Written by Dominique Condison
Welcome to Part 2 of our series on “Tips for Teaching Dance to Kids”. I’ve come up with an additional five (5 tips) that dance teachers can practise or implement in your kids dance classes.
Tell them exactly what, how and when you want them to do the moves or you’ll run the risk of leaving them confused and messing up parts of the dance. However, this does not mean that if a part of the dance needs to be reworked, it can’t be, IT CAN, your work just becomes a bit more difficult.
Be as clear as possible, try to walk it through with them and break down every small detail; be precise. To get this down, be sure of what, how and when you want them to execute the move. Are they paying attention to the lyrics or the beats in the music?I know this can get a bit difficult especially when dealing with a group of children but that’s also why I had mentioned planning the lesson BEFORE the class in part 1 of the series. Precision often comes with patience and practise as well.
Provide videos for at home Practise
If adults need help to remember dances, children also need that help. As a dancer, this “practise” is one of the top 5 words that we will hear throughout our dance life. Practise, practise, practise. Practise when you go home, in the bathroom, in your mirror, in every place possible, until it becomes muscle memory. It’s important for us as dance teachers to set up ways in which kids can practise outside of the classroom as well. Record the routine, send it to the parent, REMIND the parent to show their child the video to practise. There is also the option of hosting a virtual dance class to assist them with practising as well.
Encourage them in their Movements
Encourage them in the moves they have successfully executed and those that pose more of a challenge. I’ll share a story:
“One of my students was in the middle of doing an exercise and she was visibly not okay, her face was contorted and her body was off balance. I stopped her and asked her what was wrong, upon which she expressed that she didn’t feel like she was doing the move correctly. [The move was not entirely correct, might I add BUT she was trying, which was the most important part for me.] I encouraged her by telling her that she was doing good, the fact that she is trying is good and that her body is doing its best. We began again but this time, I implemented a high five each time she completed the exercise. At this point, she began smiling and putting in more effort.”
It was evident that the way she thought about her body doing the exercise had shifted to be more positive because it began showing in her movements. Even though my story included one student this concept can still be implemented in classrooms that include more students. Example: when they have completed a particular exercise or piece of choreography, you can tell them to give each other high fives for how well they all did. You can also take the time to tell them individually in a few of your classes. A few words of encouragement can go a long way for our tiny humans (kids).
Encourage their Creativity
When teaching, it is common to get frustrated, tired and sometimes discouraged. In these moments, it’s important to ask for help. There’s the first option of having a Dance Teacher Assistant, which is highly recommended for large groups. Dance Teacher Assistants are still necessary in a small group setting because they help to make the dance class run more efficiently. Example: If there is a student that is not getting a move, the Assistant can take the student out of the dance class to give more one-on-one attention to the student, allowing the Dance Teacher to continue with the dance class. In this case, the student doesn’t get left behind’.
If you are unable to immediately get an assistant, you can delegate simple leadership tasks to the older kids in the group which allow them to take charge of the younger kids. This option is a win-win, you get to maintain control of your class as well as give the older kids the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. However, it’s best not to use this option as a permanent solution to the problem because you still want the older kids to be able to enjoy the dance class.
Ask for Assistance
Exercise patience, be patient, patience is a virtue. There are many phrases/quotes that speak about being patient but there aren’t many that speak to the extra 1000 gallons of patience you will need when encountering kids in a dance class. PHEW. Take deep breaths and control your reactions.
I implore you to try with every fibre of your being to not explode on the little one that has gotten the move wrong yet again, the one who has asked the same question for the 4th time, or the one who has zoned out completely. TRY! It is always within your best interest to not explode on someone’s daughter/son. That is a sure way to lose that student and parent.
A little dancer may not get it immediately but they will get it eventually. It usually will take some time, especially if their level of exposure to the particular dance style or technique has been limited. Exercise patience and take a breather if necessary.
Teaching dance to kids is such a beautiful experience. As a dance teacher, you get the opportunity to pour into the next generation of dancers. A dance teacher is a person that a student will be remembered forever, especially if dance classes were fun and comfortable. Take these all into consideration and assess how you as a dance teacher can improve on how you approach teaching or implement some of these teaching styles & techniques. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read Part 1 of this series, please click here.