Tag Archives: children

Hoopsiration

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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.

You can get hoops online and in many toy shops. They range in price and some of the more expensive ones even count how many times you swing it around. For the following ideas you just need simple circles, but do try and get some variation (different colours and sizes are great for tactile stimulation) and, if you’re using them with lots of children a lot of the time I’d recommend sturdy ones or you will end up replacing them very soon when they bend. If you want to be extra exciting you could get light up hoops, glow in the dark hoops or glitter hoops (Amazon). You can also buy travel hoops. I’ve not tried them myself, but they might be useful for a traveling dance teacher who already has a lot of props in the car!
 

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.

Magic Doors

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.

Hoola Circuits

Create stations around the room as you would in ‘normal’ circuits. Different hoops could mean different things and you can position the hoops on lots of ways to signify what needs to be done at each station. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but circuits is always easily adapted to the class theme.
 
Mini lilly pads, excellent for core strength and gross motor skills (position the hoops on the floor and dancers frog hopfrom one to the other)
Hoop spin, great for hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skis (dancers hold hoops in one hand and stand back, spin the hoops and try to keep them upright)
Climb through, good for co-ordination and heart rate excitment (how many times can the dancer climb through their hoop)

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.)

Circle Dance

Not the circle dance we offer to care homes, this is literally choreograph a dance about circles! This idea can also be used at any age, for any ability. Use various techniques to help the dancers create movements that are circular both with and without the hoops, in them and around them, holding onto them and not. The circular movements are likely to be large and therefore developing gross motor skills. This is great for improving muscles needed for writing.
 

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.

I’m going to be writing more blogs about props ideas, but in the meantime, if you want to read more about props you can see our Facebook page (Each month we share some ideas about props on Facebook) or click on the ‘props’ link below and it will show all of our blogs relating to props.

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Motor Skills Part Three

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The third and final blog post in my motor skills series… a few things to try!  If you missed them, please check out the previous blogs posts…
 
Section One: Gross Motor Skills 
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance (this section)
 
Some things to try! 
 

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. 

 
There are plenty of things to do with a giant elastic, but for this purpose you could put some music on with a simple beat. Gently bounce the elastic to the beat as a group, as you continue change the movement you’re doing. You could try up, down, up, down, bicycle arms, swaying side to side and much more. The picture is of some of the TRS Teachers in Educating Dance training using the giant elastic to create large shapes. 
 

Swap hands! In dance class we always do things both sides. It often feels odd not to because one side will be stronger or more flexible than the other. With the hands this is known as Bilateral Integration and this can be improved by doing a prop exercise with the other hand too! For example, if you’re using scarves, encourage the group to swap hands half way through.
 
Lycra is great for resistance. A fun game for children and able adults… as a group, hold the lycra at the edges and pull it taught, but not completely tight. One person goes underneath and stretches the lycra in interesting shapes. You can also do a similar thing as a group sitting on the floor and making shapes with legs. 
 
The Smallest Movement Counts  in Active Armchairs and this is applicable whenever you’re working on fine motor skills. Small movements and gestures are great for brain breaks in the classroom at school or for a few minutes of hand training in a care home. I mentioned finger counts in my second blog post, but there are plenty of other things that can be done. You can try tapping each of the fingers on the thumb, putting songs on with simple rhythms and moving fingers in different ways or remembering and talking about signifying gestures such as pointing and waving. 

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. 

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Motor Skills Part Two

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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.

Motor Skills Part One

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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).

Why are gross motor skills important?

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.

 

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2018 Roundup

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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!

 

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Improvisation

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The TRS Teachers are always excited by new ideas and trying new things. We recently had our sharing days and the TRS Teachers met for the All Hands Meeting on Monday too so this has been even more apparent.
 
Improvisation is the term used for spontaneously moving. The movement isn’t choreographed, it is usually very creative and it almost always leads to an unexpected and exciting outcome.

Why Use Improvisation?

Improvisation can be used just for fun. In our Educating Dance and creative dance classes we often use improvisation to help find movements around a theme that can be used later in choreography. We can also use improvisation or brain health.
 
