Tag Archives: Ideas

Dance Ideas for PSHE

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As a subject, the content, aims and reasons for PSHE change often. It has changed names multiple times since I was at school and most schools have different approaches to it. However, at it’s core, PSHE in primary schools, generally always covers similar values and subjects.  

PSHE stands for Personal, Social and Health Education. Sometimes it is taught to a whole class in a normal setting or in circle time, sometimes it is taught it small groups. It is also taught all of the time in terms of personal development, values and general knowledge. This means it is an excellent subject for a cross-curricular dance class. Dance also teaches many of the life skills found in PSHE without the teacher having to focus on a particular aspect. For example, team work and friendships are seen in all dance classes.

In this blog I’m going to share a few dance ideas for just a few of the subjects covered by PSHE. These could be put towards a dance class or used as stand alone fun.

Friendship

Dance About You – Put children into partners. Start with someone they know well, you can repeat the task with someone they don’t know at another time. Put a short piece of music on (about 2 minutes, Come on Everybody or Blue Suede Shoes are good) and let the children ask each other questions until they find out a new thing (3 things if able) about each other. Now they work alone for a few minutes to make up a movement or sequence about the new fact(s) they’ve learnt. Share the moves with partners and then the whole class. All the movements or sequences could be strung together and performed by the whole class as a team and this would be nice at the start of the year with a new class or if more togetherness or team building is needed within a class.

Teamwork

The Spider Web – Everyone holds onto the giant elastic in a circle. Teacher says a name and that person moves across the circle. This repeats with dancers going over and under the elastic in different ways until it is a big web. Now they have to undo the web! This is a dance class though so everything needs to be done with an interesting way of moving.

The Mexican Wave – you don’t just have to do this the traditional way, other movements can be performed in a similar way and in dance we call this is cannon.

Country Dancing – As a whole dance style, country dancing is great for teamwork. A do-si-do (moving back to back around your partner) is a well known example. A Grand Chain (Holding hands) or Weave The Ring (Not holding hands) are excellent whole class team work based country dance elements that could be used in a dance or as an exercise. All stand in a circle face your partner next to you, holding right hand. Move past your partner and towards the next person and hold left hands. Keep passing holding right then left hands as you go.

Trust

There are a lot of dance and drama trust exercises such as trust falls and trust walks and they are well documented. The following idea is just for dance though and it is also great for teamwork.

Trust Motif Development – teach a simple motif or allow the dancers to choreograph one. It must all be standing up. Once they’ve learnt the motif they have to partner up and choose a prop. Things that work well are solid, about half a metre in length and are not heavy. For example, scarves or giant pipe cleaners. To simplify, the teacher can give everyone the same prop. The partners hold the prop between them and have to perform the motif again, but with the prop connecting them. The motif might develop in various ways, it might be slowed down or one person might use the opposite side of the body, for example. To make things more exciting, the partners could unknowingly choose how to hold the prop. They choose from the options hand or foot, face front or face back and right or left. Then, once the teacher has explained, they hold the prop between them. For example, hand, facing each other, left hands.

Confidence and Honesty

Telling the truth is often about having self confidence and that’s why I’ve put these two together. It’s also about how truth and lies feel to other people. It is quite a concept to grasp and from around Year 2 as it becomes more complicated than just, telling the truth is the right thing to do. You could use a story to support learning around telling the truth and use a cross-curricular approach in the dance class. The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig or, of course, the very famous, Pinnochio might be helpful

Peer feedback is good way to encourage positive, helpful, constructive truth telling. Ask for Nice and Helpful feedback, You did this and now you could try…

To encourage confidence in dance class I try to find an opportunity for every young dance to do a movement or shape on their own near the start of class. This could be during the register or part of name and shape. It’s important thay there is a ‘way out’ if they don’t know what to do. This could be by copying someone else’s idea or the teacher using whatever position they’re standing in as their shape or a move such as a shoulder shrug or head shake if they have indicated they don’t know what to do in this way. Either way, they have taken part and got through it.

