Categotry Archives: Health and Wellbeing

Proprioception and Vestibular Sense

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Proprioception is the body’s unconscious ability to sense the position, location and movement of the body and it’s parts. In dance this is often referred to as spatial awareness. In ‘Every Child a Mover’, Jan White describes it as “An awareness of the body, knowing where our limbs and ‘edges’ are and where our body is in space.”
 
The Vestibular Sense refers to the body’s vestibular sensory system that monitors and adjusts it’s sense of balance and orientation to the world. This sense is what keeps the us upright while standing, sitting or walking and it is primarily located in the inner ear.
 
Together proprioception and the vestibular sense allow us to move purpose, grace and without knocking into things (sometimes!), but as with all our senses and most bodily functions, we have to learn how to use them and they can be developed and improved slightly throughout life. Babies and toddlers, have to develop these skills from scratch and they are still developing through primary school. Young people, teenagers through adolescence, often suffer temporary loss or impairment of proprioception and the vestibular sense.
 
In general, for young children developing these areas of body awareness is achieved by doing as many different movements in as many different ways as possible. This blog post will explore some specific ways in which we can support these areas of development and changing needs within our dance classes. This blog post does not refer to when there is a medical need for improvement. For these times professional medical advice should be sought. This blog post is designed to support those who work with children and young people.

Mariinsky’s Swan Lake The corps de ballet must be keenly aware of where their bodies are in space.

Balancing
Balance is associated with the vestibular system as well as the motor and visual systems more so than with proprioception, but they still work in tandem.
 

Travel stop is a good game to improve balance. The participants move around the room in a way that relates to the class theme or using a travelling movement such as a gallop. When the teacher shouts stop and/or holds up a sign to signify stop, the participants hold a still position in a similar way to musical statues. The next stage of this game is to call out a position for participants to get into. For example, in an opposites theme you might ask them to make a low shape and the next time a high shape. This is where the balance comes in, state that they need to be on one leg or show them the balance position you want them to do.

You can use balance to bring everyone back to focus anytime during the school day or at the end of a cool down as a calming item. Just ask the group to stand with their feet slightly apart (in ‘place’) and the  slowly rise up onto the balls of their feet. They could hold their arms out to the side or on the hips to help them. Closing eyes emphasises the affect on their balance development  as well as their focus.
 
Another fun balance game is sitting on a ball. This works with balls of lots of different sizes, but they can’t be spongey because then they squash flat. Ask the children to pick a ball and take it to their space. The aim is to sit on the ball for the duration of the song. If they find it easy the task can be developed for body parts or types of balance. This is great for a creative dance class where balls are used as a prop or for one of our ball skills classes (all sorts of ball props and creative dance coming together! Imagine soft squishy snowballs, shakey cat bells and giant balloon balls all in one very fun class for under 5s!).
 
Bare feet!
Have you ever wondered why babies prefer to be in bare feet? My daughter spends a great deal of time removing shoes and socks and she was one of the reasons I began learning more about the vestibular sense and proprioception because refereed to a lot when researching physical development in babies.
 

Going barefoot helps to map the body and, although many dance styles require shoes to be worn in class, tap, character and street come to mind, we can help children in their development by encouraging them to move barefoot in creative dance or for sections of a dance class.
 
 
Part of a creative dance class could explore different ways the feet come into contact with the floor… stamping, jumping, sliding, tip toes, feet edges (being extra careful!), light taps and stronger taps etc. Barefoot races with different forms of travelling such as running, hopping, galloping or slime slid
es (when the floor is covered in slime and you have to get through it but sometimes it’s slippery and then suddenly it’s sticky and then it’s back to slippery again).
 
Going barefoot can also apply to our Active Armchairs sessions with older adults, many of whom spend most of their lives in slippers or shoes. Perhaps we could organise a barefoot class with sensory boxes for the feet (sand or tiny fluffy pom poms), a giant elastic to signify the edge of the sea for dipping toes in and a ball to try and keep under the foot.
 
