Guest posting today is Sheena Jeffers. You can check out her wonderful blog here. This post is a goodie, enjoy!
For my little dance students (ages 3 -4), there are some days when they are so ready to dance! They point their little feet, their tiptoe around the room with smiles, and they execute their mermaid stretches with pride. Then there are the other days.
Guiding your students through those “I just don’t wanna” days can be challenging. Everything you suggest is just not good enough. This is when I lean on the creative tools!
1. Sharing time: We have sharing time at the beginning of each class. The dancer gets to go in front of the class, tell one interesting thing about their week, courtesy, then return to their spot. This encourages listening, respect of other dancers, and sitting patiently waiting for your turn.
2. Use an imagination CD: These CDs take the children on a journey. They have a voice speaking the children through the journey, complete with special sound effects, and requiring the students to perform certain physical activities (like pretend climbing, crawling, hopping, skipping, unlocking a magic door). These CDs usually last around 30 minutes, and it makes the grumpy children forget about their grumps.
3. Bring out the magic wands: When an unhappy dancer is given a magic wand or a lily pad on the floor to jump over, they become focused on the object. The visualization helps the students forget what they were complaining about. They are learning a dance move, while developing their muscles, and they are having fun doing it!
4. Play a game with established rules: My class likes Duck-Duck-Ballerina! My little ones sit in a circle and play Duck-Duck-Goose, but instead of running, they must tiptoe around the circle with their arms in first position. My little dancers find the game “so silly” (their words), that they can’t help but smile.
5. Tell them a secret: Little dancers love secrets. It makes them feel special and one step ahead of their parents. So tell them that there is a secret ball, and the parents are invited. Start rehearsing for the show in secret (whispers and tiptoes included). Then tell the students to sit really still while you go and retrieve the guests (their parents). Then perform the secret show!
There are times when all of the above may not work because they may be exhausted and need any variation of things: Mom, nap, food, Dora the Explorer. The goal is to keep them active while engaging their imagination and creative instinct. As dance instructors, we must recognize when our little ones are having their rough days. We attempt to bring them through this, the same way we help our teenagers adjust to their rough moments.
Dance is a way to remove yourself from disappointing days and carry you to happiness. It’s never too early to learn that lesson!
Sheena Jeffers is a dance educator in Richmond, Virginia, and a dance education blogger. She teaches ages 3-adult Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-hop, Musical Theater and Improvisation. She loves reading and yoga, and she’s addicted to coffee. Read more from Sheena at: www.sheenajeffers.com/blog