I just returned from two transformative weeks in New York City at the Dance Education Laboratory (DEL)
I took two workshops: DEL Essentials and DEL Early Childhood
Essentials was a three-day intensive with a broad spectrum of people, from professional dancers to college students to working dance educators from New York, across the country (like myself), and the globe (Spain, Taiwan, Korea, to name three). We learned the philosophy of DEL, centered on developing a movement sentence of action words, which either stands alone or emerges from thematic content. From that point of departure, one layers on exploration through the Laban movement vocabulary and then further develops the material through choreographic tools. It’s very open-ended and student-centered.
We looked at advocacy as well, because each of us needs an articulate and persuasive argument for why dance is so important in education. Advocacy promotes understanding and support, so vital to our existence and continuation.
Early Childhood was a five-day workshop. We went in depth, developing a lesson and unit progression, writing our own unit and lesson progressions and sharing them, and learning more about child development and behavior management.
I recommend these workshops. They pair nicely with the Laban concept-based approach of Anne Green Gilbert . If you are already familiar Anne’s lesson progression and brain-compatible work, you will find the DEL work to reveal another facet of dance pedagogy.
Plus, you get to meet great people doing meaningful work in exciting New York City. I loved my time there.
You can register for next summer’s classes after January. Tell ‘em Kate sent you!
You may not know about the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). This organization has recently started offering on-line courses through the program they call the On-line Professional Development Institute (OPDI). Check out the link to see their summer and fall course offerings.
I was particularly taken with two course offerings:
OPDI-104: Creative Process for Dance Integration
Professor: Marty Sprague; Tuition $500; 3-NDEO endorsed CEUs; 10 weeks; 2 Undergraduate Credits available from University of North Carolina / Greensboro (UNCG course # DCE 245) for additional $300.
In this course, participants will explore arts integration using the creative process as a method for developing movement and integrating dance with other academic subjects. Participants will work through the steps of the process, documenting their thinking throughout using process portfolio forms as well as creating original movement and choreography. Created movement and dances will be videotaped and posted on the private (secure) discussion board for instructor and peer feedback. Participants may use their own students OR work through the process as a solo. Participants follow a logical progression of movement activities increasing in complexity from inspiration and dance design to creation of an integrated project. Book required: Dance About Anything by Sprague, Scheff, & Mc-Greevy-Nichols.
OPDI-114: Teaching Dance to Students with Disabilities
Professor: Theresa Purcell Cone; Tuition $500; 3 NDEO-Endorsed CEUs; 12 weeks
Dance for students with disabilities is a means for them to express and communicate feelings and ideas, collaborate with others and learn new movement possibilities. All students need opportunities to learn, create, perform and respond to dance in all its forms. Through this course educators will learn instructional strategies that successfully include students with disabilities in the P-12 dance program. The course also addresses legislation related to students with disabilities, current issues for inclusion, people first language, characteristics of different disabilities, Individual Education Plans (IEP), Assessment and Goal development, accessible learning environments, and content and teaching modifications for learning in dance education. Educators who teach in the P-12 schools, private studios, higher education, and community dance programs will find this course can assist them with the knowledge and learning experiences to provide meaningful dance education programs for students with disabilities.
Check out the site. The application fee is reasonable if you are not an NDEO member.
As a Teaching Artist, I often had to generate dance ideas that connect with curriculum.
Here was my approach.
I would research the topic that the grade level was working on, and look for and jot down:
- Descriptive words (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives)
- Sequence of events that create structure (such as science processes, words of a poem)
I might brainstorm and partially group-write a script or poem with the kids and clean it up later as needed.
Then, I’d seek to match my research with:
- Action (in place)
- Locomotion (traveling)
- Shapes (individual, group) that stay
- Shapes that move (e.g. water that sways, clams that open and shut)
- Quality of Movement (including expression, emotion)
I’d look for:
- Music selections
- Words that would guide the action.
(Words and music could be the score, at the same time or alternately.)
Many of my own creations have come out of this process.
Let’s look at some examples for working with younger students (grades K-2)
For 1st “Little Seed” and “Trees”
For mature 1st grade and 2nd “Snowflake Dance”
Here are some ideas from other resources for 2nd graders
For a dance about the Water Cycle, see “Water Dance” by Thomas Locker as a terrific point of departure. You can excerpt material for spoken word.