For a little bit more about Barefoot Babies you can read Dr Kacie Flegal’s article: 
http://www.naturalchildmagazine.com/1210/barefoot-babies.htm
 

Body pressure

This involves stimulating the receptors in the skin and is great for developing an inner ‘map’ of the body. Movements like rolling, crawling like a baby or a bear, army crawling, crab walking or being a worm or snake are great. All you need is an empty space like a dance studio or school hall!

Props can also help. Games with lycra such as when the group holds the lycra and an individual makes shapes underneath or all sitting around the lycra pushing the feet and hands up to make shapes.
 

 
Move With Others
As well as moving by themselves, children develop their vestibular sense by being moved by others. This includes everything from being thrown in the air by a fun uncle to giving and / or receiving a great big bear hug! This links in with body pressure (above).
 
Some rhymes and games can be done with a friend or as a group and these make a great brain break during the school day or a quick, related or unrelated section in a dance class. Some to try include Row, Row,Row Your Boat, Ring a Roses, In and Out The Dusky Bluebells and many of the songs that involve horses, but performed with a partner or sitting on an adults lap (perfect for our TRS Tots classes!). Try Mother, Father and Uncle John, This is the Way The Lady Rides or Horsey Horsey. 
 
Be Creative
In our school staff training programme, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach, we teach staff how to give ownership of the movement to their pupils. Although this does make it a lot easier and more enjoyable for school staff who are teaching dance as a subject, it is also very beneficial for the pupils. It has been established that children learn through play and at their own pace. When developing body awareness, children have to go through a process in their own time.  A creative dance class supports this order of development because it both gives young children the opportunity to move in the way their body needs to move on that day and also includes sections of taught movement that provide examples of other things they could do.
 
 
 

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Healthy Weight Summit

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Yesterday A Better Medway held the 2018 Healthy Weight Summit and I went along with TRS Teacher and franchise owner, Georgie, to find out more.

The day opened with a speech by Councillor David Brake who talked about helping our community achieve a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and be more active. He talked about our collective wisdom and said we would be “Working together to support Medway residents to adopt healthier lifestyles and achieve a healthy weight.”

The together theme continued and the thing that has struck me most about the day is that the people there want to work in partnership, build connections and network. Why wouldn’t they, together we can do more than one individual. This ties in really well with The Right Step’s plans for the next month as we get involved with the Age of Creativity Festival. For 2018 their focus is partnership. It’s more than a co-incidence that partnership seems to be the buzz word when talking about weight as well as when discussing arts. Partnership is the way forward, with cuts taking place across the country, the only way to make things happen is to utilize the resources and skills that are already out there. The people are out there and we’re going to find them!

20180925_103119After Councillor Brake, Scott Elliot, Head of Health and Wellbeing Services and, in my opinion, a driving force when it comes to getting Medway healthy and active, talked about what has happened in the year since the last Healthy Weight Summit. He discussed how trends in obesity in Medway are relatively static and similar or slightly above average in comparison to the rest of the country.

20180925_105548The thing that shocked us most though was information found in the following graph. I took a photo of the slide so it may not be clear, but the graph suggests that 63.3% of adults are inactive in the UK. I Tweeted whilst there and found out that this includes adults up to the age of 65. Since then I have also spoken to Scott and have discovered that the drop in activity around 65 / 70 years old is huge, he compared it to a a cliff edge and commented that this has something to do with retirement. We didn’t go into further detail at the time, but this is interesting to me due to our work with older adults and older frail adults. I’m sure the Active Armchairs Facilitators would agree with me, we see the inactivity and we see why regularly. See our Twitter feed for more about this.

I hadn’t realised how many brilliant initiatives are already taking place in Medway and still, new ideas are being developed. These include the Health Walks, cycling groups and, of course, the Better Medway Champions.

The reality is, we are all part of the solution. Scott Elliot

I was especially interested in what Penny Lazell, Physical Activity Nurse Clinical Champion about health professionals delivering the message of the importance of physical activity for wellbeing. She has a long road ahead of her, but it sounds like a great initiative. Physical Activity is a large part of personal wellbeing and it’s important to get this message out in hospitals. Even the smallest movement counts and activity is different for every person, but it is still key.

