Dance Classroom Management: Plan for Error

Hi there! I’m back with another awesome behavior management technique to help you have better student behavior and more engaging lessons in your dance classroom!

It is my hope that these weekly tips will act as a quick refresher for experienced dance educators and provide new insight for early career dance educators who are teaching in schools or at dance studios. When I was becoming a classroom teacher–in addition to lesson planning, backward mapping, passing our state-required teacher credentialing exams, using a constructvist approach to teaching, modeling appropriate behavior, etc.-behavior management was the skill we focused on the most. Managing student behavior is typically the most difficult skill for a new dance teacher to master. I hope these weekly tips will be useful!

Today’s behavior management technique is called Plan for Error. This is Technique #7 in Doug Lemov’s book, Teach Like A Champion 2.0. Essentially, Plan for Error works to “increase the likelihood that you’ll recognize and respond to errors by planning for common mistakes in advance” (p. 60).

In a dance classroom, planning for errors might include thinking about both procedural errors and movement errors, for example:

  • Entering/exiting routines (e.g., Should students sit quietly at the side of the room or stretch when they enter?)
  • Restroom/break procedures
  • Talking during class
  • Common technique errors such as attempting to “turn out” from the knee or ankle, not using the floor to brush into a tendu, “sucking in” the stomach instead of pushing down the ribs
  • “Hamburger hands” in ballet class

There are a couple of different ways that we can plan for error. First, we can plan for specific errors. The text says, “In fact, just writing out the two or three things you think students are likely to struggle with is beneficial to your teaching, whether or not the students actually make the expected errors” (p. 63). We can jot down important questions to ask, possible incorrect responses, and how we will respond to the incorrect answers. Another way to plan for error is to incorporate reteaching time (or differentiation time) into your lesson plan. This means that you may sometimes need to allow time to go back and correct errors and sometimes you will need to allow time to give students a challenge or an enrichment activity if they’re having a really focused day and are catching on to new concepts very quickly.

As I like to say, you should always have a large variety of tools in your “bag of tricks” as an educator, whether you’re teaching at a school, at a summer camp, or at a dance studio!

Dance Classroom Management: Be Seen Looking

Hey everyone!

It seems that I took an unplanned break from blogging to focus on some other areas of my dance business! But, now I’m back with new ideas and newly inspired, ready to start writing here again.

A little earlier this evening, I was reading about teaching preschool dance classes, and the author recommended that we dance teachers use some behavioral management methods that I will talk about in further detail later–positive behavioral narration and specific public praise.

Behavioral narration and public praise are two techniques I absolutely love using to help manage my dance classroom. However, as I was considering these two methods, I couldn’t help but backward mapping and considering what newer dance teachers might have to do before feeling comfortable enough to use either of those tools.

I know that finding one’s “teacher voice” (and yes, dance teachers have a “teacher voice” also) can be difficult and take years to understand and develop. This made me think about all of the non-verbal cues that I’ve learned to use in my dance classroom space over the years, whether I’m teaching dance for my studio-based dance classes or for my dance programs in schools.

One simple, effective strategies I use is called “Be Seen Looking.” It is one of the short phrases that was drilled into my head (thankfully) during my intensive classroom teacher residency program. It is a tool I continue to use today to manage my dance classroom.

In Teach Like A Champion 2.0, Be Seen Looking is listed as High Behavioral Expectation Technique #51. This technique is described as a way to, “prevent nonproductive behavior by developing your ability to see it when it happens and by subtly reminding students that you are looking” (p. 387).

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When I was taught this technique, I remember being encouraged to do it overtly and with a flair of drama (which is typically my student when teaching). For example, in the dance classroom, after giving a clear direction or explanation such as, “I’ll know everyone is ready when you are all standing with your feet in first position and your arms in low fifth position (or en bas),” I might lift my chin just a little and simply wait, while checking the position of each student’s feet and arms.

I think this is a powerful technique for many reasons:

  1. It is quiet and doesn’t distract from your lesson.
  2. It gives the dance teacher an opportunity to develop their teacher presence and non-verbal teacher “voice”.
  3. It reminds the students that you care about what they’re doing during class time.
  4. It lets students know that they should be vigilant about listening to directions during class.
  5. It’s easy to remember and simple to implement.

The Be Seen Looking technique is part of a cycle that works to get 100% of students’ attention 100% of the time. Page 387 of Teach Like A Champion 2.0 states:

“Great teachers ensure that they have 100 percent of students with them for the teaching and learning; their expectation is 100 percent of students, 100 percent of the time, 100 percent of the way. Great classroom managers generally step in to address distractions earlier than other teachers, allowing their interventions to be almost imperceptible. The recipe implicit in their success is simple and powerful: catch it early and fix it noninvasively, without breaking the thread of instruction.”

That is my Management Monday tip for today, folks!

What techniques are you using or encouraging teachers at your studio to use manage student behavior and maintain atmospheres that are focused on learning in an engaging and artistic environment? Let me know in the comments!