRECIATE OTHERS Encourage all jugglers to show their improvement, from beginners who correctly toss two throws to those who are working on Mills Mess and four ball showers, Teach them to be an attentive and encouraging audience, as well as gracious performers who finish with a bow.

      PERFORM!  Performances in the community, with jugglers of all levels, serve as an incentive to continue to practice.   Nursing homes provide non-discriminating audiences, as do  daycare classes. Welcome audience members to participate and your group will grow. 
 
 

 

 

 
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