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!

Dance Classroom Management: Joy Factor

Hello Dance Educator Friends!

Let’s dive in.

Last week, I wrote about using the behavior management technique called Every Minute Matters in the dance classroom space. When this technique is at the forefront of our mind, we are reminded how precious the tool of time is for ourselves and our students and that we can honor that valuable resource by filling each minute we have with our students with valuable educational experiences and instruction.

I like that technique. I believe in it. It is at the core of my educational philosophy.

However, I also believe in fun. I also believe in creating magic and intentionally inserting happiness into everything. Luckily my friends, that is where the Joy Factor has a place.

Technique #62 in Teach Like A Champion 2.0, Joy Factor, is essentially celebrating the work of learning.

Here is a description of Joy Factor from page 442 of Teach Like A Champion 2.0:

It turns out that finding joy in the work of learning — the Joy Factor — is a key driver of not just a happy classroom but a high-achieving classroom. People work harder when they enjoy working on something — not perhaps in every minute of every day, but when their work is punctuated regularly by moments of exultation and joy.

Five categories for incorporating Joy Factor into your teaching are listed and described as follows:

  1. Fun and Games: These activities draw on kids’ love for challenges, competitions, and play (p. 443).
  2. Us (and Them): Kids, like everybody else, take pleasure in belonging to a group. One of the key functions of cultures — those in the classroom and more broadly — is to make members feel that they belong to an important “us,” a vibrant and recognizable entity that only some people get to be part of. Through unique language, names, rituals, traditions, songs, and the like, cultures establish “us”-ness (p. 443).
  3. Drama, Song, and Dance: Acting things out and singing about them can be an exceptional way to remember information. To learn a song about something — especially one that’s a tad absurd or unusual or one you sing regularly — is, for many, to know it for life (p. 444).
  4. Humor: Laughter is one of the base conditions of happiness and fulfillment, making it a powerful tool for building an environment of happy and fulfilled students and teachers. A tool this powerful should be used (p. 444).
  5. Suspense and Surprise: Routines are powerful drivers of efficiency and predictability. They also make occasional variations all the more fun, silly, surprising, and inspiring. If harnessed judiciously, the unexpected can be powerful (p. 445).

There you have it, friends! Let me know how you’re using Joy Factor in your dance classroom space! Drop a comment on this post, or email me at saumirah@dancedaze.org.

Have a fantastic week!

Dance Classroom Management: Every Minute Matters

I appreciate the opportunity to share behavior management tips with a focus on Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion for a few reasons.

First, it gives me a sense of reward to feel that I am putting my best foot forward toward (hopefully) inspiring the coming generation of dance educators and aiding in putting good education practices into the ethosphere.

Second, I feel a sense of satisfaction to push myself to further my education outside of my current academic program. For years I have considered myself a “lifelong learner” and to dedicate my time to daily or weekly reading, synthesizing, and applying information gives me a strong sense of fulfillment.

Third, it gives me a chance to create. In re-purposing content to which I was originally introduced as a young educator myself and placing it in the lens of dance education is a creative endeavor for me. And, yeah, I consider myself a “creative.” This is one way that I got my jollies, if you will.

Finally, I feel that I’m providing a little bit of insight into the brain of the mama of Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools programs. (That’s me. Founder and CEO all day, yo.)

With that, let’s dive into today’s Behavior Management Monday Tip. It’s Technique #31 in Teach Like A Champion 2.0, and it can be found under the larger category of Pacing. It’s called “Every Minute Matters.”

In short, when practicing Every Minute Matters, we are respecting the students’ time by making each minute as productive as possible.

When explaining this technique, Lemov says, “Time, I was reminded… is water in the desert. It is a teacher’s most precious resource — it is to be husbanded, guarded, and conserved. Every minute of it matters” (p. 225).

He goes on to explain in this chapter that if we let students “relax” for just the last 5 minutes of every class for 6 classes in each school year, we are giving up 75 hours of valuable instructional time.

One of my favorite parts in this chapter is as follows:

Mastering Every Minute Matters means spending time with the greatest possible productivity by attending to the everyday moments when time is often squandered. It means assuming that events will forever create new and unanticipated opportunities for downtime to occur, and therefore being prepared with “back-pocket” activities: a high-energy review of what your students have learned, or a challenge problem. It means keeping a series of short learning activities ready so that you’re prepared when downtime threatens . . . . You can, in short, always be teaching. (p. 226)

As someone who has directed summer camps, been a camp counselor, directed after school programs, been a teaching artist, been an elementary classroom teacher, worked as an internship coordinator, and who currently directs my own dance education organizations, I think that the above quote is so powerful and it is one of the skills that impresses me most when I am observing other teachers, both new and experienced. I think that having a “bag of tricks” is one of the most important skills for an educator to develop, and it is something that comes with time.

When I was first working as a teaching artist for Dance Daze in Schools in the Bay Area, I worked very hard to develop my bag of tricks because I quickly realized that the way I had been trained in dance wasn’t entirely working for teaching dance in schools for several hours per week. Back then, I was teaching dance for kids in kindergarten through sixth grades at multiple schools. I worked hard to find ways to blend my knowledge of dance classroom culture (really: dance studio and pre-professional dance training culture) with elementary school culture. One way in which I did this, and, therefore began developing my bag of tricks was reading. I read about different ways to engage students through movement and thus began my person deep dive into the world of dance education.

One of the books that helped me to teach dance in schools was Making Fun Out of Nothing at All: 101 Great Games That Need No Props. I loved this book because it was inexpensive, practical, and full of movement activities that would allow me to break up the monotony of my in-schools dance classes, keep my students engaged, and continue teaching fundamental elements of movement and dance-making in a way that resonated with my students–play. Oh, also, in case you didn’t catch it in the book title–NO PROPS are needed for any of these 101 activities. AWESOME.

So yes, this is one book I would highly recommend for adding to your bag of tricks as a dance educator, especially if you are teaching at a school, camp, or community center.

Be prepared to teach the art of dance in any environment. And be prepared with a deep and interesting bag of tricks so that you can make every minute of learning time impactful and productive for your students.

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!