Dance Classroom Management: Warm/Strict

Today’s Behavior Management Monday Technique from the book Teach Like A Champion 2.0 (paid link) is one of my favorites. It is an extremely simple technique that I use regularly in my work as an educator, both in the traditional classroom and in the dance classroom.

This technique is under the larger category of building character and trust in your classroom. Using the Warm/Strict technique allows us to “send a message of high expectations, caring, and respect” (p. 438).

This is a short section in the book, but I really love the way that the technique is described:

We’re socialized to believe that warmth and strictness are opposites: if you’re more of one, it means being less of the other. I don’t know where this false conception comes from, but if you choose to believe in it, it will undercut your teaching. The fact is that the degree to which you are warm has no bearing on the degree to which you are strict, and vice versa. You should be neither only warm nor only strict. In fact, as the Warm/Strict technique shows, you must be both. You should be caring, funny, warm, concerned, and nurturing–but also strict, by the book, relentless, and sometimes inflexible.

In fact, you should seek not only to be both warm and strict but often to be both at exactly the same time. When you are clear, consistent, and firm while being positive, enthusiastic, caring, and thoughtful, you send the message to students that having high expectations is part of caring for and respecting someone. (p. 438)

In reading the above paragraphs from the text, I am reminded that the idea of showing caring through high expectations is a core belief of mine. As a child training in dance, I remember complaining a few times to my mother that I was being “picked on” by my dance teachers. I remember my mother explaining to me that if the teachers didn’t care or think that I had potential, they wouldn’t correct me. She pointed out the some students never received corrections and got away with doing movements incorrectly, but the fact that teachers took the time to make sure I did things the right way shows that the believed in me and knew I was not giving my best effort. Those teachers wanted me to be my greatest self. Today, I realize from the way in which I communicate with my students and the lens through which I view parenting decisions is largely based in this belief: When you truly believe that someone can accomplish great things, as if it is an undeniable fact, you won’t have a problem with helping them see themselves in the same way and encouraging them to reveal the best part of themselves through their own work and effort. This is one of the qualities that I love most about the technique of Warm/Strict–it combines caring with high expectations and reminds us that high standards are good and should be sought and desired.

Dance Classroom Management: Change the Pace

Hello Dear Dance Educators!

Today’s dance classroom behavior management technique is called Change the Pace, and it is Technique #27 in Doug Lemov’s book Teach Like A Champion 2.0 (paid link). Performing this technique requires the educator in the room to “establish a productive pace” (p. 201) in the classroom, by changing activity speeds, types, or formats.

In the text we read that the engagement that we work to create may, unfortunately, leave quickly and student participation may become “tired and superficial” (p. 201). Often, this is because we educators have continued teaching with the same activity and pacing for too long.

As I mentioned in Episode 9 and in Episode 16 of The Happy Dance Podcast, it is important to incorporate a variety of activities–using different music, props, or movement elements–in order to avoid monotony in your dance classes. Though I mainly focus on crafting educational movement experiences through the art of dance for children ages 2 to 8 years, I believe that the dance classroom management techniques I discuss in my blog and podcast can be scaffolded to be relevant for all ages.

In the text we read (p. 203) that there are five general ways that we can use to help students to engage with material. These five ways are listed below. I want to challenge you, as you read these descriptions, to consider how activities might look if we are planning to incorporate them into a dance class:

  • Assimilating knowledge directly from sources such as the teacher or a text
  • Participating in guided practice or guided questioning structured by the teacher
  • Executing skills without teacher support, as in independent practice
  • Reflecting on an idea–thinking quietly and deeply
  • Discussing and developing ideas with classmates

By working to provide educational dance activities using the categories listed above as a guide, we will ensure that we are providing our students with a well-rounded “mental workout” (p. 203) and an exciting and interesting experience in their dance class.

Have a great week!

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).

anna-earl-XBDHmIXvsvM-unsplash

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!