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By: Jessica Baudin-Griffin
Congratulations! You have survived the great 2020mad panic to move ALL your dance classes online overnightCovid pandemic! You deserve a standing ovation and many encores for that epic, once in a century performance my friends!
But, as we move forward into planning for Fall classes, we are again being asked to step up as educators and prepare to teach dance for 3 very different types of situations:
The reality is you CANNOT do 3 different jobs. You don’t have enough in your “bucket” to do the workload of 3 different teaching jobs, so let’s take that expectation off your shoulders right now. You are creative, flexible, and resilient, but you are also human. By setting realistic expectations for yourself, you will reduce your anxiety and stress as you move into the next dance season.
What you CAN do to meet the increased expectations for various delivery models is focus on strategies and teaching practices you can deliver in all 3 of the above teaching scenarios. That is the powerful thing about the most impactful teaching strategies. They meet you and your students where you are at and work in a wide variety of teaching contexts.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you my top 3 strategies that you can lean into to deliver effective, successful early childhood classes during the pandemic. These strategies will also carry you forward well after Covid-19 is a distant memory. By investing in these strategies now you are investing in your short term and long-term success!
Strategy 1: Visual Schedules
As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words.” When communicating with young children this is very true. Visual schedules provide teachers with a simple, highly effective tool for communicating classroom routines and expectations.
By adding a visual schedule to your classroom, whether in-person or virtually, you are helping young children understand the flow and sequence of the lesson. Children can SEE the basic outline of the class. When children know the lesson plan and can predict what is going to happen, they are much more likely to cooperate.
Being able to anticipate what comes next also makes young children feel safe in the classroom by reducing anxiety and fear of the unknown. When children are emotionally regulated, there are fewer behavior issues in the classroom.
Visual schedules help young children engage, focus, and attend to your lesson!
In-Person Teaching: Physically distanced teaching will require educators to lean into visual teaching aids as we will need to eliminate most hands-on teaching and interactions with our students. Picture cards in a visual schedule act as a task-list or "to-do" list for your class. While young children may quickly forget verbal instructions, picture cards are a visual reminder of the current task and subsequent tasks. Children can quickly refer to the visual schedule in class without having to interrupt the learning flow to ask you what comes next. This supports more efficient transitions in the classroom and supports students in following new routines and expectations.
Online Teaching: A visual schedule can also be supportive in your online classes. One of the benefits of online education is being able to more easily share documents and visuals with your students in advance. You can easily email your weekly visual dance schedule to your young dancers and ask caregivers to print these out for their child to use as they follow along at home. Or you can print and send home a set of visual schedule cards for each of your dancers to use at home during your online classes.
I recommend starting your online class by reviewing the visual schedule with your dancers. If your students have their own set of cards, have them put them in order with you at the beginning of class. If they have a printout of the visual schedule have them point to each section of the class as you review your lesson outline. As you move through each section of class, have your students either remove their cards one at a time or mark an X beside completed activities. This is also a great way to work on recall and sequencing with young children, which not only supports their mathematical thinking skills, but will also support them in remembering sequences in choreography.
Blended Teaching: A key component to successful blended dance education will be routines and practices you can deliver consistently. The visual schedule provides a consistency for your young dancers whether it is a week they are distance dancing with you in person, dancing with you online or if you are teaching in a situation where half your students are with you in person and the other half are dancing remotely. Regardless of the delivery model, the consistent use of the visual schedule keeps everyone on the same page and engaged.
To help support you in implementing Visual Schedules in your early childhood classes this Fall, I have teamed up with Dance Ed Tips to provide you with a pre-created Visual Schedule download. This download includes more information on the benefits of visual schedules for young children, as well as 12 pre-created picture cards for common lesson components in early childhood dance classes. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, so this is a small way I hope I can support you as you plan for your Fall classes.
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Jessica Baudin-Griffin (B.Ed) is an award winning movement educator from Edmonton, Alberta. In 2006, Jessica founded J'Adore Dance, an award winning, recreational dance studio, where she created more than a dozen original dance programs, including the Intellidance® Method, a series of early childhood in creative dance and music programs for babies to children age 5.
The foundation of the Intellidance® Method is the combination of dance and music concepts, identifying specific vocabulary in dance and music, and developing the understanding of both through the connection between concepts. These connected concepts provide opportunities for children to explore, discover, practice, and create using multiple senses and intelligences. By addressing the possibilities and connections in dance and music, the Intellidance® Method provides an innovative approach to conceptual education and addresses the needs of learners and teachers in the 21stcentury.
Jessica has had the pleasure of training a wide variety of professionals in the Intellidance® Method and is always excited to see the new ways her students are implementing the Intellidance® Method in their professional practices. The Intellidance® Method is currently used in over 30 countries worldwide!
Jessica has worked as K-6 Dance and Music specialist, sat on the committee that developed the K-12 local dance curriculum for Edmonton Public Schools, and is a sessional lecturer at the University of Alberta, teaching The Study of Dance for Young Children. Jessica’s life work is to advocate for dance for every child!