TEACHING SKILLS REFLECTIONS
Below is are some brief reflections on my my dance education practice.
TEACHING SKILL REFLECTION
How effectively do you manage a classroom? What areas are you weakest in? How can you strengthen these areas? What have you learned from a peer that has helped you? From a dance text? A research project?
I have done extensive research in this area, because I teach in a low-performing education institution. Many students haven't been taught what it means to learn or how to behave in a classroom.
What has been most effective is implementing Fred Jones "Preferred Activity Time." Many students enjoy dancing but resist engaging in dance activities that they're unfamiliar with. Good classroom behavior earns the group time in which they can engage in curriculum-related activities of their choosing. They may do this as a group or as an individual.
My classroom activities are highly structured and students hardly have the opportunity to get off-task. Music is on 95% of the time, and students learn through moving.
My weak point is how to incorporate dance readings for my 6th grade students. The school environment tries to foster literacy, but many students miss the discipline to do homework. They also don't have the discipline to focus on the readings, especially not being in a dance studio.
My ELA colleague and I have initiated a dialogue in which we build on each other's curriculum. He incorporates readings about dance, and I started utilizing his R.A.C.E. short response format.
Rules and Routines
How effectively will you set up your rules and routines? How will you know they are effective? How will you know? How will you know when to revise your practice? How will you take action to do it?
Consistency is an important aspect to know if a routine is effective. Middle school students thrive on classroom routines, and after two months they finally getting the dance room entrance.
Recently I discovered that some of my 6th Grade students feel uncomfortable taking off their socks. Many of these students are poor or homeless, and only wash their socks twice a week. I have just implemented the rule that all students need to wear school socks. They can choose to wear it over their own, or just wear the school ones. Every day these socks will be washed by the principal, the assistant-principal, the dean or myself. We hope that this aids in the confidence level of the students, and taking off their shoes will become less of a struggle.
Dance Learning Environment
How effectively will you maintain a learning environment that interests and engages all children? What does this look land feel like in a dance classroom?
The last two months I have used students prior knowledge as a springboard for learning. I have used Michael Jackson's Thriller to open up a dialogue about racial barriers prevalent in the New York boroughs, had a unit about plagiarism highlighting Beyoncé's Countdown video which featured stolen choreography of Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker, and had a cyber-bully unit incorporating mobile technology.
In the classroom students often engage in dialogic conversation and mini-performances in the hope to build confidence. Student dancers learn through co-choreographing their own dances, contextualizing their work with the work of master artists and through this bringing their art into a historical, cultural, and societal perspective.
Curriculum Content Instruction and Design
How effectively will you design instruction and curriculum content (lesson and unit plans, curriculum maps)? How has your instructor and peer feedback helped you? How has your self reflection process helped?
Creating unit plans is an essential part of my lesson preparations. Daily I teach five classes, and some of these classes have the same topic. At all times I need to know what students have done, but also where they are going, what vocabulary they have mastered, and where they had difficulty. Without knowing my road map I can't be an effective educator.
How effectively do you monitor dance learning (pre, formative and summative assessment)? How can it improve?
Monitoring learning in dance can be a challenging task since a dance educator is constantly on their feet. In my lessons I implement a lot of self-reflection through Google Classroom, which maximizes dance time during lessons. These metacognitive processes also give me valuable data on students' challenges and growth. Additionally, I videotape many of my classes and use the recorded material for students to self-assess or peer-assess one another.
Prior to using Google Classroom, I used reflection journals, but found that this was an impractical tool for formative assessment. I believe that Google Classroom is a great alternative, but believe that it also can inhibit learning processes for students with limited availability of technology.
Long Term Planning
How effective are your long-term (year-long or cycled) plans? How do you know they are effective? How can you refine your reflection process for long-term planning? What are the benefits of designing long-term plans in dance?
As a first-year full-time educator I'm currently in the process of designing three year curricula: one geared towards choreography for my Choreography Lab course, one highly dynamic and elementary dance class for my 6th Grade students and beginning High School students, and one that focuses on all four cornerstones of dance education (i.e., create/ choreography, perform/ dancer, respond/ dance critic, connect' dance historian) and highlights the work of celebrated choreographers.
My main practice is currently creating and refining my unit plans. They are increasingly effective, but there is still room for growth.
Questioning Techniques – Higher Order Thinking Skills
Are you able to effectively use questioning techniques to facilitate inquiry and deliver instruction? if so, are you using Webb's DOK, or Bloom's or a combination of both? Which do you find most effective for you? Do you notice a different level of student engagement when you are actively engaging students in stages of inquiry?
For my questioning techniques I have used a combination of the two, favoring Webb's DOK. Students are familiar with the traditional banking method, and are slowly engaging in higher order questioning.
Reflective Practice – Journal Entries
Do you engage in reflective practice? What types? What areas do you feel you need more reflection in? What were your reflective practices in the past? What are you current reflective practices? What would you like your reflective practices in the future to be?
As a novice educator I do my best to engage in reflective practices. After each class I log classroom behavior in the school's Jupiter system, and write several sentences about specific student behavior (good and bad). I also regularly film my classes to self-reflect on my responses to the students, as well as what I can improve on. I look forward to improving the expediency of writing down my observations during my class. As a dance educator taking notes can be difficult, especially with my middle school classes.
Revisions to Dance Education Practice
Are you willing to revise your practice based on reflections and feedback you receive from peers, your instructor and your cooperating teacher?
Always. Becoming a master teacher is only possible if one is open to feedback and changing/ improving practices to tailor to the needs of the students.
Dance Across the Curriculum
What are some of the ways you have been able to integrate other areas of study into your dance curricula? What areas would you like to explore further?
I've gotten familiar with connecting my unit plans to the ELA curriculum, and look forward to doing the same with other courses. I have started dialogue with the earth science teacher, the math teacher, and the social studies teacher. I'm excited to align my curriculum to theirs in the hope they will do the same.
Positive Attitude and Joy in your Dance Practice
How are you experiencing and perpetuating joy when you teach, and incorporating joy and a positive attitude within the content of your lessons? Do you notice an joyful and happy exchange with your students? Why is joy in dance important? Why is joy in life important? What effect will joy in dance have on the future of dance in NYC or American public and private schools?
It has been difficult to express joy in dance, especially since the majority of students need rigor an all aspects of their school. I have discovered that approaching my students with a positive take ultimately helps them. The majority of the girls enjoy dancing, and have indicated that it's their favorite class.
Finding joy is important for my students. They are unable to find it at home, since many of them have parents and caretakers that juggle multiple jobs. Arts is a connector. It connects people with each other, but also offers embodied learning opportunities which generally are not applied in conventional content areas.
Engaging in a learning process that is fun will hopefully foster overall joy for learning. The dance classes I offer at the urban assembly school where I teach will undoubtedly have a positive effect in all areas of their lives. Dance is a way to become physically healthy, and heal emotional wounds.