What to do with…. Here We Go Round and Round

Here We Go Round and Round  is from Songs for Dancing.

Here’s an adaptation for 3-5 year olds!

Using the downloadable visual that comes with the CD, sing/play the song and point to the pictures, so the children get the road map.

For the verses: Teach/co-create the movement for ‘head,’ ‘arm,’ ‘leg,’ and ‘whole self.’ You can brainstorm with the children to decide specifics for in, out, and shake.

For all the chorus parts (“Here We Go Round and Round”), circle different body parts in place. During the transition, after “all on a beautiful day,” count down as you jump on your spot “4,3,2,1!”

Start with Dancer’s Choice or Teacher’s Choice (I do hips…. the hula hoop variety…. circling one way, then the other)

After that, for every chorus, use the body part that matches the verse.


Verse: Let’s put our head in…..
Chorus: Circle head one way, then the other.


Develop your own ideas for how to circle arms or legs. Brainstorm with the children and try different things on different days.

Conclude with ‘whole self’ turning around in space and help the children stop by saying “Feet Stay!” as the music ends!

I guarantee that these adaptations make a complex dance manageable for little ones!

Teach this to support naming and using parts of the body, moving on a steady beat, remembering a sequence, and for aerobic exercise.

Remember your job will be to cue or signal the transitions between each part. Leave the picture on the floor in front of you for quick reference.



June 10, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with…Little Birdies

Little Birdies is on Songs for Dancing.

I usually wait several weeks to teach this to youngest children (ages 3-5) because it is the first time we are moving more freely through the space.  Up to this point, children have danced on their spot, moved in a line through the space to arrive in a circle while doing Down By the Station (also from Songs for Dancing) or moved around a circle line walking forward and backward while doing Sodeo (from AlphaBeat).

Little Birdies gives me a chance to see if children can 1) follow instructions and 2)use body control with the boundaries moved out a little further.  If they can NOT succeed in maintaining the sleeping birdie body shape, waking up when tapped, flying safely  or returning to the nest safely, I have gathered a lot of information about the group.  I know they need to work on listening skills and body control.

How to disaster-proof this fun and beloved activity?

First, model all the essentials: bird sleeping shape, wake up signal, demonstration flying (spanking run and wide wings) with brief group flying to practice, ‘come here’ gesture, and flying in to go to sleep.

Observe the children.  Note who is missing the key ideas and who has energy that is barely contained. Those are the students who need to WATCH first.  They are your bird watchers.

Don’t set this up as a punishment; be matter-of-fact. “We’re going to do this in two groups, birds and bird watchers.  You’ll be the first bird watchers.”

Designate a space where they can sit and watch, with their ‘binoculars.’
Those who have demonstrated listening skills and body control in your initial teaching are your first group of birds to fly.

After the first group has had a turn being birdies…..Ask the watchers (and keep the pace brisk on this):
“Did you see how they slept? Show me the body shape.”
“How they woke up? Show me what you do when you get tapped.”
“How they flew? Did they use control?  Yes!”
“How they returned to the nest? Flying straight in and going to sleep, without tripping over other people? Yes!”
“Are you ready to be birdies?”

Trade groups.
If any of the birds poses a danger as they are flying,  remind them that the spanking run is not a ‘run’ and that they must watch when they fly back in so they don’t trip over other returning birdies.
If you have to fly with a ‘spirited’ birdie, then do so!
Other tips:

1) Teach the sleeping shape as “knees down please, seat on feet, nose to knees.” This is like the Tornado Drill body shape (minus hands over head!) I won’t wake up children who are a ‘straight line’ because they aren’t using their listening skills (unless a disability prevents them from folding in at the hips, of course). It’s important to maintain flexibility in the hip joints, and this helps.

2) Practice ‘wake up’ with words first.  Then demonstrate the two little ‘wake up’ taps on ONE STUDENT DEMONSTRATOR. Then practice waking up the whole group.

Happy and Safe Flying!

March 13, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with…Do Your Own Dance

Do Your Own Dance  is from Songs for Dancing.

Use this to teach the concepts of level, direction, or different movements to ages 3-7.

This dance can be done traveling through space with older children, or in-place with younger.

The form is:

  • Start in a shape
  • Do your own dance
  • Do different movements: hopping, jumping, turning, twisting.
  • Freeze in a shape. Change level from high to low, then back up to high.
  • Do your own dance
  • Do different movements: twirling, melting, popping, step-hop.
  • Freeze. Make a wide and high shape, like wings.
  • ‘Fly’ from high to low on your spot (or, if traveling, back to the circle).



