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Pool Noodle Desk BrainDance™ Activity Page

If your students enjoyed last week’s “Pool Noodle Desk BrainDance™” movement break, they’re going to LOVE this fun maze! Help the pool noodle find its friends so they can do the Pool Noodle Desk BrainDance™! Just click the image to download. If you want to watch last week’s activity demo video, you can find it here!

Learn more about BrainDance™ and why you need to utilize it in your classes in our previous post.

We love maze activities, and here’s why:

Maze activities are a huge hit for kids! In addition to being a great challenge to complete, they also have added benefits:

• Develops visual motor skills
• Improves fine motor skills
• Enhances problem-solving abilities
• Increases concentration abilities

Enjoy!

5 Positive Strategies for Physically Distanced Early Childhood Dance and Music Classes

“What changes do I need to make to my early childhood dance and music classes as I move into physically distanced classes?”

So glad you asked!

While your first step should be to look into your locally mandated government policies and protocols, these are my top 5 Positive Reopening Strategies for Early Childhood Dance and Music programs!

Strategy #1: Create a Social Script!

A social “script” is a way of describing the knowledge a person must have in order to understand the social expectations in specific situations and the appropriate behavioural responses.

Social scripts are very supportive of young children when they move into new situations, as they reduce anxieties due to the child being able to anticipate the demands they will face and understand the desired response.

To help reduce stress as you move into restarting your classes, create a social script story or video for your students! 

Your social script should go over the routines and expectations in the dance/music studio while physically distancing. Create it using a story structure in the first person to engage the children.

E.g. “When I get to dance class, I know the first thing I need to do is use the hand sanitizer to clean my hands.”

Provide caregivers with your social script in advance and provide them with instructions on how they can use the social script and role play to support their child in learning and understanding the new guidelines and routines for class.

E.g. After reading/watching your studio social script, caregivers can have their child act out the social script using a favourite doll or toy.

This type of guided play allows children to practice new routines in a safe space at home to supports positive associations with new social skillsbefore arriving to your studio.

This practice will increase confidence and reduce anxiety about returning to class for both children and caregivers!

Strategy #2: Caregivers in the Classroom

The truth is, developmentally, most young children are not ready to follow the required new additional Covid protocols successfully without the 1-on-1 assistance of a caregiver. 

Young children naturally test boundaries and make mistakes in the classroom. This is to be expected and is developmentally normal in early childhood!

As teachers, our job is to TEACH children these important social skills/classroom skills during the preschool years. However, Covid adds significant health risks to our classrooms.

I generally recommend early childhood teachers to use the, “Age Minus 2 Rule” for the number of instructions children can independently follow/remember. This means the majority of 2 year olds developmentally need 1-on-1 assistance to participate in activities successfully.

Teachers also have to expect that many children will have regressed a bit developmentally based on the impacts of lock down. Children may display behaviours we don’t normally see in class or certain behaviours will occur at an increased rate/heightened state.

It is unfair to the children and the teacher to only have one adult in the classroom supporting all the children’s needs.

This is why I recommend having caregivers stay and participate in classes with their children ages 2-5, particularly the first few weeks back to programming.

You may find in a few classes your 4 and 5 year olds are ready to be in class independently again once the new routines have been established and the children feel “safe”. We MUST honour children’s emotional needs first and foremost during this time. 

Another bonus of having the caregivers in the classroom with you is they learn the new expectations and routines with their child, which allows them to become your partner in teaching their child the new routines/expectations and reviewing them at home.

Having caregivers in class also protects you from having to discipline/correct a child who does not follow the expectations.

Children often naturally push boundaries when they don’t feel safe, so we must expect these behaviours in our classroom during Covid. Children also tend to feel safer when their primary caregiver implements boundaries.Again, this supports you in remaining a positive role model in their life and being a teaching team with your caregivers.

Strategy #3: Protocols & Policies

Be sure you have considered what you will do when a child breaks a protocol (it’s going to happen) and communicate this clearly to caregivers

All of us are going back into reopening with a heightened level of anxiety.

Fight or flight responses with be increased for ALL teachers, caregivers, and children.

While you will need to address any violations of protocols swiftly and consistently (like you would any behaviour issue in a preschool class) be sure YOU have scripted and practiced your own responses so you can remain calm and positive in the moment.
 
By practicing this yourself, you will ensure you ACT positively and kindly and do not REACT and potentially come down too hard on a child. 
 
Also be sure you have clear policies on what will happen when a child break protocol. I would advise communicating this to caregivers not as an “if” but a “when” (it is going to happen, everyone needs to accept that). Ensure caregivers understand this is normal for this age group. 
 
It is imperative to avoid punishing a child, as this will only traumatize the child and they may begin to fear your class. Consistent actions need to be taken each time, but delivered in a gentle way, that acknowledges young children take time to learn new social skills. 
 
