TEACHING SKILL REFLECTION
Great teaching begins with effective classroom management. Each year that I teach I learn more effective strategies to ensure each lesson runs smoothly by preventing disruptive behavior. Many of my strategies come from self-reflection and others from watching master teachers. I believe that clear expectations and procedures from day one eliminate many issues before they even begin. The first week of my class is focused around “how to take dance class effectively”. Written contracts with rules and expectations are thoroughly gone over and signed by each student. Proper dance class etiquette is explained, demonstrated and practiced and expected from then on. Clear participation grading rubrics are given with clear expectations of how their participation grade is calculated each week. I also have found that clear planned transitions between learning activities maintains focus and flow throughout a lesson optimizing instructional time.
Once I establish how we move through a dance class logistically from beginning to end the students find a routine they can count on to expect. For example students know that as soon as they enter the dance room they take off their shoes, where to put them, where to look for any hand outs, then they are to change into dance clothes within 5 min, where to place ballet barres or where to spread out with enough personal space, how to change lines between exercises, how to formulate groups for traveling steps across the space, how to provide peer feedback through peer feedback protocol, how and where to wait and observe other dancers demonstrating skills and how to finish a class with respect by thanking their teacher before changing and where to turn in and take back homework. These transitions are constant and therefore happen on their own with out the teacher’s cues. Good rapport with student is also important when it comes to classroom management. When students respect and like a teacher they often do not want to disappoint them, or are more likely to take their comments with weight and seriousness. If you come in to my classroom while I am teaching one would notice that I walk around the room constantly. I never only teach from the front of the room. I circulate constantly from front to back to middle and sides of the class, first of all for assessment purposes to make sure I am seeing and assessing each students but it doubles as a classroom management strategy. Students feel the presence of the teacher close constantly discouraging any of task conversations or wondering.
Lastly, I have found that knowing your students and their abilities in order to differentiate is not only essential to supporting students learning but it is also essential to classroom management. If an activity or assignment is to far above or below the students zone of proximal development the students will ether become disruptive or distracting because they are board or have given up. In short, clear communication about various classroom protocols can eliminate many classroom management problems before they even arise.
Dance Learning Environment
I strive to inspire excellence within a firm, supportive, stimulating environment where my students feel comfortable to take part in dance as a means of creative expression. A major part of creating this environment begins with fostering a sense of community between the students that in turn builds a dance culture of respect and interest. Knowing my students, their background, interests, strengths and weaknesses helps me to create an environment for them they wish to take part in. Connecting dance to my student’s real – life experiences makes our work meaningful and relatable. I believe an environment that is relatable no longer feels foreign and subsequently becomes a space to explore, create, share opinions and try new things. I teach by means of positive reinforcement, and praise individual successes daily by having students demonstrate their achievements for the class. I find that providing moments to celebrate peers improvements can inspire self-motivation. In addition, having clear protocols and practice about how we talk about dance, we build a community of constructive feedback that encourages and empowers the student to go further by reflecting, responding, revising and refining.
Curriculum Content Instruction and Design
From my experience, writing curriculum content begins with knowing your students; Not only their abilities but first their cultural background, family situation, and their strengths and weaknesses all which inform a teachers approach for planning and assisting literacy development in one’s content area. I believe an emphasis on dance literacy should be the foundation of any instruction planning because it is directly linked to communication. The key to communication is being able to participate in the discourse of a conversation, and in order to participate in the discourse you need to know the language that communicates with in it. How many students are unable to demonstrate their skills due to the simple fact they do not understand what is being asked of them? I believe here lies one of our most important jobs as teachers, giving our students the ability though the use of language, powered by thought, to communicate.
The third most important area I consider when curriculum planning is assessing the students physical skill level. Every year I video the students within the first two weeks of school in order to assess what skills they have mastered and what skills they need to learn in order to achieve my goals for them by the end of the year. I then create my curriculums, units and lessons based of the backward design model because it creates a natural progression of scaffolding that sets the student up for success. The backward design approach works very well in a formal technique dance class because each skill taught layers a progression of exercises building strength, alignment, and coordination needed to perform a slightly more difficult skill little by little. While I create my plan for the year I believe in staying flexible and sensitive to what the students need in the moment. Just because I plan to teach a certain skill or concept in 2 weeks, students might end up needing more time and added scaffold lessons or less time and less scaffolding than expected once in the unit. Therefore I try to stay student centered in my goals and objectives, listening through observation and various formal and informal assessments about what will benefit the students most at this time.
Assessment in dance is constant and ongoing. Because students are constantly performing what they know in front of you daily formative assessment is most consistently through observation of students ability to apply and synthesize concepts and corrections. Yet there are a myriad amount of ways I assess my students daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly.
