The last Term of the year is always an important one for the Year 6 students as they prepare to transition to high school. These students can often be apprehensive about the impending change to being a little fish in a very, big pond.
They may demonstrate signs of restlessness in class and appear unsettled. Alternatively, they may fluctuate between feelings of excitement, nervousness or uncertainty.
Developing coping strategies to deal with these unsettling emotions will help students set up skills that are applicable throughout adult life. The success of this transition into secondary school can influence how they interact socially, emotionally and academically for many years. For some, it may change the direction of their lives in the future.
To prepare for this event in their school lives, students often require rehearsing skills to make new friends, as many will be moving to a high school where they know few people. They will need to cope with an often unknown learning environment as they negotiate their way around a new school.
To do this they need to be confident in their academic knowledge and life-skills, to have a love of learning and most importantly be aware of their strengths. Of equal importance is their ability to identify challenges and know strategies to overcome them.
For the Year 6 teachers there is the opportunity to devise a range of learning activities that support students at this crucial time.
Activities that can assist teachers in identifying areas that may need additional support are useful.
What skills do students need to make this transition to high school?
Perhaps the most important attributes for the successful student are that they are:
- A responsible citizen
- An engaged learner
How can dance help students transition to high school?
The reflective nature of dance gives students opportunities to identify their strengths and the parts of this journey they may find challenging. Often students are reluctant to voice their inner uncertainties due to lack of confidence.
Dance is a wonderful vehicle for exploring emotions that may be difficult to articulate.
The artistic process has built-in scaffolding to support the students through cycles of reflection, as they explore and choreograph dance.
Dance projects also require planning and organisation, essential at this time for students to test their own capabilities. Many of these qualities are developed throughout children’s time at Primary school but this final Term gives them a chance to fulfill the tasks with confidence and certainty.
Many students in their final year of Primary school are unable or reluctant to take initiative without support from the teacher. When finishing a task, “What do I do know?” seems to be a common question.
Creating dance projects that require students to take responsibility for their own actions will prepare students for the more independent and self motivated approach needed in high school. Ensuring that clear roles and responsibilities in group dance projects are established in the initial planning stages, can assist in making expectations clear.
Accountability, set up in the organizing of the dance project, ensures students know what they will do and how they will show that they have accomplished their goals. Learning how to manage time and prioritizing tasks with set time frames is essential when planning any project.
Students need to feel ownership over all aspects of their dance projects, from the planning stage through to assessment. Ensure that the dance project planning includes the students being responsible for sourcing what ever they need to complete the project.
For some students, these skills will still need to be taught. Each group needs to compile a checklist that supports preparation skills that may be used across multiple subject areas in secondary school.
This is the time for the teacher to step away a give control to the students. By doing this, children gain self-confidence and trust in their own abilities.
The teacher’s role shifts from problem solver to active listener, providing questions rather than answers as they work through their organizational and creative dilemmas.
Moving to a secondary campus can also involve the students learning to move from one room to the next for classes. By designing the dance projects to move to different spaces within the school you can prepare students for this change.
Give them instructions the previous day to meet you in another part of the school, the hall or an outdoor space perhaps. Let them know they need to bring what they will need to work on their dance project. This could involve them organizing sound systems, costuming, props or other stimulus material. These small changes will allow them to adjust to changing circumstances and develop their ability to be organised in advance.
A responsible citizen
Dance is valuable in exploring themes to articulate the students’ roles as responsible citizens. Devising project themed around community and diversity gives students a space to express their emerging ideas, concerns and beliefs.
For example, themes about the elderly, refugees, climate change, poverty and animal welfare provoke thoughtful art making that develops proactive young adults who may want to make a difference and create change.
Resilience is having the skills and resources to deal with difficult situations. Many children may not outwardly show they are experiencing difficulties in making this transition and teachers will need to make them feel safe and validated in uncertain times.
Finding activities that emphasis their strengths and bring out what others admire in them will build a string sense of self. Avoiding focusing on their appearance will encourage a deeper sense of self actualization. Emotion based movement activities to facilitate exploration of complex feelings, use art making as a way of students working towards feeling positive and unique.
Learning about change and how to cope with it through dance, gives the students ideas to explore what they can expect from this significant change in their life. Learning how they will manage their mistakes is of equal importance and should be a part of the reflective process of all dance activities.
Exploring different coping skills and identifying what works best for them as individuals will help build resilience.
An engaged learner
Participating in dance activities models the strength of art making as a way of learning and shows that there are infinite ways of communicating. Dance demonstrates for children the complexity and wonder of learning through the arts.
It opens doors for self-development and self-expression, celebrating diversity and honouring culture. As important, is its capacity for enhancing children’s problem solving and critical thinking abilities while unfolding a deeper understanding of self.
Success in secondary school requires the ability to research and analyse, communicate ideas and to plan and organise information. Well designed dance projects that combine these things with the use of collaborative skills, build self-disciplined, confident and creative students.
Using dance to support the Year 6 transition into secondary school, gives teachers a creative strategy to implement lessons that nurture students’ mental health and emotional well-being. This can provide solutions for safeguarding our students during this vulnerable time and building coping skills they may use throughout their lives.
For dance ideas to use in your classroom look at the readymade lesson plans and teaching resources available on Dance Teaching Ideas.