Once you have your new policies in place, I would advise having caregivers sign off that they agree to these policies and understand if their child simply is not able/ready to follow new protocols they will need to either move into a parented class or wait a while longer for their child to return to your program. Again, we want to avoid negative re-entry experiences for children as much as possible. 
 

This is also why I also recommend having some pre-recorded classes or continue to offer a small number of zoom classes for children who are just not going to be successful at physical distancing in the classroom.

Strategy #4: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!

As you move back into physically distanced preschool classes repetition is going to be your BEST FRIEND! 
Repetition is always needed in early childhood classes to support learning and success, but right now in particular you are going to want to ensure you have astrong, clear, consistent routine each class that children can easily follow.

I recommend creating a visual schedule for little ones to have in the classroom and to send a copy home.

Visual Schedules are a great reminder to your students of where you are going and what to expect/is expected.

Check back later this month for a NEW Early Childhood Dance Resource Package I am launching in partnership with Dance Ed Tips that will include a variety of early childhood teaching resources, including a visual schedule!

Try to keep your lesson plans consistent for 3-4 weeks at a time, with small amounts of novelty added each week to keep the little ones engaged. It’s okay if you repeat Freeze Dance each class! Just try to add a new variation to continue to the fun and learning.

If you are looking for some new freeze dance variations, check out the Intellidance® Freeze Dance Favorites Playlist over on Spotify!

Be sure you are directly teaching to your new class routines at the beginning of the session.

“All right friends, we have completed our warm up. I saw all of you really focusing on staying in your own dance space. Great work! I know that is takes a lot of effort. Who can tell me, what do we do next in dance class? Look at our picture schedule to give you a clue…” 

A lot of specific praise needs to be given that lets the children know HOW they are doing a great job following new routines. Acknowledge the effort this requires!

“Wow! I saw all my dancers walk directly to their own dance bubble quickly and quietly without touching anything! That takes a lot of focus. Great job dancers!”

Finally, use strategic questioning to help children become active participants in learning your new classroom routines.

“Dancers, now that we have finished dancing with our scarves, where do we need to put them?” (Answer: Back in my own prop bin!)

Strategy #5: Focus on FUN!

As you move back into physically distanced classes with young children keep it FUN and keep the learning PLAY based! 
The wonderful thing about children is they tend to be completely content to follow along and meet our expectations when we can allow them to respond at their preferred modality of expression…PLAY! 

Think of playful games and imagery you can use to keep your little ones in their physically distanced spaces in the classroom.

Maybe you can create a series of Island themed lesson plans with each child dancing, singing, and playing on their own special island! Maybe next you are all astronauts, each with their own special dancing planet!

Physically distanced boxes only become burdensome when we narrow our minds and imaginations to be as small as a 6-foot box. Challenge yourself to look at your curriculum creatively and playfully when creating physically distanced adaptations of favourite activities!

Play will also be key to helping your little ones deal with their grief related to the changes they have experienced the last few months, but don’t really understand.

Play is not only the way children learn, but it is also how they heal.

In fact, I believe that play and JOY will be key to our own healing process and the resilience as early childhood educators as we adapt and evolve our practices to a new normal.

Make time to laugh. Make time to play. Focus on FUN!

 

Teacher Tips: Movements to Include in Early Childhood Dance Classes

One question I often get asked as an early childhood dance educator is “What dance steps should I be including in my preschool dance classes?”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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I often think early childhood dance teachers feel pressured to jump right into ballet, jazz, or tap technique with little ones. Parents are paying for a DANCE class after all. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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BUT… you can’t learn to spell without first knowing the letters of the alphabet. The same principal applies to dance!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Young children are still developing their foundational physical literacy. As teachers we need to ensure that children can successfully master basic locomotor and non-locomotor movements, before we try teaching them more advanced skills. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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There are so many possibilities for exploring these 11 movements when we teach conceptually!

A basic walk, for example, can be explored many different ways using different concepts:⠀⠀⠀⠀

  • Walking through the Space/ in Place (Space)
  • Walking Fast/Slow/ to the Beat (Speed)⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Walking Forwards/Backwards/Sideways (Directions)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Walking Smoothly/ Sharply (Energy)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Walking with Big steps/ with Small steps (Size)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Walking Low/ Middle/ High (Level)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Walking Beside/ In-Front/ Beside a partner (Relationships)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Once young children have a strong foundation in these basic movements it is much easier to present genre specific dance techniques and terminology. A bend becomes a plie, a jump becomes a saute, a stretch becomes a tendu, etc, etc. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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When we teach children in a developmentally appropriate manner we ensure their dance education is MEANINGFUL and ACHIEVABLE!

