Steps to Guiding Creating
In my Creative Dance for Children mentoring program a few weeks ago, we got to talking about the steps for guiding Creating activities in class. This pertains to ages 4-10.
When guiding students, you have to assume a leadership role at many points along the line.
First, you lay out the structure for creating as clearly and simply as possible. Visual aids, such as mapping or vocabulary, may help a great deal. If you are working from a poem or a picture, you have it posted.
Next, you divide the group into sub-groups if you have enough assistants in the room (for younger) or if the children have self control and concentration to function successfully in small groups. When first empowering students to work independently, duets are good. Generally 5 is a large group. Before you send groups off to work, have a sound signal ready that will mean ‘freeze, sit, look and listen’ so you can get everyone’s attention once they are spread out in the space. This could be a drum or hand clap pattern.
Make sure to have a nice distribution of ‘chiefs and indians’ in the group so the leadership is balanced. Also balance out off-task and on-task folks.
Instruct groups to first plan, then get up and test their ideas.
Next, they need to refine their ideas, ‘set’ (that means remember so you can do it again) and practice.
After that, they can re-evaluate their choices, refine again and practice.
Give the groups a short amount of time to work (5 minutes), and check for progress, allowing for another minute to wrap up before showing.
Move among groups during the working process. Ask them: ‘show me what you’ve got’ if they appear stuck or have completed the assignment. They can refine if they are done, and get back on track if they are stuck.
If you see one off-task child in a group, you can join them for a while to calm that child and help with focus.
When it’s time to perform, select your order of performance. Stronger groups should perform later in the line-up, since they know what they are doing and will remember it. This is also so as not to intimidate weaker groups who may feel less successful once they’ve seen the stronger groups. Put anxious groups early in the line-up, too.
Review or teach audience and performer skills. Audiences watch with a purpose, don’t practice their own dances, are still, silent, respectful and facing towards performers. You can check what the purpose is they are watching for (usually the concept or structure of the dance). Performers are still at the beginning and end (a big breath helps), do their best, and don’t get flustered if they make a ‘mistake’ (since the audience doesn’t know the rules of their dance anyway!). Even though these are only ‘studies’ that performers are show, audiences can still applaud at the end to show appreciation.
Reflect on the dances. Decide on how to approach this. Will everyone have an opportunity to volunteer an observation, or one group comments upon another, with that rotated around? A spokesperson from each group? Lots of possible ways to do this.
What are good reflection questions? You can guide the group to recall elements from the purpose of the dance, memorable moments they saw, sequences, etc. Groups can themselves talk about the process of making the dance: what was the leadership dynamic? If there was one thing you could change about your dance, what would it be? Again, lots of internal reflection possibilities.
In our program, we find this process takes about 20-25 minutes, from start to finish in a group with approx. 12 children and a maximum of 5 groups.
- Frontload the assignment.
- Divide groups, teach the sound signal for getting their attention.
- Give a time limit, and a wrap-up time limit.
- Move among the groups to check for understanding.
- Decide on the order groups will show.
- Review Audience/Performer expectations
- Be ready with meaningful reflection questions and a strategy for how reflection will be conducted.
And, of course, have a pleasant look on your face and a smile in your heart as you work, oops, I mean ‘play.’ Creating is challenging fun!
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