Saturday, August 29, 2009

TAGteach seminar (2)

I recently wrote to a friend about my thoughts after the TAGteach seminar and she encouraged me to post it to this blog. So even though it is not exactly keeping with the animal training aspect of the blog, some readers might find it interesting. And if you do, I highly encourage you to attend a seminar!

What I’m finding now that I’m back teaching after the seminar is how much better I am at breaking things down. And also the distinct differences between tagging and clicking. One of the things Theresa said (which made perfect sense as she said it but it wasn’t until I got back to teaching that it really gelled) is that you know you have a tag point when you are trying to teach something and find yourself frustrated because the learner isn’t getting it. That’s when you pull out TAGteach. So that rather than incorporating it into every lesson (which can diminish the power of it), it becomes a tool for a specific purpose.

Yesterday a girl came for only her second lesson and I had gotten frustrated at her first lesson because she had a very difficult time mounting. She had popped her hip out of her socket earlier this summer and has just been given permission to start doing stuff again but she is obviously hesitant. So I worked out this little exercise in my mind where I’d use one of my green panels around the round pen to have her practice mounting. I didn't even use a saddle – just had her put her left foot on the bottom rung, step up to straighten that left leg, and swing her right leg straight up perpendicular to your body. After she did that easily and successfully, I had her move on to the 2nd rung, then the third until we reached the height of where the stirrup actually was. I made sure both her hands were together on the “pommel”, not one on the cantle to torque poor Elly’s back. The wobbliness of the panel somewhat imitated the wobbliness of a stirrup and the potential moving of the saddle/horse. Know what? I never even tagged her! We went through this exercise and just breaking it down like that helped her get it. She could follow my directions without my needing to tag. But if I hadn’t been looking for tag points, I never would have broken the exercise down like that. So that’s how some of the philosophy has really helped me so far. When we then moved on to mounting the real horse, she did a MUCH better job than the first time.

The definition of a tag point is:
what you want (as opposed to what you don’t want)
single criteria (be clear and break things down to simple tiny steps)
observable and definable
5 words or less

The first three are very similar to animals but the fourth can be tricky. We practiced this a lot and had to be able to say, “the tag point is” followed by 5 words or less (and never “your” tag point is....keep it impersonal). You can preface it with directions, but the tag point is 5 words or less. I.e. “Stay on the circle, keeping a steady pace and when you pass a cone, the tag point is sit two beats”. And then you have to ignore the circle and the steady pace and just tag the 2 beats of sitting. But you have put directions in there, reminded them and laid the ideal setting.

Another thing: generally you can’t tag for more than 10 minutes at a time because so much focus is required that learners get exhausted mentally. Obviously that depends on the situation- are you tagging repeatedly for one person repeating something over and over rapidly like maybe a golf swing? Or tagging a rider’s leg position over fences such that they only get tagged over fences when they are on course and there are breaks between courses etc.

Those are some things that come to mind.


Mary H. said...

Interesting! I don't know a whole lot about TagTeaching, but what I have heard, I've found pretty interesting.

I really like the idea of 5 words for a tag point. I think this could be really helpful for clicker training animals as well. Sometimes I run into trouble and then realize I'm trying to train too many things at once! The idea of 5 words means the trainer has to pick one specific thing to click for.

By the way---I really enjoy reading your blog! I've been catching up on blogs this week, after being without internet most of the summer. I have a couple of youngsters I'm working with, so I really enjoyed some of the posts about Ande and Rumer.


Mary H.

Bookends Farm said...

You've got a point there about 5 words for animals. Of course we don't need to say it but if we CAN say it in five words it probably means we've broken it down pretty well.
Clicker training babies is SO much fun- they are so willing to try and so earnest in their attempts!
Do you read the TAGteach blog?

Mary H. said...

Do you read the TAGteach blog?

No. What's the address for it?
I'd probably be interested in reading it.


Bookends Farm said...

The website is and you can link to the blog that way too.