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Ofsted Influences

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The new Ofsted inspection framework draft was published in January 2019 and is currently in review. I might be getting ahead, but it’s important that we begin to think about how dance in schools can be influenced by it and how our extra curricular, cross-curricular and dance for physical activity classes will support schools on providing excellent dance provision. Although dance is a small part of the many things schools do, we want what we do to make a difference, not just to participants, but to the school as a whole. We are already doing great things within schools in Kent, this is just another way to improve what we do. 

You can find the inspection framework here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-inspection-framework-draft-for-consultation

Currently inspections do not focus heavily on sport in general, especially in short inspections, but they do look at cultural development and dance could be an indicator of positive participation in cultural activity. Schools can try international dance styles relating to the diverse backgrounds of pupils within the school (read this blog post about when we went to Greenvale Infants and danced familiar dances for pupils such as traditional Polish and Slavic dances), dance that celebrates National Days such as May Day (May Pole Dance or Morris Dance) or historical dance styles taught within our Educating Dance classes (Tudor Dance for example).

Extra curricular provision is something already considered by inspectors, (normally in relation to Pupil Premium and Sport Premium budgets) and this is something we can easily add to the school day. Dance clubs can be varied and tailored to the specific needs of the school. For example, if girls are not responding to PE within school time or if they have lower attendance of clubs, a confidence building dance club is perfect. Alternatively, if the school wants to encourage creativity, a Creative Dance Club (EYFS – KS2) or Choreography Club (KS3 – 4) would support this aim.

In terms of evidencing value for money, two of our company aims are

  • To provide quality, well organised, accessible dance opportunities for all.
  • To provide paid and voluntary work for dance professionals and to increase the recognition of dance teaching in the community as a career

Our pricing policy reflects this so schools know they can get high quality dance clubs at reasonable prices. We even have deals for long term bookings and MATs who book for multiple schools. Schools are able to make a profit from our classes easily, if they choose to, and this can be put towards other things. For more information about using PE and Sport Premium Funding for dance please read One Dance UK’s funding document, https://www.onedanceuk.org/programme/children-young-people/dance-in-schools/ and, if you would like to know how we can help specifically to make clubs successful, please see our blog post.

In her speech at Youth Sport Trust 2019 Conference, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Speilman, admits that currently inspections are heavily tilted towards data and says that the new framework will look at what matters to children, “What are they being taught and how? How are they being set up to succeed in the next stage of their lives?” Read the transcript here, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amanda-spielman-at-the-youth-sport-trust-2019-conference

At TRS, the content of our classes, what children are being taught, has always been extremely important. We plan with the individual participants in mind, use school themes and topics and make sure participants learn best practice and teach safe dance technique that is appropriate to the type of class. Our dance teachers are not observed during Ofsted inspections as they aren’t faculty members, but that doesn’t stop the odd inspector enjoying a moment watching a happy dance class and it doesn’t mean the TRS Teachers aren’t working to high standards all the time. It does mean that our teachers are not teaching for tests and have to freedom to educate the whole child, preparing them for further dance education or life in general. There are a lot of blogs out there about how dance makes great people!

We must also look at how school teachers can provide great dance lessons during school time. Although we provide Educating Dance classes for schools, it is sometimes more appropriate for a school to provide training for their staff so they can deliver appropriate and effective dance classes themselves. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach and Dance in the EYFS, we provide school staff with the tools and confidence to do this. Our cross-curricular flow chart gives them the framework they need to design and deliver high quality dance lessons. Dance can be a fantastic tool for improving how the curriculum is taught and is excellent for a thematic, creative approach.

In terms of monitoring, evaluation and impact,  the Educating Dance teachers are always happy to provide feedback and we can support the school on this. We also ask class participants for feedback at least once a year. Our CPD for school staff can also have an additional mentoring side to support staff and the SLT with evaluating progress. All of the TRS Teachers are up to date with the relevant legislation and this makes it easy for schools to ensure they have up to date records as well.

To find out more about the new framework and the EYFS in general, see Nursery World’s review of the plans.

https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1166634/education-inspection-framework-2019-key-changes-for-early-years

It is no secret that dance classes can provide for broad and rich learning. A varied approach to dance including physical activity, learning and development is key to a quality dance lesson. There are plenty of ideas within our blog, but we are just a phone call or email away if anyone would like advice about dance in schools. I have a passion for excellent dance education for all and, as Director of The Right Step, I’m able to pass this passion and my experience onto the TRS Teachers. We are here to help the schools (inc. EYFS settings), and other organisations, we work with meet the aims set by governing bodies such as Ofsted as well as aims set within schools themselves.

