Top Five Dance Dilemmas
How to build confidence when planning and delivering a dance session.
Over the past 10 years we have worked with many Primary school teachers from different schools and varying key stages.
One of the most common issues when delivering a dance lesson seems to be a lack of confidence due to it being a physical subject. There seemed to be similar concerns amongst teachers mainly through lack of experience or training when delivering dance.
In our CPD programme we hold evaluation meetings at the end of every session with the class teacher to discuss the lesson and to plan the next.
The same issues kept cropping up in these evaluation sessions but by working through ideas that suited the teacher and children we soon resolved these problems to help them confidently deliver a productive and relevant dance lesson relating to their curriculum.
After talking to many teachers here are the top five dance dilemmas they shared with us:
- Not being able to ‘dance’ themselves
- Not knowing how to structure warms ups and create tasks for the sessions
- Finding teaching/managing behaviour in a different space to a classroom
- Remembering movements and exercises
- Not having the right resources to assist teaching or knowing which tools to facilitate lesson
1. I can’t dance!
Yes you can! It is important to remember that delivering a dance session does not have to be about teaching a jazzy routine or to replicate a trendy hip hop music video. Very few people can do this anyway and how relevant is it to your class and curriculum?
With the right structure (big picture, warm up, exploration and evaluation) and content (create, perform, analyse) every dance lesson can be consistent and productive achieving the learning outcomes relevant to your curriculum.
Yes, you will have to get up and demonstrate and modelling is helpful for the children to understand what they are meant to be doing, but, this way of learning is about embodied learning and so the idea is for the children to get up and have a go themselves.
- When planning your session, get physical! Don’t sit and plan, stand up and plan as this will give you confidence when delivering the session
- Get the children to demonstrate as it will be good for their self-confidence and children enjoy watching their peers move. This is also a great way to assess children and their development throughout your sessions
- Don’t forget, children love seeing their teacher dance, sing or play a character, they don’t know you might not be at your most confident so have a go and impress them with your moves!
2. I find thinking of creative movement and tasks challenging
Not having tools such as a basic dance vocabulary to create warm ups and creative tasks can be frustrating when planning your lessons. You wouldn’t teach French without knowing French words.
If possible try and invest in CPD where you can lean as much as you can in one day, half a day or even a twilight INSET. Ask questions to the people delivering the sessions on the day and keep in touch so they can help you plan for the future.
Just like your other subjects, the more resources and experience you build upon the easier the ideas will be to deliver your dance sessions.
You could also research creative movement in Primary schools especially cross-curricular methodology and embodied learning, as this is a well studied area and it’s such a beneficial way of teaching dance and other subjects on your curriculum.
- Dance Educates has developed specific programmes that work with your curriculum and supports and encourages class teachers to deliver dance. See our programmes for further information.
- You could also try your local dance agency or conservatoire as they often run good training in delivering dance for schools. We are happy to advise which courses / programmes would work for you, if you are unsure of their offering.
3. I feel confident in the classroom but as soon as I am in a bigger space I worry about losing control of the children and their behaviour becoming difficult to manage
Teaching in a different space you are not used to can be daunting especially when it comes to ‘classroom management’. We have devised several techniques to control the space as you would in the classroom.
Dance is just as important as maths or literacy and so why have a disrupted lesson because the children are excited and possibly a little more boisterous about learning physically?
We always start our sessions with a ‘Big Picture’, an overview of what we are going to do in the session. This is sometimes done in the classroom using the interactive whiteboard to show images and discuss work delivered in classroom-based learning. Big Picture can also be done with the children sitting down in a group in the hall or dance space.
This immediately focuses the children on a question or image and you are in control at the start of the lesson when this is a time pupils often want to run around. It is important to keep Big Picture short (3-5 minutes) so you can start the session physically.
Stopping and starting every few minutes keeps children on task, keeps them alert and helps structure the session. There is no time for children to be running around or misbehaving as you are constantly giving them short creative tasks to complete.
‘Freezing’, turning down music or sitting down are other good ways of stopping a physical lesson. Again, keeping your feedback to the class brief and carrying on with the next task keeps the class at a good pace and the children will not have time to get fidgety or restless in the space.
Having a non-verbal signal is a really good way of communicating rather than shouting above their creative chatter. Three claps, raising your hand in the air and waiting works well and saves your voice! You shouldn’t need to shout in a session just because you are in a bigger space. We found the quieter you are the more the children have to listen so they are quieter more quickly.
- Don’t be afraid to let the children make noise. There is a level of screaming and shouting that is obviously unacceptable but chatting, laughing and slightly raised voices are important in the creative process when making completing creative tasks.
4. I find it hard to remember movement especially the warm up
Resources such as flashcards and interactive whiteboard are the best way to help you remember movement when teaching. Seeing the phrase written down or digitally can give you that extra help you may need.
Even holding your lesson plan will aid you when delivering the session. They are a good visual reminder and can be used less and less by yourself as you start to remember more and get more confident.
- As discussed earlier by actually getting up and planning physically will help you remember the movement as it will be ingrained in your body and your movement memory will start to develop. Warm ups and small phrases will become much easier to remember as the weeks go by.
5. What resources will help me deliver my dance lesson?
There are many resources that we use on an everyday basis that we get use to and rely on such as the interactive whiteboard as mentioned above. They help us to make our teaching more engaging and appealing to learning in different ways. The main emphasis of a dance lesson is learning through creative movement in a physical way. Resources are important especially when appealing to the different learners you may have in your class.
Visuals such as images, flashcards, words and newspapers can be just as powerful in print as they are on a digital format. Interactive whiteboards and tablets are extremely useful and can be very useful in a dance session but other visuals are just as useful and can be shared and held amongst the children.
Music (audio) is a brilliant and much needed addition to any lesson. Not just to ‘keep to the beat’ but also to create an atmosphere and help with creative though as the children are on task. Different styles of music or sound should be used and introduced every lesson to inspire they children. Silence can also be very powerful.
- Vary your music and keep it relevant to the lesson content.