Explained here are some of the most commonly used forms of assessments used in my dance classes.
They are also responsible for one reflection an article ether I assign or they choose based on dance interest:
Long Term Planning
I personally have found pacing calendars to be extremely valuable and effective in long –term planning. Planning by way of backwards design allows me to scaffold the process to become the end of marking period, semester or year product. In addition reflecting on yearly pacing calendars and curriculum maps assists in my ability to refine my pacing, content and over all unit/lesson planning for the following year. Lastly, long-term planning also helps me to assess if I am varying my instruction over the course of the year with technique skill building, creating dance, performing, reading about, writing about, and viewing dance.
Questioning Techniques – Higher Order Thinking Skills
One of the most inherent and valuable skills dance teaches is how to critically think and problem solve. Whether the students is being asked to solve a technical, artistic, or choreographic problem the dancer is always actively engaging the higher ordered process of their thinking capabilities in order to improve. As a performer I never really thought about this aspect of dance because the dialogue happened mostly internally, until I became a teacher in which I then realized how embedded critical thinking is with in rigorous dance training. I believe It is my job as a dance educator to cultivate the ability to think, perceive and process a complex range of critical thinking. When developing my lesson questions, I often refer to both Blooms; taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of knowledge categories to decipher if I am scaffolding my questions in a way throughout the lesson that every student can engage and be challenged when thinking about their work. In my class students rely on critical thinking strategies in order to create dances, make judgments about one’s own creative expression and the choreography of others as well as to analyze the quality of movement in order to revise and refine.
In every class students are asked to apply concepts of proper movement technique as it relates to the form of dance being studied. Most often this is ballet or modern dance. Students develop a deep awareness of their body and are able to feel as well as describe differences in shape, rhythm, space and quality. In this way students are performing DOK level 2 and a question I might ask is for students to compare and contrast the use of elements form one exercise or combination to the next. In each of my classes students participate in DOK level 3 by utilizing independent thinking and action to execute dance movements with proper technique and qualitative distinction. Students constantly peers- assesses and provide feedback, which strengthens their ability to make assessments of self and others while developing the language to communicate value statements. An example of a DOK level 3
Question that I ask in my class would be; What is your interpretation of a dance? Support you rational with evidence from the dance.
Students in my dance class are constantly using creativity in their reasoning, planning, and real world applications in order to make an original composition informed by what they have learned. To accompany this type of DOK level 4 activities I might ask a student to research a topic to support knowledge and to influence movement choices. In my third year of teaching I am still working to continually refine my questioning skills. Observing other Highly effective teachers adds to my questioning strategies and is a great way to reflect on the way students engage and respond.
Reflective Practice – Journal Entries
F.H.H.S Joffrey Ballet Academy Student Reflections
Three Journal Entries Are Due Every Thursday.
i. Example: George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the most important contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. He founded the School of American Ballet and NYC Ballet Company. Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet by heightening, quickening and streamlining movement.
ii. Agon: Choreographed by George Balanchine- Agon (“The Contest”) it has no musical or choreographic subject. Agon demonstrated that ballet could be just as inventive and experimental as other art forms.
Revisions to Dance Education Practice
My first year teaching, my impulse was to correct every mistake I could see regardless of my lessons specific objective for fear repetition would create bad habits and muscle memory patterns that would be even harder to replace.
Through self reflection and constant embedded assessment I realized that growth was not at the speed I expected because I was overloading them with information that their mind and muscles were unable to take in and retain.
My second year I decided to stick to focusing on the objectives of my unit and lesson and try my best to only correct outside of those goals if I found it too potentially harmful to the dancer or could cause injury. For instance if the unit was on correct use of the feet I would create lessons and rubrics and assessments in which the dancer new the expectations for the unit and were able succeed due to the focused practice. As a teacher I tried to focus my assessment and corrections only toward the units objectives. Although it was difficult to see other aspects being performed incorrectly, the students had greater success at achieving the unit objectives.
My first year I also did much of the assessing solely on my own. I would ask many questions to gage if they were retaining and connecting concepts. Although I did my best to give as many personal corrections as possible, I wanted them to have more. In my second year teaching I noticed that the more knowledge and understanding students gained the more valuable peer assessments became. In class I began creating checklist for students to observe each other and record their observations. This was very helpful for me to know what they truly understood about the whys and how's.
In my 3rd year those returning students now feel very comfortable to give meaningful constructive feedback and receive feedback from their peers . Students are always asked to provide one observation of what they did well and one thing they could improve upon with specificity and a strategic suggestion. Everyone wins. Students get more one on one feedback so they progress quicker, students giving feedback feel ownership over their observations and gain confidence from being able to apply their knowledge, and I am able to assess not only if they can physically perform the skill but if they know how and why which is a deeper level of understanding , which sometimes comes before or after the being able to “do” part of kinetic understanding .