Arts 4 Dementia Conference

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Yesterday I attended the Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference, “Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the dementias”. It was jam pack day that left me thinking. There were also a huge amount of important thoughts and ideas shared by speakers so I thought I would share some aspects of the experience. 

We were welcomed by Veronica Franklin Gould who was the driving force behind the day and who is clearly extremely well-respected by her colleagues, I can see why. Immediately she left us with actions to complete… Providers of relevant activities should sign up to the Arts 4 Dementia website and notify the local NHS social prescribers. A clear message… share information and start a conversation. 

We not only heard from professionals working in the field, but also from Christine Maddocks about her experience living with vascular dementia. In Alexandra Coulter’s words she was “the voice of the individual in the system”. She inspired everyone and was an instant reminder to all of why we were there. 

One of the most relevant sections of the day for me was when two outstanding academics, Dr Daisy Fancourt and Professor Sebastian Crutch spoke. Relevant because we are about to run our own research into Active Armchairs, but also because the studies that have already been carried out can influence our provision and teaching.

Daisy talked about how the arts are multi modal (they have lots of components at play) so there are a wide variety of outcomes. She said “The more people engaged with these [arts] activities, the better their memory was years on.” A fact that can boost all providers of arts activities to anyone, if they are living with dementia or not. As dance artists and arts providers, we can also take other things from her speech. For example, we should try to include lots of different elements and approaches such as song, dance, conversation. Theses are already all important elements of Active Armchairs, but perhaps we can develop this further.

Having taken part in the Created Out of Mind training and I’ve also read about his research, I was keen to hear what Professor Sebastian Crutch had to say. He encouraged us to bring in people with a lived experience and find what works for them. The slide in the photo shows how different people are affected in different ways with different dementias. In summary, everyone is different and so the effect of the dementia is different too. 

He said “What people really need is continuity of support” and I would whole heartedly agree with this. I’ve seen the disappointment when a fantastic arts intervention has to end due to funding. It will be a difficult hurdle to jump. One that those spearheading social prescription seem to think will be solved by volunteers, but that’s another story. 

Sebastian also talked about the importance of support and community. Care is varied across the country, but he encourages people to learn about online support such as Facebook groups and said “Nothing local is not the same as nothing available.”

The comment that resonated with me most was when he said “The fact that it’s in the moment, or short-term, doesn’t make it irrelevant.” He was referring to the various graphs showing short-term and long-term improvements, some of which are only present during a session. I have always considered that, when working with anyone, the moment is just as important as the outcome. In fact, in dance, working to an outcome such as a performance can be stressful. A participatory project often has more benefits to health and well-being and the journey is key. 

After refreshments, we heard from Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP. He speaks very highly of social prescription and is extremely positive about the initiative. He was inspiring. He said we’re “caught in the scissors of doom” (increasing costs and a reduction in funding), sees social prescription as a way out and believes that prevention is critical to the survival of our health services. I believe that it’s not only that we should think of; If we can prevent illness, we also prevent pain and suffering. 

The thinking is changing, why wait.
Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP

The keynote speech was given by Baroness Greengross, a lady whose prestigious achievements, when listed, take up a lot of space. She clearly has a passion and knowledge for the subject and believes “The key is timing. We must guide people to the arts at the earliest stages.”

 

 


In plenary debate, chaired by Dr Marie Polley, we heard from six people (see list in photo) for five minutes each. Various points of views were heard and it was concluded that there was more conversation to be had and that a group for Arts and Dementia must be created as part of the network. I would go further in suggesting that, a group representing the artists should be created too. Social prescription will not work without them. 

“Where people’s’ souls are nurtured as well as their bodies.”
Professor Martin Green OBE FIAM FInstLM, FRSA, FIPSM, Cheif Executive Care England

“It really should be about conversation”
Georgia Chimbani, Dementia Lead, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

“Biggest thing to happen in the arts for some time.”
Dr Richard Ings, Arts in Health, Wellbeing and Criminal Justice lead, Arts Council England.

