Source: quora

Do you have young friends you want to teach bridge?

Here are some of my thoughts. Not a complete recipe, but I hope at least thought provoking.

Andrew Gumperz
Andrew Gumperz

Playing bridge is like driving a car–it requires thinking at multiple levels of abstraction simultaneously. Over time, lower-level skills became automatic and no longer required conscious thought, so the player becomes able to focus on higher-level skills. When you were first learning to drive, shifting the clutch and braking required conscious thought. It is difficult to think about shifting the clutch, what traffic signals mean, rules of the road, planning a route to your destination, adjusting the route based on traffic, judging distance from other cars, etc. all at the same time–too much bouncing up and down between levels of abstraction.

The solution is to isolate individual skills. For example, just learning what a trick is and the need to follow suit is a low level skill that must be learned first. When you are learning that skill, you will have a hard time understanding if your teacher is also explaining something about bidding and something about drawing trump. The teacher must tolerate the many mistakes the students make in applying higher level skills when the focus is a lower level one. When the student has mastered a skill, introduce the next level of abstraction on top of it.

1. Allow them to learn by doing. E.g., get a deck of cards in their hands as fast as possible.

2. Mistakes are not the enemy, they are a part of the learning process. The goal of teaching is not to correct mistakes, it is for the student to acquire skills. You can transmit skills to the student by reinforcing good choices as well as by correcting mistakes.

3. Students frequently have self-confidence problems. The best solution for low self-confidence is a feeling of success. The wonderful thing about bridge is even in a session where you score 32%, there will be some hand you can point to as a success. Have an eagle-eye for finding success. Praise the students for their successes.

4. Tailor the message to the student’s level. Ignore interesting issues that are outside the student’s level. It is tempting to explain how the student could have bid that slam if he only played fit-jumps and Exclusion Blackwood, but if that is outside his level, let him rest in game and explain that not all slams are biddable.

5. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. If the student sees you admit your mistakes, then they relax and feel more comfortable about accepting their own. They will respect the teacher more, not less, for his ability to accept. Strangely enough, students often learn less from a great player who intimidates them because he is always right, than from someone who is less skilled and merely points them in the right direction, but makes them feel good about the learning process.

6. Reinforce that learning is the student’s responsibility. For example, suppose you are teaching a class using Audrey Grant’s Club series book. A student asks a question which you know is addressed in the book. Ask the student to read the answer and then explain the answer to the entire class in 10 minutes. Then give them the floor. The student will feel good getting to be the center of attention and subconsciously he will learn to acquire knowledge on his own without you.

7. When lecturing, share the center of attention as much as possible. Suppose you explain a topic and some student says, “I don’t get it.” Ask another student to explain it to the class in their words. Often times, they can explain in terms that resonate better with beginners, and they feel good about themself because of the temporary attention they receive.

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