Monday, September 26, 2011

Before Class "To Do's"

I often write about what goes on in a movement class.  Activities you can do, themes you can explore.  Today I am going to focus on what should take place before a movement experience.

The To Do's before class   

Before teaching class let your students know:
  1. That you are happy to be there.  Show enthusiasm - it is catchy!
  2. What themes or ideas you will be exploring.
  3. One or two things you are looking for in terms of behavior.  (Raising a quiet hand, eye contact, standing up nice and tall, etc.
  4. That they should do their best.
Before sending your children off to dance class let your child know:
  1. That you are happy they are going.  Show enthusiasm  - it is catchy!
  2. They should think about what they will be doing or exploring in class. 
  3. What you expect of them in terms of behavior (Listen to the directions, raise your hand when you want to ask a question, etc.)
  4. Do your best.
Pretty much the same.

It does not matter if you are teaching a class or getting your child ready to take a class.  Preparing them is an essential component to their success.

A simple but yet important part of helping you child or student succeed is to let them know their schedule and/ or setting up a very predictable routine. My daughter knows that her 3rd grade class goes to art on Monday and library on Thursday.  She dresses appropriately for art and puts her library books in her backpack every Thursday morning.  Knowing her school schedule helps her emotionally prepare for her day.

Unfortunately I did not follow this rule today. 

I told my daughter that she had Tae Kwon Do as she jumped off the bus after school.  She had a hard time transitioning from playing with the kids in the neighborhood to getting ready for her martial arts class. It became stressful for both of us. Instead of following my list of "before class to do's" I focused on the before class "what not to do's." ( It wasn't as much fun and definitely not rewarding.)

Transitions are essential.  If your child or student has a smooth transition from one activity to the next she/he is more likely to be physically as well as mentally prepared.   And it is way more fun and much more rewarding for everyone. 

Have fun preparing for class with (and for) the children in your life.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Movement Modifications Makes Dance Accessible

I always say movement is for everyone - every age, ability and experience.  What I should also say is movement is for everyone regardless of  any limitations you might be experiencing.  I hear a lot of "I can't because" and usually it has to do with a body ailment ( bad knee, hip, back, etc.)  Believe me, I know what it is like to have a bad back and I also know how good it feels to move.  The trick is not to let the physical issue turn into a creative one!

I bring this up especially for teachers and parents.  If you can't get on the floor with your students, or you can't run you still can _____________________ (finish this sentence!)  

I have limitations due to a back injury but this does not stop my imagination.   Movement starts in the heart and works its way through the body.  If something hurts don't do it but do something else.

Here are some ideas:
  1. Play fisherman - Have the children move around the space and pretend to catch one on your hook or in your net.  When your "fish is caught" then the fish becomes the fisherman.  The fisherman can't move her lower body (or she will rock the boat) so she must use her upper body to reel in the fish.  This exercise is great for someone who can't run or jump.  If it is hard to stand then sit and pretend you are sitting at the edge of a dock.
  2. Create a hand dance.  Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and have your hands do the dance.  First a little caterpillar munches on some leaves.  Then a big full caterpillar moves slowly because he is so full.  Create a cocoon with your hands and then slowly open up and explore the movements (flapping, open/close, soaring, etc.) of a butterfly.
  3. Explore movement sitting down. Sit on a chair and move your trunk (torso.)  Have all the kids sit in chairs and create a chair dance.  How many ways can you bend and stretch in a chair?  How high and low can you reach?  How far side?  How far down? Can you roll your shoulders? Can you bend your knees and arms at the same time? 
The possibilities are endless once you modify movement to fit your specific needs.  You don't need feet to stand on/walk on / jump on to move and dance with little ones in your life.  Explore these possibilities and share the possibilities with the little ones in your life (and everyone in your life as well!)


Thursday, September 1, 2011

After A Storm We Dance As a Community

In the Northeast we are still recovering from Hurricane Irene.  The storm was Sunday and more than half  of my town is still without power.  And because most of the houses use well water most people do not have water as well as electricity, internet or phones.  People as you can imagine can get a little cranky and frustrated without a hot shower and a hot cup of coffee but for the most part everyone has been reaching out to each other, lending a hand and laughing a lot. 

After the storm, my entire neighborhood stood together in the street, assessed the damage, helped each other take down tree branches as well as chatted and learned about each other's storm experiences. And while we talked, the kids played baseball in the rain. The next day the kids all played together from morning until night galavanting from house to house cleaning yards.  I was amazed at how the kids came together.  It was an exciting adventure and they were experiencing it together.

I think that is the biggest lesson I learned from this event.  When we feel like we are all in it together, a greater sense of good kicks in (whatever the "it" may be.)  We don't feel alone, isolated or picked on.  We feel supported, understood and united.

I wanted to share this experience to encourage you to create a sense of community in your school or neighborhood.  Instead of the parents in my neighboorhood asking the kids to go and clean up the yards ( which would never have worked) the kids came up with the idea themselves because they experienced the event together and wanted to do good together.

Create a dance project that comes from a need in your community.  Ask the children to brainstorm about current events to create a dance theme or school theme.  Find common ground to create.  And then let the kids at it!!

Have fun creating a sense of community and creating dance with the children in your life!