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make your day dance

Classroom management: space vs. energy

April 16th, 2009 · No Comments · Tags: ··········

Spring break may still be on my mind, but it ends quickly. Immediately following spring break, we start choreographing dances for the End-of-Year Performance.  The assessments I did before spring break fulfill State requirements and provide data for evaluation of my own performance.  But the End-of-Year Performance is for parents, the staff, and especially the kids. They’re so ready to perform for an outside audience!

Everything has to start at once though, and all classes need to proceed steadily in the creative process. The first 3 weeks are a rush, as I try to scope out the pieces, pull the kids on board, and help them sketch out their dances for refinement and rehearsal. I’ve rarely done the same thing twice; each piece grows out of the personalities in a class, what they’ve studied, and what they need.  This year in the process of starting, I had a very close call and very narrowly escaped disaster…

Talking to teachers before spring break, I had decided that one set of 1st & 2nd graders would do a dance on weather — severe weather!  Kids are always interested in tornados… blizzards… hail.  And indeed, they were hooked. We spent the week talking about severe weather, defined the varieties of bad weather, talked about what to do in each instance, and voted on our favorite 3 for inclusion in the dance: tornados, hurricanes, and lightning. We had a name: “Weather Alert!”   We’d explored free and bound flow, and we’d reviewed leaps and chasses…

But somehow, after 4 days, I realized I’d been avoiding actually letting them loose as tornados and hurricanes. A structure for the dance was eluding me, and we weren’t getting started. At 4 am on Friday, I had a flash of insight — these are NOT the students to do a dance about severe weather. An onstage tornado with these kids will have the same effect as a real tornado — they’ll be swept away. I’ll have a Level 5 Hurricane on my hands. These kids are all ENERGY on the quietest day, and I haven’t the energy to contain them. What’s needed here is some focus on SPACE!

In class on Friday, I gathered them around me in a circle and admitted that I was troubled about our dance. The thing is, I said, we have such wonderful props that we aren’t using, and no one else in the school is using them. I just think, said I, that we ought to be using some of our props. But in order to use them, we’ll need to change our topic… to GEOMETRY! Will you experiment with me today, and see if you like the idea?  So we used stretchy bands, body bags, hula hoops, and by the end of class when I asked for a vote, they all agreed.

This week has been a breeze. Every day’s been productive, their dance is clear, and today they choreographed an entire section.  4-sided polygons with stretchy bands.


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