How To Teach:

Formation: Circle or spread to a perfect spot.

Make different shapes: high and wide/big, low and closed/small. Stretch to make big, high shapes.  Bend to make small, low shapes.

Practice the easier movements: jump (two feet), hop (one foot), turn, twist, melt and pop.  Remember to keep your feet under you when you melt, so you can pop all at once or bit by bit.

Practice the challenging movement: step-hop.
Teaching Tip: Sing the Skipping Song melody (also from Songs for Dancing) to practice. “Step on one foot and hop on the same foot, step on the other foot and hop on that foot.”

To end, practice stretching out your wide “wings”, balancing on one leg, and flying from high to low.

Put on the song and go! Keep cuing what’s coming next, to help children stay with the sequence. Encourage variety in ‘do you own dance’ depending on your concept focus.


1. If you choose to develop the skill of moving through space with younger children, you can build up to it. First, do it in self space over several sessions. Then move it from place to place as younger children become more familiar with the structure of the song and competent in their use of space.

2. Turn this idea into a circle dance game, with one child at a time going into the middle to ‘do his/her own dance’ while everyone on the outside copies the moves.  Model the activity by showing one movement in the middle, then leave the circle and come in again with a different choice.  This suggests that the person in the middle do ONE movement choice. Call on raised hands or name the child to invite individuals into the circle.  Invite them out by saying, “Okay, next person.”   Invite shy children to go in two by two. Suggest movements (with a whisper word) to ‘frozen’ dancers.

End with everyone doing their own dance at the same time in their place or in the (crowded!) middle of the circle.

Try Free Dance from Songs for Dancing as the music for this, or other lively music.

This is a great work out!

February 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Creative Dance Activity Categories, Teaching Skills, and Examples

Many creative dance (and song) activities that we use with young students fall into these categories: pattern dances, guided explorations and improvisations, and gross motor coordination.  Some activities are blends.

Pattern Dances (and Songs)
Activities that require following a specific movement sequence to a beat.

1) Some pattern dances are teacher-centered with all aspects of the dance laid out by the teacher.

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to describe and demonstrate the pattern. Scripting help.
  • Be in the present and a little in the future (in your thinking and cuing)
  • Feel the speed and evenness of the beat
  • Become comfortable with using your voice as an instrument
  • Demonstrate one step at a time, then have children repeat that
  • Chain on each new idea
  • When guiding as the music plays, provide verbal transitions ahead of time

Examples of Pattern Dances

  • Sodeo (AlphaBeat)
  • Walking Song (Songs for Dancing)
  • Here We Go ‘Round and Round (Songs for Dancing)
  • The More We Are Together (AlphaBeat)

Examples of Pattern Songs

  • Clap Along Song (Step on the Beat)

2) Some pattern dances are student-centered where some ideas come from the students and are then used by the whole group as part of the dance. Many pattern dances can be adapted to be more student-centered, creating greater group ownership of the experience.

Additional Teaching Skills

  • Be able to provide prompts and choices for student input.
    Example: For this part should we gallop or side slide?  Should we clap high or low? Should we turn slowly or quickly?



Guided Explorations and Improvisations
Activities that give children room to make their own movement choices.

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to describe and demonstrate the rules. Scripting help.
  • Use a student demonstrator if the activity involves more than one person (e.g. interacting or changing partners)
  • When using props (e.g. scarves), demonstrate and describe first, then pass out the scarves (so children will concentrate on the demonstration)
  • When working with another person, demonstrate and describe first, before choosing a partner (so children will concentrate on the demo)

Examples of Guided Explorations and Improvisations

  • Stick Together Game (Step on the Beat, voice prompted and instrumental only)
  • Action Dance (AlphaBeat)
  • Haunted House (Brain Bop)
  • Imaginary Journey (AlphaBeat)
  • Drumtalk (AlphaBeat)

Gross Motor Coordination  (Developing Skills)
These are activities to hard-wire skills, such as galloping and hopping.  Obstacle courses are typical for this, with a starting and ending point.

Suggested Music: Free Dance (Songs for Dancing #18)

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to demonstrate the skill or use a student demonstrator
  • Feel the speed and evenness of the beat
  • Become comfortable with using your voice as an instrument
  • For an obstacle course, assign tasks to other teachers and aides:
    ‘gatekeeper’ (at the starting point, to let children in one at a time)
    ‘encourager’ (positioned at the mid-point of the obstacle course, to cheer on individuals) – Usually the one who taught the activity
    ‘line supervisor’ (makes sure the line keeps moving up to the start   point)
    ‘spotter’ (generally at the end of the line, spotting to see that individuals complete the course (Body Shape!) and travel to the end of  the line)


“Blends” are activities that combine two or more categories, such as “pattern dance and improvisation” or “exploration and gross motor coordination.”