For music, I recommend the storm section of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Marimba Dances – 1 from Light in Darkness by Evelyn Glennie.
For Habitats (Ocean, Desert, Rainforest):
I group-wrote, very often, an ocean dance with the students (use Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals as your soundtrack).
For desert, you can glean from Diane Siebert’s book Mojave.
I wrote my own poem and music for a rainforest dance. (It’s in the Oct/Nov 2010 Issue of Activate Magazine…see later part of this post)
Here’s a list of topics I’ve successfully explored with K-2 students:
- Alphabet Order
- Folk and Fairy Tales
- Verbs and Adverbs (more a 2nd grade and up thing)
For poetry, I particularly love The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutzky as a resource
- Telling time
- Add – Subtract – Multiply
- The Seasons
- Insects: metamorphosis, life cycle
- Weather: water and weather, clouds
- States of Matter
- Animals: Adaptations, ways they move
- Folk Dance (Sanna Longden’s material is great, as are the New England Dancing Masters.)
- How societies work (try creating a dance using democratic process, with voting!)
- Rules and laws, and why we need them (making dances with rules)
A couple of other integration pieces (and this is just a small sampling)
A book/CD/DVD. Curriculum-integration lessons are divided into K-2 and 3-5th lessons
Rhythm of Math: Teaching Mathematics with Body Music (A Kinesthetic Approach)
A 3-5 focused-curriculum
This resource is very rhythm-centric but it’s a very cool blend with movement and VERY math strong.
Anne Green Gilbert and her Laban-based, concept-based approach is great for fundamentals
Including Brain-Compatible Dance Education
and Creative Dance for All Ages, 2nd edition (which came out last year, and includes some video and additional resources as downloads).
Some of my documented integration lessons are in issues of Activate! Magazine.
This is mainly for music teachers, but also includes some movement. You can back-order some issues of Volume 5 that include science-integrated activities for K-2 and companion strategies that go with them.
No. 2: Oct/Nov 2010 – Crazy Locomotion Relays (a great strategy for generating lots of locomotor movement ideas) and Rainforest Dance (Done to an original poem and includes music)
No. 3: Dec/Jan 2010/11 – Animal Tracks
No. 5: April/May 2011 – Water and Weather: Exploring Science through Movement (includes music)
If you have ideas of your own, kid-tested favorites, please share!
This is the 5th post in my “Thoughts on Teaching” Series.
I just completed a two-week residency with a group of 4th graders at a public elementary school in my town. This was a large (28) and diverse group. There were a lot of concentration problems. Some were ‘too cool for school’ and their self-consciousness distracted them. Here were a few issues that came up.
Issue 1: “I don’t want to work with my partner”
A former college student of mine shadowed me on the residency. One of her questions was, “what do you do when kids don’t want to work together?”
Boy, does this one come up in every day life!
It can be very frustrating when one of two children (paired by their classroom teacher rather than self-selected) digs in and says, “he won’t do anything” about his partner.
For us, patience is a virtue. Try several points of entry, and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
1) “Show me what you’ve got.” I just ask them to show me anything and use it as a catalyst to build.
2) “What’s your idea?” Hear from both parties, and model pulling different ideas together. This is a good solution to the problem of: “my partner won’t do anything I say.”
3) “Take a break.” One person may be unable to work that day. Let her sit out, while the compliant student creates. The next day, they may be able to work together and there will be material to start from.
Issue 2: Listening
What’s the point of teaching if you cover the material but the material does not cover the child?
Some quick solutions:
1) “If you can hear me, put your hands on your __________” (head, shoulders, etc.) A quick scan around the room tells you who was tuned out.
2) Have them show (or tell) you. SHOW – When you review what you’ve just presented, have the group raise their hands when they hear the cue (or whatever the content is you are trying to impress upon them). TELL – If you call on the students who know, you’ll still have the space cadets floating out there. So ask the space cadets instead. Sometimes I will tell specific students that I will be calling on them immediately after I give the instruction, and they will have to repeat the key point.
3) Break it into chunks. Smaller bits are easier to digest.
