I have always enjoyed working in early childhood classrooms. Being able to share and assist children’s pathways into literacy is as much a privilege as it is exciting. To keep alive their innate curiosity, wonder and joy of learning is an aspiration that rewards me as much as it does them.
However the role can be rather daunting at times. It requires that one be a generalist, able to move comfortably through and teach effectively in the full range of subjects: English, mathematics, sciences, the humanities and social sciences, technology, health and physical education, and the arts. But the diversity can also provide opportunities for fun.
Take dance, for example. Dance can fit into both the arts and physical education programs. While the formal subject areas require some progression of learning in skills and understanding, some form of movement or dance can be incorporated into daily routines such as transition times. I touched on this briefly in a recent post about using the game Freeze, which involves moving to music.
These are some other ways I incorporated movement and dance into daily routines:
- At the beginning of each day, after giving the children a few minutes to organise their belongings, I would play a video of music and dance moves. This would signify to the children that it was time to join in and be ready for our day’s work together. By the end of the dance everyone was ready.
- During our morning sessions children shared items related to their interests or our units of work. Sometimes I asked them to bring in a favourite piece of music to share, with the proviso that they teach us some dance moves to it. The children enjoyed showing their moves as much as they enjoyed following the moves of others.
In addition to using the game Freeze, I had other CDs of music with patterns of moves that could be used to transition from a noisy to quiet activity, to regain children’s attention after independent or group work, or to complete the tidying of the room at the end of the day.
- Sometimes I used music that had set dance routines.
- Other times we moved to the music freely, or responded to the tempo, pitch or volume with large, small, high, low, fast, slow, loud or quiet movements.
- Sometimes dance routines were performed independently but in unison such as The Hokey Pokey. The Chicken Dance and The Macarena.
- Sometimes they required participation as a group, for example learning simple square dances.
Whichever way we did it was always fun and the children loved to participate. They had no need of being told to “Dance like there is nobody watching.”
I wonder at what age that becomes a necessity. Perhaps the phrase, “and if they are watching, dance anyway” needs to be added.
My thoughts turned to dance this week in response to the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills of The Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write dance into your story. Charli is talking about writing as her dancing partner.
Of course my thoughts turn to the classroom (as explained above) and to books about dance.
In a previous post about Australian picture books by Jackie French I wrote about Josephine Wants to Dance. This book, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, is a delightful story of a kangaroo who loved to dance but dreamed of dancing another way. One day the ballet came to town and Josephine decided that was how she wanted to dance. Though others discouraged her, Josephine was determined to give it a try. It is a lovely story of believing in yourself and following your dreams.
Another delightful picture book about dance is Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. While I have read this book many times, it took the recent reading of a post To Thine Own Self Be True by Sarah Brentyn on her blog Lemon Shark to remind me of it. The title of Sarah’s post beautifully sums up the theme which is expressed in the book this way: “We all can dance when we find music that we love.”
For adults there is the story of Mao’s Last Dancer, the inspirational story of Li Cunxin, who is now the artistic director of the Queensland Ballet, based in my home city. He was Queensland’s Australian of the year in 2014.
This leads me to my flash fiction response:
A Night at the Ballet
The audience hushed as the lights dimmed. Marnie shuffled. Darkness was not to her liking. Josephine patted her hand reassuringly. The girls on her other side twittered with anticipation. They’d been to theatre before. Observing their confidence earlier had Marnie feeling even more conspicuous as she balanced on unfamiliar heels and clutched a borrowed evening bag so tightly it left imprints on her hand. At least now the darkness hid her from view.
Soon the darkness was banished by a brightly lit stage and enormous Christmas tree surrounded by happy children dancing. Marnie was mesmerised. So this was ballet!
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.