Ian McCreath summed up in a way that I recognise as the approach used by many arts organisations and individuals to deliver their services, “Universal, but recognising that some people require additional support.” I agree, sessions only for those living with dementia and their carers have a place, but I believe in an inclusive approach whenever possible and appropriate. 

The afternoon was split into two sections of relevant examples. The first was entitled Arts for People Affected by Early-Stage Dementia, chaired by Dr Patricia Vella-Burrows who I’ve been lucky enough to hear speak and learn from a several times now. Examples from poetry and music were, of course of interest, especially Gemma Dixon’s story of Bob who played the organ before class. “His confidence was boosted, he had ability to speak in full sentences where he couldn’t before”.

 

 

The section about dance was most relevant though and it was a delight to hear from Dr Sophia Hulbert and neurophysiotherapist who has a love of dance. It was boosting for me that many of the things Sophia attributed to the success of her sessions (including items in the photo of ‘Conceptual Underpinning) are also found within Active Armchairs.

 

Sophia also did a quick demonstration. This was a fantastic way to get everyone reawakened after lunch and demonstrated how “Imagery can really empower movement”. In this case the imagery was also uplifting as it was about flying in a hot air balloon. I always enjoy seeing a conference of people who usually sit at a desk dancing! 

 

 

The second section in the afternoon gave everyone a better understanding about how Social Prescription can, and does, work. Nicky Taylor talked about how working in partnership has more impact, Dr Richard Hooker encouraged us to always remember the carers, Wendy Gallagher told us about the Handbook for engagement with people living with dementia and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, an extremely inspiring young man said that “One step is to bridge the inter generational gap”. Kathryn Gilfoy, Director at Resonate Arts, had many examples of different activities to share and I enjoyed her slide about the benefits of arts and person centred care.

Following this Professor Helen Chatterjee MBE discussed social isolation and how museums can help combat it. Her points about the research already carried out motivate artists to provide deep level cognitive stimulation to ensure that activities are truly engaging. I also picked up some more thoughts for the up coming Active Armchairs research project. 

Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia, closed the day. In just a few minutes he left us with actions and inspirations.

“There are more people living with dementia now that ever have before.”
Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia

It was one of those days that leaves your brain fuzzed with thoughts and ideas. I will act on them.

In terms of practical application, I believe there are some gaps that still need exploring, transport and fair payment for artists for example, but as an overall ideal for shifting prescription to preventative measures, I’m completely on board. Not just for people living with dementia though, if done well, Social Prescription could help everyone with their health and well-being and provide a cultural shift. We will see.

I do hope The Right Step will be found delivering prescribed dance activity, especially as what we currently offer is already of high quality and always developing to suit the needs of participants, but we will have to see how the commissioning side evolves and how we are able to be included.

I will conclude with an open invitation for anyone working in social prescribing to contact me. We must open conversation about how we can bring dance with a health and well-being agenda to the masses.

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Book Week 2019

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It’ taken a while to get this published because we’ve been collating lots of bits from some of the different TRS Teachers involved. Georgie has very kindly put everything together and here’s what she’s said…

We had some lovely Educating Dance Book Week sessions this year at TRS, they even went over 2 weeks! We went to Balfour Infants School in Rochester and St Michael’s Primary School in Chatham and St Mary’s Primary School in Gillingham. TRS teachers Katie, Steph and I have told us about their time spent at these schools.

St Michael’s Primary

Georgie: I love it when book week comes around each year. It’s always exciting to hear what stories you’ll be telling through dance with the participants. So, when I found out that St Michael’s wanted do Myths and Legends, I was very excited!  I decided to focus on Greek myths and legends, their hero’s, Gods and Goddesses. Especially Hercules! We went around the room and explored 4 different characters, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Hercules. Coming up with different movements like showing off our muscles, throwing lightning bolts and going swimming in the sea, for each one. I then taught a short routine where we told a simple story of Hercules through dance which the children picked up really well and really got into character! The last part of the lessons involved the students creating their own myth as a class for us to tell through dance. They chose a main character, a side kick and a villain. We used the likes of Medusa and Cerberus for these, which the children found highly amusing from the pictures I showed. We then put all the movement together to create a whole dance. The children were brilliant, so enthusiastic and it was great to be involved with these classes.

