Every class has a ‘feel’, created by the mix of personalities on both sides of the teacher’s desk, as well as the room itself and the subject matter being taught. The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and interesting time where classes that are randomly thrown together begin to settle in and develop a personality.
Some classes establish their personality early on, and it stays consistent throughout the year, while others take more time to merge, or may change as the year goes on. New students who come, established students who leave, or any other change to the class may affect the ‘feeling’.
As most teachers do, I like to get a really good rapport going with my classes and make the atmosphere one of fun, kindness, and laughter as we work. I’m always looking for ways to bring a class together, whether it’s with a game, a group project, or- sometimes- a DANCE.
While at a conference last year, I was sitting at a table, feeling pretty bored. The woman about to speak was killing time while waiting for people to arrive, and put on a song about Milkshakes from the website gonoodle.com. I was feeling pretty bored, and not looking forward to the speaker about to talk, and when that song came on I couldn’t help but perk up and laugh. Other teachers in the room did the same thing, and still others were yelling ‘I use that all the time!’. Nobody had anything bad to say about their experience with GoNoodle, so I thought I might give it a try.
Turns out, many of my kids already loved it. They have been dancing since elementary school.
Those last few minutes…
….of class, when the kids surprised you by cleaning up really quick or finished up with only 5 minutes left
(no time to start something new) used to be a real headache. Quick! Find something to occupy them until the bell!
But now, I have learned, we can dance.
It doesn’t work with every class, and it’s rare to get every kid up and moving, but in my classes I have had such positive response to the question ‘Do you want to dance?’ that I can’t quit- I have made it my new goal to get all my classes dancing.
Is it because I’m out of clever art ideas? No way! It’s because this IS a clever art idea- and it’s helping my kids and my classes in ways I hadn’t anticipated and wouldn’t have thought.
The benefits of dancing in class
When you get a class up and dancing, they are having a shared experience that builds a bond. That bond translates to a more positive atmosphere overall. Classes that dance together laugh together. They are more likely to interact with their peers in a positive and respectful manner. They are more likely to help one another out. They don’t bicker as often. The ‘feeling’ of the class becomes more bonded and solidified when they can all share that experience on a regular basis.
We in the classroom all know that some of our kids fidget. Some of them can’t stay in their seats. Some of them are diagnosed with ADHD, and it’s not their fault that they don’t perform well when they have to sit and be quiet. When they are allowed to dance, those kids who NEED to move are allowed- encouraged!- to move, and to move a LOT! They stand out for their really energetic dance moves, and the make us all enjoy the class MORE! Those same kids who sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of ‘warnings’ and reprimands are finally given permission and even rewarded for getting up and wiggling.
This isn’t just for the hyper kids though, the quiet ones sometimes surprise you too! Sometimes those kids that you would think would never dance in front of their peers are the very ones that are up and out of their seats first.
Dance is a great outlet for many kids, from hyper to quiet and everywhere in between. They need to get up and move, so why not let them?
Setting the stage for risk-taking
For some kids, it is risky to get up in front of the kids in your grade and dance. We’re not all born with the innate confidence that our most outgoing kids have. Heck, I’m not born with that confidence. So when I ask a group of kids to dance, and I join in, I feel it. I feel that fear. Is everyone looking at me? Are they laughing at me? If I feel it, imagine how some of our kiddos are feeling? But they do it anyway, sometimes with encouragement, and they end up smiling almost every time. It feels good to let go of your anxiety or whatever you call that feeling that keeps you from taking risks.
Making good artwork requires that same behavior. Every time I get a kid to dance that didn’t’ think she would, I’m providing her with an experience that proves that she can take a risk and be ok. Combined with a better class dynamic, this is setting the stage for really creative artwork down the road.
Making positive links to school
When the kids have fun, they feel better about being here. When they learn something in class and have fun doing it, they link that positive experience to the experience of learning. If I can use 5 minutes of my class to create a fun and positive experience right before my kids leave my classroom, I am reaping the benefits for days, months, or years to come. We all know it’s true- when you leave anything on a high note, you feel better about the whole experience.
On that note…