~Jessica Baudin-Griffin, Intellidance® Founder

Teacher Tip: Teach Young Children Dance Conceptually

As an educator and parent, I want the children I teach to take the skills they learn in my classes and apply them outside the studio. I want what I teach to be relevant, purposeful, and meaningful in children’s day-to-day lives and help them shape a bright future. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Regardless of what paths and interests they choose to pursue, I want what they have learned at my classes to be valuable.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Conceptual dance is process driven. It challenges and inspires children to explore, inquire, and problem solve. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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It helps children communicate and create meaning in the world around them. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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It challenges the stereotype that effective dancers must fit a certain body type. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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It increases self esteem and confidence. It is holistic, beautiful, and child focused.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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It takes dance from a once a week activity in the dance studio to a way of joyfully traveling through life.

~Jessica Baudin-Griffin, Intellidance® Founder

Teacher Tips: Transition Activities for Young Children

Transition activities are key to a successful dance class or early childhood program. Not only will they help you move from one activity to another seamlessly, transition activities can be your most powerful classroom management tool as they keep the momentum of the class moving forward and ensure that young children remain focused and engaged. Remember, idle time opens the door for distractions and off task behaviors.

Clean Up:
Clean up time can be very difficult for some young children. They may not want to give up the prop or toy they have been exploring which can cause distress. By establishing a positive routine, clean up time becomes a fun activity within itself.

During clean up time try to sing the song below until all props/toys have been put away. Some children can be very enthusiastic and want to clean up all the props leaving others without any which can lead to hurt feelings. Be sure to indicate how many of each item you want each child to clean up before singing the song. For example, “Can all my dancing friends pick up one hula-hoop from our obstacle course? That way we all get a turn!” By giving the tots and kids control over the situation you are empowering them.

Action Rhymes and Songs
Action rhymes and songs are an excellent transition as they actively engage children while continuing to work on early language and literacy development. Not only will this act as a transition from one section of the lesson to another, but can also act as an anticipatory set when introducing a new concept or activity. They also work well when transitioning from an active activity to a seated activity.

For example, when introducing the concept of size,I start with the song The Itsy Bitsy Spider, varying the rhyme to include the Teeny Tiny Spider (small) and the Great Big Spider (big).

When exploring the concept of body parts, I use the song This is the way we Move to transition from the standing to a seated activity or vice versa. To transition for seating to standing start with body movements that children can do while sitting and end with movements they need to stand to perform. When transitioning from standing to seated reverse this or end with:

This is the way my body can sit,

My body can sit,

My body can sit.

This is the way my body can sit,

At dance class!

When I transition into the playing with instruments or parachutes I like to us this song:

Let’s get out the instruments!

Play them! Play them!

Let’s get out the instruments and all play along!

Let’s get out the parachute!

Shake it! Shake it!

Let’s get out the parachute and all shake along!

Once the parachute or instruments are out keep the play going by singing the following song:

(Sung to of The Wheels on the Bus)

The parachute goes up and down,

Up and down,

Up and down!

The parachute goes up and down,

At Intellidance® class!

The parachute goes round and round,

Round and round,

Round and round!

The parachute goes round and round

At Intellidance® class!

You can add other ways of moving the parachute (big and small, fast and slow, high and low, smooth and sharp, etc.)

The instruments go play, play,

STOP!

Play, play, STOP!

Play, play, STOP!

The instruments go play, play,

STOP!

At Intellidance® class!

You can add other ways of playing the instruments (up, and down, fast and slow, loud and soft, etc.)

Rhythmic Play Transitions
Passing out props can sometimes take a few minutes in larger classes. This can easily become a time when tots and kids will become distracted and caregivers begin to chat, making it more difficult for you to regain the classes’ focus when you are ready to begin your next activity. Using a rhythmic play transition can keep the play going while you pass out sensory props.

When passing out Egg Shakers, I like to use the Shake and Stop transition:

Can you show me two hands?

Can you make your hands…

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake and STOP!

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake and STOP!

Continue this as you pass out the shakers. You can try adding different concepts (faster shakes, slower shakes, etc.) or movements (taps, rolls, etc.)

When passing out Rhythm Sticks, I like to use the Sit with Sticks transition:

You can tap this beat on your lap?

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Can you say…

You gotta sit, sit, sit with sticks!

You gotta sit, sit, sit with sticks!

Continue this as you pass out the rhythm sticks. Once tots and kids have sticks they can keep the slow, slow, quick, quick, quick beat with the sticks. You can also try adding different speeds (slow beat, fast beat) or different ways of moving the sticks (buzzing, rolling, etc).

When passing out Drums, I like to use the Drum Bum transition:

You can tap this beat on your lap?

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Can you say…

When you drum, drum you sit on your bum!

When you drum, drum you sit on your bum!

Continue this as you pass out the drums. Once tots and kids have drums they can keep the slow, slow, quick, quick, quick beat on their drum.

