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make your day dance

A single clear teaching point

January 10th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Tags: ····

With my classes cut to 30 minutes this year, it’s been more important than ever to define a single clear teaching point for each class, so I’ve taken to writing on the board the kernel of learning I want the kids to grasp. I start with it, I teach to it, & I end with it. On Friday this week, when I was too busy in the morning to write on the board before the first class, my 3rd graders came in, looked at the board, and said with dismay, “What are we going to learn today?  It’s not on the board!”

So I wrote it on the board, and we started class on the same page: Dancers use unison & canon as strategies for choreography.

Although I don’t always nail a succinct point, here are some that have succeeded:

  • 1st & 2nd graders: Dancers use powerful & delicate energy.
  • 1st & 2nd graders: Dancers can tell stories through narrative dance.
  • 1st & 2nd graders: Dancers use near & far range to show ideas.
  • 3rd & 4th graders: A good artist creates patterns.
  • 3rd & 4th graders: Choreographers put phrases together smoothly to build a dance.
  • 5th graders: Dancers use expansion & diminution as strategies for choreography, followed the next day by Dancers can use math to diminish a sequence.
  • 5th graders: Dancers warm up & practice to improve their technique.

5 Comments so far ↓

  • kw

    meg –

    i have been thinking much about how to pare down my teaching and hone in on a single teaching point for each lesson this year. I appreciate your examples… I especially love the way you tie in “dancers”, “choreographers” and “artists” to bring the teaching point to students, so that they see themselves as such within and throughout the lesson. i often check your blog for nuggets of wisdom, and here is yet another… i am working toward emulating this within my own work, and finding it sometimes difficult or haphazard going at it, while some lessons are brilliant and should be “filed away” in my memory bank for use in the future. I am finding less is always more, very specific and very clear. I like how your teaching points are specific and yet broad enough to apply to a series of lessons. I think it is wise to take stock of the teaching points that have succeeded and keep track of those you will use again. Thanks for the insight!

  • megrm

    Thanks so much for your thoughts, Katie! I’m glad it resonated with you. I’m often amazed at how I keep learning the same things over and over again. Like I’ve always had a focus and tried for clarity, but I’m still learning to do it better…

  • Catherine L. Tully

    I do this with my ballet class, but with actual steps. For example, I talk about arabesque and the technique of it, include it in many barre exercises, then bring it out to the center later in class. I think having a teaching point (or teaching points) is key to making sure you are on-track as a teacher, and wonderful for your students in terms of learning! Great post!

  • megrm

    Thanks for stopping by! Oh, I wish I could include all the usual sections of a dance class (warm up, center work, cross-the-floor work, improvisation, choreographic explorations) in my teaching! This year, I’ve really honed in on the necessity of a single clear teaching point, since my class time was reduced to 30 minutes. The time crunch has dictated a high level of efficiency! I’m still grieving over the lack of time for students to either explore concepts independently or experience the flow of creating (choreographing). In an effort to maximize their dancing explorations, I’m streamlining my input…

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