It has been proven in both recent and quite old studies that dance is great for brain health. I think the first time I realised just how good dance is for the brain was when I read ‘Use it or Lose it: Dance Makes you Smarter’ by Richard Powers. A fascinating article about a major study that found dance questioned whether physical and/or cognitive recreational activities were affective in protecting against dementia. The only physical activity that proved affective was dance.

The article (read it here: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm) goes into greater depth and there is a lot to be said on this subject, but for the purpose of this blog post I will focus on one element… I believe that one of the reasons for the protection dance offers against dementia is the fact that improvisation often plays a key role in dance. Thinking on your feet whilst also taking part in physical activity and, therefore, with the respiratory system working harder seems to have great benefits. Quick thinking, random thinking and making decisions that are not carefully planned whilst the body is also physically moving seems to be excellent for the brain and neural pathways.

The Different Types of Improvisation

In our training for school staff we teach how to give ownership of the movement to the participants. By ensuring they know there is no wrong outcome because they are being creative, the dancers can choreograph themselves and can achieve extraordinary outcomes when supported in the right way. Improvisation to explore a theme and experiment with movement is a great way to do this. Teachers can support students in free improvisation that is often very personal and always open ended or in closed improvisation that has a much more specific aim. 

Ideas for Improvisation

Improvisation Journies are great fun and very exploratory. The teacher has a pre-planned and very simple journey Just a few lines with lots of description ideas. The journey could take place in multiple settings such as for an around the world theme (home to hot air balloon with words such as high, free and clouds, to jungle with words like trees, vines, logs to go under and over or animals. Back to the hot air balloon with the same or different adjectives and onto the desert with ideas such as hot sand under foot, quick skittish lizards and sand dunes and so on.) 
 
If the journey takes place in one setting you can go into more detail. This is great for a topic like Habitats. For a jungle theme the teacher can describe the habitat in much more detail. There are tall trees with branches that spread wide. Vines from the branches for monkeys to swing on. The playful monkeys are jumping, climbing, swinging and picking flies from each other. The flies move from giant plant to plant. There are some fallen trees and you have to go over some and under others.
 
The teacher has the option to be as specific or vague as they like and can alter their words each time they do the journey depending on how the group are responding or if they have done it before. 
 
Improvisation stories are a great way to include the class topic in a cross-curricular dance class and we use it a lot in Educating Dance. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach, one of the first journies Sophie (our first ever TRS Teacher) and I did was Water’s Journey. The improvisation can be undertaken as a whole class moving as particles (as one, slowly and quickly etc. depending on the water’s current state), as an individual moving as the water moves through a story that can begin at any point (basically ice to sea to river to water system to tap etc. but this can and should be expanded upon) and can even include a staff member or guest as the sunshine (we always had Sunshine Sophie!) or within small groups with each group having previously been given the water state they will move as. It is a hugely diverse topic!
 
Story improvisation can become a great game for exploring a theme (such as Dinosaur Excavation), as a way to close a session (line up as a…) or as a cool down (Astronaut Suits). It could also be used within the school day if the story is appropriate. Please see my ‘Dancing Day’ blog post for more on that.
 
The first ever story improv I wrote was one I use just for fun as a game in dance clubs, but that is also great for gross motor skills development… I invented Pumpkin Soup whilst sitting on a train because there was a cafe at the station that had a similar name. Whilst the teacher says the story (and hopefully moves a little themselves as well) the children improvise. It’s quite a closed improvisation and due to that can be done with a whole class. I will create a full download for the story and instructions soon (in our new section of the website), but for now suffice to say that there’s a bowl of soup, a sudden mess and some sliding, tip toeing and sticky feet followed by a big clean up operation.
 
Carnival Dance is a wonderful way to inject colour and excitment into a class and works especially well within Active Armchairs. It can also be easily adapted for different themes. This is basically when the whole group moves, everyone is moving individually, but is occasionally inspired by someone else in the room. For carnival dance we would all have colourful feathers or scarves to dance with. When the facilitator sees something they particularly like they can commend the person who created it and incorporate it into their own movements. This also means that those who are shy, new to improvisation or struggle to improvise can still join in because ‘copying’ is welcomed and encouraged. An extension to this is when the facilitator begins to pick some of the movements and sequences them to choreograph a motif (small section of dance).
 
