Monday, February 28, 2011

The Magic Train

I got a massage last week and it was heavenly!  My muscles needed it.  My body got a cue to relax and my muscles responded by letting go.  Believe it or not, you are never to young for a massage.  A gentle massage helps the body relax, helps to connect to deep breathing and helps reinforce nonverbal communication.

When I was doing my student teaching in the public schools, I was discouraged from touching any child. I understand this as a means of safety for both the children as well as the teachers.  Unfortunately, touch can be a great teaching tool.  It can be a way of communicating, calming and encouraging a child. 

When supervised and instructed the children can use touch to communicate and teach each other.  If this still is out of the question in your teaching position skip to step 6 of the lesson.

The Magic Train
  1. You can make a magic train with the children; one child sitting in back of the next.  If your class is big enough you can make a complete circle ( you can also do this in pairs taking turns giving a gentle touch.)  Have the children place their hands on their neighbors' shoulders.  They should not move their hands.  The magic train has not left the station.  This is a quite and calm train.  It does not move fast.  It is powered by breath.  It needs the class to breath together, slowly, in order to start chugging down the tracks.
  2.  Next, they can give a gentle squeeze of the shoulders.  If this is too difficult for your class they can pat the shoulders instead.  (After the squeeze have the children pat their partners shoulders and backs.)
  3. Now the train has to turn.  The children need to slowly "draw" a circle on their neighbors' backs.  First clockwise and then counterclockwise.  (If you do this activity in pairs you can also have the children draw different shapes or letters on each other's backs, concentrating on curves, straight lines and angles.)
  4. Have the train come back to the station by having the children pat the shoulders again and give a gentle squeeze.  Then the children should have their hands on their partners shoulders just breathing as the train comes to a stop.
  5. Discuss how it felt to give a gentle touch and to receive a gentle touch.
  6. Lastly, have them cross their arms and squeeze their own shoulders.  Have the children give themselves a hug.  They can help their muscles relax as well. 
The next time you need your students to calm their energy you can have them do the "Magic Train" or give themselves a gentle massage.  It is a very important to learn how to have a light touch, how to communicate with others non verbally and to calm oneself down.

I hope you enjoy sharing this calming and relaxing exercise with the children in your life.  And special thanks to Becky Acabchuk ( for inspiring this activity.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Show and Tell and Dance

When I taught at a dance studio, my little ones loved to bring in toys and stuffed animals.  I used to take the toys and then give them back at the end of class.  Then one day I asked a child to share her doll with the class.  We talked about her texture, her angles, and curves and I asked the class how the doll would move.  Every child got up and showed me how he or she thought the doll would move.  It was awesome!!!

The next week more children brought toys or dolls in and we did it again.  Soon we had Show and Tell at the end of every class and it was not only educational but a great motivator for the kids to pay attention in class so we would have time for show and tell.  It also was another great incentive for the kids to participate and think about dance outside of class. 

Try incorporating a little Show and Tell into your classes and watch your students get engaged in a entirely new way.  You will also learn more about each student.  It was so interesting to me to see what the children brought in and what they shared about their objects.  It can give you great insight into how to reach a child that is shy or reluctant to move in class.

You might want to bring in some items to share as well.  Study the texture, angles, curves, straight lines, size, weight, etc and see what new movements the objects inspire!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Share the Magic

I am working with a group of preteens/teens on a musical without much rehearsal time.  I hate rushing to teach a dance number because what I love most is teaching the craft of dance, blocking, staging, etc.  How would a character stand and why?.  How to walk backwards and use visual markers to sit on a chair without falling off.  This is the magic of theatre to me.  The mysteries revealed.  I feel short changed.   Anyone can learn steps.  But to learn to to move around the stage with ease, to SHARE the stage with someone else, to dance as one unit is what gets me really excited!

I usually write about dance for little ones but my experience with the teens is important for all teachers/parents and kids of all ages.  Dance is a performing craft.  Make sure your students/children have time to perform for each other.  If you are a parent have your kids perform for you.  If you know nothing about dance have them enter the living room and tell you a joke.  But learning how to share a talent, share a performance space and take direction is all really important life lessons.

 Teach them:
  1.  How to enter and exit the space
  2. Be aware of their bodies - people fidget without realizing it
  3. Be aware of how they can use their peripheral vision  to become aware of their surroundings and others in the space
  4. That it is okay to make a mistake
  5. Create, recreate, change and perfect the dance, movement, joke, juggling routine etc.
  6. Take compliments, suggestions and constructive criticism
  7. How to bow and applaud for others as well
It is never to early to learn (and parents - it is never to late either!)  Try performing for your kids/students and have them perform for you.  It will build trust and confidence.  And it is magic!