How to teach dance to young kids?

Question by Mary Ann: How to teach dance to young kids?
I’m 15 and my mom owns 3 dance studios and she is having me and my friend start teaching the younger kids that aren’t on the team. I’m not sure which classes I will have to teach but I know that I have to teach 2 classes and each class is 45 minutes but my mom is going to teach for 10-15 minutes of each class so they can practice their dance for our recital. There is a ballet/tap class and a jazz/hiphop class for each age group the age groups are 3-7 and 7 and up. Like I said I don’t know what groups I’m going to have to teach. Can you give me like a plan type thing to do for each class and like some tips? I know in the 7 and up class there is a little girl with down syndrome and I don’t know much about it so what should I have her do? What do I do if a kid is acting up or being shy? I think I know pretty well what to do with the older kids but what am I supposed to do with the younger ones? How much can they understand? I’ve been dancing since I was 2 and I got on stage at a dance competition and won first place when I was 3 but I don’t remember what I did in classes then…

Best answer:

Answer by Shantimar
The group 3-7 could be the harder, the other ones could follow a lesson pretty easily. If I were your mother I would give you the older ones to start with, since you have no experience with small ones. Since she has been teaching these age groups, she should be the one to tell you how to deal with them. However, here are a few tips.
You have to have a bit more patience and at the same time be prepared to be more strict than with adults. Children will have a harder time focusing, they will want to fool around and are easily bored.
Preschoolers are unused to structured things and following complicated instructions. It is believed that the attention spans of 3-year-olds are too short to deal with, and prefer to wait until a child is at least 4 to start any dance class and that formal ballet training should not be introduced until the age of 8 as before then, a child’s bones are too soft for the physical demands and exercises of ballet. So…
A dance class of 3 to 5 year-olds would probably not be exactly dance, but focus on creative movement and basic body control. Creative movement and pre–ballet classes (from 4 to 7 year old) are a fun way to explore body movement through music while helping children develop physical skills that will be used later in regular dance classes. Creative movement involves the use of body movement to communicate certain actions, emotions, and feelings to develop physical skills (fine and gross motor skills as he or she balances, skips, leaps and moves to the music) and also the use of imagination. Children are encouraged to move around the room to the rhythm. Classes involve stretching and introduce students to the five positions of ballet, stressing the importance of proper posture; kids are taught to point their toes, jump correctly and move gracefully in rhythm, are introduced to beginning dance steps , basic dance terminology with the basic positions of the feet, hands and body.
Some teachers recommend making circles rather than lines, as it includes every dancer and assures that you can see everyone and that they can see you. Another tip is to quickly learn their names and use them a lot for individual attention.
In ballet classes, use of the barre is proportional to age. The younger they are, the less barre work!
When explaining, make examples taken from their own world. For instance “Keep the feet together, they are like friends who like each other a lot and don’t want to be apart” or “now we arch our backs like a cat” and have them meow like a cat. “Suppose this is a mud puddle in front of you, and you want to leap over it, or you’ll get dirty”. Or you can put a pile of cushions to leap over without making them fall. Or, while teaching a particular rhythm for a combination, you might want to invent a little rhyme to go with it, words (preferably funny) which helps to memorize it. Even for steps of a combination, a little rhyme including step names can help.
Rhythm learning could include some stomping or clapping, as a relief from the more potentially boring stuff. Tell them they are fairies in a wood, princesses or whatever. “Does a fairy walk like this? Like she is a troll? No, she will walk gracefully, like gliding!” Tell them to “gallop like a horse” or “hop like a bunny.” Include some game like “follow the leader”, “Simon says” or dancing to music and freezing when the music stops.
All dance classes start with warm-ups and stretches, and a review of what they have learned the week before. If you’re teaching ballet, spend some time introducing them to the barre and the exercises done there, and if you’re teaching hip hop, allow them time to freestyle to a catchy song. Then follow with some center work and combinations. End with something exciting and funny and free, to make them go away happy.
For the 7+ it’s surely easier, they already have more control over their bodies and can remember a combination. So the fun part gets less and the serious learning is more. But still you can’t expect them to follow same as an adult class, so put in fun into the lesson as well and keep your examples simple and funny.
Kids can sense nerves and unpreparedness, so devote some time to preparing your lesson, so that you can provide a structured, orderly environment during class. When you become more experienced, then you might improvise, but in the beginning it’s not a new idea. Write down, review and practice the lesson plan: the moves you want to teach and how, the examples you will choose to make them understand and remember, the games etc.
Remember, you don’t have to teach them only dance, but also discipline, and learn how to do it without resorting to shouting. If they sense you are soft and inexperienced, and they can do what they want with you, you are dead!
As for the Down student, you should definitely do some research and ask someone who knows better.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

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