Dance Classroom Management: Do Now

Happy Monday!

Today’s dance classroom Behavior Management Monday tip is Technique #20 in Teach Like A Champion 2.0–Do Now. It falls under the larger category of lesson structure, and it reminds us that our dance lesson plan begins as soon as the students arrive at our studio/stage/dance room door.

If you’ve spent time in a traditional academic classroom environment and have been there at the beginning of the day, you may be familiar with the idea of a “Do Now” activity. I have personally used this technique and seen this technique used for students of all ages, ranging from kindergarten through high school-aged students. When I was teaching in K-2 classrooms, we called this “Morning Seatwork” and I either kept the activities near my desk and distributed them each morning or (for older students), I created the packets by Friday and passed them out Monday morning for the students to keep in their Morning Seatwork folder for an entire week.

So, what is a Do Now actually, and what can it look like in a dance classroom environment? A Do Now is “a short warm-up activity that students can complete without instruction or direction from you to start class every day. This lets the learning start even before you begin teaching” (p. 161).

When the Dance Ed Lab visited Los Angeles in February of 2019, and I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in their introductory workshop for a weekend, we had a simple Do Now on the first or second day of our session. The instructions were written on a piece of sticky paper, and all program participants were told to grab a free DEL shirt and introduce ourselves to someone whom we had not yet met. This activity took only a few minutes, but it was a great way for us to acclimate to the dance classroom space, facilitate developing relationships among students in the class, and it required no teacher assistance or instruction.

While I got to the point of being super comfortable with my Morning Seatwork when I was teaching K-2 academics, I feel that this is an area where I would like to continue developing with my dance classes.

Typically, I instruct my students to come into the dance space, put on their dance shoes, and stretch quietly in the center of the floor until I tell them we are ready to begin class. With my youngest students, I encourage them to do exactly the same thing, though I add that they may, instead, sit quietly with their parents before class begins.

It fills me with joy when I see my 5 and 6 year-old dancers doing their straddle stretch or butterfly stretch before class. (They will usually say, “Hey, look at me! I’m stretching before we start!”) I love that they are taking ownership of their learning, setting the tone for their sacred dance class time, and focusing themselves before beginning this important time in their day.

In Teach Like A Champion 2.0, we learn that “An effective Do Now should conform to four critical criteria to ensure that it remains focused, efficient, and effective.” These criteria are listed below:

  1. The instructions should be in the same place every day.
  2. Students should be able to complete the Do Now activity without any direction from the teacher and without any discussion with their classmates. They should also not need any additional materials to complete the activity.
  3. The activity should take no more than 5 minutes to complete and no more than 5 minutes to correct/debrief.
  4. The activity should typically preview the day’s lesson/focus or review a recent lesson/skill that was taught.

I know that having an activity such as this is not the norm for a studio dance class space. Also, even when teaching dance in schools, there are typically very limited blocks of time during which the dance class can occur, so every minute is so valuable.

I think that if I was going to challenge myself to incorporate a Do Now into my dance classes, I would do this by having a small portable white board (or a tablet of some kind) that would have a specific stretch listed for the beginning of each class. For example, in very large font, I might write/type: “Put on your dance shoes, then do a straddle stretch while pointing and flexing your toes for 3 minutes.” For my youngest dancers who might not be able to read, I could explain this to them verbally and maybe even model the stretch to the earliest students before the rest of the class arrived.

In addition to focusing your students and allowing them to work with you to set the tone of the class before it begins, I think a Do Now is a great way to teach a specific skill (e.g., I said I would focus on teaching different developmentally-appropriate stretches each week) without taking away class time because it can begin before your “actual” lesson starts. Besides that it could create too much uncontrolled chaos before starting class, I suppose a dance teacher might also add some high-activity movements such as skipping, running in place, or jumping jacks as a Do Now activity before class begins. I think it would be fun to experiment with a variety of movement activities that the students can complete independently as a Do Now.

What are some ways you would incorporate a Do Now into your dance classes? Leave a comment below or email me at saumirah@dancedaze.org and let me know!

Where Can We Teach Dance?

I taught my first official dance classes in Ramstein, Germany. But that’s a story for another time.

When I moved back to California after my year of living in Manhattan, studying dance education, and becoming an American Ballet Theatre Certified Teacher, I wanted to hit the ground running and begin teaching dance anywhere that would have me. I was eager to use my newly inherited experiences and developing philosophy as a dance educator.

Though I had not yet earned my Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of the Pacific (the university from which I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and also from which I am currently earning a Doctor of Education degree — Go Tigers!) or completed an intensive teaching residency with Aspire Public Schools, I was already a zealous teacher, yearning to create my dance classroom.

While I briefly taught dance for a private health club and also at the music studio where I first began Dance Daze, I never actually ended up teaching dance for any dance studio outside of Dance Daze. I’m proud that almost all of my experience teaching dance comes from work that I have done through my own businesses.

Through my work with Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools, I have taught at a number of schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, started dance programs at charter schools in New York City and in Washington, D.C., formed partnerships with universities, developed service-learning internship programs, mentored college students from China, and more.

A few weeks ago, I participated in the Dance Education Lab‘s very first program in Los Angeles, California. I had a wonderful time moving with incredible humans on the beautiful campus of Loyola Marymount University. We were under the direction of the fantastic duo Jody Gottfried Arnhold, DEL founder, and Ann Biddle, DEL founding faculty, for the weekend. I believe it was Jody Gottfried Arnhold who said that dance education is the grassroots movement of dance in America.

With that, I want to state that dance can be taught anywhere. In addition to the above, I’ve personally taught dance on playground blacktops under the California sunshine, in crowded classrooms full of desks, and recently in carpeted rooms inside of synagogues.

It is our duty as dance educators–as those on the ground keeping the movement of dance education in America alive and growing–to bring dance into as many spaces as possible.

So, where can we teach dance? Everywhere.

Where are you currently teaching dance?