Respect and Anti Bullying

Your Daily Dance has lists of music by theme, including one for songs about bullying. Appropriate versions would need to be sought for many of the song, but the list is a very useful starting point.  https://www.yourdailydance.com/songs-about-bullying/

Greetings Warm Up with a difference – Everyone walks around the space and, when teacher calls a number or colour, or holds up a sign or makes an instrument noise (there are lots of options!), they perform an action. Here are some examples.

– High five the nearest person
– Hand shake with the nearest person
– Fold arms and stop in front of the nearest person then turn away
– Stand in front of the nearest person with your arms and legs out stretched (open and vulnerable)
– Loop arms, link together

Afterwards, talk about how the actions made you feel. Progress this further in other lessons by asking the dancers for their own ideas, perhaps focusing on things that make them happy or things they think will make others happy.

 

I’ve just scratched the surface of how dance and pshe go hand in hand. Other aspects such as Golden Rules, worry and internet safety could all be explored using a cross-curricular approach and the things I have covered could be part of a lesson or scheme of work. As always with our work in Educating Dance, the options are endless!

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Dance Ideas for New Friends

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This month we’re focusing on friendship, new things and social inclusion so I had a conversation with the TRS Teachers about their ideas. Dance is a fantastic medium for making friends and learning about social interactions. 

It’s September and the schools are back, the children in our classes are meeting new people in their new classes and it’s a new school year, but we’ve talked about all classes for this blog, including Active Armchairs, because the social aspects of dance are present everywhere!

The TRS Teachers have shared lots of ideas for dancing around these themes below. I’ll also be writing a blog post about PSHE towards the end of the month and this will relate as well.
 

Meet and Greet Ideas…

Rebecca
Name and shape is a fantastic introduction game. It’s an old favourite that I first played when volunteering at Magpie Dance Company ten years ago! It works with any age, any ability and pretty much any theme! Its great for us dance teachers to learn names and to give all participants a chance to be in the spotlight if they want to.
 

How to play:
Everyone stands in a circle. Teacher explains that we are going to take it in turns to say our name and make a shape or do a little movement. Then everyone will copy the shape or movement and say the name back. As you go around each person can pass the turn onto the next person by gesturing that it is their go.
 
 
Georgia
“I like doing ‘Meet and Move’ we have selected movements and then travel around the space, when the teach shouts meet you find a friend (A different partner each time) and do the movement together and then continue. I have done this as part of a warm up where when we meet we circle a different body part starting from our head and then working towards our toes! By the end you will have danced with around 6 different people! for younger ones to make this clearer it can be when the music stops that you ‘meet’ with a friend to do the moments.”
 

Social Inclusion, how we can encourage it…

Steph
“I’ve been using the theme of holidays recently in Active Armchairs which has lead to some brilliant conversations and connections between participants. We have been sharing memories of places we have lived or visited, which has connected many people in conversation as they had visited the same place! It’s so interesting to hear how people have moved around in their lives, and lead to lots of revelations between the participants as they released that perhaps they might have even crossed paths before!”
 
Rebecca
Props are a brilliant way to include everyone in a session. I had a magic moment in Active Armchairs at Valley View Nursing Home and always share it with trainee facilitators…
 

“One lady has her table that when chooses to always sit at. The layout of the home means that she’s close enough to the seating area to see the tv and be involved with my sessions, but she is still comfortable at her table. She always sings and joins in with arms movements even though she isn’t in the circle. This is nice, but I thought she might enjoy it more and feel included if she joined our circle so I thought of some ideas. The prop that worked best was the giant elastic. I had excellent support from Dee the Activities Co-ordinator so we were able to work together. I laid the elastic out before the start and went to chat to the participant. I explain what we were going to do and asked if she would like to join us. Luckily she did and Dee helped move her to the main circle. It was a fantastic class and a real turning point.”
 

Jess

Parachutes are such a sociable prop. Call a colour and the participant runs underneath and swops places with someone else. Yoy could adapt to include a high five under the parachute.
 
Our ideas for the best props for social inclusion…
Giant elastic
Huge piece of lycra
Big balloons or beach balls
Knotted scarves
Feathers used for mirroring
Shakers for call and response
Parachute
 

Exploring Friendship…

Becca T
A nice dance idea is people bring an item to share or the teacher brings a small selection. E.g stone, feather, cube. The dancers explore the texture/shape/pathway/feeling of the item to make their own phrase. Progress: partner up and combine 2 items. Suitable for all ages and abilities.
 
