Thoughts on Teaching #2: The First Day of Dance Class

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.

 

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October 6, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Behavior Management, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Lesson Plan Organization, Studio Teaching, Teaching Skills, Teaching Tips, Thoughts on Teaching Series, Transition Magic. Leave a comment.

Teaching Size and Pathway in the Kinesphere

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.

 

October 2, 2015. Tags: , , , , , . Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Teaching Tips, Warm Ups. 1 comment.

What to do with…Show Your Feelings!

Show Your Feelings! is found on AlphaBeat.

Use visual supports to frame the experience.
I recommend Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner. This book has photos of children making faces and covers almost all the feelings in the song.
Before you do the song, read the book. For non-readers, I replace the word ‘loving’ with ‘peaceful,’ since that vocabulary appears in the song. I usually skip the page with ‘serious’ and ‘silly.’

As you do the song, you can say, “Hmm, I wonder what’s next?” modeling the feeling of being ‘curious.’

After you’ve done the song,  review the images again.  You can ask them if the group was ‘curious’ about anything during the song….someone will likely chime in “We wondered what was next!”

You can also create your own visual supports by taking pictures of your students (individual or group) as they perform the song. Print the pictures and caption them with the emotions. Make an emotion word wall, and use these as a reference to help children verbally identify and express their emotions.

Thanks to Rachel at the Savoy Head Start for the emotion word wall idea!

Lots of Feelings book cover

 

March 25, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Favorite Books, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Teaching Tips, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Suggestions for working with physical and behavior issues in the Creative Dance classroom

Question: I would want to know how one would go about planning a lesson plan for children with physical or behavioral disabilities. Would it have more “easy” activities? 

Physical disabilities and behavior disorder are two different issues.

Physical disabilities require modification based on the disability.  First of all, don’t be afraid.  Treat the child as a member of the group.  Be matter of fact. Be empathetic without being sympathetic.

 

Hearing – Position the child close to you so they can read your expression.  Use a microphone (head set is best). Some schools provide you with a clip on microphone that goes directly to the child’s hearing device.

 

Sight – Use touch.  Sing.  Emphasize rhythm.  Use imaginative play.

 

Mobility – Use touch.  Encourage children to move the parts that are mobile.  Engage with facial expression.  Put a child with lower body mobility issues where they can participate as fully as possible, rather than off to the side.

 

Behavior disorder

Children act out for different reasons.  Some children are ‘low’ (low intelligence).  Some have focus issues.  Some don’t like to be touched.  Some have boundary issues, where they will invade your space. Some want attention at any cost. Some are insecure. (This is by no means the whole gamut of reasons!)

Some are very intelligent and disengage when there isn’t enough stimulation.  These are children who will likely be among your best students because they want to move and learn simultaneously.

The teaching skill is to honor this variety within a group and address their differing needs. Sometimes you just can’t win.  I once had a student who deliberately did the opposite of everything I was teaching, and talked aloud at the same time.  Challenging!

 

Strategies that work

  • Teach 2 of the Four Tools right away (Concentration, Body Control).  Add imagination and memory, so they don’t think you are only there to discipline them, but to honor their creativity and intelligence as well.
  • Remember that The Sequence (Braindance) helps wire the brain for concentration and focus.  Do it regularly!

 

Exercise released ‘feel- good’ chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin which indirectly influences self-efficacy. 

Studies suggest that student behavioral problems may be reduced when non-competitve, nonaggressive physical activities are introduced in school curriculum.  (pp. 78 -80, Learning with the Body in Mind, Eric Jensen)

 

Low intelligence – Applaud and compliment what the child CAN do.  Make the rules of the activity for that child simpler. Partner with that child to guide, or have another adult partner. In a room where there is a one-on-one aide with the child, actively engage the help of the aide; don’t let him/her just stand next to the child or stand and speak to the child but not move with him/her.  (This can be hard, but you have to take the lead on that.) Pair low children together to do a simplified and modified version of the activity.  Pair a low child with a compassionate child of typical intelligence, but don’t make that child be the partner all the time.  Not fair to him/her.  Stand near the low child to offer guidance.