Issue 2: Owning It
When students create and then perform their dances with no energy, apathetically, with small and cramped movements, and a sense of embarrassment, they need coaching.
1) Show 2 ways – Demonstrate the self-conscious, boring way and the energized, committed way.
Have students show, with their fingers indicating #1 or #2, which way was more interesting to watch. (They always pick the committed way). Then talk about why. “The audience doesn’t want to see your attitude about the thing you are doing. They want to see the content. Be committed to what you are doing. Let the audience see it.”
2) Make it bigger! Dances often ‘shrink’ in energy and size. Get everyone on his or her feet and have the students experience a big kinesphere of space, reaching in all directions. This gets the blood flowing and serves as a ‘reset’ too. Then, when they return to their dances, use the kinesphere image for overall size and energy.
3) It’s yours. Remind students that these are their creations. Own it!
I’m so excited to share the news that my dance and science integrated curriculum book has just been published. Fantastic Forces is a book, CD and DVD combination, designed like Songs for Dancing and Step on the Beat. It’s based on an evolving unit of study I first experimented with in 2000 and have revised and improved over many dance residencies, primarily with 3rd grade classes.
I created songs and rhythmic speech music, with long-time collaborators Neal Robinson and Rocky Maffit, and documented demonstration teaching with long-time video collaborator Bill Yauch.
To give teachers a nice broad plank of science understanding, I also collaborated with Troy Vogel, a science professor at the University of Illinois. He kept my ‘magical thinking’ at bay, and his explanations appear throughout the book as “science corners” to enhance understanding.
The material is a big unit of study, integrating music, movement, and all the integration strategies I use so that students can gain understanding through multiple points of entry – seeing, hearing, saying and doing.
There are many opportunities for students to problem solve in pairs, adding the collaboration component to critical thinking.
My hope is that music, classroom and physical education, and dance/drama teachers can even work together to implement the material.
I’m also available for professional development workshops to help ignite and launch teachers in implementing the curriculum.
I was just reading an article about drama in the classroom versus theater for the stage. The author, quoting from a work she’d co-authored, described drama as focused on “the process of the experience for students and teachers, not on a product produced for others.” The co-authors described theater as “a disciplined artistic experience in which artists work and re-work the same material with the goal of performing it perfectly for an audience.” (A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension, Kelner and Flynn, Heinemann, 2006)
These descriptions were a light bulb moment for me in thinking about creative dance compared to studio techniques, and the way we explain them to others.
The objective in most studio training, as in the description of theater above, is to polish and perfect in order to perform. Many hours of training go into “working and re-working the same material with the goal of performing it perfectly for an audience.” Striving for technical excellence sometimes obscures the reason that many of us were drawn to dance in the first place, namely for the feeling of freedom and joy that we get from moving.
Whenever we are called upon to stand up for the value of creative dance in a studio setting, it is worth remembering – and helping studio parents and administrators to understand – the ‘process’ nature of creative dance and its importance in a well-rounded dance education.
Creative dance provides a lab, an incubator, for improvisation, problem solving, invention, collaboration and critical thinking. Through it we learn the language of dance, dance making, and dance appreciation. While we may choose to polish and share what we create, ‘process’ is at the top of the list.
Ultimately, we can bring the versatile skills of creative dance to the study of ALL techniques to help us become better choreographers and more expressive dancers.
This week I worked with several challenging 1st grade groups in the music room. Not a big room, and at least 4 students had poor impulse control.
However, I wanted to do The Stick Together Game (from Step on the Beat) as a follow up to teaching Body Shape Jam (from AlphaBeat) for a lesson on Body Parts. This would involve traveling, stopping, connecting parts, then traveling again with parts connected.
Here’s how I set them up for traveling. First, we did a call and response of “General Space, Go!” with voice and gesture, clapping the syllables of ‘general space,’ and pointing across for ‘go.’
Next, I demonstrated traveling, with words recited rhythmically, while playing the pulse on my hand-held drum:
Move into the empty space/ bodies moves-mouths don’t/ listen for the stopping sound/ stop on your spot//
Each short phrase was 4 beats long, so the demonstration was 2 8’s long, which is a good duration for general space traveling practice. The last 4 counts included shaking the drum to indicate the stop was coming and playing a strong double beat to indicate stop.
