I’ve been looking at Pinterest a bit more recently and I stumbled upon lots of ideas for using hoops for movement play and dance. You might think that hoops are just for swinging around your hips or limbs, but there are lots of things to be done with them. Not just big, gross motor skills movements, there are a few ideas for more intricate movements and team building too! Hoops are not just for children and some of the ideas below can be adapted for our Active Armchairs classes. Hoops were very popular in the past and this could be a nostalgic prop that leads to lots of great conversation.
Hoops and Tape
You can make hoops into all sorts of shapes, both on the floor or standing up, and you can keep them there by using tape. A wobbly climbing frame can be good for an adventure dance (see my improvisation blog for more on this) and has an extra element to the ones played with outside as they have to be careful not to squash it or wobble it too much. Tape the hoops together in a few places and use one on the floor to keep it sturdy for something 3d or make patterns on the floor for games like hop scotch, Lilly pads or islands.
I love a magic door adventure… they can go anywhere and any when, they can go to real or imaginary places, they can take you through as you or someone/thing else and they can take one person or a team. You can use lots of different things to make a magic door because you just need to create a shape to walk through. Hoops are great if you want to send the whole class through because the teacher can hold them on their own and send themselves through afterwards. You could use a hoop as a floor magic door or a standing one. You could have a different colour hoop for a different adventure.
A similar idea for a circus theme that I just found on Pinterest… Fire Hoops! Decorate the hoop with fire shaped paper and dancers climb, jump or squeeze through. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/222224562848847865/
Pick Up Hoop
This is good for in a classroom, during Active Armchairs, in small group time or in a hall based dance class because it’s very adaptable. It is also good for all ages and abilities. Each pair or group has a hoop and they sit cross legged around it. The dancers have to work together to lift the hoop, stand and end with the hoop above their heads. This can be made more difficult by using fewer and fewer fingers, starting from laying down or using a time limit to speed them up. It can be made simpler by starting from a crouch or chair and using more fingers.
Hungry Hippos or Blackhole Rescue, use this for core strength and co-ordination (put a pile of bean bags or similar objects/toys into the hoop that lies on the floor, put some tape on the floor a little way away. Dancers put their feet on the tape, crawl out to plank to collect a bean bag one at a time and put each bean behind them.)
Try sequencing the movements into a motif and then developing them into a full choreography. The hoops make great backdrops and can be positioned on the floor to encourage interesting ways of travelling between motifs. There is a lot of fun to be had with this idea and all the ideas above could be used yo influence he choreography.
Georgie set my daughter and I a challenge this month…
Make some Valentine’s Day themed dance props! We had a lovely time making them and playing with them since. I’m not going to tell you how to make these things as there are lots of tutorials online about that already, but I would like to share some thoughts and ideas about what we did.
- This is a fantastically versatile prop. You can change the size (imagine a massive one for team work!), the shape (small hand held ones for dancing with), the content and the colour (red gel food colouring was pretty) so they could fit almost any theme.
- These are a wonderful thing for Active Armchairs. For all the reasons they are good for sensory stimulation, but also because they are unusual, not patronising (providing the contents is appropriate) and they brighten up the room.
- We only had jars for this, but I do think plastic screw top bottles are better. The jars look very pretty, but they are a little heavy and might break if dropped.
- When making them hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills were developing.
- You can dance with them, copy them or move after them as they roll away.
- Play a version of eye spy and use the things in the bottle as inspiration for choreography.
Hearts for Hopping!
- I used an A4 bit of card and let Tiny One choose how to decorate them. We used crayons, stickers and paint. We could have made smaller ones and turned them into wands!
- They are also very versatile as shape, size, colour, decoration etc. can be changed.
- The texture of the puffy stickers is a nice addition to the game. Other textures could be used as well.
- They could also be used for aiming or landing pads and this would be fun for Active Armchairs.
- This would be a lovely thing for a cross-curricular approach. Each child in the class could make their own and they can bring them to dance as a magic spot or as part of a larger thing such as a long snake of hopping stones.
I enjoyed this challenge so if you have one to set us please get in contact and we’ll see what we can make!