Blend Examples:

  • Everybody Do This (Songs for Dancing)
  • Little Birdies (Songs for Dancing)
  • Apples and Oranges (Step on the Beat)
  • Step on the Beat (Step on the Beat)



January 6, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Exploring, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with …. Apples and Oranges

What to do with….
Apples and Oranges (from Step on the Beat)

I’ve talked about Apples and Oranges in other blog posts, connected to teaching galloping, for example.

(If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Step on the Beat through my website, katekuper.com, or from West Music.)

The children asked to include this dance as a favorite activity for our Informance (Open House, informal presentation of a lesson).

We identified “Body Parts and Energy” as the conceptual through-line for the 4 & 5 year olds’ Informance.

For 6-7 year olds, the concept focus was “Body Parts and Shape.”

Here’s how we adapted Apples and Oranges for each age group, conceptual focus, and lesson plan component:

1) For 4-5s, as a Creating activity

Creating includes invention and/or improvisation.  We decided to make the A section focus “Body Parts.”

After learning the clapping pattern A section, we asked the children to suggest using a different body part other than the knees for the ‘slap.’ What should it be?  We performed that part in the section, with the ‘circle round’ that we do in place with younger children (or when we want to go quickly through the dance), where we just turn around on our spot .

After practicing, we chose ANOTHER body part for the second ‘slap.’

Then we put it all together: slap/clap/slap/clap/ And turned the other way for  ‘circle round’//

Time for the B section focusing on “Energy.”

Next, we designated half the group as Apples, half as Oranges. (Since parents were dancing with the children, we had people choose by raise of hands, rather than half and half or every other one).

Leader modeled how Apples would  ‘dance away’ and ‘dance back home’ WITH A SPECIFIC ENERGY while Oranges would stay and clap on the pulse.  We chose swinging movement away, and shaky movement home.

But wait!  Why should the travelers have all the fun?  Those who stayed had to keep the pulse tapping on A SPECIFIC BODY PART.

Everyone practiced.  Then MUSIC GO!

2) For 6-7s as a Developing Skills activity

Developing Skills is about hard-wiring technical abilities and challenging memory within sequence.

First, we focused on Body Parts. We practiced the B section traveling movement in scattered space: side slide with head going up toward the ceiling and center (area of the belly button) drawing a letter “U” with every slide.  Skip with knees lifting up.  Gallop with one foot chasing the other, pointing the toes … like a real chassé!

Second, we emphasized Body Parts and Shape for the A section.
Find a partner and a spot in scattered space. Practice slap & clap.  Add one body part for the slap (idea from the children that we all use) and clap.  Add second part and clap.  Sequence first-part slap/ clap, second-part slap/ clap.  Teach ‘angular elbows’ around for an elbow swing with your partner.  Ask for prediction, when we repeat, what will happen with elbow swing? (We’ll go the other way).

Here comes the shape emphasis.

Decide who is an Apple and Orange in each pair.

Apples will travel.  Oranges will stay.

Travelers will use two of the three locomotor skills we practiced earlier.  (Travel away with the side slides and back with the gallop.)

Oranges will MAKE A BODY SHAPE and keeping the pulse WITH ONE BODY PART (can be audible or visual).  Nod a head! Tap a foot! Bounce into one hip! (Etc.)

All practice shape and keeping the pulse.

Then practice travel and shape/pulse.  Practice trading.

MUSIC GO!  On second travel, skip away and gallop back.

December 14, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Creating, Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Recitals, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with… Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)


Download the track from iTunes or purchase the recording in its entirety one of the vendors who carries my CDs or from me (katekuper.com)

Kindergarten through 2nd grade
Note: Adaptable for older preschoolers and grades 3-4

Gross motor skills are the building blocks of movement combinations, important for physical fitness enjoyment, play, coordination and brain health.

Group movement in general space encourages students to use awareness and self control in a communal setting.  These skills translate into better interactions on the playground, in the hallways and the lunchrooms.

Teaching locomotor movement is important for all these reasons.

A crucial skill is the ability to successfully guide students as they travel through the general space. This requires using clear language and smart strategies that help students build motor coordination while still being safe.

