We just had our Informance – ‘informal performance’ – which we also call ‘Stay Day’ or ‘Open Class.’ We invite parents, family members, and friends to come, watch, take pictures or video, and best of all – PARTICIPATE! This is the only class where parents can see what a typical class looks like. Otherwise, we are closed to observation.
In the fall, Creative Dance is a mentoring program for college students learning to teach, so we have several people sharing leadership during the lesson. My role is to narrate the rationale behind each section and to lead the final closure activities. In the spring, I teach with one assistant only, and we trade leadership throughout. I continue to narrate before each lesson component.
I asked my students to come up with a “To Do” list that would help them plan future open classes.
HERE IT IS!
Informance/Open Class “To Do” List
At the beginning of the semester, include information about the Open Class. Two weeks before, remind parents about the upcoming informance/open class. The week before, post signs and send out an email reminder.
Print out business cards or flier promoting the class for the next semester and for referrals.
Throughout the semester, track favorites activities from the lesson for Exploring the Concept, Developing Skills, and Creating.
Select from among those favorites to write lesson plans, keeping in mind the possibility of parent participation. Make sure the lesson plan is very complete. Divide up lesson sections among teachers and assistants. Practice parts thoroughly so as to be competent and relaxed in front of the parents.
Have a prepared introduction. This includes introducing all teachers and assistants and a brief summary of the concepts that we’ve worked on during the semester.
Have a prepared short description of the whole lesson structure, with specifics presented before each activity (including the rationale for each component). Integrate remarks into the lesson plan so all teachers and assistants know what’s coming, to help with class flow and a sense of community.
THE DAY BEFORE:
Set up seating for “audience.”
Have a sign when the parents walk in saying “Welcome Dancers and Families” as one last reminder, and to welcome them into our classroom.
Clean/sweep the floor.
Have props and materials all ready set to the side, easy to find.
Have the concept on the board written clear and large so all can see.
Have music on a playlist, organized, easy to find.
THE DAY OF:
Keep the before class-activity really simple, so anyone can join in. (We put out scarves)
Watch the clock or have a timekeeper to keep us on track.
Keep inviting parents and family members to participate throughout the class.
Make closing remarks, at which time you can get promo into parents’ hands.
Follow that with a fun, communal closing activity that includes everyone, and ends with the children and teachers organized for a group photo.
Be prepared for ‘hugs, hand shakes and high fives.”
Have parents help clean up.
Note: A few activities (from Kate’ material) that work well for parent/child involvement in an open class:
Explore: Stick Together Game from Step on the Beat
Developing Skills (or Creating) for All: Apples and Oranges from Step on the Beat
Resting: Resting from Songs for Dancing
Creating (or Explore): Shape Maker/Shape Explorer from Step on the Beat
Closure: The Goodbye Song from Songs for Dancing
In thinking about moving from simple to complex during the course of a single class or a semester AND in thinking about the importance of creative dance as a means of learning ANY content, I talked about Bloom’s Taxonomy with my college students.
We educators are often called upon to justify our methods, especially as teaching artists in schools, and this is one point of departure for supporting evidence.
We looked at the Cognitive Domains (categories): Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating and Creating.
We discussed how they match up with the lesson components as outlined in Anne Green Gilbert’s books: Warming Up, Introducing the Concept of the day at the board and in the center of the room, Exploring, Developing Skills, Creating and Reflecting.
It is worthwhile to perform this exercise for yourself, comparing Bloom’s to your own class structure. You discover, happily, that one of the reasons children LOVE the class is because it satisfies so many learning dimensions. Children who like to practice hard-wiring skills get to do that during the warm up, developing skills and even creating. Children who like to invent (and may also be writers, painters, actors, etc.) get to do that during exploring and creating. Children who lack a rich vocabulary of spoken language and movement, get to build that during the introduction and throughout the class. Also throughout the class, children learn to interact with others, discover ways of approaching and solving a problem, and become accustom to presenting in front of a group.
An inspiring presenter named Lisa Murphy, who calls herself the Ooey Gooey Lady, suggested that we teachers keep a file of supporting evidence to share when we are called upon to justify our work and our approach. Add this to your file!