Written by Georgia Smith, Adult Dance Co-ordinator, TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator.
We see it everywhere these days, on social media, in the newspapers, on the TV. It seems like the world is pushing a health and wellbeing agenda which can only be a good thing, but what does this mean for the older generation?
As part of our ‘Pull Up a Chair’ campaign this January, we have been thinking about the benefits of dance to older adults. Here at The Right Step we take a holistic approach and always create our sessions with the body and the mind taken in to account. Over the past few weeks, we have talked about the benefits of dance on our social media channels and through a series of blogs including Rebecca’s three part series about motor skills. For this blog, I would like to share some benefits of dance, For the Body and For the Mind. Of course, this is a huge subject and there is a lot of literature out there so this is a summary and specific to Active Armchairs.
Starting with the body, a common symptom for older adults is stiff joints and decreased muscle mass which can make individuals weak and seem frailer. Dance and movement can help to mobilise joints and retain muscle mass as a dance class is a great way to move all different parts of the body rather than focusing on just one joint or muscle. It can strengthen all areas. This can help individuals to retain their independence as they would have the strength to continue to do tasks for themselves.
They say that music and song lyrics are the last to go from someone’s memories so a dance class is perfect for those that are living with Dementia. Recently the Guardian reported:
“Moving more might help to keep people’s brains sharp as they age – even in the face of dementia, researchers have said. Scientists have found older adults fared better when it came to cognitive tasks if they clocked up higher levels of daily activity”
With a focus on enjoyment also, The Right Step aims to lead classes that not only included exercises for the body but also include conversation and creative tasks to help older adults to think and engage physically, mentally and emotionally.
Dance is one of the most social activities we can do so a huge benefit of Active Armchairs is that is brings people together, especially those that may be socially isolated. A dance class can combat loneliness and bring back the sense of belonging to those that may now be living in a different environment or away from a spouse or loved ones.
The Guardian’s article also stated,
“previous work has shown that moving more is linked to a lower risk of dementia, and slows the decline in thinking and memory skills in older adults as they age – but the latest research goes further.”
Please click here for the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/16/activity-sharpens-even-dementia-affected-brains-report-suggests?CMP=share_btn_tw
We don’t allow the participants to feel childish in our classes (although play and silliness is part of the fun!). A large part of how we do this is discussion about why we are dancing. The benefits above are often talked about. In her class at Valley View recently, Active Armchairs Facilitator, Becca, had the following experience.
‘When I arrived at Valley View Care Home Derek asked me if we were going to fly away because he remembered that we’ve been doing some songs by Frank Sinatra. When we were using the pom poms I could guess which movement Derek would do and we had a giggle about it. I asked him if he remembers what it does for him and he said ‘it helps loosen our joints’. The care worker there was very impressed.
Seeing Derek have fun and learn about why we do these things lets me know I’m having a positive impact. I like it when people improve and remember things.’
Although the Active Armchairs Facilitators are artists and not necessarily medically trained in any way, they are keen to maintain and develop participants’ bodies and brain and do all they can to follow the latest research in to do so. The majority of the benefits happen accidentally because dance, and art in general, are therapeutic and physically beneficial without having to force it.
Above are just some of the benefits of participating in a dance class but let’s not forget the most important thing… Dance is fun and can bring happiness whether that happiness is through the music, the dance moves, the social interaction and conversation, or just enjoying the atmosphere of the room. So ‘Pull Up a Chair’, it’s time to dance!
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance (this section)
Use a giant elastic in a circle. The fact that you’re dancing as a team gets everyone excited and they forget themselves. This generally increases the size of movement at any age or ability and therefore is great for gross motor skills. The fact you’re also holding onto the elastic is great for strengthening fingers and, therefore, fine motor skills too.
Egg and Spoon races can be achieved whilst standing or sitting. It just takes some imagination. The idea for egg and spoon races in Active Armchairs came from Steph during the Age of Creativity Festival last year. The theme was partnership and the egg and spoon passing sprung from that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these ideas and have learnt at least a little something. The plan is for 2019 to be the year of useful, informative and inspiring blog posts so please keep an eye out and see our News Page for more.