Steph
I covered the theme of Friendship last term in schools. We discussed what we felt made a good friend, and then used those ideas to create movements. We made sure we danced with people in class that perhaps we didn’t know very well or were in different year groups and kept swapping partners throughout the dance. There were lots of brilliant buzz words like ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ which lead to some lovely trust and support movements. Then together we put all of this together into a dance to ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story.
 

 

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TRS Tots

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Last week we launched TRS Tots. We’ve been providing classes in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) for years, but now these sessions have an official logo and marketing material thanks to Tremendous Design Agency. We’re looking forward to holding more classes in nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and other places were babies, toddlers and young children gather. They’ll be sessions for parents / guardians to dance with their children and for the children to move without them from 2. 
 

Anyway, to celebrate,  I thought we would share some of our favourite things to do so here are some ideas from the TRS Teachers.

What’s in the bag prop task, getting them to guess what it is always fun.
Georgia
I second this! A bag full of egg shakers makes wonderful sounds when you wiggle it, creates conversation and excitement as they put a hand in to feel what could be in the bag and then produces big smiles as they pull out a brightly coloured prop that doubles up as an instrument! Magic!
Steph
 
I love to pick out a prop (whatever it maybe, scarf, balls etc) and watch them explore the different movements they can make using it.
Georgie
I like to use bubbles at the end of class. I ask them to dodge them and make funny shapes with there bodies or pop them. They always look forward to it.
Hayley
I love an improv story. It’s great to see the unexpected things that the dancers come up with. Even if I have some ideas, give them something I think is difficult or give them a really specific task, they’re always surprising me! Plus, there are so many things you can do with an improv story! I wrote a whole blog about it here… http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2018/11/21/improvisation/
Rebecca
 
Props props props… I love a prop and so do they. I also have a theme for each class… going to the park, winter weather (in winter), dancing in the rain, and then each theme leads to the movements we do such as splashing in puddles, lifting our knees high when walking thru snow, swishing the fallen leaves with our feet etc.
Clare
 
I’d say things that make noise or that are very tactile.
Georgia about classes for babies
 
I love to watch their eyes follow the noisy objects. Parents like to see how they react to different tactile objects too.
Rebecca
 
I used to use light up balls when I taught ball skills – turned the lights in the room off and then they just bounced the balls around
Katie
 

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Inspiration April

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This months our social media focus is Inspiration. We’re going along the lines of April, new and inspiring things! With this in mind, we thought we’d share what inspiration we use to plan some of our dance classes and Georgie has written a blog about it. It’s just a little introduction to the many things the TRS Teachers get up to, but it might be helpful when planning a dance lesson. Enjoy!

Written by Georgie, Manager of TRS South Kent

There are so many things you can use for your inspiration for dance classes, from the style of dance to the class topic of the term. Here at TRS we follow guidelines to help us both in our Educating Dance classes as well as our usual dance clubs.

 

You can start with the learning styles to develop your inspiration for your class. These include auditory, visual, kinesthetic (practical/learn by doing) and read write. This will help the dance teacher appeal to all pupils and their various learning styles. We also explore social inspiration and tactile inspiration alongside this. 

Visual is a popular one to use in our classes by our TRS facilitators. Using images throughout the lessons allows those who are visual learners to really grasp the idea. You can use images such as the stages of growth for a plant, the water cycle as well as lots more. Also using videos from online can be very useful and participants respond well to them.

 

For auditory inspiration you can use music, perhaps a particular song that you like or think that the participants will respond well too. Sounds like rain forest, the sea etc. would also work or you can even use some of the participants to create the sounds for the dance, using instruments, instruments they’ve made themselves or body parts like in Gumboot Dancing (photo on the right).

Tactile can be very exciting to use as inspiration, especially for younger ones. You can use different materials and express how they feel through movement, furry, shiny, slimy, rugged, squishy and so on. You can also bring in objects for the participants to explore and study like historical artefacts. Props are also used in many TRS classes and can come in all shapes and sizes, whether you buy pompoms or make your own jingle sticks, these are a great to get everyone involved. A TRS favourite is our tactile scarf. It is made from lots of different materials all tied together to make one giant scarf.

