Tips for Teaching Dance to Children

1.  Consistency

 Kids thrive on consistency.  They do best when they have a schedule and they know what to expect.  Teachers that are consistent with what and how they teach will have greater success with students.  Consistency also includes discipline.  Children work best in a very structured environment where the teacher is in control, not the students. Don't be afraid to be strict, as long as it is accompanied with care, interest, and hugs.

2. Hands On

Younger children (and sometimes older) need to be physically manipulated when learning dance and movement.  Have children use your shoulder as a "barre" to keep their balance as you correct if you are in center.  Have an assistant keep a combo going as you correct students.  Make it your goal to physically manipulate each student at least once per class.  Figure out ways for kids to "feel" things on their own. IDEAS: teach them sur le cou de pied at an early level - this position will teach where hips, knees, ankles and toes should be positioned for most other movements in ballet.

3. Appropriate Age/Level Material

Make sure you are teaching appropriate material and skills for age and/or level.  Young dancers always want to do the "tricks", but until they understand and can perform all the building blocks that create that skill, they will rarely be able execute the skill correctly.  Take pride in your students being proficient in the basics and mechanics of dance.  You will be ensuring them success as they move into more difficult levels and learn hard skills.  PS. Make sure that your music is age appropriate as well.

4.  Have Fun 

An instructor that is having fun and is passionate about what they teach will naturally inspire students.  Dance is hard work, but the rewards of that hard work is dance!!! A good teacher figures out ways to make the difficult and repetitive work challenging and fun.  IDEA: Call out your tendu combinations without demonstrating.  Make it a challenge for the student to listen and then execute the combo without seeing it.  IDEA: Try a balancing "contest".  No one likes to balance for long periods of times, but if it's a contest, students will keep going forever.  IDEAS: Teach the concept of fondues by playing a melting game.

5. Be Technical

The best teachers are excited about the "why's" and "hows" of their craft.  Executing something correctly is just as important as executing with passion.  Dance is sequential and builds on concepts.  Figure out ways to help students identify those concepts and connections.  FOR EXAMPLE: a degage has all the mechanics of a battement, but with a quicker "release", plies go before and after every kind of jump and leap.  

6. Articulate - Demonstrate - Manipulate  

Students learn differently.  Make sure to explain things several ways.  Use descriptions and vocabulary.  Always say Right or Left when explaining a combo.  Use stage directions when teaching combos in center.  Show kids what you mean with your words and make sure you demonstrate exactly what you want.  If you can't demonstrate something, use a student or demonstrator who can.  Physically manipulate students as well.  Students should hear, see and feel what they are learning. 

7.  Be a mentor

Great teachers truly care about their students.  Learn student's names, talk to their parents before or after class, greet students as they enter your class and be excited to see them.  Ask the office to call if a student has an extended absence to check in on them.  Part of caring for students is understanding that you are being watched and emulated.  As a dancer, make sure you are working hard, demonstrating correct technique and mechanics, pushing yourself to learn and improve.  As a person, make sure your conduct both in public, in private and on social media is appropriate for any student or parent to see.