 

Focus issues – Teach ‘concentration’  and ‘body control’ and ask for it by name.  Create a special signal with the child that means ‘eyes on me.’ Call the child by name, and pause to use the special signal.  Compliment the child frequently for using the tools.  “Catch them being good.”  Do a ‘shake your sillies’ out activity after a challenging one, to help with reset.  Use Mountain Breathing.  Use Resting in the lesson, but expect to keep it shorter, as that child may wiggle.  Adjust that child towards the beginning of resting, then remind them to respect the group by being quiet and still for a few more moments so that you can give other children an adjustment.
Good prompts during Resting:
“Do two things that begin with R: rest and relax.”
“Remember the two S’s: stillness and silence.”
“Remember the three Ps: be patient, peaceful and polite.”

 

Doesn’t like touch – Ask “may I touch you?” Smile at the child and say something nice…..allow them to come to YOU.

 Space invaders – Establish a class rule.  “You may stand next to me, but not ON me.”  “When you push me I feel hurt because that’s not respecting my body.”
If you must stop a child and sit him/her out, preface that with: “If you can not keep your hands and feet to yourself, I invite you to watch this next activity.” Return to the child after they’ve had time to watch the activity with: “Did you see how the children used their hands and feet? …….. You may come back in to the group and use your hands and feet appropriately …… Good job!  Etc.”

 

Bright but ADHD – Brisk pace.  Compliment good choices.  Don’t be afraid to stop the activity to ask how they can do something better behaviorally. Have them define the problem  “Oops, we have a problem!  What is it? Talking?  Running?  Right!  What can we do better?  Not run?  Good idea!  Let’s do it again.”

 

Use the body shapes for learning frequently (sit ready position, etc.), even during an activity as a reset.

 

Autism Spectrum – Transitions are hard for these children. Let them in on the lesson flow so they know what’s coming next. Make a private plan with this child. Ex: Agree on ‘reset’ cues: a shoulder squeeze or subtle visual signal that indicates ‘time to watch and listen.’ Be aware that touch, loud sounds and bright light may be an irritant. Be patient, kind and flexible.

 

For more good ideas….. see work by Eve Kodiak who had developed movement exercises that help children with mind-body integration.

http://www.evekodiak.com/

I suggest “Rappin’ on the Reflexes” from her work – a CD/book combination. Read more about it on her website and order the material.

 

 

 

February 21, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , . Behavior Management, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Special Needs, Teaching Skills, Teaching Tips. Leave a comment.

Thoughts on building a sequential movement vocabulary in the elementary music classroom

Q: I want to be more intentional about developing a movement vocabulary in my elementary music classes. Which one of your publications would be best for providing a sequence and some activities for doing this? I have all of your books. I just need guidance on where to start.

A: My books and music include many activities that align to concepts in music and dance. A concept-based approach to teaching is more effective and enduring than an activity-based approach. Students learn specific concept-related vocabulary. Teachers can layer on new concepts and vocabulary from week to week.
You, the teacher, can also REPEAT ACTIVITIES in different lessons THROUGH THE LENS OF A DIFFERENT CONCEPT.

Here is a suggested 9-week sequence, organized by concept, rationale, activities, age-ranges, and source material included.

Note:
I always start with a warm up, which may be my second lesson, having captured their interest with something exciting on the first day.

I use Brain Bop for warm ups. Sometimes, for K-1, I change it out with the warm ups on AlphaBeat or Everybody Do This from Songs for Dancing. For the most part, though, I favor the brain-based sequence (Anne Green Gilbert’s Braindance) found on Brain Bop.

  1. Concept: Place (Self & General Space)
    Rationale: To recognize and learn where we are in space, leaving room between self and others, moving and stopping, and traveling safely. The first lesson should be fun and exciting.Activity Examples:
    Step On the Beat (K -5) Step on the Beat
    Action Dance (K-3) AlphaBeat – self-space emphasis
    Do Your Own Dance (K-2) Songs for Dancing

     

  2. Direction (Up/down, Right and Left, Forwards and Backwards)
    Rationale: To learn how to describe and respond to all directional movement, whether moving in self or general space.

