Teaching ideas for building positivity

“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on
your way.”
Dr. Seuss

The end of each year is a time to remind young people about the positive aspects of our world and their place in it.  For some, the focus of this year may have been on self-preservation as they resist the changes to their world.  For others they may have exhibited few outward signs of their response to change but have internalized it, ready to make an appearance in another form.

Building well-being through dance

As a part of your end of year teaching and learning processes you may be engaging in reflective activities that identify the students’ wishes, outcomes, obstacles and new goals.  Throughout the year we often check for understanding but it can be hard to find time to reflect.

Dance lessons to reflect on goals promote well-being through physical activity, relieving stress and boosting endorphins.

The benefits of feeling positive

Children who are optimistic are more able to face challenges, both academic and personal, and attain higher levels of achievement.  They are less likely to experience the adverse effects of stress and depression and are more likely to have faith in their own ability to succeed in difficult times throughout their education journey.

Children are naturally funny, caring and thoughtful.  They want to be good friends and loving members of family; this is the default for most children.

Each child is a unique individual and their paths to finding positivity in their lives is equally as unique.  Dance projects carried out in the last term of school, that build positivity, act as a reflection on how they see themselves as members of their class, family and community.

The interaction between body, mind and feeling allows children to work in symbol and metaphor and can be transferred into their actions in the classroom and their writing.   Nonverbal expression whether through drawing, music or dance helps children say what may not be able to be said in words.

Dance being nonverbal also facilitates children making connections between facial expression and emotion.  This could be particularly significant for children with diverse learning needs.

Teaching IdeasDance acts as a powerful form of inspiration and self-affirmation for children.  The benefit of dance is that it promotes openness and acceptance through the feelings of fascination and joy.  Dance gives children an opportunity to dismantle and assemble their memories, feelings and ideas,  helping to support their ability to respond positively to change.

It is important when designing these dance activities that they are scaffolded and supported through working collaboratively with the teacher.  Emphasizing positive emotions through modelling creative problem solving is an important tool for developing student’s persistence and perseverance.

Teaching ideas for Positivity

Begin these activities with breathing and mindfulness activities to quieten the children’s minds. This could include progressive muscle relaxation.

  1. Friends are Awesome

By focusing on aspects of another person it opens the door to seeing that whole person. In this activity the students explore the ideas of friendship.

What makes a good friend?

How do you show appreciation?

Create a dance for a friend that highlights the answers to these questions. Begin with a written activity that could include:

‘I like friends who…’,

‘Hobbies, favourite things what do you do together?’

You could support this with drawings that could be given to the friend later.

Create a poem that may also be the stimulus or accompaniment for the dance. Record the students reading the poem and play it as they perform the dance.

  1. You are not alone

In this dance activity you contrast how it feels to be alone with what you do to make yourself feel better.

Consider approach this from a sensory motor perspective.  Develop movement activities that are explore how we calm ourselves or find comfort through the senses.  Consider Taste, Touch, Smell, Sound, Sight, Vestibular and Proprioception.

Make a dance about these contrasting feelings and the 7 senses.  Each child could choose the combination they identified with.  For example, when feeling lonely, they may find comfort in smelling a flower.  Their dance represents them feeling lonely in contrast with how they felt after they smelt the flower.

  1. Collaborate with a friend

Each student starts a dance by creating three movement phrases. They teach it to their friend and then they finish creating each other’s dance.

You can have them create it around a theme or they can find their own ideas.  You may like to have them perform it for each other or combine the sections to create a whole dance.

The point is to have them empathize with the choreography of the first dancer.

  1. Respect Yourself

Start by giving the students an inspiring and positive quote.  Here are some examples that are positive and uplifting:

“If you treat people with dignity, respect and friendliness, you can turn enemies into friends. An enemy is nothing but a friend in disguise.”

Ted Turner

“Be more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, always offering respect onto others and never expecting any in return.”

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

In small groups, the students create a dance using the quote as a stimulus.  You could use “Imagine” by John Lennon as an appropriate piece of music or have the students find a song that has lyrics about respecting others.

They then write about how they could show respect for other people in their everyday life and how that would make them feel.

Some final thoughts…

Celebrating the children’s creativity is important to the success of these dance activities. Maya Angelou said,” I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Rewarding children with praise that is delivered with commitment and thought will support your students’ positive attitudes.

Celebrate each small achievement throughout the activities, encouraging children to value their own work. Include scaffolded reflections that highlight these achievements, keeping positivity as the focus.

In each dance activity there should be many opportunities for the children to come up with ideas, build on them and share them.

Ensure that the activities have aspects that all the children will enjoy. The feeling of joy is important to making the effects last.

Support these activities by using strategies in class like keeping a gratitude diary, reflective journaling and practicing ‘small acts of kindness’ as a part of daily classroom life.

Positive people infect others with their positivity. As the teacher you play an important role in creating the ‘weather’ in your classroom, and your strengths will impact your students’ positivity.

And finally, at the end of every day, be kind to yourself.  Identify how you got it right and the wonderful moments you witnessed in the classroom.

Above all have fun and show yourself the kindness you show to your students.

The power of positivity is that it prepares your students for something more than passing tests.  It prepares them for life.  The aim of teachers is to see their students flourish and by nurturing positive dispositions, children are in a better position to respond to this changing and challenging world.