Although this is called carnival dance, the theme doesn’t have to be carnival. At Christmas I’ve used tinsle, jingle bells or silly hat voguing for a similar affect. 
 
Strike a Pose is a way to introduce a moment of improvisation into lots of different aspects of the dance class or school day in general. They could strike a pose at the end of a dance or exercise (you could give warning or spring it upon them depending on the group) or and the start before the music begins (this is a great way to get a group of young children to stay still!). 

It is an important part of travel / stop games (where the teacher shouts travel and then, after a while, stop and the participants move within a theme). It can also be done when improvising with props. It is very exciting when done with a giant elastic! 
 
 

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. 

 
Improvisation is clearly a subject that excites me and I could go on and on about things we can do, but my biggest tip is to just give it a try. You’ll never guess what the group will come up with and in the highly unlikely event that they don’t know what to do, you can always move to the next bit more quickly or change tact slightly so the theme changes.

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Fortnite Fever

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Written by Georgie, franchise owner, TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator.

Have you heard the ‘Hype’? Figured out the ‘Floss’? Or maybe you’ve just discovered the ‘Dab’? Are any of these words ringing a bell?

If, like me, you wondered what on earth a lot of the students in your classes are talking about then here’s a little insight into the world of ‘Fortnite’ (emphasis on the little!)

A few months ago, I heard of this brand new game coming out which a lot of people were excited for. I had no idea it would start coming up in almost every dance class I taught! The basics of the game is a little like Call of Duty (a shooting game), but friendlier and for younger audiences. For example, when I attempted to play, I was running around with a giant lollipop!

But I’m a dancer, not a gamer… so how does this relate to dance? Well apparently, there are these things called ‘emotes’ which are taunts that you can perform to another player if you beat them. This is supposed to tease the other player. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m just used to the old ‘ner, ner, ner’? Anyway, there are so many and almost all of them are some form of dance! I thought I’d give you the top 5 (and the most common ones I see) within the dance class, and who knows you could come across as a really cool dance teacher! I thought I’d give you a bit of comedy with my attempts alongside the originals for a giggle!

So we’ll start at number 5: ‘’Orange Justice”

This was created by a player of Fortnite who entered a competition to enter his dance as an emote for fortnite! I don’t think he was the overall winner but the makers liked it so much they decided to keep it! The ‘orange’ is simply because he was wearing orange in his video. It involves basically swinging your arms around whilst awkwardly bending your knees in odd angles (that’s the best way to describe it!) It’s easier to just take a look.

Number 4: The Floss

Also known as ‘Backpack Kid’, The Floss was created by said backpack kid in America. The idea is to swing your arms side to side (like you’re flossing) and wiggle you’re hips at the same time! Oh and don’t forget to have the complete blank expression while you do it!

Number 3: Hype

Hype is also called ‘Shoot Dance’ and comes from a music video from BlocBoy JB. This involves hopping up and down on one leg whilst pushing your arms forward by your side then changing to just one arm punching from the elbow. It’s better than it sounds!

Number 2: The Electro Shuffle

Much more dancey than the others, The Electro Shuffle involves the classic ‘shuffle’ that was created mainly for ‘rave’ music purposes in the 1980’s. This actually took longer than 30 seconds to learn!

Finally I had to finish with: Fresh!

The classic dance move for anyone around in the 90’s. Fresh comes from the show the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The cousin in the show ‘Carlton’ created this move and has become his signature move. It’s fun and free! Just enjoy yourself…. And don’t forget to stick on Tom Jones in the background!

 

 

A Year in The Life

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Steph, Level Three TRS Teacher, Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator and Educating Dance Teacher (what a mouthful, she’s reached the highest levels possible at TRS!) was voted TRS Teacher of the year 2017 by TRS staff in November last year. As we are coming up to this year’s vote I asked her to write about her year and I’m pleased to say it’s really varied and has been very exciting!