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James Williams, Director for Public Health also spoke. He inspired everyone to go out there and get things done and said it’s “an equalities plan, not all about obesity.” He means that we need to look at all the parts of the jigsaw puzzle that is health (another theme of the day!).

 

20151123_110539At The Right Step we are well aware of the importance of partnership, we are a team of community dance practitioners who work together to do more than any individual could. That is who we are. We also see how dance can be a bridge between arts and sport and therefore is an excellent medium for improving health and wellbeing.

We are always developing though and, moving forward, the summit has encouraged me to look deeper into the type of partnerships we make outside of The Right Step. We work with many schools and care homes, but how else can we partner in order to take dance to more places? This is something for me to explore. For now, I can share some of the work we already have with regards to dance, fitness and weight. Here is a link to all of our blog posts about health and wellbeing…
http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/category/health-and-wellbeing/ 
We will be discussing all of these things in our next All Hands Meeting (a meeting for all the TRS Teachers that is held twice a year) and we will be speaking to Scott further about how we can reach more of the right people.

I will end with a quote from Scott. I met with him this morning (less than 24 hours after the very busy summit!) and asked him about his thoughts on partnership.

It’s the informalities of partnership and networking that makes them what they are. My quote about partnership would be taken from M Riley who said ‘Start somewhere, follow them everywhere.’ Problems are only going to be solved by working together and we will improve social isolation, community engagement and everything that overlaps. That is why this agenda is such a passion for me.

 

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The Dancing Day

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Government guidelines say schools need to get pupils moving more. Here are some tips to include dance through out the day. They aren’t going to make pupils sweat, but they make movement fun.

1_green-svgMorning Shake Up 
Wake up the body and the mind with anything from a few quick movements to a 30 minute Fun Fizz session on the carpet, in the hall or on the playground.

IMG-20150710-WA0021cropYou could try ‘the rub’, something we use as a warm up in a lot of our classes… start by rubbing the hands together, work your way up your arms, perhaps up to the head, rub tummies and, therefore, breakfast, go down the legs and tickle feet if you can reach. You can make the rub as long or short as you wish by extending the time on each body part or by using more or less body parts. You could also adapt this by circling the joints instead or by changing the rub into a sweeping action to get imaginary sand, water or sequins etc. off the body. It’s a great way to learn about body parts too.

The rub is just one idea, we offer Fun Fizz training for school staff and you can find out more HERE.

number-2-clipart-dc6aeamc9Sky Writing
This is drawing giant, imaginary letters and words in the air in front of you. It helps to develop the muscles, balance and co-ordination needed to write in a fun way and can be done in any part of the day. Once you’ve introduced a little sky writing you can quickly bring it into other lessons. Perhaps numbers in maths or sky writing key words in science. In the extreme you could do a whole dance lesson about sky writing! Try a free improvised warm up around the room where children spell their names or other key words. They can make up their own motifs using key words and the teacher could choreograph a ‘chorus’ to go between each group’s word motif. The possibilities are endless!

At The Right Step we believe that every move counts. This mostly applies to our Active Armchairs classes, but when it comes to writing and developing the skills and muscles needed to earn a pen licence, it is also relevant! Find out more about how gross motor skills and core strength affect writing HERE.

number-3-clip-art-at-clker-com-vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-j2uq8g-clipartThe Boring Queue
Turn queuing into a learning opportunity.
‘I would like everyone to stand like a penguin when we line up and then we will waddle to the classroom.’
IMG-20160302-WA0006‘I would like everyone to do their favorite stretch and reach as we move back to the classroom.’
‘We are going to move back to the classroom as if we were solid particles (stucktogether and moving as one) / liquid particles (slightly faster and more random than solid) / as gas particles (possibly only useful for a short distance where you won’t crash into anyone coming the other way!)
‘We are going to do the step together, step sequence we learnt in our Tudor dance class all the way back to the classroom.’

number_4_orange_tA Dance Mnemonic
Mnemonic make difficult things such as sequences of planets or the number of days in a moment easier to remember. A lot of children would benefit from movement mnemonics. These could accompany common mnemonics or you could make something up.