The second part in the motor skills blog series, fine motor skills. If you’re behind here are some links…
Section One: Intro and Gross Motor Skills
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills (This section)
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance
Fine Motor Skills: these are smaller movements making use of smaller muscles, most commonly in the hands. Movement examples would include clenching a fist, wiggling toes or using tools such as cutlery or a computer mouse and keyboard.
In dance props are our main source of support in fine motor skill development and maintenance, but there are things that can be done without. When working with children in an Educating Dance (cross-curricular) class small gestures are wonderful at conveying meaning. I used them in our Dinosaurs themed classes when doing a warm up about excavation and fossils (see photo below). A dance club as a whole can also be a good opportunity for practice as participants often have to get changed and therefore use buttons, buckles and laces.
In our Active Armchairs classes we do the finger count in our first warm up dance. This is predominantly about the opening the lungs (we shout our counts as the fingers open), but it is also great for fine motor skills, the circulatory system and generally waking bodies and minds for the class. It is one of the few essential movements that are found in Active Armchairs sessions, though the TRS Teachers still put their own spin on it.
Props make development and maintenance of fine motor skills much easier. Simply holding a relatively small object is beneficial. Squeezing balls or egg shakers (the TRS Teachers have hundreds of these between them) takes the benefit to the next stage. I have a fun trick with scarfs where by you screw it up into one hand, hiding it away, then slowly open it to make a rose.
Fine motor skills, like gross motor skills, are key to freedom and self worth, but in different ways. Fine motor skills allow someone to press buttons, write and draw, point and make signifying gestures or sign. Without them, as with gross motor skills the ability to perform simple tasks is lost. Children have a sense of excitement and pride when they receive a pen licence. An adult who can write down or draw their thoughts is able to express themselves artistically.
The next section is How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance.
Our ‘Pull up a chair’ campaign is in full swing. It’s January so, on social media, we’re exploring the benefits of dance for older adults. As part of that I though I’d share the motor skills blog that’s been in the pipeline for a while now. Not just about adults, but it is about a huge benefit of dance…
Motor skills involve actions using muscles and, as this is an inherent part of dance, it is important that we know about them and how our teaching can affect them. There are two types of motor skill and both are very important for development and maintaining freedom. In this blog I’m going to explore each type, how we use them and how props can be used to great effect. It got a little bit detailed so I’ve split the post into three sections.
Section One: Gross Motor Skills (this section)
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance
Gross Motor Skills: these require the larger muscles, whole body movements and core stabilising. Movement examples include walking, jumping and rolling as well as hand eye co-ordination such as throwing or catching.
The gross motor skills are easily developed in a dance class with children and young people and when our youngest participants are left to move as they choose (see my improvisation blog), they will naturally choose to move in a way that develops their movements in the way they need. For example, 2 and 3 year olds can often be found with their heads on the floor whilst standing. This is a key part of their development and they do it without encouragement.
In Active Armchairs we need to give a little encouragement and provide opportunities for gross motor skill use. This is because the majority of our participants have reduced mobility, they might be nervous to produce large movements or they don’t believe they can do any large movements. A key part of Active Armchairs is that the smallest movement counts, but we still give everyone the choice to use larger movements if they feel able that day. For the majority of movements choices and alternatives are given. For example, an arm circle can be performed from the elbow or wrists. Some people prefer to just use the shoulders, but not the arm.
We use props to encourage people to do larger movements and develop their gross motor skills. For example, when giving someone a scarf they almost always wave it. This is a movement that involves the larger muscles of the arm and, even when sitting, core muscles are needed for stabilisation as well. The scarf often makes people do larger movements than they would without it and they rarely realise this is the case because they are enjoying themselves. We are always careful to keep an eye out for fatigue though because using props for gross motor skills is tiring.
Other examples of props that have a similar effect are large pieces of material used for partner work (see photo), giant elastics, balls and bean bags (for throwing and catching rather than hand work), rhythm sticks and parachutes (see photo above of Active Armchairs at Age UK Folkestone).