Try adding different speeds (slow drum, fast drum) or dynamics (quiet drum, loud drum). I like to end with the drum roll:

Drum rollllllllllllllllll (playing fast drum roll)

Stop! (hands come up off drum)

Wait, wait, wait.

Repeat a few times. End with:

Drum rollllllllllllllllll (playing fast drum roll)

Stop! (hands come up off drum)

Wait, wait, listen. (Touch fingers to ears)

Sitting Transitions
Sometimes you will need to simply cue children to sit. Here are a few fun ways to encourage sitting:

Criss Cross Apple Sauce

Lets all sit and make our legs go

Criss Cross Apple Sauce (sit cross legged)

And put an apple in your lap! (put hands together to make an apple shape)

Sticky Bums

I have some magic glue! Can you rub it on your bum? Make sure you cover the whole thing!

Now find your own place to stick your bum down. Once it sticks you can move.

My glue is magic because it wont let you un-stick until I say your name!

Balloons

Blow your body up into a big balloon! (Stretch bodies big)

Oh no your balloon has a leak! (Slowly make body smaller and sink to a seat position)

You can also adapt this transition to creating a group circle.

Let’s all work together to make a balloon. Can we all hold hands? Make sure the bubble doesn’t have any holes. Now lets all come in close together.

What happens if you put too much air in a balloon? It Pops! Let’s try not to pop our balloon while we slowly blow it up. (Blow into the middle of the circle and slowly spread out to create a large group circle)

Can you Find a…?

While these activities have been developed for classroom use they can easily be modified for at home use. When my girls were toddlers I would start to sing The Clean Up Song and they would stop whatever they were doing and help me pick up their toys without any fighting or tears. I also modified the This is the Way We Move song for bathtime and teeth brushing ” This is the way we brush our teeth!” or “This is the way we wash our arms!” When you approach any kind of activity transition in a playful way your children are less likely to resist and more likely to jump right in!

Name Dances: Creating with a Movement Alphabet


Providing children with a well-rounded dance education is more than just teaching steps. An important part of any dance education is learning how to create. Student choreography provides children ownership and self-expression over their work. When working with younger students providing a structure and simple choreographic devices can give them the support they need to successfully create their own piece while allowing them the freedom to make their work unique and reflective of their own movement personality.

One activity my 6-7 year old Creative Jazz Ballet students at J’Adore Dance have been enjoying immensely is creating Name Dances using a movement alphabet.

A movement alphabet assigns a movement for each letter of the alphabet. Here is mine:

A- Jump
B- Run
C- Twirl
D- Rush
E- Creep
F- Float
G- Slither
H- Hold
I- Melt
J- Shrink
K- Rise
L- Gallop
M- March
N- Skip
O- Reach
P- Spring
Q- Glide
R- Explode
S- Spin
T- Roll
U- Balance
V- Freeze
W- Walk
X- Crawl
Y- Slide
Z- Punch
You could modify this alphabet to include any movement words you like.

To create a name dance you simply spell your name with the movement words associated with each letter in your name. For example my name would be:

J- Shrink
E- Creep
S- Spin
S- Spin
I- Melt
C- Twirl
A- Jump
When working with my students I had them each write their name vertically down a piece of paper and then write the corresponding movement words beside their letters as shown above. It was quite a joyful experience listening to the dancers discover what movements “spelled” their name.

Once they had spelled their names I put on a piece of music for them to explore combining their movement words (I used the song “Popcorn” by Ebay Queen). I also asked the dancers to start their dance in a clear shape and end their dance in a clear shape. After some practice time, they got into partners to perform their pieces for one another and provide feedback (I usually encourage them to share 2 things they really liked and one thing to improve). After a bit more practice time I split the group in half and they took turns performing their Name Dances for each other. This would be a great creating activity on its own, however I decided to take it a bit further with my students.

To expand on this piece of choreography I decided to use an ABA form. Section A would be their own name dances, danced as simultaneous solos, and section B would be a group unison section using the word DANCE:

D- Rush
A- Jump
N- Skip
C- Twirl
E- Creep
I gave the students lots of choices (sometimes we even voted when we did not have a unanimous decision) while developing section B so that they continued to feel ownership over the process. We then returned to section A to finish the dance.

I love the excitement and engagement my students have been displaying while we work on this piece. I have even had parents comment on how much their children spoke about these dances and that they were so committed to the process they continued to work on them at home in their own time. As a teacher hearing this fills me with joy, as it is always my goal to create self motivated learners and dancers.

This is an activity you could easily modify or expand on depending on your goals and the age of the dancers you are working with. It would also be a wonderful addition to a drama, physical education, or language arts class.

I hope you find this a useful resource! Please let me know if you end up using it with your students and what their experience was like.