When little ones see a big open space, their natural reaction is to run. Just like my natural reaction to an empty hallway is to tombé pas de bourrée glissade saut de chat. Who’s with me??
As an early childhood teacher, you need to be prepared for runners. It’s a natural part of their development. We obviously do not want our students to run, but it’s the responsibility of the teacher to teach their students that we do not run in the dance studio.
Here are seven tips when you have a little one who would rather run laps than plié or sauté.
1. Review the rule often.
Be sure to actually tell the students (and the parents) that we walk and dance in the studio, not run.
If needed throughout the year, go over the rules in the lobby with both parents and students before beginning class.
2. Keep them busy.
With a jam-packed lesson plan that is developmentally appropriate and fun they won’t want to do anything but what you have planned for the day. So, plan wisely! Give jobs to the runners so they can stay busy during transitions. “Everyone, give your scarves to Ryan. Ryan, put the scarves in the bin, please.”
3. Say what you want to see.
When you are vocal with what you see or want to see, magic happens. A simple “I see jumping and leaping and spinning” will cue little ones to do those movements.
4. Praise the rule followers.
Kids LOVE attention. When you give all your attention to the negative behaviors in the class, you are sending the message that negative behavior will get your attention. Ignore the negative (as long as safety is not an issue) and praise the positive behaviors in the class. “I love how Molly is skipping and James is jumping!” Or, “(Gasp) Julia! I love how you are standing in first position. You are looking good!!” Often times this does the trick and your runners will start skipping like Molly, jumping like James, or standing like Julia. Be sure to praise them IMMEDIATELY and EVERY time you see them following the rules.
5. Give them choices.
Running is not an option. So, give them two choices that are options. “Isabel, would you like to skip or leap?” Or, "Would you like to stand on the yellow spot or the red spot?"
6. Use your catch and reel tools.
Check out this video to learn more about our catch and reel tools and give them a try!
7. Mean business.
If none of the above are working, it’s time to get down on their level, make eye contact, and change your tone of voice. Say, “Do not run in my class. If you run, you will have to hold my hand.” If they continue to run, hold their hand until they understand that running is not an option.
What tips do you have for teachers with runners? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Let’s be real… “can I go potty?” is more contagious than a yawn! As early childhood teachers, we also know that this can derail our classroom flow and throw off our lesson.
According to EducationWorld.com, “the term classroom management refers to the procedures, strategies, and instructional techniques teachers use to manage student behavior and learning activities… Ineffective classroom management often creates chaos.” For this reason, potty trains fall along the lines of classroom management in my book.
Bottom line, kids will have to go to the restroom during class. It happens in every class, in every studio, in every country all around the world. They are children. You should not tell a child they cannot go to the restroom, unless you enjoy cleaning up accidents. So, what strategies can we put in place to (hopefully) avoid the chaos that is, “the potty train”?
Here are 5 strategies I use in my early childhood classes:
1. Create developmentally appropriate lesson plans. Are you really surprised this is my first tip? :) In all seriousness, if you are teaching at the child’s level, reaching multiple learning styles, and creating a fun experience for your little ones, THEY WON’T WANT TO LEAVE. In fact, you will have to have your “potty dance” radar on and send kids to the bathroom against their will. If your lesson is too challenging or not challenging enough, their little brains will drift and start to wonder “how can I get out of this situation?” Hence, having to go potty.
2. Review your Potty Policy. Short and simple...
3. Use the ONE at a time rule. I only allow one dancer to go to the restroom at a time. This allows me to distract any dancers who have also said they need to go to the restroom while they wait for their friend to return. IF they truly need to go, they will remember. IF they really don’t need to go, they will forget.
4. Remember, potty break = attention. Last summer, I was doing administrative work during a camp for our little ones. I kept noticing our teen assistants walking through the lobby guiding a little one to the restroom. They would wait outside the door, ask if the dancer was ok, then guide them back to the studio. This happened over and over and over again. FACT---> little ones are A LOT smarter than we think. These kids knew if they asked to go to the restroom, they would get all the attention of one of our awesome big kids. Therefore, what did EVERY SINGLE DANCER ask to do??? You guessed it. Whether it’s camp or a regular class, I give very little attention to my dancers who have to go to the restroom. I never stop my lesson to walk a child out to the lobby, they are responsible for shutting the studio door on their own, and I do not make a big deal when they return. My attention stays on the students in the studio and the lesson for the day.
5. Look for distractions. This is a bit random, but it is a true story so I thought I would share. I had a little one who would go to the restroom in the middle of class every single week. I pulled out all my strategies and nothing was working. Finally, the mom approached me to tell me that her daughter really didn’t need to go to the potty, she just liked the purple rug in our restroom. Guess what I removed that day?? Bottom line, don’t make your restroom fun. ;)😂
What strategies and tips do you use to avoid the potty train? I’d love to hear them!
This is the most frequently asked question I get from teachers and studio owners when I speak about DiscoverDance. I’ll be honest, when I first launched the program, I tripped over my words describing the style. “Well…it’s like creative dance. BUT... we also do ballet…and jazz… ramble…ramble…ramble…”. I would become so frustrated, because I was never happy with my answer and felt I did not explain it very well.
I believe my struggle came from the fact that I simply do not look at early childhood dance education as being one style. I don’t want to introduce my little ones to just one style of dance. I want to introduce my students to ALL styles of dance. And, that’s exactly what I do! After speaking with, and training teachers worldwide for the past two years, I have never been more confident in explaining what “style” of dance DiscoverDance is.