For example, when spelling biscuit, you can support children to remember the ‘cu’ part of biscuit by thinking about ‘a cup of tea and a biscuit’. Dancing the drinking from the cup and the eating of the biscuit could emphasise the point.

5Dance Out The Door
At the end of the day, give your class a theme and ask them to dance out the door. You could do this to improve vocabulary and, for example, ask them to dance joyfully out the door. You can use this as a learning opportunity within your current topic and ask them to dance out the door in the way they think something or someone would move. They could move like a predator, a rain forest animal or a Victorian in their historic clothing. You could bring science in and ask them to move like some one on the moon or as though they were moving through chocolate, sand or water. They might do this individually, in small groups, as a guessing game or in one go, whatever is appropriate for your class.
Hopefully these ideas give you a starting point for what could be a much more energetic and exciting way of learning and working. It’s not always possible to move and learn, but it should be possible to fit something extra in at least once a day.

Further information that could be useful… I wrote a blog about the Government’s guidelines with regards to movement in schools earlier in 2018. You can read it here: http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2018/03/14/government-funding/ 

 

 

 

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Government Funding

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As the Government has promised funding for PE and Sport will last longer and to better effect, I’ve decided to explore how The Right Step’s dance classes and teacher training specifically relate to government guidelines and the 5 key indicators. Click HERE to see the guidelines that I’ve referred to below. I’ve also added some links to useful websites that talk further about dance and movement in the curriculum.

Schools must use the funding to make additional and sustainable improvements to the quality of PE and sport you offer.

The Right Step’s dance artists (known as TRS Teachers) are all highly trained and regularly take part in Continued Professional Development (CPD). They also have the backing of the company and their peers to support them. The quality of all TRS dance classes is high and we are always working to improve everything we do.

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We also offer CPD for primary schools staff (predominantly teachers and HLTAs) so that they can deliver dance themselves, as a team. This raises the standard of dance throughout the school in one go. Although dance wouldn’t be an additional part of the curriculum (it is already an essential part), our cross-curricular approach gives staff the confidence, skills, tools and opportunity to provide dance classes more often because pupils learn as they dance.

 

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We offer dance throughout the school day with extra curricular classes taking place before school, at lunch and after school and cross-curricular classes happening during the day. This means schools are able to provide dance for more pupils, building on previous capacity.

The guidelines give 5 key indicators “that schools should expect to see improvement across” and refer to the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation that children and young people engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. 30 minutes of this should be within school time.

A varied programme of extra-curricular dance for each key stage and cross-curricular dance for each year group (we can deliver this approach in the EYFS as well as KS1 and 2) provides the opportunity for schools to boost the amount of time pupils spend doing physical activity without taking time away from learning.

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Every TRS Teacher has different experiences and training so we can offer many different dance styles as well as some fitness classes. In the extreme, pupils can experience Gumboot dance from Africa one term and Tudor Dance the next. A broader range of experiences is available to pupils because the TRS team can work together to provide it. For more information click HERE to read about some of the other dance styles we have on offer.

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Although we don’t offer dance competitions (competitive sport is part of the guidelines) because we have a participatory approach within the company, the profile of physical education can be raised across the school with performances. Pupils can take part in assemblies, school fairs, when filmed in class (we have been part of online advent calendars in the past!) and performances for parents.

This is just a quick overview of how our provision relates specifically to the guidelines. One Dance UK have written a more in depth study about “Delivering Dance Through The PE and Sport Premium Funding”

http://www.onedanceuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Delivering-dance-through-the-PE-and-Sport-Premium-funding.pdf

http://www.onedanceuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Delivering-dance-through-the-PE-and-Sport-Premium-funding.pdf

What Works: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-works-in-schools-to-increase-physical-activity-briefing

Everybody Active: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/everybody-active-every-day-a-framework-to-embed-physical-activity-into-daily-life

For further information about how we can provide dance in your school please send me an email, rebecca.ashton@therightstepdc.co.uk

 

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The Value of Arts

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On Thursday 22nd February artists and interested people gathered to contemplate the value of art and to share their experiences. I went along to not only provide a workshop about Active Armchairs, but to also discover what other artists have been up to in Medway and Kent.