 

Balfour Infants School

Katie: Handa’s Surprise takes you on a delicious and mischievous journey to Kenya, full of colourful fruit and naughty animals! We had fun pretending to be each animal, and the children remembered all of the animals from the book and had some brilliant movements. It was like we were on a real safari! The children enjoyed pretending to be specific animals when they went on a parade wearing different animal masks. With a beanbag on their heads, the children walked to their friends without dropping the beanbag, as they imagined how Handa would carry her basket full of fruit to her friend in Kenya. We learnt some tribal dancing and then made up our own dance to tell the story of all the animals taking the fruit from Handa’s basket. We enjoyed imagining that we had stolen our own favourite fruit at the end! Year R had more energy than all of the animals in the animal kingdom and were an absolute joy to work with!

 

Becca: I took some photos of my classes with Year 1 and 2.

 

St Mary’s Primary

Georgie: I’ve been to St Mary’s Primary a few times now and I couldn’t wait to return this year. It was especially nice as there were 3 TRS teachers going, Steph, Becca and I. Which meant we really got to work together to come up with ideas for the children across years R-6. The theme we were given was space, which is a theme I’ve done before and thoroughly enjoyed so I was looking forward to teaching this subject again.  I taught year 2 first, we used different shapes to for our warm up, big planets, small planets, rockets, shooting starts all while exploring and walking through space. We then created a giant rocket shape using everyone in the class! The children then chose an alien to recreate in their groups, firstly by looking at what they looked like and then copy to create their starting pose. After that they looked at ways their alien could move to create a short phrase with their groups. The children were extremely imaginative with this and really enjoyed it! We then cooled down by travelling back down to earth. The second group I taught was year 5 and we started off with an astronaut narrative, we put on our space suits, went up in the rocket and flew around space before landing. I then gave half the group a paper plate with the planet written on it. They then had to quickly get themselves into the right order from the sun, and start circling around to make the solar system. Once they had started the other half then traveled through space exploring the planets. They then switched over so they could experience both sides. We then looked at constellations and stars. I gave the groups some time to recreate some well known ones, then set them on the task of creating some of their own. They used letters, levels, different body parts, all sorts of ideas to create some really unique looking constellations as a class. Finally we cooled down by using some of the shapes and ideas from both the solar system and the constellations. 5 leaders chose their favourite shape to do in super slow motion. It was a lovely session and the children were so enthusiastic which was great!

 

Steph: I went along to St Mary’s Primary for Book Week 2019. This years theme was Space. In year 1’s classes we took our first steps in space, using the fact that there is no gravity in space so we took very slow large steps around the room. We then discovered Alien’s. Like the very hungry caterpillar the alien’s loved to eat everything in sight too!

In year 4 we stretched into out astronaut suits and checked that they were safe for space and how we would move in the space suits. We looked out of our rocket windows to see what we could find in space, planets, aliens, the moon! We landed on the moon to explore moon dust about how it feels and how we could make the moon dust dance in our hands. We then spotted the different planets and made the shapes of the planets. We orbited around the sun by rolling, turning and spinning! Year 4 then created their own planets in groups deciding whether they were slow or fast planets. From there we also looked at star constellations and recreated a few, and then made our own! The participants used their bodies to connect their stars and they also came up with a name for each one.

For year 5 I made an envelope for each planet and each one contained short facts about the planet. Year 5 then got into groups and using the facts the explored the planets through movement. We discovered that every planet is unique and that meant that each of the dances were just as unique too!

It was a fantastic few days, both myself and the participants thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

 

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Is My Dance Teacher Qualified?

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How do you know if a dance teacher is qualified and experienced enough to teach what you’ve asked them for? Unfortunately,  the answer is complicated. There are many routes into dance teaching, just as there are many dance styles. In this blog post I will help you decide whether your dance teacher, or prospective dance teacher is suitable. This will also help trainee teachers work out what route they want to take for their career.
 
A combination off all of the following will make for a well-rounded dance teacher. A qualification alone doesn’t necessarily mean a good teacher and, as with all teaching, personality and passion are also a big factors!
 

Qualifications

In most professions these are the key to discovering someone’s suitability. In dance they go a long way to doing so, but you need to points 2 to 4 in mind as well.
 
