Dance teachers are amazing humans! We connect physical concepts with intellectual learning, and we teach our students to feel the emotion inherent in movement. We break down complex patterns into simple elements. We demonstrate, we count, and we explain. We listen, we comfort, and we encourage.
But even with all of that, one of those days can happen -- do you know the kind I mean? One where you're ready to pull your hair out because no one seems to be able to focus and the concept or choreography you are trying to share is just not working?
On days like that, my natural teacher instincts just are not enough. (and it is so frustrating!!)
On days like that, I first have to remember to cut myself some slack......then, I take a step back, and figure out what I'm missing.
Think about it -- It's always easier to grab something that is out of reach if you use a step stool or a ladder, right?
When I think about teaching in this same way, I'm often able to come up with a new strategy. What can I do to give my students the step up they need?
When I provide a "step stool", or a new strategy for learning, it:
After years of experimenting, there are 5 questions that help me most. I start by asking myself, can they SAY IT, SEE IT, HEAR IT, FEEL IT? Did I get SLOW & SILLY with it? Creating (or adjusting) a lesson plan with this filter helps me to think outside of the box and to make new connections too.
How do I mean?
Let's take a basic jazz square as an example -- imagine that you demonstrate the foot pattern and say "front, cross, back, open". For some kids, that is enough! They can pick up this new step, just like that (snap!).
But for others, they might need more -- they need a few "step stools" in place before they can climb the jazz square ladder.
When I think about those 5 questions, or a Step Up Strategy, I come up with these other ways to teach a jazz square:
SAY IT/HEAR IT -- do 4 marches in place, shifting weight, and saying RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT (or opposite!) so they really feel how each step changes feet
FEEL IT/BE A PART OF IT -- draw a square in the air with their fingers and trace a square shape on the floor, then explain how each step touches a corner of the square
SLOW & SILLY - step forward, then step cross & freeze! Can you pick up your back foot and balance? Whoaa!! Now step back with that one. Yes! Now open with the other foot! We did it!
SEE IT -- using footprint mats or pages, have the dancers physically step on the footprints to get the pattern
Once the dancers begin to master it, I can then expand on the step or concept, by varying the speed, adding arms, changing facings & more, which feeds the needs of the quick-learners too.
Every teacher is unique -- we all have creative and clever ways that we use to break down information for our dancers! Want a free downloadable worksheet that you can use to the 5 questions to brainstorm and troubleshoot your own teaching challenges? Click here!
All of the dance dance HOORAY resources have one or more of these elements built in! The print-and-play tools use the step-up style of learning, through play....and play keeps them involved and excited!
I'd love to hear your ideas! How do YOU give your students a STEP UP in the dance classroom?