Valuing Art & Culture in Medway and Kent was organised by Laura King of Look Kloser and Luci Napleton from Medway Council after Laura shared her idea for a day to encourage collaboration. It all began with a chat at Medway Dance Network and snowballed from there.

I took part in Laura’s workshop where she told us how all of her sessions are open for anyone, no matter what and reminded us of the importance of pausing for participants. Georgia Smith, representing Loop Dance Company (yes, she’s also a TRS Teacher and our Adult Dance Co-ordinator, she wears many hats!), share her ideas for a cohesive approach to a dance class for children. We discussed the difference between creative dance and cross-curricular dance and came to the conclusion that it’s like a Hoover… all cross-curricular dance is creative, but not all creative dance is cross-curricular. Luci shared her experiences with EDNA and we were treated to the rare opportunity to relax and gather our thoughts.

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Everyone in the room is part of Active Armchairs. When family, friends and carers are present we can facilitate special moments for them.

Lastly was my workshop about Active Armchairs. My aim was to give everyone a flavour of what Active Armchairs is, to talk about the importance of choice and to inspire everyone with some Magic Moments. Luckily I was joined by fellow Active Armchairs facilitator, Georgie, who was able to share her favourite moments as well.

The day was a great reminder that there is a wealth of dance expertise out there. Although we do a lot of skills sharing at The Right Step, CPD and sharing is with other is always good for the soul!

In the evening we went to the hall, still at Woodlands Arts Centre, where there were tables and a big screen. Guests arrived and speakers shared their stories of collaboration. There was a great mix of people from various organisations and the general idea was to find a way to collaborate and make art happen.

Speakers were asked what they think is the value of arts and I think the resulting list is all true…

  • A sense of purpose and achievement
  • Prevents social isolation
  • Self worth
  • Opportunity for learning
  • A feeling of belonging

I know I found some opportunities for collaboration and I’m sure others there did too. I had a day of contemplation and came away buoyant.

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Sharing Is Caring

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By Georgie

Over the half term we held some sharing sessions for the TRS Teachers. Both for our schools dance classes as well as our Active Armchairs classes. It was lovely to have so many teachers involved, and from all different levels of the TRS team. Sharing ideas and collaborating with one another is a vital part to The Right Step’s ethos and we enjoy it so much.

Firstly, we started off with our Schools Dance sharing. Becca, our Schools Dance Co-ordinator started us off with a great warm up to Bamboleo by the Gypsy Kings. This was a warm up she had done for a carnival theme in a school, so she included the use of bright feathers. Whilst we had the feathers out we discussed different ideas to use them for, for example using them to tickle different body parts. As well as talking about behaviour management within the class. As feathers and any sort of prop can be a slight distraction, especially with younger children. So, using ideas such as ‘Put your feathers on your head’ to keep them still and focused works really well.

20180213_114336Next Georgia shared her ‘weather’ game with us. We created different movements to represent the different types of weather, from sunshine to rainbows to twisters to lightening. You can start off by giving a couple of examples then get your class to help you come up with the rest. A great way to build up movements to use throughout your class. Then you walk, jog, skip and gallop around the room. When the teacher shouts out a weather you do the action that represents this. We discussed how you can use the main idea for this game and change it to the different themes that you may come across in your classes such as superheroes of jungles.

Hayley, one of the newest members of the TRS team shared an exercise where the idea is to walk around the room, but you are lead by a certain body part; for example your hand. Using this to ‘pull’ you around the room. Then you can switch to different body parts! The more interesting the better! We had elbows, bottoms, knees, and ears. A great way for children to learn about themselves and their bodies!

I then shared some cross-curricular ideas. I had chosen some words from some of last year’s book week books such as ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. Ben’ and using these I laminated individual letters, and had the students create as many different words as they could within a set time. This promoted team work as well as using Literacy within a dance lesson.

We discussed lots of different ways to which we can use these ideas throughout our lessons. Coming up with more ideas, for example with the letters. You can then get the children to make the shape of the letter using their own bodies. We also looked at cool downs, how you can take movements which you have learnt in class and repeat them but slowly to start cooling the bodies down!