This is how young dancers in Steph’s classes put their hand up to talk… in any funky position!

A Year in The Life of Steph…

One of my favourite things about my work with The Right Step Dance Company is the variety it brings each day. The past year has been no exception to this. Teaching all over Kent and Medway, I’ve covered thousands of miles, planned hundreds of classes and had a wonderful time sharing my love of dance and movement with hundreds of class participants for another year. 

Flicking through my diary, I’ve been reminded of some of the new schools and care homes I’ve visited this year amongst my regular classes. I’ve been teaching for The Right Step Dance Company for over 5 years, and whilst there are new classes and ‘one off’ sessions happening all the time, I have some brilliant regular classes too.  One of my longest running classes is the Friday afternoon Dance Club at Byron Primary School. I wrote a blog post (read it HERE) about their Dance club earlier in the year after their fantastic Summer Term. Often we get to see the development and enjoyment children have in their dance classes, but there isn’t always a show or opportunity to share the brilliant work the children have achieved. To overcome this, we decided to film the last class of term so they could share their achievements and experiences. I was so pleased to have been able to put this video together for the Dance Club participants at Byron Primary.

Another filming day, and definite highlight of my year, would have to be the BBC Filming Day at Hale Place Care Home. We were honoured and utterly thrilled to have been asked to be part of the filming as one of the home’s favourite activities. We continually see the positive impacts of Active Armchairs, but when others can really see and feel the benefits of the classes too and wave the Active Armchairs flag of joy it’s a brilliant feeling! Myself and Rebecca had a wonderful morning with the residents and carers, and I think its fair to say we both left that morning with big smiles on our faces!  Hale Place was a relatively new class for me at the time, and has now become one of my regular weekly classes. I have loved getting to know the residents even better over the past year, and look forward to another year of dancing and singing with everyone.

There have been great team moments throughout the year too, with our twice yearly All Hands Meetings and training sessions. We usually find ourselves teaching alone, so having the opportunity to meet with others teachers on the team at All Hands meetings means we can share experiences and advice. It’s also just a lovely opportunity to have a good catch up over a cup of tea and some biscuits!  We often have training within these meetings, and in our most recent one we had a session with confidence coach Andrea Barker.  The session was not only a great team bonding experience, but also enabled us to take strategies away to implement into our practice.  Catch us striking our power pose below!

I really enjoy the opportunity to work with other TRS teachers, and as a Level 3 TRS Teacher, I had the opportunity to mentor one of our newer teachers to the team this year.  When teachers join me in my classes for training, I love to share experiences and tips so it’s been great to be able to focus this into a mentoring process.  I know myself I find it very beneficial to be observed, and to share teaching practices with other teachers, so combing this with my experiences as a freelancer made for a great first mentoring experience.

As I reflect upon the year, It’s very hard to pin point a few favourite moments, as in all honesty every day and every class brings something magic. I mentioned the notion of ‘Magic Moments’ and how we capture them in classes in an All Hands meeting a few years ago and it has since become a wonderful way to share these little snippets of joy with everyone.  There are plenty of Magic Moment quotes to be found on TRS social media; Whether it’s a comment about the participants class experience, a child that expresses their enjoyment and pride at learning a new dance step, the older adult that taps along to the music for the first time or feedback from a teacher/carer about how a participants response is a breakthrough….we are so lucky to be a part of so much magical! Here are two of my most recent Magic Moments. 

“Year 5 at Singlewell Primary School have been learning Bhangra Dance this term and will be showing some of their moves in their assembly this week. They were looking fantastic in their dance class earlier in the week and we can’t wait to hear how it went!”
Steph

“Singing in the rain is my tune of the day today!! We had a great sing along at Fort Horsted and reminisced about the great Gene Kelly and his wonderful dancing in the rain and swinging around the lamppost!”
Steph

As the final school term of the year approaches, and I begin to think about Christmas classes and plans for the new terms in 2019 (!) I find myself feeling very grateful for having another great year of classes and experiences with the Company.  This year especially seems to have flown by…but maybe that’s because I’ve just been having too much fun dancing!

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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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