Activity Examples:
Sodeo (K-1) AlphaBeat
Apples and Oranges (K-5) Step on the Beat
Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Level (High, Middle, Low)
    Rationale: To learn how to describe and respond to relative distance from the floor.

Activity Examples:
Hinging (3-5) Step on the Beat
Little Seed (K-2) AlphaBeat
Little Birdies (K) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Spatial Relationships (Over, Under, Near, Far, Between, Around…..)
    Rationale: To understand our relationship to space, self and others in order to move with more skill and awareness. This also builds the vocabulary of preposition words and teaches positive and negative space.

Activity Examples:
Shape Maker/Shape Explorer (2-5) Step on the Beat
Travelers and the Magic Forest (1-2) AlphaBeat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Expressive Qualities (Energy, Flow, Force, Weight)
    Rationale: To recognize the difference between smooth, sharp, shaky and swinging movement and explore creative ways of changing between these energies as students move in place and through space.

Activity Examples:
Popcorn and Melted Butter (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Imaginary Journey (K-2) AlphaBeat
Action Dance (K-2) AlphaBeat
Show Your Feelings (K-2) AlphaBeat
Near and Far (K-2) AlphaBeat

 

  1. Rhythm & Speed
    Rationale: To make the connection between the music and dance elements of tempo, pulse and pattern

    Activity Examples:
    Trip to the Zoo (Speed) (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Flea Song (K) Songs for Dancing
    Everybody Do This (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Apples and Oranges (K-5) Step on the Beat
    Here We Go Round and Round (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Walking Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Parts of the Body
    Rationale: To learn body parts vocabulary and explore creative ways of using parts of the body when moving, making shapes and working with others.

Activity Examples:
Hinging (3-5) Step on the Beat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat
Body Shape Jam (K-3) AlphaBeat
Here We Go Round and Round (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Flea Song (K) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Pathways Floor and Air
    Rationale: To learn that we make patterns on the floor as we travel, and patterns in the air with different body parts, using different levels, directions, and spatial relationships.
     

     

    Activity Examples:
    Step On the Beat (K -5) Step on the Beat
    Down by the Station (K) Songs for Dancing
    Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Shapes: Straight, Curved, Twisted, Angular, Symmetrical and Asymmetrical
    Rationale: To learn shape vocabulary and explore creative ways for use shapes when moving and working with others. Dances begin and end in a shape.

Activity Examples:
Shape Song (K-1) Songs for Dancing
Trees (K-2) AlphaBeat, followed by…
Travelers and the Magic Forest (K-2) AlphaBeat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat
Do Your Own Dance (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Locomotor Movement
    Rationale: To learn and recognize the eight basic locomotor movements, individually and in movement sequences.

Activity Examples:
Locomotor Movement (K-5) AlphaBeat
Galloping Song (K) Songs for Dancing
Skipping Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Walking Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing

 

 

Other educators share their thoughts: 

Here’s what dance educator Betty A. from Urbana, IL says about her six-week creative dance unit organization:
“I use a variety of resources. But, my top choices would be the Anne Green Gilbert book (Creative Dance for All Ages)* and your resources. Any time someone asks for creative dance resources that is my standard answer. I do concept-based teaching. My focus is creative dance (dance elements -BEST – Body, energy, space, time). I try to teach one dance to all classes to discuss choreography. It might be a folk dance or a dance that we create together. 3rd through 5th grade always has a group choreography project using the concepts we have learned / explored. Of course, I try to cover all of the State Learning Standards, but often cannot get to all of them in 6 weeks.

 

*Kate adds: Anne Green Gilbert created a later publication called Brain-Compatible Dance Education. This book is organized by lesson plan component rather than concept, and included both many Braindance variations (like the material on my Brain Bop CD) AND references to Eric Chappelle’s companion music called Contrast and Continuum, Volumes I – IV. I use both books.

