by Maria Hanley
When I tell people I teach 25 classes of preschoolers and toddlers a week, their eyes pop out of their head! Even though they think I’m crazy, I’m over the moon about it. Teaching that many classes can take a toll, but for me, the way to get through each week is to have clear expectations. I show my expectations for my “littles” by using specific catch phrases. I say them frequently and as the weeks go on, they catch on.
If you are a teacher with a lot of experience you probably have your favorite phrases that work to manage the classroom. If you are a new teacher just starting out, you will develop what works for you. I thought I would share mine that have developed over the years. Feel free to use them!
“Happy Dance Day!”
This is my standard greeting when I meet them at the door. If it’s ballet class I will say “Happy Ballet Day!” It’s just a little happiness to greet them before class and to let them know that they have my full attention. They say it back and they get so excited to dance. Do you meet your dancers at the door? Do you go with them outside after class to give an extra goodbye? I always do. I think that’s one of the most important touches, like two exclaimation points at the beginning and end of class!
“Watching eyes on, Listening ears up, and Marshmallows in.”
I do the motions for this one. I make glasses for eyes, and use my hands to turn up my listening ears. Eating marshmallows makes their cheeks puffy and therefore no noise can come out. It’s a fun little trick to get their attention instead of just saying “be quiet!” like a broken record.
“When I see it, I will say it.” OR “My eyes are open.”
Many times when we are exploring movement, they want me to see what they are doing. They will call out “Look at me, Miss Maria!” or “Like this?” This would be fine, except when they all do that at the same time, it gets really rowdy. Instead, I tell them that when I see it, I will say it out loud. This encourages them to continue to explore the movement while still getting the attention of their name and movement called out.
I have gathered that as attentive as I am to my dancers, they still want to know that I’m watching. Reassuring that you are is important.
“I love the way…”
Goes along with the one above. This is a phrase of praise. When you see an interesting movement or a student thinking outside the box, instead of saying “great job” say “I love the way… you are making that shape with your arms up high and your legs twisted down low.” Be specific so that the other students can hear what you like about what that student is doing with their body.
I must admit, this one takes a while to get used to. It’s important to put it in your vocabulary for added clarity and encouragement to your dance room.
“I’m looking for the quietest and most still dancer”
I use this one for picking students to go across the floor or for turning on the music. Of course once you say this phrase they want to please you. I use it mostly for management of the next exercise. Then I call out names – “Maddie looks ready” “Jessica looks ready” “Emily looks ready” and so on. It works like a charm…unless it’s Halloween! 😉
What are your favorite “work like a charm” catch phrases to use with your preschool dancers? I would love to hear and exchange!
BIO: A passionate advocate for early childhood dance education, Maria Hanley specializes in teaching ages 5 months to 6 years. She currently designs and implements creative ballet programs for the young families and after school division at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Maria teaches a variety of creative dance and infant/toddler programs throughout New York City, including The Mark Morris Dance Group, Dancewave Center and 92Y Parenting Center.
Maria authors the blog Maria’s Movers (http://www.mariasmovers.com) where she shares creative ideas and strategies for teaching young dancers. The blog unites a community of teachers who are inspiring our youngest dancers every day. Maria holds a Master’s degree in Dance Education from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree in dance from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Maria served on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee for 2 years and presented at the 2012 Dance USA Conference.