Have you ever heard of the book, A Moving Child is a Learning Child, by Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy? If you are a dance & movement teacher of students under the age of 6, I highly recommend it. This book has helped me to give words to what I have seen in the development of my own dancers over the years.
As I create activities and exercises for my dance lesson plans, I like to refer to their research and methodology, to see how I can directly apply their ideas about child development to my dance classroom.
Prior to reading this book, I had always heard child-development specialists refer to gross motor skills (large muscle) and fine motor skills (small muscle) as two separate things. Connell and McCarthy instead have coined their own helpful term -- MOTOR TOOLS -- to describe them as something that cannot be separated.
They say this, on page 99 of their book:
"In early childhood development, nothing happens in isolation. All muscles of any size are brought to bear in learning, formally or informally, indoors or out. You cannot separate the two. Motor tools describe the years-long process towards full realized physical development as children slowly, naturally acquire power coordination, and control."
So how does this relate to dance? (stay with me here......)
They say that motor tools are:
The power to move muscles with an appropriate amount of force and energy for a length of time; the coordination to move different muscles in different ways simultaneously to achieve complex movement patterns; and the control to refine and adapt movements with precision for accuracy.
For me, that is a textbook definition of what I try to achieve in dance classes, all the way from parent-tot movement classes and up!
I love this definition, and I love this point of view because it reminds me that there is more to dance class than just dance steps. By working on motor tools, with the fun of an imaginative theme and through play, and with music, we are likely to help our dancers develop in ALL the ways they need. Because it is a years-long process, it reminds me of the benefit of repeating skills and concepts.
Here are some ways that I like to help my dancers develop their motor tools!
I'd love to hear from you, about the ways in which you use motor tools in your classes!
Would you like more done-for-you ways to include these development based ideas in your dance classes?
Check out my Hooray for Dance Notebooks, which are themed dance lesson supplements for teachers of students ages 4-5; my First Step Frameworks, which are themed dance lesson supplements for teachers of parent-tot dance classes and ages 2-3; or my bite-size supplements, like Little Snowflakes, Little Turkeys, & Nutcracker In A Nutshell!