Strategies include:

Awareness of others;  self control

Use concentration and body control.
Move into the empty spaces, so you don’t get hurt.
Use your peripheral vision, your soft focus.  Eyes everywhere.
Bodies move, mouths don’t.

Awareness of the space

“This is the area for movement and these are the boundaries.”
Jog the periphery (or have a student demonstrator do it) to show the boundaries.
If the space is too big, set up a spatial barrier (e.g. traffic cones)
If the space is too small, take turns. Watchers sit in ready position, hands in laps, while Movers travel around and between.

Clear signals for starts and stops

Teach your signals and use them consistently.

Stops: When I guide children to move on a slow or medium speed, a double-beat on the drum is enough to signal ‘Freeze.’ For faster movement, first shake the drum to alert them that the Freeze sound is coming, then play the double-beat for stillness.

Starts: Stand up. Listen to the drum (or voice) for the speed and pulse of the movement.
Speak on the pulse, over the sound of the drum: “One, two, ready, start.”  After a while, the drum can do all the ‘talking.’

Clear signals for transitions.

As we change from one thing to another in a movement sequence, give advanced notice, several beats ahead.

Choices and Consequences

Don’t be afraid to stop the music/activity, have everyone sit, ask the children to tell you why you stopped the activity, review concentration and body control, and invite everyone to start again.

“If you don’t think you have the body control for this activity, you may sit here or here.”
Always invite the person who sat out to come right back in on the next activity.  This is not a punishment, but an opportunity to observe what others are doing accurately.

Setting Up Instruction for  Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)
There are eight basic locomotor movements: walk, run, hop, jump, gallop, side slide, skip and leap.

Students begin in a seated position, in a circle or in scattered space.

Move your arms like an old fashion locomotive train and say: Locomotor movement goes from one place to another.

Do this as a call and response several times.

Check for understanding: What do you call movement that goes from one place to another?

Next, call on individual students to model different forms of locomotor movement by traveling around the inside of the circle, so that all can see. 

Connect the exploration to letter sound recognition, as modeled in the following examples.

Change students each time.

To address diverse strengths in your students, you might have one student name the movement, and another demonstrate it.

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that we all use to go from one place to another that starts with the “w” sound? What is it?   (Select one student to model “walk).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we use to go quickly from one place to another that starts with the “r” sound(Student models “run.”  Or you could say “j” sound for “jog”)

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on one foot that starts with the “h” sound?  (Student models “hop”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on two feet that starts with the “j” sound?  (Student models “jump”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that ponies do that starts with the “g” sound?  (Student models “gallop”).

Now that we are all going to be moving through the space, it’s time to learn about general space

General space is the space we share as we travel from one place to another.

When you move through the general space, you’ll need body control and concentration.  

Let’s scoop up a little concentration dust and rub it in.
You’ll also want to be like a potato…. eyes everywhere, but no mouth.

Remember to move into the empty spaces so you don’t get hurt.  

Stand tall one and all.

Let’s travel through the general space doing these locomotor movements.   My drum will talk to you with the pulse of the movement.  When you hear the freeze sound, stop!  Let’s walk……(freeze) Let’s do the movement that goes on one foot….hop! (freeze) Let’s do the movement that starts with the ‘g’ sound….gallop (freeze).  What locomotor movement starts with the “j” sound and uses two feet off the ground?  Jump…. (Freeze). Good job moving into the empty spaces!

Sit ready position. 

Now play the song!  You have prepared the group to be successful.

Note: The last locomotor movement in the song is RUN.

Options for this:

1)   Divide the group in half. Half will sit while the others run the boundaries. Then trade.

2)   All run the boundaries.

After the song, take time to breath and recover. The song recaps the different locomotor movements musically. This can be a time when students are breathing.  Use some of the language connections for summative reflection.

November 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

A Lesson on Place for 4-5 year olds

The first lesson I teach in the studio at the start of a new semester is a lesson on place.  See the attached plan for a detailed sample 45-minute lesson.

The word ‘place’ comes from Laban’s vocabulary.  In Laban notation, where we start indicates place.

In our studio, class size is limited to 12 children. There is always a lead teacher and at least one assisting teacher. Children take their shoes off outside the door, with a parent’s help, and enter the room to play with the prop of the day (scarves, pop toobs, stretchy bands, etc) before I play a few notes on the recorder indicating ‘time to clean up and make a circle for the warm up.’