I kept my key words to address body control, spatial awareness, and listening skills, which are crucial to success.
Then, we did it as a group, with my words and drum. A third practice was ‘drum talk’ only.
Happy to say that, when we did the group activity in general space, it was a success.
I might add that my locomotor choice for this activity started with walking on the pulse. We could graduate to gallop or skip if students demonstrated the crucial success skills. But not the ‘r’-sounding one (let the children figure that out themselves!)
I’ve talked about Apples and Oranges in other blog posts, as well as in “What to do with…”
(If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Step on the Beat through my website, katekuper.com, or from West Music.)
Today I worked with a challenging group of 1st graders with poor body control, and poor interactive and listening skills.
Thought I’d do Apples and Oranges as a partner dance.
We started with slap and clap, building up from one slap/clap each to two each.
For the ‘circle round’ part –I would typically do as a right and left elbow swing – I had them ‘gypsy’ around = circle around a shared axis with only eye contact, not touching. Next, I attempted the elbow swings.
Not gratified by the outcome, I switched strategies.
We formed a circle, still standing next to partners. Each partner committed to being either an Apple or an Orange, and I checked for understanding with raise of hands.
I explained the ground rules for traveling – skip, gallop or side slide – and demonstrated the duration by modeling.
Then each group practiced.
I had to stop the activity to remind NO RUNNING. (In fact, I had to interrupt individual dancers during the activity for the same infraction…. but no injuries occurred and cooperation was restored!)
Next, we did slap, clap and turn around on our spots, as I have adapted for 4 & 5 year olds.
In the repetition of the dance, I had them turn to their partners for slap and clap. This gave the dance just enough social interaction/cooperative skill building to be satisfying to the age group.
The positive outcome reminded me that we educators can blend strategies from different developmentally appropriate categories to get just the right balance, instead of staying away from the activity all together.
This entry was prompted by a question from reader Kerry B., who is currently teaching at a ballet studio. She wants to know how to integrate the expectations of ballet for young students with the creative, concept-based approach.
Here’s the story dance exemplar she provided, and my response.
Example: “At the Castle”
For ages: 4-5
Driving to the castle, skipping to castle stable, marching with soldiers to get horses, trotting and galloping with horses, marching to dungeon, creeping around dungeon, tip toe out, walking into garden, hopping on stepping stones. Tip toe into room to prepare for ball, group and solo dances at ball, grande waltz, leaving ball
Driving – An American in Paris (Gershwin)
Skipping – Skipping Song from Songs for Dancing (instrumental only)
Trotting & Galloping –
Galloping Song from Songs for Dancing (instrumental only)
The Magic Toy Shop: Tarantella, Shostakovich
Ballet Suite No. 1: Galop, Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake Suite, Op. 20A – 6 Act3: Spanish Dance
Marching – Firebird: Infernal Dance of King Kastchel’s Subjects, Stravinsky
Creeping – Op.46, In The Hall of Mountain King, Edvard Grieg
Tip toe – Walk – Hop – Tip Toe – Ballet Suite No. 1 – Music Box Waltz, Shostakovich
Waltz – From Coppelia
Driving to the castle… pathways and directions in space.
Skipping to castle stable, marching with soldiers to get horses…. light and strong weight (or can continue with previous concepts)
Trotting and galloping with horses….locomotor movement and speed. (Or can continue with previous concepts) Imagination – be the horses.
Marching to dungeon, creeping around dungeon…. levels in space.
Tip toe out, walking into garden, hopping on stepping stones…. structure a phrase with elements from each locomotor movement idea. Repeat it several times. Can bring back the pathway and direction concepts.
Tip toe into room to prepare for ball…. This is a transition to reimagining the environment. Preplan with dancers for where they will end in the space for the next section. Potentially a large circle, so that in the next section, dancers will take turns in the middle.
Group and solo dances at ball…. opportunity for ¾ time lyrical improvisational dancing. Can tap dancers on the shoulder to indicate when they dance in. When you cue them to come out, they tap a dancer to take their place.
Grande waltz…everyone dances!
Leaving ball… end in a final body shape.
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