 

Here’s what dance educator Cissy W. from Lafayette, LA says about using my material in her units:

When I started trying to analyze how & when I use your CD’s at my various levels (K-5) and realized it was a very complex thing. I am not absolutely consistent with what I use first. Usually the Welcome Song followed by the Flea Song is a good start with my younger classes. I used to start with the Train Song, but now introduce that later in my sequence when we are studying pathways and sometimes even have 2 or 3 short trains going at once!  If I think they need to calm down and focus, I do the first section of the Brain Dance warm up from Brain Bop. Lately, I have been using the Galloping Song to transition from their table seats to their Poly spots on the dance floor. I use the Action Dance from AlphaBeat to review locomotors and break the ice with my new 3rd graders at the beginning of each 9 weeks. Other things are seasonal: The Haunted House in October, The More We Are Together for Valentine’s Day.

How do YOU organize YOUR dance unit?

January 23, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Lesson Plan Organization, Teaching Tips, Working with Kate's Material. 1 comment.

Teaching Tips for Everyone

I just completed another semester of teaching Creative Dance for Children.
As I observed the college students practice-teach in our lab program, these tips came up repeatedly.

Note: Our classes follow the lesson plan format established by Anne Green Gilbert in her two seminal works: Creative Dance for All Ages and Brain-Compatible Dance Education.  If you do not already own these two volumes…run, don’t walk… and get them.

Tips for teaching 4 and 5 year olds

1) Free Play before Class

If behavior is inappropriate…..Don’t just stand there and watch. Provide a fascinating alternative instead, preferably related to the concept(s) of the day.
This is relevant if children come into the room and start running, or hitting each other with the prop of the day (scarves, noodles, etc.)

Use a sound source,  instead of your voice, to transition from free play to the warm up.  Teach it on the first day of class. A drum can be very effective. Or play a melody on a pitched instrument, such as a recorder (flute), that says “time to clean up and join the circle.”

To speed up (and make joyful) the transition for gathering in a circle,  sing to gather the children.   The novelty attracts their attention and gets them moving quicker.
Example: Pick a familiar melody such as “London Bridge” and make up words: “Join me in the circle now, my dear dancers.

DROP HANDS BEFORE you open out a circle, to prevent pulling.

 

Warm Up

Pitch your singing voice high, since the children have high voices.

When a child is off-task but not distracting from the group or hurting herself or others, it’s okay to leave her/him alone, and invite her/him in to participate periodically.

If you are sitting near a child who doesn’t get a movement pattern, you can manipulate their limbs so they get the pattern, or ask an assisting teacher to do so.

Introducing the Concept

Color-code the different concept words on the board so you can refer to them by color for your non-readers.
Use color to suggest meaning, such as green for “go” and red for “stop.”

Clap the syllables of words and say them at the same time to help children to ‘chunk’ the information and understand it better. Always have children say the new vocabulary/concept.

Give a brief explanation of new vocabulary any time you introduce it.
Examples: Gestures are everyday movements we do to communicate. Locomotor movement goes from one place to another.

Note: when facing children you have to reverse your OWN right and left.

Developing Skills

When children try to cut in line, teach them to find a place at the end of the line. This is a basic get-along skill required in school, too.

For leaps….when you set up cones or other props to leap over….. check the leap distances to make it challenging.

To signal a ‘freeze’ to a group while they are running, it helps to shake the drum as a ‘warning’ followed by the double-beat ‘freeze’ sound.

It is helpful to play the uneven rhythm of skip, gallop and side slide  on a drum when teaching these locomotor movements.

Resting
The first time you teach constructive alignment, tell the children that you are going to give them 3 adjustments: legs, arms, head. Ask them to ‘pretend they are sleeping’ when you do the adjustments so they’ll be dead weight.

Creating

Designate ‘zones’ when you divide the groups so each group has a nice amount of work space.

When watching different dances:
Ask the audience beforehand to “watch with a purpose.” What will we be looking for?

Closure
During review,  if you aren’t getting anything back, you can always refer back to the board and the color of the word.

Review all activities before asking for favorites at the end of class.

To be quick and inclusive, have everyone show their understanding of the concept at the end (e.g. ‘show me shaky movement’ or ‘show me a curved shape’)  Call on specific kids rather than have them raise hands.

