Thursday, March 21, 2013

Delving into Dance

I am really proud of our dance project so far! I feel like this might be the first project that we have really "done right". Not that there is a right or wrong way, but I think learning to do projects with children is definitely a challenging process for a teacher new to this idea. I feel so excited and inspired each day...and the children are too!

The project inception was really last year but it has grown to include the entire class over the span of this year. This year our children all demonstrated an interest and enjoy any dancing opportunities that they had.

It began last year with a beautiful learning story, perhaps one of my favourites. I had many conversations with one of the children who was working last year in JK to write her name. She worked for over a month...and she worked hard! One day she excitedly called me over to the paint table to see that she had written her full name on her painting. "I knew I could do it! Just like dancing, I practiced and practiced until I learned to write my name!". Her confidence from dance supported her in learning to write her name. She was able to transfer the concept of practicing between her previous accomplishments and the acquisition of a new skill.

One student asked if she could build a dance studio. For weeks she has been researching, designing, constructing and developing a dance studio in a box. She has carefully planned out her ideas and is continually building on them as she goes. She invites new peers in through her development stages to support her in construction (some friends made furniture, some helped to paint the studio, some measured and installed the dance floor).

Measuring and Installing a Floor in the Dance Studio

The children decided that they wanted to create a space in the room where they could dance anytime they wanted to. Slowly we began to transform our dramatic play area into a dance studio. We added a long floor length mirror, a stereo and ipod, and some costumes. It became a beautiful space quickly for the children to develop their skills, to become an audience and to express themselves.

To deepen our understanding of dance we invited professional dancers into our classroom. One of the teachers in our school brought her daughter in. She is a competitive jazz and tap dancer. Although she is only in Grade 4, the children saw her as an absolute professional. They asked her how she learned to dance, they wondered how she knew what dance steps to do without her teacher, and they questioned how often she practiced. It was so powerful for the children to realize that with hard work and practice they could learn how to dance too!

This incredible young dancer was inspired by the children's love and passion for dance. She wrote us a wonderful letter and put together some of her older costumes for the children to use in the dance studio. The children were touched and excited to add costumes to our studio!

After her visit, the children were also inspired to continue on our journey in dance. We began as a class to learn a dance. My partner chose the song "Waka Waka" by Shakira and modified some of the moves from a Zumba class to better suit our children. Slowly but surely we practiced the dance a bit at a time.

Today, as we practiced our dance the children begged us not to do it with them. Their faces beamed with pride and excitement as they did the entire dance for us without our help at all. We talked a lot about how it felt to accomplish something. The children were beyond proud of themselves.

We talked to the children about their next steps over the week. They would really like to perform their dance on a stage. We have set a date and will begin next week to talk further about it. The children talked about posters for the hallways, invitations for their parents, and perhaps even costumes for our performance. The possibilities are endless!

Sketching and Representing Thinking Through Art

We have scheduled other professional dancers to come in for our children - a Chinese Lion dance crew, a ballet dancer, Azonto dancers, a German dance group, and possibly a Native dance group.

Growing up dance was a passion for me...I remember the millions of dance shows that I put on with my best friend in her basement or mine. She grew up to continue embracing her passion. She is the owner of On Stage Dance Studio in Stratford Ontario. When she heard about the children's love for dance she sent our classroom a Tweet inviting us to visit her studio. She also sent a huge bag with beautiful costumes, accessories and ballet shoes. Words cannot express how happy the children were to look through the beautiful things that she gave to them. We are looking forward to visiting a real dance studio to continue our investigation and to learn from the best!

I can hardly wait for each day to begin. I am so inspired and truly feel as though I have the very best job in the world. More to come, this post is already far too long! I could write forever about the depth of this project!

Can you make your shadow dance?

1 comment:

  1. The title of your blog says it all: that you share that passion with your students shows in the depth of their engagement in project work. I am inspired too by the way you bring "experts" into the room for further exploration. This is a next step for me in my teaching.

    I love that last collage: I think I shall ask my students that question the next time we are out in the sun (surely it will come out soon) or may borrow an overhead projector: can you make your shadow dance?