They are needed for everyday movements such as standing, walking, getting dressed and lifting a kettle. These are known as Activities for Daily Living (ADLs) and are essential to keeping freedom. As someone’s ability to undertake the ADLs decreases, so often does their freedom. This can be devastating as it can affect choice, individuality, self care and self confidence. Gross motor skill maintenance is a key part of our social dance classes. Often, by the time we are in Active Armchairs, much of this ability has been lost. There are fun things that can be done though. The third section of this motor skills series has lots more ideas for you.
Gross motor skills are also key for some things that might be a little more unexpected such as writing (click to read my blog about ‘The Dancing Day’ for more about sky writing), screwing a lid on a jar or using scissors. This is because it is important to maintain the correct posture when completing these tasks. If gross motor skills aren’t developed early on, problems with writing and therefore academia can follow. At the same time, gross motor skill development can have a positive affect on handwriting.
The next section of my blog will be about Fine Motor Skills.
We have been busy bees in the office in the run up to Christmas. As well as celebrations taking place, we’ve had newsletters and Christmas cards to design, print and send. We’re feeling very Christmassy already and can’t wait for Christmas jumper day on Monday (look out for the photos!)
Our newsletter has been going out in all of our classes recently and is also found in the many Christmas cards that Becca and I sent on Monday. We hope everyone who has had the chance has enjoyed reading it, but I’m sure there are others out there who don’t have one so… we have included a copy below for everyone can have a read. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!
Written by Rebecca, Georgia and Jess.
The TRS Teachers gathered for a props sharing to discuss ideas for using props in the dance class with different age groups and in different settings. The sharing was a great success and not only did we all come away with lots of ideas, we also made some props together such as egg shakers and a giant scarf.
During the the sharing we explored different ways to use the props we had made and thought of ways we could use these as a way to engage participants and to enhance the dance class.
“I love using props in a dance class because they always enhance the session and they can be used as a tool to engage the participants and develop creative moment. I use props in classes for all ages as they provide a visual stimuli and provide the participants with something fun and tactile. Props can be used to create music (such as the shakers) or encourage a participant to move in a certain way. Some examples of this may be to reach a bean bag as high as you can, move a scarf softly through the space or squeeze a ball to see how tightly you can grip it before passing it to your neighbour. I had a wonderful time at the props session and cannot wait to put the ideas in to practice.”
Georgia Smith (Adult Dance Co-ordinator, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator)
Jess is the newest member of the TRS Team and is absorbing all the ideas she can. She said…
I have recently started teaching in different environments and with different age groups. This has made me think about the way I can incorporate props into my classes. Not only can props extend the movement and can help tell a story, they can also help participants interact with each other and with me, as their teacher, creating new bonds and friendships within the group. The sharing gave lots of ideas for how to make props and use them in classes in different ways. Props never just have one use, with a little imagination a scarf can turn into anything.
The sharing provided lots of ideas of how to make props and use them in classes in different ways.
Plastic eggs to make egg shakers
Material to sew together and make bean bags
Hoops to add ribbons to and wave
We created a prop shopping list that included teacher’s favourite props. Some of them are the basics that every TRS Teacher needs!
Ball Pit Balls
Dusters (A great first prop, 50p for a pack of 100!)
At The Right Step we love to share great practice and this is what the sharings are about, but we found the props sharing was also very therapeutic. Conversation and craft in a relaxed atmosphere. As well as sharing days between the TRS Teachers we also share props and ideas on our Facebook page, usually on a Wednesday, so keep an eye out HERE.
Why Use Improvisation?
The Different Types of Improvisation
Ideas for Improvisation
Partner Improvisation is great for relationship building. Of course it can be done in schools and is brilliant for PSHE themed dance lessons, but my two favourite examples of partner improv are found in Active Armchairs, the dance together (holding hands as the participant leads the facilitator) and the Floating Material (a person at each end of a long piece of material wafting it in various ways).
The photo on the left is of spontaneous improvisation with a participant who asked me to dance during Active Armchairs. We were supposed to be copying Georgie (leading her warm up in the background), but this particular lady became so excited by the class that she just got up and went for it! She led me and I had to follow. This is the best type of improvisation, when some one lets go and just goes for it.