How to set up your goals, excercise sequences and lessonplan.
Don’t know what excercises to choose? It might be a good idea to sit down and write out your lessonplans. Do you have clear long- and short term goals for your students? This will also determine your excercises and the sequence. Let’s do it together. Step by step.
- Step 1: The bigger picture.
Take a piece of paper or open up a word document on your computer. You start by writing down what class you are going to teach, the style and the level. Depending on the level you can now start to think about long term goals for your students. Also write down how many classes you will have with them.
Let’s take a ficticious class. Let’s say you teach ballet to 4 and 5 year old students. So you already know that you need to practice organisation and discipline ( the children will have just started with school, so rules and doing an activity as a group is new to them. You need to teach them that.) Also, you know that it has to be fun, adventurous and imaginative. And teaching them the beginnings of ballet.
Luckily with a balletclass, you can always follow the traditional format of a class. Barre, centre, across the floor/au diagonal, jumping on the spot and across the floor. With small children you start in a circle instead of at the barre.
Add imaginative excercises through stories, songs and music.
This class has to have a good balance of technique excercises, improvisation via an image, story or music, songs, games and dancing with atributes. Depending on the season or maybe working towards a holiday, you can choose a theme. For example: the zoo, winter and snowflakes, fairytales etc.
Now write down on your piece of paper what you want the children to be able to do at the end of a year of ballet with you. Think big. So that can be: I want them to be able to reproduce plié, relevé and tendu on their own. My students will learn and be able to reproduce de positions of the feet. And maybe you want them to be able to execute a grand jeté.
Other goals; I want them to be able to form a line or circle on their own, without me. Or, at the end of the season I would like them to be able to cooperate together.
Think big and just write it down. You are brainstorming now. We are going to nuance it in the next steps.
- Step 2: Work from big to small goals.
Allright, you wrote down some big goals. These are your long term goals. Time to nuance and break it down to smaller, short term goals. You also wrote down how many classes you will have with them. Let’s say you have a total of 25 classes. We will devide this up in to 5 blocks of 5 classes.
Remember that we wanted to teach our children to be able to do a grand jeté on their own at the end of the season? Allright. So in order for them to do this there are some steps to take, right? They need to be able to jump in a ballet way. So in block 1 we are going to teach them plié, relevé and tendu. Obviously the practice of this movements will be repeated in the other blocks. In block 1 we let them jump with no regard to pointed feet or other ballet things. But work on pushing of the floor and landing safely in a nice juicy plié.
In the second block we can work on pointing the feet, which will help with propelling into the air. In block 3 we can do an imaginative ecxercise. Running from one point in the room to another. Lay something on the floor in the middel of the room and let the children jump over it. Obviously with one leg first and then the other. This will help them get the motion of a grand jeté. In the following blocks we work on streamlining the movement. And at the end the children will be able to jump in a, somewhat, split movement through the room.
Allright, obvously this is not a very detailed description, there are more stepst to take. But I hope you catch my drift and we move on.
- Step 3: A red line ( and even smaller goals) in every class.
Good. Now we have 4 or 5 long term goals for our entire course of 25 classes. We divided these up in 5 blocks. Every block has short term goals to work on and achieve our long term goals. The blocks of 5 classes do not have to be 5 whole new classes. You can make one class and take 5 weeks to teach and practice the material.
Set a foundation in class nr. 1 and built all the way through class 5. Meaning, maybe you teach halve of your material in class 1, repeat in the second class and apply another excercise, repeat in class 3, and apply yet another excercise. Children need to repeat and practice to get the muscle memory going.
Now let’s go even smaller. Every class within a block also has it’s own goals.
A smaller goal can be how to make a juicy plié, instead of just bending and stretching in the joints. I need to teach them the dynamics (juicy and pliable), so there will be some musicality involved. I will demonstrate, I will correct and we will practice. And we can repeat in the next class.
Now as for the sequencing of the excercises.
We start small and go on to bigger movements. Small children do not really need extensive warm up (like teenagers or adults), so you could start with letting them run a few rounds through the room. But it would be better to set your theme, mood and their concentration from the start of the class. Take them along in your magical ballet world.
Make sure that your exercises have a clear and logical follow up, so that the class will feel as a pleasant journey they were on. Think also about your music. When I make classes I check my whole playlist and the sequence of exercises, to check the energy and atmosphere.
For example, after jumping on a bright and joyful tarantella, I see the children need a break. I still want to continue dancing, so I let them sit in a circle with me, put on relaxing and imaginative music and start an excercise for port de bras (follow the leader) on the floor. After that I read a short story and we continue standing and moving through the room. Variation is key, but with a logical following.
Ask yourself what you want to teach and achieve in one class? And via what journey do you want to achieve that? Write it down in your document. You can also use my free, downloadable lessonplan for that.
Think of the following goals for your class: physical, musical and dynamics, organisation and social.
Example of a class.
Our class starts with letting the children tell briefly what is on their minds, while doing roll call. After that we sing a song about spring. Then move on to improvise through the room as a little lamb (the children are jumping and moving free through the room). We make a circle and practice plié’s and relevé’s via the follow the leader principle. Just let the music continue and let them follow the movements. We sit down and we do some light point and flex exercise with the feet and putting our noses on our knees (stretching).
We stand and practice tendu ponté with the image of touching hot sand. Afterwards we jump together while also counting. Time to move through the room again. But before that, I have brought a book. A story about a butterfly in spring. Let’s all dance as the butterfly. (I am practicing port de bras now in a basic form, but already creating a sense for the lyrical dynamics.)
I distribute scarfs of very light material and we proceed dancing through the room. After this I sit the children down to turn off the music (I do this every time, or they will start to run through the room and it will take time to organize them back.) I will call out a name and that child will proceed to the corner to start the line up for practicing basic grand jeté au diagonal.
I put down some scarfs on the floor to mark where they will be jumping. One by one they run and jump.
After this we proceed to a spot in the room for a dance game everybody knows. I turn on the music and the children dance, I turn of the music and they stand still. We go back to a circle on the floor and sing our goodbye song. They line up at the door, and proceed out of the studio one by one.
This was an example of a class for 4/5 year old students of 45 minutes. 45 minutes is fine for this age, as they have a low attention span. And with explaining, organizing, comforting a child that fell down, repremending a child that did a naughty thing, etc the material above will be enough. Next class when the children know what is expected of them and where in the room it takes place, it will, obviously go quicker and we can do an extra excercise or two.
In practice you will see that it depends on your students mood it you can proceed with your lessonplan succesfully or not. Don’t worry about it! Because this is why you have 5 classes for one block with a specific theme and goals. Give yourself, and the students, the time. And remember that above all, your dance class needs to be fun while educational.
And obviously, when you see your children do a beautiful movement and you are inspired to do a whole dance with it, just do it. If you see they are really tired today, do an extra exercise for their relaxation and concentration, without going through the whole room. Really ‘read’ your students and adjust to get the best results. Your lessonplans and goals are there as guidelines not laws.
Do you have any questions or remarks? Do not hesitate to contact me. Should you want to make a whole curriculum, with goals, and lessonplans together with me? You can. Please contact me and we will discuss how many hours we will spend on the project and for which fee.