Lafour News

Lafour Prima Dance

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

How to explain to a parent when their child is not ready to join the dance class

Few parents welcome the news that their child is not ready to join the dance class. To some this may feel like a personal failure especially if their friends have children who are joining the class.
After a trial lesson if the teacher finds that a child is not ready to join the class it would not be appropriate to say so within ear shot of other parents. If there is another class waiting as is often the case there would not be the time for explanation anyway.
Perhaps, yet again, if it were made clear at registration that the teacher would contact the parent by phone after the trial lesson to give feedback this would reduce expectation by the parents of confirmation on the day.
Preparing what to say is important.Be polite and courteous but firm. Emphasise the child's strengths eg

"I could see that Emily has lots of energy and enjoys being in a large space and loves running and jumping. She is not comfortable however in the quieter more controlled elements of the class. At the moment I think that the class that I'm offering is too restrictive for her. I think she would be much happier doing gymnastics or swimming or an activity which uses lots of energy and is not as controlled. At this point therefore I don't think that she is ready to join the class. In another 6 months this could change. I could then register Emily for another trial lesson. In my experience if children do join the class before they are ready they don't enjoy themselves and it can put them off dance for a long time. When I make an assessment based on the trial lesson I consider very carefully the needs of each individual child and decide what is best for them................"

Try it! And let me know if it works.
I would just add that offering a maximum of 3 trial lessons would be reasonable. If it doesn't work after 3 then it is unlikely to work at all and the child would be much better pursuing another activity better suited to their personality and physicality.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A 'Trial lesson' system

There are steps one can take to reduce the likelihood of a child joining a pre school dance class who is 'not ready'.
'Not ready' in this context means that the child is unable to concentrate, is reluctant to join in, easily distracted, not listening to the teacher, running around the room etc .

At the first point of contact when a parent enquires about their child joining a dance class the teacher should ask the parent if the child is already attending a nursery, playgroup etc. This will indicate whether the child is familiar with the concept of participating in an activity with other children (without the parent) in a more structured setting.
Operating a 'trial' lesson system is extremely helpful.
This system would be explained to the parent at registration. A trial lesson date and time would be confirmed. During the trial lesson the teacher would be able to assess the child's receptivity to the class, general level of enjoyment and participation. Based on this knowledge the teacher would then be able to inform the parent whether or not the child was ready to join the class on a regular basis.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Children who don't want to join in the dance class. 2

As I have mentioned previously, knowing the individual personalities of each child is hugely important to the smooth running of the class. If a child suddenley announces that she doesn't want to join in the teacher has to make an instant decision.

Is the child ill? Is she playing up?Is she used to getting her own way?Is she unhappy?Does she need to use the bathroom?
If the teacher knows each individual personality she will be far better informed to deal with each of these situations as they arise.

For example if a child who normally joins in happily and is quite settled in the class announces that he doesn't feel very well then it is likely to be true. In this instance perhaps ask the child what is wrong, ask if they felt unwell before coming to class. Perhaps 'test' them by asking if they would like to be the leader in a dance movement which the teacher knows is something that the child normally enjoys. If the answer is no and the child's response appears genuine the teacher should say that the parent of the child will be told at the end of class and then suggest that the child sits down to rest.

The teacher should also make clear to the child that sitting down does mean sitting still and not playing.

The teacher should then keep an eye on the child and if he continues to sit quietly then this is also a sign that the child is genuinely unwell.

This is one approach for dealing with a child who is normally a happy participant in the dance class.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Children reluctant to join in the dance class: New students 1

When assembling the children prior to entering the dance space if a child is noticeably reluctant try asking whether he or she would like to help you lead the train.
A hand puppet or soft toy is useful in this situation as an intermediary. Introduce for example Dancing Bear (hand puppet) and perhaps say that it's the first time that Dancing Bear has come to the class and is feeling a bit shy (perhaps hide him a little behind your back).
Ask the children if they would wave to him so that he feels a little bit happier and knows that they want to be his friend.
Then bring Dancing Bear slowly out from behind your back and make him wave to all the children. Pretend that he wants to tell you something. Mime 'listening' to him and say that he wants to thank the children for making friends with him. Also say that Dancing Bear would like to stand next to the 'reluctant' child to make a train into the dancing space if that's alright.
Using Dancing Bear to express feelings that the child perhaps can identify with can lead to a feeling of inclusion which hopefully will enable him or her to join in with confidence.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

What to do when new students don't want to join in the dance class

This is a question that is frequently asked of me by dance teachers new to teaching the early years age group. Possible methods of approach will vary according to the specific circumstance. For the next few posts I will attempt to offer practical help based on personal experience to the various situations that I have encountered during my teaching career. Let us take for example the situation when a young child of 3yrs is new to the class.

I am of the opinion that when teaching this age group it is far better for the teacher and the students if parents are not invited to sit in the studio or dance room. As I mentioned in an earlier post if the teacher meets the students outside the room as they are preparing to enter, this ensures that she can observe the children and familiarise herself with any obvious problems. By that I mean the child who may be shy or lacking in confidence or clinging to their parent or upset because they fell over in the car park or who haven't got their pink ballet shoes!

In fact with regard to ballet shoes it is my policy for the early years age group that all the children dance barefoot.

Dance teachers in the private dance sector may be approached by a protective parent who insists that their child is very shy and is not used to being left and therefore wishes to accompany them in the studio.

This situation could be largely avoided if it were made clear at registration that parents do not stay with the child in the dance class. A 'Showcase day' or 'Parent watching day' or 'Open House' can be offered as an invitation to all parents at the end of every term. Having said this there will undoubtedley be the odd occasion when a child on the day confronted with the new situation decides that she or he doesn't want to go into the studio without the parent. Or the parent thinks that the child doesn't want to go into the class without them! I have encountered parents who appear to consider that to have a clingy child in some way publically demonstrates how much their child loves them which consequently confirms their status as loving and good parents.

The first piece of advice therefore is that the teacher must know the parents. Knowing the parents and knowing the children and assessing their personality and relationship traits are key to the way in which a teacher responds to potential problems.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Proposal for a new qualification: Early Years Dance specialist

Before attempting to add this latest post I have spent some time investigating the courses and accreditation options available to those wishing to train to become practitioners or carers of early years. On investigation it seems that an accredited course or qualification for those wishing to teach dance to early years is absent. Even the availability of CPD courses are few in number and very general in content.
In the previous post I suggested that the teaching of dance to early years could be effectively taught by anyone with a competent level of physical demonstration together with knowledge of the stage of development of the specific age group. In addition they would also require an age appropriate dance programme on which they could reliably depend.
If such an accredited course was available I am convinced that there would be a take up by many young people (and not so young!) who are looking to work in the early years sector.
Imagine for example if a classroom assistant, a nursery assistant or a playworker also had
a specialism in early years dance. They would bring a new specialised skill to the workplace.
This would not only be of benefit to the centre of learning but more importantly to the children themselves.
Since creating the Lafour Prima Dance programme and running trial workshops in nursery schools I have become increasingly aware of the potential benefit that there would be to the takeup of this initiative.
I do have the expertise, the experience and an effective dance programme which has been trialled and tested. The workshops that I've run have been practical and for the purpose of accreditation would need to be 'academised'. It would be a very welcome project though and I would love the opportunity to develop such a course.
Admittedly it feels as though I am rather a lone voice on the subject but if this is an idea which resonates with anyone it would be interesting to hear your comments.