As a teacher, specifically a teacher in a consumer market, each student is the consumer. If the student is not engaged (this does not necessarily always mean happy) and the parent does not perceive engagement, than the consumer will leave. This means that every student must participate.

As a rule, when I am teaching, everyone participates. There is a bad habit among martial arts instructors where they have some students sit while instructing other students. This most commonly happens when teaching forms or Poomsae. The problem is that the students and their parents are the consumer. When a student sits, they are not participating and learning. A sitting student is a bored student and the parent will see this boredom.

There are exceptions, races and games where we take turns or play little round robins.

So how do you get around this? Sometimes, getting around this issue requires creative thinking, but most of the time I find that the simplest method is to just teach everyone. I teach a set of kicking forms, really just long kicking combinations. When we are practicing these forms, I will often have students participate with forms above their belt level. I will tell the students, ‘you do not need to know this form, but you can practice it, even if you are not required to memorize it at your belt level.’ Yes, this forces them to work ahead, but the student is active and the parent sees the participation. If the student memorizes the form, great! Then I will test them on it and they will learn faster.

But the key is that they are not sitting.

If I have a Black Belt assistant available, I will have the Black Belt work them on their material. That does not always happen, I do not always have assistants available, so the junior student participates with their seniors.

I can see a number of arguements:
They are not ‘ready’ for this material:

My answer, so what? It’s a form. If they stumble through it now, at least they are moving. Other students will not stumble and might excel at being pushed.

It is above their belt level:

Belt levels are an artificial barrier we create to measure students. Their ability is more important.

I will run out of curriculum if they work ahead:

This is an entirely different issue. As a teacher you need to find ways to engage students within your curriculum. You need to cultivate a culture of personal improvement, where students are not always seeking to know the next thing.

Ways to encourage participation:
Create/ build drills that allow different level students to participate:

For instance, when I work on exchange Padachugi with my intermediate/ advanced students, my beginners will do Jump Round Kick. While these techniques are not the same, they are similar enough that the whole class can stay within the same technical area.

Independent practice:

My students are taught to work with partners and in groups from the very beginning. Whatever the lesson or technique of the week, I can give similar, but different drills depending on who is in class.

Work ahead:

The example listed above.

My last thought:

I believe having an intentional class flow and plan are important. I write a lesson plan for every class, which we will talk about in a future blog, and believe is absolutely vital! Now, avoiding a tangent on lesson planning, what is important is that it allows me to plan out my class flow. If my goal is total class participation for the entire class time, then that is in my lesson plan. I will pick the drills/ activities we so that the entire class can participate in the same drill and others where I will stratify them out. The goal is to always keep the entire class active.