If you want a class to lead to dance exams  you will need someone who has qualified with the relevant governing body. For community dance and creative dance you are much better off with someone who has a dance degree or, better yet, a DTALL. For dance with specialist groups such as older adults or people with disabilities a dance teacher should have further training in addition to their degree. This is normally part of their Continued Professional Development (CPD), but it could have been a specific part of their degree or as a qualification such as Green Candle Dance Company’s Diploma. For cross-curricular dance look for a degree as well as experience or training related to the curriculum because this is a very creative discipline that involves thinking outside the box as well as dance talent.
 
Examples of qualifications held by TRS Teachers are – BA (Hons) Degrees and Masters Degrees in dance, various dance teaching qualifications from ISTD, RAD etc.
 

Experience

Once a dance artist gains their initial qualification, they will need to start to gain experience.
 
This could be from a structured course such as Loop Dance Company’s DASP (Dance Artist Support Programme) or by going to another teachers’ lessons for observations and team teaching. At The Right Step we have teachers who have taken both routes. Neither is better than the other because both are so varied and everybody learns differently. Many teachers do a combination of both. It is at this stage that the dance artists discover their passions and focus their teaching. The more classes a teacher experiences, the better.
 
Excellent dance teachers will always be learning from and inspired by their peers and we have a mentoring programme to help teachers progress.
 

Legislation

Unfortunately there are surprisingly few things that a dance teacher must legally have and, unless they belong to a governing body or are teaching for a larger company such as TRS, there is probably no one to check up on them. That doesn’t mean dance teachers working alone don’t have what’s needed though. It just means the place they’re working in needs to check for it. If the class is outside of an organisation such as a school or care home, parents and participants should ask the dance teacher for the relevant things.
 
Every dance teacher must have a DBS check to work with children, even whilst gaining experience and not yet teaching themselves. Public Liability Insurance is just as important. If the dance teacher is working for you via a larger company, that company must hold sufficient Employer’s Liability Insurance. It is not sufficient for only one of these insurances to be in place.
 
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is relatively new, but all dance teachers must be compliant. In addition to the TRS compliance documents, the TRS Teachers also have their own. 
 
Though there aren’t many legal requirements, there are lots of things that are good practice, and looking for these things is more likely to lead you to someone meeting higher teaching standards within class as well.
 
A good dance teacher will have First Aid training and Child Safeguarding Training. Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults (SOVA) training is also available. These training sessions are good for the safety of their participants and the teachers themselves. They also provide teachers with the knowledge of procedures they should have in place.
 
An excellent dance teacher might also be a member of a governing body such as People Dancing and will have Policy and Procedure documents (inc. Risk assessments). Many of the TRS Teachers are members of organisations. The TRS Teachers don’t need their own policy and procedure documents for the work they do for The Right Step because they use ours.
 

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

Dance Teachers should always be learning and experiencing new things. The dance world is every changing and to be an excellent teacher they must stay current and inspired. To do this an excellent dance teacher will go to workshops, take short courses and do dance class for themselves. This is all at a cost to them and is one of the things that means an excellent dance teacher should be paid more.
 
The list of CPD is endless and ever-changing so it is difficult to know what is good to see on a CV. You can ask for certificates, check the course background (such as course provider and whether it is accredited) and ask the dance teacher what they learnt from it.
 
CPD helps dance teachers specialise. A dance teacher is best if they are able to teach where their passion lies.
 
CPD is essential in the dance world for learning more about specialist subjects such dance with specific mental health conditions, dance with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or dance in education such as cross-curricular dance. This is because their aren’t enough specialist accredited courses and, if there are, they are often very costly. A dance teacher has to balance their earning and their learning. If they are not paid enough, they are unable to continue to learn.
 
CPD doesn’t always have to be dance specific, it can inform practice, such as Chair Based Exercise Training or the Exercise to Music course. The Active Armchairs facilitators are Dementia Friends and this helps them support the people they work with in the right way. 
 
 
 
At The Right Step we strive for high quality dance for everyone. This means we keep our prices reasonable, paying the dance teachers fairly, and we support them in their careers. We work with trainee dance teachers at Level One right through to highly experienced practitioners at Level Three. We have progression routes for their careers and support them with our mentorship programme, annual reviews and celebrations of success. We are always welcoming new members to the team and if someone would like to get in touch they can find their local branch by clicking HERE
 

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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Santa Fun Run 2017

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By Georgie

Each year a member of The Right Step Dance Company warms up the Santa’s for their Fun Run and this year it was my turn!