When I teach in an early childhood setting, as a teaching artist, I am limited to 20-30 minutes and move more slowly through the material.  I may only do the “Welcome Song” (in great detail) and the warm up. The next time, I will add Apples and Oranges.  In an early childhood or Head Start setting, I begin and end with “Down By the Station” to model traveling in a moving line to form a circle, and using that moving line from the circle to return to the door.

I also account for time to take off  shoes at the beginning, leaving the shoes in “shoe-ville” with socks inside shoes (‘put your socks inside your shoes, then your socks you will not lose.’  ‘The toes of your shoes ‘kiss’ the wall.’) At the end, the ‘train’ returns to shoe-ville and everyone finds their ‘house’ (pair of shoes).

See Songs for Dancing for detailed modeling of Down by the Station and Welcome Song.

Enjoy this lesson plan! Let me know how it works for you.1 Place for Ages 4-5

Coming Soon: Lesson on Size and Level

August 8, 2013. Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Reflection and Closure, Resting, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Controlling the Creative Chaos Part II: Traveling within structure

Here are two methods for controlling the environment while allowing children to move through the space.

One is moving around in a circular formation, starting and ending in a place in the circle.  The other is traveling from a single file line, one by one, as when we do an obstacle course.

Circular Formation

To give children an opportunity to move freely, instead of following precisely in a single file around the circle line, try an activity that has a clear beginning and ending and does not go on for too long.   Little Birdies (Songs for Dancing #19) is a great activity for this.  It is a story dance about birds that sleep, wake up, fly and go back to sleep. It begins with children on the floor, kneeling and with heads down, like they are in an egg, sleeping. An image they can relate to is the size and shape of a rock. One by one, wake them up.  Indicate the direction for flying by using gesture (this challenges their focus and concentration) and then have them follow you as we fly around.  When it’s time to come back to the nest,  come to the center of the circle and use “come here” hand gestures.
The objective at the end is for the birds to use body control to fly in from right where they are, and flutter down to the sleeping bird shape.
To disaster-proof this activity, I make sure the children watch for three things when I model how to fly: stretched out arms, brushing back feet, light and buoyant movement quality.  Then we practice, flying once around, as I sing or rhythmically say: “Our feet brush back, our arms are wide, our bodies are light.”  The other disaster-proofing is to demonstrate the “come here” hands from the middle of the circle, ask the children what it means, and emphasize flying in from right where you are.

What can go wrong?

Problem: Children fly in the wrong direction, against the flow of traffic.
Solution: Swoop down on the child and steers them in the right direction.

Problem: Children don’t look down as they fly in, and trip over a child who has already arrived.
Solution: Keep your eyes open as you fly in.

Problem: Children runs flat out and don’t fly.
Solution: Stop the music.  Ask the ‘runner’ to demonstrate ‘flying.’  Compliment them on their body control.  Start the activity again.

Problem:  Too many children flying.
Solution: Split the group in half.  Half are watchers with ‘binoculars’ (use your hands for these).  The other half are birds.  How to trade at the end? Stand up, walk to trade places, sit to watch or to make sleeping birdie shapes.

Line Formation

Traveling from a single file line involves:

  1. Keeping the line moving up to a starting point
  2. Signaling (cuing) children to move one by one, and…
  3. Making sure they add in to the end of the line

Place a poly spot, yoga square or a tape mark to indicate “start from here.”

Initially, oversight works really well with three adults.
One adult is the ‘gate keeper.’ ‘Open the gate’ to let the child at the head of the line start moving.
Another adult is at the end of the line to keep children moving up to the starting point as they feed in at the end of line.
The third adult stands at the mid-point of the obstacle course, cheering on the movers, overseeing the flow of the activity.

As you get better at this, you can tell the children to ‘start when the first child gets to (a specific point in the course).’ This empowers them to ‘open the gate’ by using their concentration instead of leaving that up to an adult.

What does an obstacle course look like?
Set it up like an arc, from the starting point to near the end of the line.  Have a couple of special stopping places, something to go over, under or around, and a final stopping place (make a shape!) before going to the end of the line.

What will you need? place spots (yoga squares, etc), small traffic cones.
Also fun to use: chairs, mats, hula hoops, piano bench, etc.


Concept: Body Parts

  1. Side slide to the first spot.  Make a shape with three parts on the ground.
  2. Side slide to the next spot.  Make a shape with two parts on the ground.
  3. Run and leap over the cones, stretching your legs and arms.
  4. Make a shape with one part on the ground at the last spot.

Concept: Relationship (over/under, around, through, between, on/off, connected…..)