There are also a lot of practical ways to find inspiration for your dance class. These are experienced things so they are often things that are experienced elsewhere and brought into class in other ways such as current events. Fireworks (the bonfire flames in the photo on the left) is a fun theme. You may want to use certain holidays like Easter or even what’s happening around us now. For example, when The Greatest Showman came out everyone was so inspired and excited to use the ideas and music.

Styles of dance can be used as inspiration, you maybe looking at a world theme and you could explore different types of dance from around the world such as Latin, line dancing or Bollywood. Practical inspiration can be as closed or open as you want it to be when using it in your lessons or for your inspiration and it can be shown through other sorts of inspiration that is auditory, visual or tactile. 

Book Week is a great opportunity for us to use read/write inspiration. Books are always a useful tool.

Other ways to find inspiration can include things like focusing on a particular area you want to develop with your participants, for example motor skills, balance or extension. 

So as you can see there are so many ways to find inspiration for your dance class. You can also use a combination of these ideas, especially the learning styles as that way you can ensure that all your participants are gaining from the lesson. TRS teachers will always use a combination in their lessons. Start off with a focus and then you can extend and explore further.

We also love hearing your ideas at TRS, they inspire and challenge us as teachers and that always makes our classes interesting and enjoyable.

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Moon Zoom!

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In celebration of Science Week (this week) and Book Week (last week) I’m going to share the ideas behind one of my schemes of work, Moon Zoom! Something helpful and useful for school teachers and dance teachers looking to plan a cross-curricular dance class.

Moon Zoom was designed for Year 1 at Miers Court Primary School. They had been reading ‘Man on the Moon’ by Simon Bartram so this was the inspiration for the dance class. I added jumping as a dance focus and we talked about stamina and various health benefits throughout the term as well. You can read the original blog post here: http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2016/12/15/moon-zoom/ 

When planning a cross-curricular dance class, we (the Educating Dance teachers) use a process that’s very similar to that of a school teacher. We do start with a topic brainstorm and some research though. The schools give us such a varied selection of sometimes challenging subjects that we need to make sure we’re on the right track! 

My learning aims and objectives were broken down and differentiated before I continued my plan. It was important to me that I taught the class some facts about travelling to the moon, but I didn’t want to destroy the magic of the story either! I also wanted pupils to learn about choreography, experiment with how their body moves (the different ways to jump!) and to use their imagination. Other outcomes included a class dance that would be performed to friends and family at the end of term. 

Once I had the learning aims and objectives I could get on with piecing together the ideas I’d had in my earlier brain storm. I talk about these in the original blog post so I won’t go into detail, but this is the fun bit for us dance artists and we do often get carried away. To help me I had the TRS cross-curricular flow chart (this helps us structure the plan as a whole), I knew from training years ago how to structure a dance class and I also included starters and plenaries, important elements for lessons in schools. 

The first few lessons were mostly for exploring the theme, but we used almost all of the dance moves learnt and created in these lessons for the final dance as well. One of the things we did was a journey dance. I love improvisation journeys and my blog, Improvisation, says more about them. This improvisation was for our warm up from the second lesson and it was about how Bob (the astronaut) went from his house to the moon. Along the way the dancers had to show how Bob could cycle, click the engine on and move as though it were rumbling beneath them and look out at the stars in all the space. 

As the lessons progressed we included short rehearsal times so that the class could remember what they had done before. As they were year 1 I included a lot of improvisation so rehearsal was mostly to remember sequences rather than movements. 

I also introduced Year 1 to choreography. Although I do choreography from Year R, this group hadn’t done any before. We did alien movements, something deliberately very abstract, and I gave them lots of pictures from the book for inspiration. They only had to choreograph one movement each and I structured the main task (choreograph a motif) into lots of short tasks to make it easier for them. I was very pleased with the result and Year 1 were very proud of themselves. 

The final few sessions were for structuring the dance. This involved putting together all the elements learnt and rehearsed in previous weeks. Each group performed separately, but also as a whole class within the dance. There was even a gigantic rocket shape and a bow to finish! 

