One of the benefits of using dance in the Primary classroom is about building a strong, collaborative classroom. Whether you are making dance or performing dance you are working together to create a work of art. This team-building, collaborative aspect of dance is a great way to help children of all ages learn to co operate with the teacher and each other early in the New Year.
Early learners, and Primary aged children are all individual in their responses to working cooperatively in a learning environment. Through dance and movement activities they learn to embrace a stronger feeling of community within the classroom.
Research into collaborative learning shows three main problems with working in groups. They mostly have to do with peer relationships in the classroom. They are, children working on and off task as a result of disagreements, student roles in the group and past experience with unsuccessful group work.
Why is team building important at school?
Encouraging students to be able to work together and make meaningful contribution to group work is an important part of the create process in dance. However, it is crucial for success in any classroom.
At the beginning of the year, team building activities are an opportunity to learn more about your students and for them to get to know each other. You begin to understand how and why they react in certain ways, developing empathy.
Team building improves communication between students and with the teacher. Having to articulate what you feel and think, and to work with others to solve problems, requires students to be clear about their ideas.
Being able to articulate ideas aids in conflict resolution in group activities.
These kinds of activities assist in students identifying their own and each other’s strengths. This enables the students to support each other not just turn to the teacher when they are uncertain. Your class will benefit from this peer learning.
Improved collaboration skills helps them be better able to complete and be more invested in group projects. This leads to tasks being completed rather than being slowed down due to internal tension between group members.
Ways you can support team building in your dance class.
It is important that the class sees the teacher as a part of their class team. Working along side the students and revealing aspects of your own personality can alleviate the children’s trepidation at seeming vulnerable.
You can do team building activities as a separate activity or embed it in your dance lesson plans. They work better if they are quick and fun and can be included as a brain break activity.
Changing your own language to exclude ‘don’t, can’t, and shouldn’t’ is a good way to model being an inclusive team member. Ensure your tone is about building trust rather than fear.
In team building activities give them time to respond or adjust their behaviour if they are experiencing difficulties. If it is a problem solving style of team building activity, ask questions about what may come next to help them stay on task.
When setting the rule for safety in the Primary dance classroom enlist the help of the class. They can identifying what may be important for movement safety, and ask questions about what makes them feel safe in the class. When do you feel comfortable/confident/inspired? What are the behaviours that will be most conducive to creativity and confidence building with the dance class?
Circles – a team building dance activity
Draw two circles on the floor or mark it our with tape. One slightly smaller circle will be inside the other circle. The children stand around the outside of the large circle. Outside the big circle represents Panic, the next section is Challenge and inside the small circle is Comfort.
Ask the children questions about how comfortable they are with certain conditions. Start with simple questions and work up to more difficult ones.
They could be about meeting anew teacher or even riding a bike. For example, you could begin with a question about swimming in the surf. Some children may be comfortable with this, but others, who are not strong swimmers may be less comfortable. Repeat this with several activities first to warm up the class.
Then move to more challenging questions. Introduce questions about why they chose to stand in that part of the circle.
An interesting one in a beginning dance class is to ask them about dancing in front of an audience. How comfortable are they with this? Some could be quite relaxed about this, but there could be others who are really challenged to dance in public.
What would it take to make them more confident to move towards the Comfort zone? Some may say they need to be sure they are prepared. For many children they feel more comfortable if the audience is people they already know such as family or close friends.
In the same way children who are comfortable with performance may need to identify under which circumstances they feel not so at ease. This could be that they know there is someone in the audience who is an experienced dancer. In this case they would move to the Challenge zone and think about what they would have to do to move into the Comfort zone.
Communication and problem solving team building ideas
Other ideas that work well in the dance class are:
These are just some of the team building activities to promote an environment where the children communicate, collaborate and create. They encourage students to develop empathy and reflective thinking as they work together.
These team building activities may not always be the solution to all your group work problems, but they will help you establish a positive and collaborative community in your dance classroom.