  1. Gallop to the first spot.  Jump off and on the spot.
  2. Crawl under the bench to the next spot.  Jump off and on the spot.
  3. Leap over the cones.
  4. End on the last spot and make a shape with your arms and legs connected to your body.

Concept: Pathway (straight, curved, zig zag)

  1. Skip straight to the first spot.  Make a shape.
  2. Skip in a curved pathway around the cones.
  3. Run to the chair and sit in it.  Go backwards to the next chair.  You are making a zig zag pathway to run and sit in the chairs.
  4. Skip straight to the last spot.  Make a shape.

To Teach: 

  1. Form the single file line by asking children to stand ‘between your arms.’ (Children line up so you can see them when you hold your arms forward.)
  2. Children pivot to face the space and sit ‘ready position’ in the single line, watching with concentration.
  3. Model the journey.  Then start again and ask the children to tell you what you should do as you repeat the sequence.
  4. As they go one by one,  verbally repeat the key concepts of the sequence.  Cheer them on.
  5. Let each one go all the way through before you start the next one, or start the next one when the previous dancer is halfway through the sequence.

Suggested Music: Free Dance (Songs for Dancing #18)

April 29, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Thoughts on acquiring teaching expertise

In this week’s seminar class, we were talking about what the novice teachers are noticing about their own teaching.
One realization was the importance of being a good boundary-setter, kind but firm, not concerned about being a child’s friend but rather focused on creating an emotionally, physically and socially safe environment. Without a firm hand, certain students strive to take control, diminishing the experience for others.  It’s our job to keep that from happening in the first place, and nip it in the bud when it shows up.

Another was being skilled enough in the ‘script’ so as to be able to teach to what’s happening in front of you, rather than adhering to your intention with slavish devotion.  Awareness dawns for the teacher when she can begin to shift the focus from simply delivering the instructions for the activity to recognizing the IMPACT on the students and teaching to that.

The example we discussed was based on moving across the floor. The novice teacher failed to recognize an underlying weakness in some of the students, which was that they did not feel the pulse of the music.  Without a sense of phrase, they could not accomplish the movement.  We seek to identify the most glaring issues first, then refine in further passes, addressing performance quality, relating to other dancers, etc.

Another realization was the importance of repetition once you’ve built up a sequence.  After you’ve gone to all the effort to teach the component parts, it’s time to deepen in the experience. In this case, the novice teacher had taught the four separate phrases of Walking Song (Songs for Dancing). Ready to put the activity aside and move to reflection questions, she didn’t realize the importance of repetition for the satisfaction of enjoying and demonstrating the new skills.  We lay the path….now let’s walk on it!

November 2, 2012. Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance. Leave a comment.

Why does developing skills present a challenge?

In our lessons, the Developing Skills component is the time to practice specific skills that the teacher models for the children. This teacher-directed segment is about hard-wiring; getting the steps and doing them correctly.   It stands out as a time of concentration rather than creative freedom.

I got to thinking why creative dance succeeds with young children and certain older children where technique classes fail.  Imagine a class only based on developing skills, and you get some idea as to why ballet for children doesn’t always go over so well!

Sometimes it is hard for both teachers and students to change gears in a creative class to address skills.  So what’s the solution?

For across-the-floor activities:

1) Layer. Build from simple to complex to promote success.  Chasse or side slide, then layer on arms.  Layer on changes of direction and focus.  If the chunks are appropriately bite-sized, more students are willing to reach up to their “zone of proximal development.”

2) Chain. Take the smaller pieces and string them together into interesting longer phrases.  I know this is obvious, but worth mentioning.  I like to add a special surprise or twist to some part of the material for interest and to complete the idea.

3) Think musically.  Teaching breath and phrasing brings the movement to life and helps students see the arc of the phrase.  Use vocables and other vocal strategies to convey the phrasing.

4) Choose music that excites and energizes. For big energy movements, I look for dynamic music to get students psyched.  I’m “old school.”  I like Earth, Wind and Fire,  for example.  I also like world beat.  My feeling is that I want to use music my students don’t usually hear so that they can get a jolt of “cultural literacy” too.

5) “Zipper” in creative choice. Alternate between the skill and a creative moment, such as “4 counts of your own thing” or “freeze in a shape.”   Perhaps it relates to a concept of the day.

6) Give meaningful feedback. A well-timed insight helps students grow.

7) Include relating. Have the phrases “comb” through one another, or have two sides meet in the middle for part of the phrase. Work in partners to side slide.

What are some solutions you have for making skill-building engaging for your students?

November 3, 2011. Tags: , , . Developing Skills. 2 comments.