Overall it was a very successful Schools dance sharing! And we can’t wait until the next one.

 

The next Sharing was for our adult dance classes, mainly focusing on Active Armchairs.  Again, a lovely turn out, we had a good mix of previously trained Active Armchairs Facilitators and our new trainee’s too.

20180214_153431_001I shared my warm up to ‘Love and Marriage’ by Frank Sinatra. This has been used for various themes within classes and as it is a well known song, most participants enjoy it. I also shared my  ‘around the world’ theme using a blow up globe. This is great for conversations, discussing where they have been, where they want to go. You can also use it to practice co-ordination for example throwing and catching or rolling across to another participant. Finally, I shared a dance to ‘Let’s twist again’. This is a great song to use again as most know it and it encourages participants to twist, which can be something that they use less as they get older. It also included the hand jive and jazz hands for an all around fun dance!

20180214_152503Clare shared a few of her favourite things she’s been doing recently. She brought in her stretchy material to show us. These are great as they work like resistance bands but aren’t as strong so anyone can use them. She used pieces of lycra material and cut them into strips. We then went around in the circle and came up with a movement each, which we then put all together to create a dance! She also shared with us her lovely cool down to ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ which is such a lovely song and a great way to finish a session.

20180214_154416Georgia shared some of her exercises that she has been using in class. She showed us her foot exercise to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ another great upbeat, toe-tapping song to which most people know! This works really nice as a foot exercise as it’s a nice steady beat, and she even included a bit of a wiggle and boogie for the chorus so that participants can have their own creativity in there. She also shared her dance to none other than ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. Again, a fantastic sing along that most know. This was really fun as we got to play the drums, rock out on a guitar and throw our arms in the air! She also included circles throughout to work through the whole body. Like wrist circles, ankle circles, shoulder circles etc. It was a really fun and beneficial dance.

Again, we had such a great time sharing our ideas, you can see how much by having a quick look through our video below.

Thanks to all that came and shared, looking forward to next time!

 

 

 

 

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Stress Free Freelancer

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Stress Free Freelancer

It’s been a year since the last Stress Free Freelancer post. I know that some of the TRS Teachers have given many of the ideas ago and they’ve had success! Since the final blog we’ve also created a new Pinterest board with other ideas to try.

Link to Pin board…

Link to all the Stress Free Freelancer blogs in one place…
http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/category/health-and-wellbeing/stress-free-freelancer/

On The Wall!

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It’s always great to hear the good things said about our classes, but it’s even better to find out that a care home is so pleased with them they’re sharing photos of the sessions with residents, family and friends. This is what happened at Mayflower Care Home where Steph, Rebecca and Georgie have been delivering Active Armchairs, Circle Dance and Active Armchairs One to One. The photos below were found on the wall, but there are also some in the home’s brochure!

Active Armchairs in the main room. Steph is dancing with a resident as other watch. This is a great chance for the facilitator to get to know individuals!

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Active Armchairs One to One means that everyone has the chance to dance and interact with our facilitators. Here Steph has been invited to a resident’s room and works with an individual in one of the living areas as well. Such a rewarding time.

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Some more photos of One to One Active Armchairs sessions with Steph. This time there are some family members and friends present. Everyone is welcome to join in if they want to. There’s also a photo of some local school children doing cheerleading with residents. It’s great to see them dancing even when we aren’t there!

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And here are some of the things that have been said about our time there…

“That class was fantastic, all the residents enjoyed themselves, we cannot wait until next week.” Amy, Activities Co-ordinator, April 2016

“I found that, during the Circle Dance class, there was a story and I grew a bond with every resident. The circle and interaction are great for that and it gives the session a real feel good factor. One resident didn’t really fancy dancing at first, but after a particularly jolly piece of music that seemed to appeal to her she said “That was lovely. Thank you for coming. I like to dance and I can Cha Cha, you know!”. She grabbed my hands and was off. Another resident chose to stand to dance without her frame. The circle and supportive care staff allowed her to do this. I could tell how happy this made her. At the end of class she had to check with me that I would come back again soon. Introducing the Liquid Gold prop for cool down allowed staff and family members to dance with the residents. This always leads to beautiful moments. A son thanked his Mum for their dance. It was lovely to see.”
Rebecca Ashton, TRS Teacher after the first Circle Dance session, November 2016

It’s really nice to have so many things happening each week. We can build excellent relationships with the residents, staff and family members (some of whom regularly attend) and can tailor the sessions really well. We’re all looking forward to the sessions continuing for a long time.

