Teaching Tips in “After-School” Settings

March 5, 2018

In our October blog post, I shared teaching tips for in-school dance settings. Now, let’s set the stage for the after-school teaching experience.

As I previously noted, while the in-school environment may bring with it non-traditional dance spaces, messy classrooms, and students who are taking dance as a requirement (i.e., they may not want to dance!), students who take dance as an after-school activity are there because they love to dance. Dance allows them to step outside of a hectic day, leave their worries at the door, and express themselves through movement. Bring in an inspirational, qualified teaching artist, and true magic can happen.

All of this said, even when dance classes are filled with the most motivated students and the best teaching artists, the magic is not automatic. Here are four tips that will put you on that magical pathway:

#1. Ask questions! Get your students thinking and talking (after they raise their hands) by providing many assessment opportunities/questions throughout your dance classes. Who can tell me the name of the new step we learned last week? Who can show me? What am I looking for in this movement? When we dance this phrase what are you thinking about? What are three things you must focus on in your body when executing this step? How can you do it better this time? What do you need to think about?

#2. Put part of your class on autopilot. Some teachers set the entire warm-up and technique section of class and some have their students following them from beginning to end. Make sure to set at least one part of your class so that you can press play and the students know exactly what to do. This way you can walk through the class giving one-on-one corrections and alignment tips without needing to lead the exercise.

#3. Set high expectations. Students rise to the expectations we set for them. If a student is not getting a movement as they go across the floor, send them back. Have them try it again by themselves or with a buddy. “I know you can jump higher, Angela. Show me. Do you need support? Jose go back with Angela and I want to see you two soaring through the air!” If you are working on a phrase and a student is struggling, pull that student out and to the side. Ask for a student leader to move to the front of the class and for the whole class to review the phrase three times with the student leader while you work with a student who needs help.

#4. Pick a dancer of the day. Make a point to highlight one dancer every day and each dancer in your class at least once per semester. At the end of class take a moment to acknowledge this student for effort, ability to self-correct, the accomplishment of a step, performance quality, support of another dancer, or great energy in class. When our students know that we see them and appreciate them, even the ones who struggle, we create a more equitable classroom environment and decrease unhealthy competition among the students. Encourage them to clap for the dancer of the day, each day, and watch them beam!

Need more tips? Dance Teacher offers a great article, 10 Lessons Studio Teachers Can Borrow from the Classroom, where Mary Ellen Hunt writes, the studio and the classroom don’t need to be so different from each other. In fact, children can benefit from seeing strategies they’ve encountered at school repeated in the dance studio. “Encouraging continuity from the academic day into the dance day can really stimulate students,” says Baltimore public school teacher Judy Kurjan-Frank.

Do you have any tools that have been effective with your after-school dance students? Please let us know and share our blog!

Tina Banchero, everybody dance! Artistic Director


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