I was extremely excited (and nervous) to do the warm up this year! I had seen various blogs, photos and videos from previous years and I loved seeing all the whole community come together for such a great event and cause.

When I arrived all, I could see where Santa’s of all shapes and sizes, some even included 4 legged Santa’s too! I then met Rebecca, Lawrence, Gaia (the youngest member of The Right Step, who came fully prepared in her uniform and Santa hat!) and our friend and photographer Nikki came along to support too.

Despite having some horrible rainy weather everyone was in such a happy mood. The DJ was playing some lively music and people were already up and dancing along. It was quite surreal seeing so many Santa’s in one place! The nerves had definitely started to kick in!

Then the DJ announced it was time for me to go on stage and warm up the lovely Santa’s! So up I went. The music started playing, and all the nerves disappeared! I began with ‘Moves like Jagger’ by Maroon 5 and I got them to sing ‘Moves like SANTA’ instead! Which went extremely well! Then as I looked out into to the crowd I saw a familiar face and I saw TRS Teacher, Clare, dancing along which was lovely to see her come along and support to!

20171118_134733We then went onto ‘Living on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. This was fantastic, seeing them throw their arms in the air for the chorus and I must say I was very impressed with their air guitars and drums!

Finally I finished off with a classic party dance… the Cha Cha Slide! Everyone got so involved and we had some lovely cha cha’s going on.

So afterwards they were ready and eager to go! Lead by the marching band they all set off through the town ready to start the race. We followed along and cheered the Santa’s as they all went past! Rebecca stayed and got some great photo’s and videos of the finish of the race!

I had an amazing time at the Santa Fun Run 2017, so thank you for having me and huge congratulations to the Rotary Club of Medway and to all the Santa’s for putting on such a fantastic event and raising money for a great cause!

 

Here’s the video!

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Life On A Farm

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By Georgie, TRS Teacher, Educating Dance Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator

20170524_143213This term at Miers Court Primary School I was working with reception class and their topic was “Life on a Farm”. What a great topic! The teachers had already asked me to do some sort of line dancing with the classes, which I was thrilled about!

But first off, we needed to do a warm up. We started off by walking around the room in various directions. In each of the corners there were 4 different animals; a cow, a sheep, a chicken and a horse! When I said an animal, the class had to go to that corner and do the action for that animal. We had galloping horses, skipping lambs, pecking chickens and some very slow movements for the cow! The children were great at really getting the movements of each animal, I almost forgot they were children! The chickens were definitely convincing!

Next onto the line dancing. I taught both groups 2 line dances, one was to 5, 6, 7, 8 by Steps. The children picked this up so quickly! And the upbeat music really helped them to get into the style of the movements. I then taught the “Fuzzy Duck Slide” as I thought this was very fitting to their farm theme. We performed this to a classic country song, “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus, and I must admit I was slightly stunned when some of the children new the song! They really enjoyed this song. So much so, they started to freestyle and play guitars etc. and it looked so good I kept it in for the show performance!

20170524_140608Lastly, in their groups they came up with a freeze frame based on a picture of a farm that I showed them. They looked really good! From there I gave each group a different animal (from the ones I used in the warm up) and asked them to create 4 movements for that animal. These classes had such creative minds and their movements were excellent. We put this altogether for our show.

 

20170524_140602Then came show day and the children had all dressed up. We had lots of farmers and lots of different animals, an elephant even appeared on our farm! They looked just perfect for the show. I am so proud of reception class, their performance was fantastic, they audience really enjoyed it and gave them a huge cheer. All the children left with huge smiles on their faces, and so they should after all that hard work!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Reception class at Miers Court Primary. They were an absolute pleasure!

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Kind Words from Mayflower

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Mayflower Care Home hold Active Armchairs, Circle Dance and Active Armchairs One to One sessions with TRS Teachers, Steph and Georgie. They enjoy the sessions so much that they wrote about them in their Winter 2016 Newsletter. They added lots of photos of Rebecca’s Circle Dance classes (currently delivered by Georgie) and described the dancing as a ‘great success’.

Keep up the great work Steph and Georgie!

To read the newsletter in more detail please click and zoom on the photo below…

Mayflower Winter Newsletter 2016

 

Phonics at All Hands

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On Monday we had our All Hands Meeting. We have one every six months and it’s a chance for the team to get together, find out what’s been happening in the company and to plan for its future. Each time we try to have something a bit extra and this time we learnt a bit about phonics!

