Dance Classroom Management: Double Plan

Happy Monday, Dance Friends!

Today’s dance classroom management tip, which comes from the book Teach Like A Champion 2.0 (paid link) is called Double Plan. To Double Plan is to plan both what you–the teacher–and the students will be doing at each point in class when you are writing out your lessons.

The text goes into detail about using a graphic organizer packet to guide the lesson and check for understanding in a traditional classroom setting. As a dance educator coach, I want to focus most on the idea of a T-chart that is mentioned. Using a T-chart lesson plan (i.e., get out a blank piece of paper and draw a huge T, so that there is a line going down the middle, creating two columns, and so that the top of the capital letter T allows you to label each column) allows us to write side-by-side what the students will be doing while we are saying or doing what we plan to do.

“It’s natural for teachers to write lessons that focus on what they will be doing: which key points they will cover, questions they will ask, activities that will facilitate, work they will assign, and so forth. Still, the most effective teachers I know Double Plan, that is, they plan at least as carefully what their students will be doing each step of the way” (p. 143).

Though not written in a T-chart style, you can see simple examples of Double Planning in the Dance Daze® Lesson Plans for Dance With Me and Ballet and Tap over at DanceEdStartup.com.

According to the text, “Double Planning forces you to consider how you will at each step hold students accountable for the content and quality of their work” (p. 149). I believe that Double Planning forces educators to consider the desired behavior that they want or expect during each part of their lesson.

For example, in your dance class, should students be copying your movements while you explain or should they be standing respectfully and observing as you demonstrate? If students will have props, how should they hold their props and when will they pick up their props? What should the rest of the class do while you are giving corrections to one student?

During my teaching residency program and during my years of working as a classroom teacher, I was taught and came to deeply understand that we must teach our students everything we want them to do. We should never assume that our students already know how we want them to behave or what we want them to understand unless we have explicitly taught them in many different ways, reviewed our expectations, and practiced desired behavior many times over the course of a session of classes or a dance year.

The next time you plan your dance lesson, remember to Double Plan so that you can be better prepared for a successful lesson with students behaving the way you want them to behave!

The Importance of Music in a Dance Class

Though I have occasionally had a specific movement or feeling in my head around which I wanted to create a piece of choreography, I typically choose the music for my dance classes before I plan the rest of the class. The music is my foundation, my core, my bass. This is because I believe that the music used in a dance class lays the foundation for the energy, atmosphere, and overall experience of each class.

I’ve always been a lover of music, though. As I child, I used to visualize movements to songs while riding shotgun in the car with my mom, coming back from Pier 39 on a Friday night. I remember that it was almost as if I could envision my future through music and movement. I wasn’t exactly choreographing in my head, but I would see movements that matched the songs we used to sing at the top of our lungs. And I felt safe and comforted. I felt hope and joy.

I also studied music as a child–piano lessons for several years, a youth vocal ensemble (which I think caused me to realize that singing was not a particular talent of mine) . . . . We sang a lot in my private elementary schools as well. I’ve said before that when I picture my childhood, I think of sunshine and music. [Insert your eye roll here.] (Sorry, not sorry. My childhood was awesome.)

In college, I completed about 5 courses in music (including Physics of Music, Psychology of Music, and Ethnomusicology while studying abroad in Marburg, Germany).

With that for my background in music, I think I always assumed that most people were the same way. I thought that most people who grew up dancing would feel a similar connection to music and its power to define a dance class or to make or break a movement experience. After working with many dance teachers over the years now, I have come to realize that this is simply not common. Some beginning dance teachers simply don’t seem to have the same connection to music that I’d always previously assumed was innate for those of us who call ourselves dancers. (Side note: The topic of identifying as a dancer vs. as a dance educator will be a future blog post. It’s a thing.)

With that said, I want to make it clear that I believe that dance is still dance, even if we are moving in silence. I understand and respect the rhythm of life and the melodies and beats that are still present, even when no bow brushes strings and when no stick strikes a snare.

However, I’m still all about the music! I’m sure I’ll have to write more about this later, but for now I want to stand united with those who use music as the driving force for their dance classes. I also want to tell you that if you’re looking for some help with choosing music for your dance classes, I’m working on a little something that you might find useful.

More to come!

Stay tuned.