Our lab program meets Saturday mornings. We run two rooms simultaneously. There are generally 12 children in a class, who have chosen to take this class (self-selected). After our first day with the children (ages 4-5, 6-7, 8-10) here were some remarks I made in response to my college students’ comments.
Building Trust and Emotional Safety
- Get on your students’ level, physically (particularly important with younger children). Go ahead, squat down!
- Give them something to do right away (we always have interesting props set out on yoga squares so everyone can go to a spot and find something as they come in the door)
- Be enthusiastic and supportive
- Be honest and caring
- Show interest
- Be loving
- Never be afraid of your students. You are the Alpha dog in the pack!
- Give freedom within structure, which conveys permission to be expressive
- Consider the “V” of freedom. Start narrow and gradually open out. (As with good parenting).
- Plan activities that help kids get comfortable with community (like sharing yoga squares with more than one person) and a get-together, welcome, name song
- Be flexible with the shy kids; the transition may be harder on them. But expect that by 3 days into the semester, they will have adjusted. (although our class rule is no parents in the room, I make an exception for the separation of that one child on that first day).
- Make sure all voices are heard (call on others besides the raised hands)
- “No” is a ‘wall’…..look for ‘window’ options instead. “No” is reserved for safety and boundaries (such as it’s not okay to hurt yourself or other people in class)
- Learn and use students’ names frequently. We take pictures of every child wearing a name tag the first day, then never have to use name tags again.
- On Day #1, the room should be creative, but structured enough not to be overwhelming. Otherwise, with too much freedom, issues would arise.
- Set boundaries and expectations the first day, and have an easier time thereafter. Example: Always give instructions while students are seated.
- Establish audio cues the first day that indicate “clean up, time to warm up”. My go-to instrument for the start of class is a recorder (block flute) upon which I play a series of 3 simple motifs based around the notes B-A-G. Each motif guides students to pick up, put away, find a spot for warm up.
Every fall I teach a course called “Creative Dance for Children” that is both a lab program for children ages 4 and 5, 6 and 7 and 8-10 AND a mentoring program for college students who are learning the concept-based approach to teaching dance, based on the work of Anne Green Gilbert. These students attend the lab classes, gradually taking over lesson components as the semester progresses.
This is the first in a series of thoughts on teaching, based on my responses to the college students’ journal entries on different topics.
- Don’t stick with any one activity for too long, yet examined the same concept through many different activities.
- Watch how your students move; it may teach you something about where they are emotionally.
- Give quick directions that did not confuse.
- Make positive reinforcement authentic. Don’t say ‘good job’ in a rote way. Believe it!
- Use ‘Say and Do’ as a means of teaching ALL content. Holistic, multi-model learning is hugely effective for retaining information and ‘owning ‘ it. When we are moving, we are learning.
- Let students figure some things out for themselves. Co-construct the knowledge with them.
- Provide opportunities to take risks by giving students movement challenges.
- Give choices – copy me, invent your own, copy your partner, AND model variety.
- Use the power of visual supports! (words, symbols, drawings, pictures, etc.) to reach ALL learners, including English Language Learners.
- Don’t always teach from the same side of the room. Change ‘front’ to change up the brain, too, for older students.
- Include ‘relating to one another’ in your teaching! Isolation makes dance training much harder! The sense of community we build in the classroom can even spill over into the hallways, lunchrooms and playground. Positive!
- When you keep it moving, keep it structured, and use student demonstrators… kids stay focused and on task. The teacher has control because the students have self-control since they are interested in what is happening.
Last summer I attended a workshop on Language of Dance with Tina Curran. Also teaching was Frederick Curry, certified in Laban Movement Analysis (which you can Google and find out more about).
Each day of the workshop focused on a different umbrella topic, including body, space, shape and relationships, and effort/dynamics. These concept categories are familiar to me through the work of Anne Green Gilbert. But the view lens and perspective of both LOD and LMA gave me a fresh take on concept teaching.
I’m going to talk about space, and in particular the kinesphere, because – since returning from the workshop – I’ve been exploring this in all my teaching to great effect. Lately I’m teaching children ages 4-10, college-aged students and people over the age of 50. Everyone is responding very positively to the learning.
Why am I so excited? Because sensing ourselves in space is so important.
Here’s what I’d like to share.
The kinesphere is the space around us. I give the image of a ‘hamster ball’ – one of those transparent globes that allow your pet to run around the house without getting away from you. I prefer this image to ‘bubble’ because it’s not as fragile. You can touch the inner surfaces without breaking through.
Within the kinesphere, we can grow and shrink, changing size. ‘Extension’ is the word for stretching and reaching the limbs in all directions. ‘Flexion’ is the word for bending our limbs at the joints, shrinking towards the core. Therefore, ‘extension’ moves us towards ‘big’ and ‘flexion’ towards ‘small’.
As we explore extension and flexion within the kinesphere, staying in one place (standing, sitting in a chair, or sitting on the floor would be options), we create pathways. Reaching directly out from the navel or core, we make direct pathways. This is called moving centrally. Upper and lower limbs can move centrally in all directions, challenging balance. Central pathways are straight, direct and radiate from the core.
Peripheral pathways touch the inner surface of the kinesphere. Movers sweep limbs across the space, in curves, in all directions. Tossing over the top is peripheral movement. Keep the image of touching the kinesphere to encourage big reach, and remind movers of the space behind and below, too.
Transverse pathways cross the midline, passing from one side of the kinesphere to the other, in front and behind the body while remaining in one place. Smaller, intricate movements may appear in this exploration. The pathways can take direct or indirect routes as they cross the midline. Encourage movers to explore all limbs, both upper and lower.
After exploring size and pathway in the kinesphere, take a walk or transition into a warm up and see how your sense of space is affected. How does this change your spatial awareness? Do you move with more volume? Are you aware of all sides and dimensions of yourself in the space, not just the front of the body?
This is a great way to start a movement exploration, and establish a bigger and more dimensional sense of self and others.