TRS Teacher Alice used to work as a teaching assistant and in her role at school she learnt a lot about phonics. She was kind enough to share a little of this knowledge so that we could get some insight into what the children learn in class. The Educating Dance teachers (the TRS Teachers training in the TRS cross-curricular approach) also gained some ideas for their classes.

Phonics is an approach used by primary school teachers to teach reading and spelling. Pupils learn sounds of letters and groups of letters and are able to break words down so that they can work out how to write/read the words themselves. They learn quickly and gain independence. When I saw Alice using phonics in her dance cllettersoundsass I thought it would be an excellent thing to share with the TRS Teachers. A chance for them to enhance pupils learning and make their classes flow well with what the dancers are already doing in school.

Alice shared the phonics sounds with us first (some are listed on the left). There are lots to learn. Not just the letters of the alphabet, but also the sounds as letters join together to create phonemes. It surprised the TRS Teachers that children learn so much in the process of learning to write and read. It works though!

20160229_133933Next we thought of some ideas for using phonics in class. Things like warm ups that involve phonemes that sound almost the same such as i, ie, igh etc. Perhaps the teacher could give a word containing one of these and the dancers could move to the space that represents the correct one. When we introduce keywords in cross-curricular dance we can now spell them out in a way that dancers will most relate to. Choreography often comes up in class and confuses everyone! This might make things easier. We also talked about the benefits of using phonics in our English cross-curricular classes such as Extended Sentences or during Book Week (the photo shows a BFG workshop during Book Week 2016).

We were left with many ideas and some new knowledge to put into practice! Thank you Alice for sharing. I look forward to the results.

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Magic Moments

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On Monday the TRS team met for November’s All Hands Meeting. We have two a year and use them as an opportunity for the team to get together and discuss the company and ideas for its future. We always go around the table to introduce ourselves because there’s often a new teacher or two and not everyone knows each other well. This time we each shared a Magic Moment from or thought about TRS classes. Here are just a few (the ones I could write down quick enough!)…

Steph
When at Fort Horsted I was talking to Edith about my honeymoon and she asked me to smuggle her in my suitcase and take her with me. When I went back again after honeymoon she had a giggle fit. She thought it was so funny that she had asked to be smuggled in a suitcase!

Alix
Going to Victory House on a Friday afternoons makes my week complete. I have such a good time. One lady comes in to visit her brother at the time I’m there every week and joins in too.

Bex
When I first started at TRS I visited Byron Lodge with Rebecca and Steph. I met Rose. Every time I went in she remembered me and said ‘Oh, you’re back’ and made me feel welcome. More recently, at Mersham Primary, where I’ve been teaching cross-curricular Samba and carnival dance classes, one of the dancers said ‘I don’t want you to go, I want you to stay forever!’

Georgia
At Warren Wood Academy we played a name game about what we did at the weekend and I told them about shopping for my sister’s wedding dress. After our break, the children had collected some leaves and threw them over me like confetti. I didn’t have the heart to explain it wasn’t my wedding, they were so sweet!

Abi
Last week I went to Winchester House with Steph. It was the first Active Armchairs session I’d seen and I’ve never been in a care home in my life. I was nervous and stood next to a nice lady most of the time. When Steph put on the song ‘Time of your life’, a resident, Mark, put his things aside and danced. He was so happy and it made my day.

Clare
Once I went to Montgomery Court and only Doff and Mary came to class. It was disappointing at first, they are such big characters that we giggled throughout the whole class. ‘Wonderful World’ is our signature song for cool down. I can’t get away without doing it. Doff now has a toy frog that sings the song. She brought it and it sung as we danced!

Georgie
I went for a taster session at The Vale. The first session was amazing so I looked forward to the second. Gwen always sits up straight and proper, but when she dances she really shows her character and enjoys herself. There are always residents walking in and out of the room there. By the end there were a lot of people in the room, but instead of sitting down, they stood in the middle and danced! It was like a big party in the end.

We enjoyed hearing the Magic Moments so much that we’ve decided to make a big thing of it. There will be lots of Magic Moments going out on our Facebook page and we hope to make them a permanent addition! Check them out here… https://www.facebook.com/therightstepdc/

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