One of my mentors once told me, “if you make em’ laugh, they will listen to you.” It’s so so true!
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would post my secrets of being the ultimate trickster dance teacher and making my students laugh. Think magicians are the only ones who get to be tricksters around here? Not true. You, my friends can become ultimate tricksters yourselves. Here are some ideas I sprinkle in when the time seems right . . . even in months that are not October.
These ideas bring attention to you and focuses the whole class on what you want them to do next. I usually transform into a trickster during transitions. That’s the time when I feel they need something ‘out of the box’ the most.
Disclaimer: I am not advocating for you to “trick” your students. Not at all. This is just a little silly fun to add in if you are feeling bored or in a rut.
5 Ways To Become The Ultimate Trickster!
Turn A Prop Into Something Amazing
When you use a prop, you need a way to introduce it. Transition is key here. As I’m bringing out the prop I will turn it into something amazing. For example, when we use cones to leap over I turn the cone into 3 silly things. “It’s my birthday hat!” “It’s my microphone!” “It’s my ice cream cone!” This gets everyone’s attention for the next direction of what we will actually do with the prop. You could say anything and they would still think you are the bees’ knees.
Make A Mistake On Purpose (with your words or with a step)
This only really works if you have done a routine for a while setting up a dance or activity. Start by explaining the dance and then make a mistake in the middle. For example, “the sequence is jump, spin, and make a shape.” To be a trickster I would say “the sequence is jump, spin, and sleep” as I show it.
Another example is, after we practice our arm positions in order, I start to call them out of order to see if they can remember them. Then I will say “first, fifth, sixty- seven!” This gets so many laughs.
One more is making a mistake with your steps. Show the step wrong and see if they can catch your mistake. They will surprise you!
“Wait? We just made a square, right?” “Nooooo, we made a circle.” “Oh! Good thing you are all here, I never remember that.” When we make a circle holding hands in every class I say this exact dialogue every time! It never gets old, and I always seem to be confused. 😉
Be Small, Slow and Sneaky
Just like using your voice, your body language can help you bring focus. Hide a string or a scarf in your pocket or behind your back and slowly bring it out so they can see it. Or sneak over to them and get really low, and then sneak around the room as they follow you and you give the directions.
I also like to sneak up on them backwards and then turn around quickly to see if they are ready for the next part of class. They love to be able to do something without being told and then surprise you. I always make a big deal when I turn around. They giggle like crazy!
Make Them Feel Big
In your demonstration, become nervous about leaping over the very very very high cone. “I’m not sure I can make it over that tall cone.” I say. They say “You can do it, Miss Maria, just try!” Sound familiar? Then, I give them a try and they can do it too! They love to see you succeed and make you happy just as much as you love doing that for them.
There are so many ways to bring focus in transition. I hope these semi-broad examples will inspire you to expand your trickster skills. Remember, just make em’ laugh, and that’s all you need to have a smooth, successful class. Take my word for it!
What are your favorite ways to grab your students’ attention? Are you a trickster? I would love to hear!
A passionate advocate for early childhood dance education, Maria Hanley Blakemore specializes in teaching ages 0 months to 6 years. She left NYC, where she designed and implemented programs at Manhattan’s Jewish Community Center, Dancewave Center and The Mark Morris Dance Group, to teach dancers in the greater Cleveland area. Maria holds a Master’s degree in dance education from New York University (2007) and a Bachelor’s degree in dance performance from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania (2005). Maria authors the blog Maria’s Movers (www.mariasmovers.com) where she shares creative ideas and strategies for teaching young dancers. Maria served on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee for 2 years and presented at the 2012 Dance USA Conference. She also presents at the Dance Teacher Summit in New York City. Read Maria’s posts.