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.