what their body is doing in space. They try to move their arms and hands in a certain way and the movement doesn't look at all like they tried to do it. Even worse, they don't even know that they don't know what they are doing. How can we teach body awareness to students?
I have four suggestions.
The first is the idea of “First Separate, Then Combine,” sometimes called “Directed Practice”. There are so many things going in even a simple form that beginning students can't keep track of it all. Separate and then combine means to separate out a principle or a movement or form, practice it separately until it becomes second nature. Then separate out a different part of a form and practice it. Then combine those parts and practice them together until they become second nature. Then separate out another different part and practice it separately. Then combine it with the others.
A second idea is to teach awareness in layers. Watch and follow the instructor. Practice by yourself. Watch the instructor again. Practice with a group and help each other. Visualize the movements. Practice by yourself. Repeat as needed.
A third idea is to teach awareness through Body, Mind, and Breath. Move your body as best as you can. Visualize the movement in your mind. Pause during the forms and check that visualization against what your body is really doing. Breathe slowly and use your breath to calm your mind and body.
A fourth idea is to teach awareness by pausing. Wherever you are having difficult learning a form, stop several times in the movement before the point where it's not working right. Check to see if you are where you expected to be. Breathe deeply. Don't rush. Correct any mistakes before moving on.
Try them and tell me how it works.