 Tips for teaching older children (ages 6 -10)

Warm Ups

Any time you teach movement that involves dropping the head, children will raise their heads up to watch you. Therefore, model first, have them do it, then embed it in the combination.

Remember, when you are at the barre they ALWAYS have to see you. You must be furthest downstage of their movement. Otherwise, they are looking over their shoulder.

Sometimes a movement is better understood with everyone facing your back to see the mechanics of the movement, rather than in a circle.

Developing skills and moving across the floor

Rhythmic acuity is an important skill to build. If students are rushing the beat, you can stop the group, have them listen to YOU clapping the beat, then have them join again.

When modeling something that faces away, have them watch you first, then have them join you in the face away.

For backwards walking (and all backwards movement) across the floor, you can have first line people touch the backs of all the others as they arrive at the line.

In a jump-hop combo, encourage dancers to alternate the hopping leg.

For safety sake in weight sharing/bearing….teach a wrist connect (holding at wrists rather than hands).

Always give a 4-count pick up at the top of a rhythmic combination, even when first modeling.

What would you give as a refinement when students repeat the combination? As you watch students, note what could be refined. Timing? Skill? Smoothness of transitions?

Creating

If groups are done creating and seem to be aimless, you can say “show me what you’ve got.” You can also do that for groups that get ‘stuck.’ “Show me what you’ve got” helps groups get ‘unstuck.’

Give a time ‘warning’ for wrapping up: “1 more minute.”

 

General Tips for All Ages:
Make sure the volume of the music never overwhelms your voice.

Make sure students don’t always group together the same. Give them frequent opportunities to learn how to work with others.

Note how hard it is for the children to integrate when they come late! Have a welcoming strategy for that (e.g. pair your assistant with that child to help them transition)

When students come into class wearing distracting clothing  (mask, feather boa, crazy shirt, scarf) try right at the start of class to see if you can get rid of it. (Could be a class rule).  But do it in a fun way.  Usually, when a student is bothered by the garment, you can see an opening and ask them to leave it by the door to pick up on the way out.

Demand that children give you their concentration and call on the off-task ones to get their attention during all instruction-giving.

During reflection – if younger students are getting stuck, time is short, or the concept is challenging – give choices to select from among.
Examples: Which movement was smooth: punching or swaying? Which was the low level movement: crawling, leaping or walking?

 

 

December 17, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Teaching Tips. 1 comment.

Lesson Plan Series for ages 3-5: Lessons 11-15

This is the third and final post in this Lesson Plan Series.

Notice these things:

  1. Simplify more complex activities to make them age appropriate.
  2. Teach a skill, then apply it in the following activity.
  3. Use visual supports to teach, empower and improve memory.

 

Simplify more complex activities to make them age appropriate.

For Here We Go Round and Round, I adapted a circle dance that is usually done holding hands, traveling around the circle line.
Since the concept was ‘Body Parts.’ I made the circling into ‘circle one body part, one way and the other.’ The sequence of the dance remained the same except for that.  I posted the downloadable visual support for this dance, found on the Songs for Dancing CD, so we could use it as a visual reference. See my post called What to do with…. Here We Go Round and Round for more details on that.

Teach a skill, then apply it in the following activity.

See my post called Using Galloping Song to teach Apples and Oranges  for more details on that!

Use visual supports to teach, empower and improve memory.

Use the letter “S” to teach qualities: smooth, sharp, shaky and swinging.  You can even use letter blends – sh, and sw – if you want to up the challenge level.  Use the “S” visual for review, to check for understanding.

See my post called What to do with….Imaginary Journey to download the visuals for that activity.  Use the visuals before you teach, while you are teaching, and when you review.  Very powerful and empowering for the children.

Finally, use your collection of visuals as an archive.
When it’s free choice time, I place three pictures in front of a child and ask him/her to choose which activity we will do.  If there’s time, pick another child to choose another activity after you’ve done the first one.  There are all kinds of methods you can use to select and sequence free choice activities when the visual supports are available.  I keep my visual supports in page protectors in a binder. I either  put the ones I’m offering for free choice on a 1″ book ring for ease of flipping pages, post them on the board, or lay them out on the floor.