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Fitness Tips

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Steph and I have a bit of a fitness focus at the moment (we’ve been training teachers at Balfour Infants School!) so we thought we’d share our TOP FIVE TIPS AND IDEAS for getting fitness into the dance class.

1_green-svgExtend it bit by bit:

Teachers can add a little more onto the warm up each week to increase stamina and fitness levels. Perhaps doing an extra count of 8 each week or adding an extra stop in a Circuit Warm Up.

What’s the Circuit Warm Up??
A warm up that gives pupils ownership of their movement and encourages them to work as hard as they think they can.

  • Go around the room showing dancers the pictures / objects and the movement that relates to them.
  • Dancers are divided between the stops on the circuit.
  • When the music starts pupils do as expected for their stop.
  • Teacher signifies when to move to the next stop on the circuit.
  • Continue this process until everyone has been to every stop.
  • If time, ask pupils to choose their favourite stop and try to do even better than last time (competing against themselves)

Here’s our dinosaur example!
Diplodocus stretch, Iguanodon strength (plank), Confuciusornis flying jumps with wing arms, Eoraptor speedy run on the spot, Ankylosauras tail swing (laying on tummies swinging legs), Tyrannosauras partner balance using short arms (glueing elbows to tummies)

Or you could ask the pupils for movements instead!

The photo on the right is the Diploducus stretch!

 

number-2-clipart-dc6aeamc9Sneak in the Healthy Living Knowledge:

Teachers can talk about changes to the body after a particularly vigorous warm up and ask questions like, what do you notice about the heart beat?

If you’re extending the content each week (see number 1) noticing an increase in stamina would fit perfectly. What about food for a healthy dancer?

 

number-3-clip-art-at-clker-com-vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-j2uq8g-clipartThe Fitness Six…

There are so many warm ups, games and cool downs that require a selection of different movements. The Circuit Warm Up, Plates!, Travel/Stop, Sets of Eight and the list goes on. Next time you use one of these warm ups why not try using one of each of the following? It will force the movements to be varied and the dancers benefit from all the different areas of development.

Strengthening, Balance, Cardio, Agility, Stretch and Teamwork

imag4543What is Plates!??
This is an extremely versatile warm up that can also be done as a game or a section of warm up if the teacher prefers not to use all the warm up elements in it. The teacher will need to use paper plates with small pictures and a few words on them to represent each movement.

  • Go around the room with the dancers placing the plates in spaces and explaining the movements. The items on each plate must relate to the theme.
  • Dancers space out in the room, away from the plates.
  • When the music starts the dancers move around the room.
  • When the tea
    cher waves the tambourine or shouts ‘plates!’ dancers go to the nearest plate and follow its instructions.
  • The next time the teacher waves the tambourine or shouts ‘walk’ pupils go back to walking around the room and so on.

Our Animal Opposites (High and Low) example:
HIGH: Giraffe Tip Toe Balance, Flying Eagle, Frog Jumps
LOW: Wiggley Worms, Clawing Tiger, Spikey Crab

In the photo… Our Medieval Castles (Castle Parts):
Battlement Jumps, Butress Counter Balance, Drawbridge Press Ups (adapted for pupils’ level for safety), Swimming in The Moat, The Tower Stretch, Rampart Star Jumps

 

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Choreograph It In…
When it comes to the choreography section of a class or workshop, sometimes the pace can slow. To keep the fitness focus why not set tasks that encourage the dancers to include certain movements?