As well as teaching cross-curricular dance, we provide CPD for school teachers to give them the confidence and tools to teach really good cross-curricular dance classes themselves. Find out more here: CPD for School Staff

 

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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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Valentines Dance Props

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Georgie set my daughter and I a challenge this month…

Make some Valentine’s Day themed dance props! We had a lovely time making them and playing with them since. I’m not going to tell you how to make these things as there are lots of tutorials online about that already, but I would like to share some thoughts and ideas about what we did. 

 

 

Sensory Bottles

  • This is a fantastically versatile prop. You can change the size (imagine a massive one for team work!), the shape (small hand held ones for dancing with), the content and the colour (red gel food colouring was pretty) so they could fit almost any theme. 
  • These are a wonderful thing for Active Armchairs. For all the reasons they are good for sensory stimulation, but also because they are unusual, not patronising (providing the contents is appropriate) and they brighten up the room. 
  • We only had jars for this, but I do think plastic screw top bottles are better. The jars look very pretty, but they are a little heavy and might break if dropped. 
  • When making them hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills were developing. 
  • You can dance with them, copy them or move after them as they roll away.
  • Play a version of eye spy and use the things in the bottle as inspiration for choreography. 

Hearts for Hopping!

  • I used an A4 bit of card and let Tiny One choose how to decorate them. We used crayons, stickers and paint. We could have made smaller ones and turned them into wands! 
  • They are also very versatile as shape, size, colour, decoration etc. can be changed. 
  • The texture of the puffy stickers is a nice addition to the game. Other textures could be used as well. 
  • They could also be used for aiming or landing pads and this would be fun for Active Armchairs
  • This would be a lovely thing for a cross-curricular approach. Each child in the class could make their own and they can bring them to dance as a magic spot or as part of a larger thing such as a long snake of hopping stones.

I enjoyed this challenge so if you have one to set us please get in contact and we’ll see what we can make! 

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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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Props Sharing

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Written by Rebecca, Georgia and Jess.

The TRS Teachers gathered for a props sharing to discuss ideas for using props in the dance class with different age groups and in different settings. The sharing was a great success and not only did we all come away with lots of ideas, we also made some props together such as egg shakers and a giant scarf. 

During the the sharing we explored different ways to use the props we had made and thought of ways we could use these as a way to engage participants and to enhance the dance class.

“I love using props in a dance class because they always enhance the session and they can be used as a tool to engage the participants and develop creative moment. I use props in classes for all ages as they provide a visual stimuli and provide the participants with something fun and tactile. Props can be used to create music (such as the shakers) or encourage a participant to move in a certain way. Some examples of this may be to reach a bean bag as high as you can, move a scarf softly through the space or squeeze a ball to see how tightly you can grip it before passing it to your neighbour. I had a wonderful time at the props session and cannot wait to put the ideas in to practice.”
Georgia Smith (Adult Dance Co-ordinator, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator)

Jess is the newest member of the TRS Team and is absorbing all the ideas she can. She said…

I have recently started teaching in different environments and with different age groups. This has made me think about the way I can incorporate props into my classes. Not only can props extend the movement and can help tell a story, they can also help participants interact with each other and with me, as their teacher, creating new bonds and friendships within the group. The sharing gave lots of ideas for how to make props and use them in classes in different ways. Props never just have one use, with a little imagination a scarf can turn into anything.

The sharing provided lots of ideas of how to make props and use them in classes in different ways.
Plastic eggs to make egg shakers
Material to sew together and make bean bags
Hoops to add ribbons to and wave

We created a prop shopping list that included teacher’s favourite props. Some of them are the basics that every TRS Teacher needs! 
Feathers
Scarves 
Ribbons
Cotton Snowballs
Pom Poms
Ball Pit Balls
Dusters (A great first prop, 50p for a  pack of 100!)
Bubbles

At The Right Step we love to share great practice and this is what the sharings are about, but we found the props sharing was also very therapeutic. Conversation and craft in a relaxed atmosphere. As well as sharing days between the TRS Teachers we also share props and ideas on our Facebook page, usually on a Wednesday, so keep an eye out HERE

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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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