I first started teaching Bollywood dance to children when I was in my early twenties. Nearly twenty years later I finally have it figured out! And, I wish someone had given me these tips all those years ago. It would have saved a lot of pain, sweat and tears.
Ok – so it’s not been that bad! But, it really would have made my journey into teaching school workshops a lot easier if I had known the following things.
So take a look at my TOP TEN TIPS, bearing in mind these are for one-off school workshops, and let me know what you think!
1) Teach Movement not Technique
Don’t worry about how perfect their hand gestures are or how well they execute the step. As long as they are moving – safely and to the music – and are enjoying themselves, then hey they are learning dance. If you start being too strict about the technique, then you may find they lose interest (not to mention confidence).
2) Keep Activities Short
I have each of my classes divided into very distinct sections. From the icebreaker at the beginning of the class to the revitaliser at the end of the class – each section is around 5 to 15 minutes long. Never longer. I have lots of different activities – and they flow from one to another seamlessly.
3) Plan, Plan Plan!
Always have more material then you think you’ll need. Always be prepared to cut sessions short. Always be prepared to adapt what you are doing. Every school, every setting, every group of children is different. Stick to your basic principles of teaching dance – but be prepared to adapt to suit the situation. If you have planned the session well, have lots of different activities to choose from, enough props to pick and know your material inside out – then you’ll be just fine!
4) Set Boundaries
I am strict in my sessions. I go in there and I set boundaries. The children know that I am in charge – and I am there to teach them dance – and they are there to learn. I am not their friend.
Now I know this sounds harsh! But it works. Once I have set the boundaries and the expectations are set – the children know what I expect of them – and they know what to expect from me – then we are good to go. The session runs smoothly – and I am able to deliver a session that is fun, creative and inspiring.
5) Teachers Must Be Present
This is a must. Don’t start a session without a teacher present – and before you do the sessions ensure the school knows that you do expect teachers to take part. There is nothing worse than a teacher who sits in the corner marking homework! It sends a message to the children that this session is not important! No way! Get them involved in the session. First of all make it clear to them that they need to discipline the children – you are not there to discipline them. Also, if a child asks to go to the toilet or any other reason to leave the room – refer the request to the teacher. Secondly, get the teacher participating, dancing alongside the children. If you are using props – ask the teacher to help you give them out/collect them. Get them involved!
6) Use Props
Talking of props – use them. I have Jhoom! sticks, scarves, ribbons, shakers – you name it I have a prop for every age group.
Children love props – and they make the session more interesting, more colourful and more fun. Props don’t need to be expensive – but investing in a few will make a huge difference to your sessions.
7) Fun, Achievable Sessions
Your sessions need to be fun, but they also need to be structured in such a way that the children leave feeling like they’ve achieved something. Every age group needs to have learnt something new – often without even realising they have learnt something new! Children always love shouting out “buzzy bees” or “Namaste” when they see me after a session. Give them vibrant experiences and short, memorable words and movements that stick in their minds.
Remember, children need praise. They need to be told they have done well. But, even better, they love a small badge of honour – and what better one then a small, sparkly bindi? Make sure you check for plaster allergies – and ensure they know that they don’t need to take one if they don’t want one. Also, give them the option of having a bindi on their forehead or on the back of their hand. Don’t forget the teachers!
9) Appropriate Music
Use the correct music – that’s appropriate for the age group. You don’t realise how infuriating I find this – when I see dance teachers who know nothing about Bollywood and Bollywood music using songs with lyrics that are just not suitable for children. Some Bollywood songs are really raunchy! Don’t use them. If you are at all unsure, Google the song and the lyrics and see if you think they are suitable. I use this website if I don’t understand the song – but there are others! http://www.bollynook.com/
10) Age Appropriate Sessions
Children change from year to year quite dramatically! In fact, I once taught a Year1 group at the beginning of the academic year, and then again at the end of their academic year and I couldn’t believe how much they had changed in that year. Make sure you understand this when planning and delivering your sessions. Make the movement easy enough for them to achieve and yet hard enough for them to be slightly challenged. You need to find the balance. And, ensure that you are making the level of difficulty suitable for the age group. Ensure you use words that they will understand – don’t baffle them with dance lingo! Use appropriate class formations to teach them – circles/lines – and always adhere to health and safety principles – warming them up and cooling them down appropriately.
I used to find teaching children quite challenging – for so many reasons. But, now I stick to my Top Ten Tips – and I really enjoy teaching them. Teaching children can be so rewarding! Try it – and let me know how you get on.
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