  • Ask the dancers to include at least one jumping movement.
  • You could use The Fitness Six of the 5 (or 6!) basic actions.
  • Give them a time limit for their choreography (see tip number 5)
  • Add an opposites theme such as fast/slow or high/low.

 

5Use Music to encourage fitness…

There are obviously some songs that lend themselves to being used in a fitness focused dance class (carnival songs, drumming, instrumental pop or hip hop songs), but there are also other ways to use music to increase fitness in the dance class.

  • Zorba the Greek is a song with a clear beat. It starts slowly and gets faster and faster. Even just using it in the background during choreography can make dancers work faster. Try putting a set of eight easy movements to this music. By the end it will be difficult, really silly and a lot of fun!
  • The Countdown Timer is a famous sound clip and you can get the 30 second long one.
    Why not set a task such as create the starting position, play the song and then move onto the next task straight away. This way the dancers have to work fast so choreography can be completed really quickly, but it also gets them excited! Dancers created the freeze frame on the right in 30 seconds and even included levels and thought about hands and heads!

 

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We’re a Healthy Business!!

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On Monday 23rd November 2015 the TRS Teachers sat down to an unusual All Hands Meeting (the six monthly get together, celebrate and plan the future meeting). It was the start of a year long journey to become a healthy business and complete the criteria in the Workplace Wellbeing Charter.

workplace-wellbeing-charterThe TRS staff were asked to fill in a questionnaire about their health and wellbeing. Answering questions such as approximately how much physical activity do you do in a week (a lot!) and do you feel stressed in your job role (yes!)? The Medway Council Healthy Business Team, who supported us throughout the process, put the information into their computer and we received a document that showed us where we could improve and what we were already doing well (notably celebrating our staff and their achievements).

I got straight onto it.

I gave the policies a huge overall and all of the TRS staff gave feedback and started to work with the new policy and procedure documents throughout their TRS classes. We had to implement Absence Management from scratch, we improved our Healthy Eating policy and we worked hard to put procedure in place for when TRS Teachers have to be away from work. I’m very proud of the policies now, they are much better than before and I feel they work for us and the people we work with.

Stress was identified as an issue for TRS Teachers. Although they all agreed they love their jobs and that the stress isn’t down to the job itself, they felt they could do with some support. Many staff members felt the stress was due to putting pressure on themselves, it wasn’t actually an outside pressure and often wasn’t something that should worry them at all. I started to gather ideas for reducing stress and wrote the ‘Stress Free Freelancer’ blog posts. Bex, our volunteer administrator created a Health and Wellbeing Folder that’s available for all TRS staff and is full of information. We also had a stress focused All Hands Meeting in May and Steph, our Schools Dance Co-ordinator, shared some practical strategies to deal with stress.

The Charter has three levels and we were aiming for the first, commitment, level as we are a very small business compared to some involved (entire councils and hospital trusts!). We were so pleased that by the end of the process we had gone much further than expected and have reached the second tier, achievement in almost all areas and even got to the third tier, excellence in two areas (smoking and physical activity). Perhaps we’ll be back to pick up an excellence award in a few year’s time!!

Aworkplace-wellbeing-charter-commitmentlmost a year on we had managed to get our evidence folder in order and it was presented to the Medway Healthy Business Team to check it through. Georgia, Steph and Bex were interviewed to check that we were actually doing as we said we were and we waited to see if we had reached our commitment goal! 20161117_213833_001

On Thursday 17th November 2016 (almost a year since we started the process), Georgia, Steph and I attended the Healthy Business Awards and had a fantastic evening. Businesses were from Kent as well as Medway and there was a lot of great work to celebrate. We heard of potato competitions, an office dog that staff can take for a walk around the block instead of going for a smoke and a group of staff from one firm who have turned their lives around and now run for charity. 20161117_213538

20161117_210349I would like to thank Michelle Saunders from Medway Council, who helped us throughout the process and all of the TRS staff members for their support and patience. It can’t be easy when you’re given new policy and procedure documents to follow (there was a lot to read!). I do hope they’ve felt a positive affect as a result of this process and I look forward to continuing to develop the company with our wonderful staff in mind.

 

 

For now though, let’s celebrate with our brand new trophy!!

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