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!

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!

Creativity Is Definitely A Habit

So does it seem like I’m super into everything related to Dance Daze, Inc., Dance Daze in Schools, and, my newest, Dance Ed Startup? Well, that’s because I am.

But does that mean I like doing every single thing associated with running those businesses and projects? Absolutely not.

Earlier today, I was thinking about a comment from my very first mentor teacher when I was in an intensive teacher training program, credentialing program, and accelerated Master of Arts degree program to become an effective classroom teacher in one year. I must have asked her something like, “What do you not like about being a teacher?” I remember her response to this day–it struck me because I felt like she was either lying through her teeth or delusional. She said, “I like everything about this job.” I simply couldn’t believe her. In fact, I still don’t.

When people talk about their “life’s work” or “walking in their purpose” or “doing what they love” and all that sort of stuff… YES. I 100% GET THAT. Those are ALL the feels I get from running my dance organizations. But, I wasn’t raised to lie. And I’m not in denial. I know what lights me up and what things I completely avoid. (I even know exactly why I’ve gotten behind on this blog… It’s because I hate editing my podcast transcripts. Even though I completely love having a podcast, getting my voice out into the world, developing new skills like audio editing and transcribing audio that I’ve never previously had to do at any j-o-b I’ve ever had… But I still hardcore procrastinated on doing my last two transcripts, which got me completely off track with my little blog pattern I’ve been working on keeping up here.)

All of the above to say: I think I’m a super creative person who is lit up by the work that I do for my businesses. But, if I didn’t make myself do some of the stuff, it would simply never get done.

For example, I love teaching dance. I love having spending time creating learning objectives, structuring activities, challenging my students, and creating incredible experiences through the medium of movement in my classes. I love when parents and other family members enjoy the experience too. It all makes me feel like I’m a super awesome person who is having fun, getting paid, and helping other people have fun and enjoy watching their kids develop into awesome people because of their experiences in dance education.

HOWEVER, I almost always wait until the last minute to plan my classes. The “artsy” part of me feels like it is part of my process to “get inspired” at the last minute then rush to create well-executed masterpieces.

But what did I tell you in my last blog? I totally believe that a failure to plan is a plan for failure.

So how do I satisfy the super prepared and always 10 steps ahead part of me with the wait-until-the-absolute-last-minute-to-produce-your-best-work part of me when it comes to planning dance classes?

I’ve created a habit.

I give myself the “thrill” of planning my classes at the last minute by waiting until the morning of my classes to plan them. But I stay 10 steps ahead by giving myself like 5 hours to do the planning and get to the studio.

That’s right. Most mornings that I’m teaching, I’m up by about 5:30 am to plan my classes for the day.

Crazy right? Probably. (I’ve even gotten up that early on Saturday mornings after being up after midnight. But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I can function like a somewhat normal–if not hyper-cranky and hyper-emotional–human on just 5 hours of sleep. And I can fake it on less than 5 hours of sleep. So there’s that.)

So, in my opinion, am I still being creative? Absolutely.

And, am I still planning ahead? Probably not as much as the next gal, but I’ve never been one to do things in a typical way anyway.

The Perfect Playlist

It is my personal belief that the music of a dance class can completely make or break the class. Anyone who has ever taught classes for me knows that I place a huge emphasis on choosing the best music for the class they’re teaching. I believe that the music chosen for a dance class should fit the style of the instructor, be chosen with the students in mind, have appropriate lyrics (or be instrumental or beats only!), fit with the actual moves/steps/combinations/technique that will be taught in class, be enjoyable for parents or any community observers, and generally aid in creating the desired atmosphere that the instructors wants to create for that specific class.

I have found that if I choose my music wisely, my lesson plan nearly writes itself. I will talk about that more soon in some projects that I am working on, but I really believe that’s true! (Anyone else choose the music before deciding what your students are actually going to do in class?)

With these thoughts in mind, I’ve decided to focus on music in The Happy Dance Blog this week! I’m kicking it off with my Perfect Playlist Formula, which you can remember with the letters H-A-P-P-Y!

Be sure to head over to DanceEdStartup.com and grab this week’s blog FREEBIE!