Here are the last 5 lessons in this series.

Lesson 11 Body Parts 2
Lesson 12 Body Parts 3
Lesson 13 – Pulse and Pattern
Lesson 14 – Expression and Quality
Lesson 15 – Imagination and Quality

Enjoy your time with the children!

November 23, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

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.

To recap:

  • 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!

 

 

 

 

November 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Creating, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Reflection and Closure, Studio Teaching. Leave a comment.

Lesson Plan Series for Ages 3-5: Lessons 6 -10

This next set of 25-30 minute lessons would work best in a gross-motor space rather than the classroom. However, if you are restricted to your room, make sure to clear away the obstructions that will hamper your success. Guide children away from the edges of the space and into the open spaces.

I generally teach in a circle, the most democratic of spatial formations and also the one that leaves all that valuable real estate open in the center.  Go ahead and have some students be ‘jelly filling’ inside the ‘doughnut’ when possible.  Different children can have that privilege on different days.  You can also have every other child scoot forward from his/her spot on the circle, to leave more space on either side.

Another strategy for spreading children out is to use tape markings or portable markers, such as yoga squares.  You already may have carpets with designs on them that the children have become accustom to. Just make sure they aren’t jammed together.
Changing the way you use space is NEW and novelty always creates a little chaos.

Give this new spatial arrangement three times……by the third time of doing something differently, the children — and you — will have settled into a ‘new normal’ during movement time.

These lessons are on the concepts of Direction and Speed, Energy, Shape, and Body Parts.  In the middle of the sequence is a new warm up, to change up what you are doing with the children.  After you’ve done this new warm up 3-5 times, you can go back to the previous warm up and switch them out thereafter.  This is also true of welcome and hello songs and dances.

My ‘Rule of Three’ applies here, too.  Do a new hello song times, then switch it out with something different.  The children will appreciate the novelty at that point.

Lesson 6 Direction Speed 2014
Lesson 7 on Energy 2014

Lesson 8 New Warm Up 2014
Lesson 9 Shape
Lesson 10 Body Parts

Enjoy!

October 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Lesson Plan Series for Ages 3-5: Lessons 1-5

This is the first of three posts. Each will provide you with a set of five lesson plans.

Here’s the back story:  I have been providing creative dance instruction at an early childhood center every spring for the many years.  Since teaching is always an opportunity to mentor the educators in the room, I also provide them with detailed lesson plans.  The plans here are from spring, 2014.

These lessons progress through a variety of dance concepts, such as place, direction, level.

You’ll get a good idea for how to shape a curriculum that moves the children from simple to more complex learning over the course of time, and for the value of repetition.  We know that learners benefit from the comfort of repetition and the excitement of novelty.  Striking a balance between the two is part of our job as educators.

For the most part, I teach in a gross-motor room, blocking off part of the space if it is too large, and indicating where to start as children enter the room in a moving line.  This start spot can be a yoga square or polyspot.   From that start spot, we travel until we arrive in a circle.

I do this to model a different way of experiencing a space that is usually dedicated to tricycle riding, running and climbing.

When I teach in the classroom, we form a circle.   Sometimes, when space is very tight, I bring spots to scatter so we aren’t bunched up together or bumping into the edges of the space (radiators, bookshelves, etc.)

If you teach in a studio, these lessons will work nicely as well.

I use a CD player or, when possible, I use an ipod or iphone with the playlist programmed in.  I also carry a binder with visual supports that I’ve made by downloading images from the internet, drawing my own pictures, or using the downloadable visuals on my Songs for Dancing CD.

In a previous post, I gave you images for Imaginary Journey (a song from Alphabeat).  Check that out to get an idea for how you can let the pictures explain some of the key images and ideas, and empower the children through visual literacy.

Happy Dancing!

As always, I welcome your comments on your experiences with working with the material.   Lesson 1 on Place 2014Lesson 2 Warm Up 2014Lesson 3 Direction 2014Lesson 4 Direction 2014Lesson 5 Level Direction 2014

 

 

October 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

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