One aspect of the DiscoverDance formula is its unique conceptual approach. This means each lesson is centered around one of these 11 DANCE (<---- notice that? Not ballet. Not Jazz. Not Tap… DANCE) concepts: place, size, level, directions, pathways, speed, energy, weight, body parts, body shapes, relationships. By focusing on the essence of movement first, we build a solid foundation for the skills and movements needed to progress our specialized dance skills IN ANY STYLE OF DANCE.
So… is it creative movement? Yep, we discover our qualities of movement (ENERGY/WEIGHT), our story telling (SPEED), and creative thinking (RELATIONSHIPS) to name a few!
So…is it ballet? Yep, we discover our port de bras (BODY SHAPES), sautés (LEVEL), and échappés (SIZE) to name a few!
So… is it jazz? Yep, we discover our isolations (BODY PARTS), directional changes (DIRECTIONS), and dynamics (ENERGY/WEIGHT) to name a few!
So…is it tap? Yep, we discover our balance (BODY SHAPES), weight in our movement (WEIGHT), and rhythm (SPEED) to name a few!
Ok, ok… seriously! What style is DiscoverDance?
Any style you need it to be.
The DiscoverDance Early Childhood Dance Program is completely customizable to fit the needs of YOUR dance studio. The combination of the unique conceptual approach + the structural framework + the research-based educational materials = the magic that makes this program like none other. It could, in fact, be its own style of dance. Hmmmm…. I think I like that idea! :)
There is no way around it… no matter how much you prepare or how many years you have under your belt, recitals are STRESSFUL. For a new student (and parent) to dance, a recital can be truly overwhelming. When I started the DiscoverDance program 14 years ago, I wanted to introduce my little ones to their first performance experience without the stresses of the usual recital. I created a showcase event that has proven to be little stress with big success. This unique approach not only prepares my little ones for their future recitals, but it offers a shorter performance (which keeps our audience happy) and creates an opportunity for our families to come together and celebrate their dancer.
We used to hold these events at our dance studio,
but as our program grew, we could no
longer accommodate the large crowds. Because
we wanted to keep these showcases simple and
less stressful than our annual summer recitals,
we opted for a space that had a smaller stage
with ample room for chairs and event activities.
A ballroom, school cafeteria/gym equipped with
a stage, or a performing arts space would all work well. We keep the stage and house lights up for the duration of the event, so lighting capabilities is not a concern. If the space does not have a sound system, I highly recommend you invest in a portable speaker. This speaker is also great to use at outdoor events and parades!
We hold two showcases per regular dance season, one mid-season and one at the end of the season. If our 2-4-year-old dancers would like to participate, they have the option to perform in one or both showcases. Both have separate participation fees. In addition to these fees, there is one costume fee.
This costume is a simple dance dress that they will use for both showcases. Male dancers wear a solid colored shirt and pants or shorts. All of our classes wear the same costume. You can certainly have each class wear a different costume and make those choices fancier, but again, we are going for less stress for both our families and the studio staff!
These hour-long themed events include 6-8 dance routines. There is also a craft section, cookies and juice reception, and a character meet and greet. We combine smaller classes and hold two events to accommodate all of our families. We also invite our company to open and close the student showcase and volunteer during the event.
Because there are no costume changes and the performance is kept short, our little ones get a glimpse of backstage life without the stress of being held captive for hours. :) With books, coloring activities, and those awesome company volunteers, backstage is a breeze!
After the performance, dancers are divided by age and taken to one of the three activity stations. This is where the parents join their little ones to enjoy the remainder of the event.
If you have been thinking about having a separate performance opportunity for your little ones, I hope you have found some inspiration here. Stay tuned, because coming up soon I will dive into the details on how we make it all come together. I’ll even be sharing a sample showcase and checklist!
The number one reason you should be performing in your recital is to SET THE EXAMPLE. We can talk the talk all we want, but if we want our students to encompass all that is necessary to become a successful dancer, performer, entertainer, artist, and HUMAN BEING, we must show them.
When we perform, we show our students…
Tips for Success.
Time is probably the biggest factor keeping many teachers out of the spotlight. We are busy humans! This is why I recommend performing choreography that has already been created. We choose dances from past recitals. As you can imagine, our students get super excited to see our interpretation of their old dances. We use recital videos to learn the choreography on our own, then come together for 2-3 hours to rehearse. Remember, we are professionals performing choreography intended for our students… it’s less stressful for us but really special for the kids who were in the dance and those who remember the dance from previous years. Parents love it too!
To build suspense and add an extra touch of fun, we let the students vote on the style we will perform. We create a ballot of four different styles. The dancers choose the style they want to see us perform and add a dance request (if they have one). They don’t know which style won UNTIL the rehearsal. It is a fun surprise!
If your time is really limited, consider coming out for a few 8-counts during the finale or curtain call. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.
Lastly, parents and students WANT to see you on stage. If you were lucky enough to see your teachers perform, you know the magic it creates inside a little dancer’s heart. I specifically remember watching my “Miss Sally” perform when I was little. It is one of the reasons I got into this biz. I thought, “I want to be just like her!” Fast forward and here I am planting those same seeds in my dancers’ dreams. How cool is that!?!?
So, let’s hear it… Do you perform in your own show? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Here are a some activities to bring festive fun into your classes. Enjoy!
Winter Movement Cards
Download these fun-themed movement cards for FREE! You can laminate to make them last for years to come. These are great to include in your obstacle courses, lay them around the room for open exploration (great for grown-up/tot classes), or send them to your dance families so they can continue the dance fun at home!
For older dancers, make it a fun choreography game! Divide your class into small groups. Have dancers randomly draw cards and place in an order. Dancers work together to create a short choreographic phrase they can share with the class.