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: 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!