My first year I was also very strict with not moving on until they mastered the skill or concept, not just improved. Through reflecting on my teaching and my students I saw that the students started to loose some motivation due to the lack of what they considered a challenge. I then realized by scaffolding a new more difficult skill just outside of their zone of proximal development it kept students interested and challenged enough that they were close to achieving it but not so difficult that they felt frustrated and gave up.
As I reflect on my first three years of teaching I believe my ability to model was and is one of my greatest attribute as a teacher because I am an expert in my field and am able to demonstrate for them what I am asking of them. Students feel inspired and are able to replicate at a quicker rate. Often times I will demonstrate and the whole class will start clapping. When I demonstrate a new skill their eyes always light up and they are motivated to want to be able to do it too. In this way I find that the “I do, we do, you do” model is a very useful strategy for teaching dance at any level.
Lastly, as I reflect on my teaching one-area remains as important to me today as the first day I started my program, and that is fostering a strong student culture of community. Creating a strong sense of student culture and community has instructional benefits as well. I have tried to create an environment where students feel you are a part of a bigger whole and that each person’s success strengthens the group. In this way we have created excitement and motivation that keeps the momentum of self-motivation and teamwork.
Dance Across the Curriculum
As a student, performer and now teacher, dance has never been separate from other areas of my life. Dance and being an artist is a way of life. Therefore, I have always viewed the world through a dance lens, and therefore fluidly find connections between my field and the fields of others. I model this way of thinking with my students and always try to find opportunities to connect what we are learning to what they have learned or will learn in their other classes. I believe this is the most valuable form of education, learning that transcends content and connects areas of specialization by way of thinking, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating. Furthermore I believe in asking my students to demonstrate cross content connections in class daily. I encourage those moments when students raise their hand and say “this is like in my math class, or english class when…”
Connecting writing and literary forms to dance and composing a choreographic work or analyzing the work of a master choreographer has been a successful way of integrating ELA into my discipline. We describe, create and evaluate dance in literary terms such as contrast, climax, theme, point of view, tone of voice, metaphor, and imagery for example as we critique the dance making of our own and others.
Like many of my students math was an area of difficulty during my high school years. Knowing my students and reflecting on this time in my own educational career, I work to relate mathematical principals to those demonstrated in dance. For example every form of dance uses angles, geometric shapes, line segments, diamonds, parallels, right angles, and divides musical beats. In my class we use math to help synchronize dancers timing. In ballet the students use physics to "calculate" how much power they have to use to make a full turn without over or under turning, or the amount of power they have to use to lift that person into the air without straining a muscle. My students even use math for measurements for costumes and shoes.
Social studies is one content that is inseparable from my dance teaching. I believe that dance inherently expresses cultural values, and histories which are ingrained in the movement it’s self, and it is my job as a teacher to help my students unpack and decode the meaning behind the movement. I do not teach steps I teach the legacy of those who used their body as a way of communicating in an effort that my students will not only continue the these legacies but add to them as individual artist who have something to add to the conversation of dance that reflects the culture and time in which they experience life. My student know that ballet communicates just as much about the society and history of people in Europe as the African Dinhe dance of west Africa or the American values expressed by modern dance pioneers in the technique classes I teach.
Science by means of Anatomy and Kinesiology is a daily integrated into my dance curriculum. As the body is the instrument with which we strive to articulate our expressions, I believe it is essential for a dancer to know their body and how it works in order to develop it’s skill to their personal capabilities. During any one of my classes an observer will hear the use of anatomical language used to describe alignment, placement and capability for movement. It is with this knowledge that students are able to self –assess areas of physical weakness and imbalances that give them the ability to prevent injuries and target areas that will assist in their growth.
Positive Attitude and Joy in your Dance Practice
Dance is extremely difficult, detailed, physically and mentally exhausting and it is all only worth it if the dancer finds daily joy and passion in their work. As a teacher I constantly emphasize finding pleasure within their effort and to make sure that students are constantly being acknowledged for what they are doing right and improving upon, not only what they still need to work on. I believe that encouraging the joy of dance in my student’s stars with me. As a teacher I continually express the love and joy I find in my art form, and like with anything, joy is contagious. I have had many students in the past tell me, “Mrs. Jaafar you love what you teach more than any teacher I have.” When a teacher is excited about what they are teaching you are more likely to get the students excited about what they are learning. When students feel the joy dance brings, self-confidence is the result.