Saturday, January 30, 2010

Playing Catch Up

This past thursday was a new semester at Mark Morris. I was very excited to see what students return but I was also anxious because I knew I would be getting new students. I thought a lot about what to do if I got new students in my class of tappers (ages 6-7) who have now have taken tap with me for 3 months. What a challenge! Here is what I did...

1) I paired up the my "new friends" with a tapper who has been in the class. I called them my helpers.

2) We did the class as usual, but I had my helpers teach them how to do the steps. I told them to say the steps out loud first! It works!

3) I went around to each pair and made sure they were on track and offering help to the new friends.

One thing that surprised me: My "old tappers" were saying very encouraging words to their partners! "Great job, you got it!" It made me so proud that they were being supportive of each other.

I think it's really difficult for both the new students and the continuing students. I know I will have to do something else in a few weeks so the continuing students don't get bored. However, I don't want to loose the new students either. I told the new students they have to work really hard to catch up.

I am curious to know what you think about adding kids to a class in the middle of the year? Do you have any tricks you use for catching students up quickly? I have thought a lot about this one, I would love to hear your ideas!

In the meantime movecreateducate...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A 1st Grade Ballet

This morning I had a performance with my first graders in Queens! We danced about Gingerbread people, Africa, Snow White, and a Vegetable Garden! It was so much fun! The students were so excited, they invited their parents and the K's and 2nd graders in the school to watch. It was a great day, and I was so proud of them! I love the looks on their faces when they feel so accomplished! They all had that look today! I wanted to post the the card one of the classes made me and I also got a special surprise!

p.s. I took video of the performance and I can't wait to share them with you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I'm not a very good dancer"

Yesterday in movement club (an after school option for three year olds to sign up for) I teach at the preschool something really striking happened. It was the new day of the semester, so I had some new kids join the club. There was first a little boy who sat down and wouldn't do our stretching and songs with us. I said, "you can join us whenever you want to" he said "I'm not a very good dancer." My jaw dropped! After that happened I thought to myself, he's just saying that. Once he sees what we do, he will join in.

Later, another girl came late to join the club, she was on the wrong list. She looked so excited to join and I was so happy to have her. We were moving across the floor, dancing with scarves and I saw that she was just standing. I said "come dance with us" and she said "i'm not a very good dancer." When she said that my I was so sad. Remember, this girl came in later so she never heard the little boy say the same thing.

I didn't think 3 year olds could ever think that. They are so care free with such big imaginations. I am just wondering where this is coming from. All I could say was "yes you are, we are all learning how to dance together."

The point of the club is to be creative and MOVE! My heart hurt to hear both kids say that. I am just curious what you think about this? Have you ever had a child say this to you? What would you have said?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Costume Sketch

Last week, I introduced my second graders to costume sketches. It was so much fun and they loved it! I told them to think of the character they are in their ballet we are creating. I asked them to imagine what that character would wear, what color, what props? They asked if they could just draw the pieces or if they needed to draw themselves in the costume. I told them either way it is considered a costume sketch. Here is a sample of a few great ones that I picked out. I can really tell what they are thinking their character would wear. I will use these to get costume ideas for the performance in a few weeks. What a great way to include the students in the this part of the project! Have you ever had your students do costume sketches? How did they turn out? I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Parents Day

This past week was the end of the fall semester for my tappers (ages 5-teen) at Mark Morris. Parents Day for me= excitement and anxiety. I love to give the students the chance to show their parents how much they have learned. This parents day was a bit different for me though, many times the parents are nice but not very interactive. The parents were so supportive, they clapped after every child showed a step. They laughed when something was funny, AND they thanked me afterwards for all my hard work and how much I taught them in such a short period of time. It really made me smile and I was so proud of the kids! Of course, the kids didn't talk the whole time like they usually do, they are so chatty! We moved through the class pretty quickly and I was able to end the class a few minutes early so I could get some feedback from the parents. I hope they sign up again next semester!

What about you? Do you ever have parents day for any of the classes you teach? Are the parents supportive and excited? Do you get nervous? I sure do. Do the kids act differently? That question might be a no brainer, but I am just curious! I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday!

Wednesday when I showed up at the preschool, I was greeted with all of these pictures from my two year olds. It made my day! I thought I would share them with you! They said "it's you Ms. Maria, it's you" Do you think it looks like Ms. Maria? ;)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Assessing your Teaching- One Class at a Time

Do you ever assess yourself teaching a class? I believe it is just as important as assessing your students. Last night I tapped myself teaching a ballet class to my 3-4 year olds. I came home and watched it back. For the most part, I was happy to see what I look like and sound teaching these girls. Here is what I noticed...

1) I expect them to be good listeners. (they usually are!)
2) I say "are you ready?" and "here we go" way to much.
3) I give the girls a lot of compliments and smiles!
4) I dance and move with them, so important with the littles.
5) They want to be close to me and show me everything. I always respond!

Have you ever assessed yourself teaching? What did you find? Did you change anything after you you watched yourself? I would like to do this again in different types of classes and with different age groups. I think it's a great way to become a better teacher and a simple way to improve the little things that teachers say and do. Try it out... You might surprise yourself!

(photo by Kiasa Carini)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Aligning with a Preschool Curriculum

Every week I spend the majority of my days with the preschool age group (my absolute favorite!). This year I have worked hard to align my curriculum for movement with their classroom curriculum. The teachers hang their curriculum outside their classrooms each month and I make sure to read what will be covered and see if I can support any of it in movement. I do research such as scanning the classrooms, looking at bulletin boards, and asking the teachers if there is anything specific they want me to work on. I inspect the library to see what new books are displayed. I have observed their gym classes, and have talked to the music teacher about what he does in his program.

Much of the curriculum at preschool is about taking turns, waiting, following directions, and of course the saying "you get what you get, and you don't get upset." I encourage these whenever I can. One of the classrooms I enter does a color of the month. Every month they pick a color and explore all the things that are that color. I make sure to incorporate this into movement so they get the curriculum from every angle. In addition to stretching, breath, and body parts I introduce a lot of following directions songs, ABC's, numbers, and many movement words. I like to also use books and props! This keeps their attention and exploration fresh.

These are just a few ideas of how I align with curriculum. It takes some research on my part to be aware of what is happening in the classrooms. At this age it's important that they get a well rounded education, but one that fits together well and makes sense.

What about you? Do any of you try to align curriculum with classroom teachers? Add on to a unit they are exploring in another subject or do a project on a topic they have covered? I would love to hear your ideas, even if you work with older kids!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shhhhh! -Making the Dance Room Quiet

Friday is the day I become a teaching artist (smile). Today, I worked with second grade on ballet stories for a mini performance they will do in February as their culminating project. The last few times I have gone I have noticed that the students have a hard time moving their bodies without moving their mouths. Now, I know that this is pretty challenging for young kids, but by second grade I would hope they could grasp the concept that we don't talk in a dance. I tell them that a dance is told with our bodies, not with our mouths. Todays classes got me thinking about different quiet signals and things teachers use to get their students quiet and ready to listen. Here are some things I have tried:

1) Hand up over head- peace sign with fingers
2) Drum
3) I will wait...
4) Clap a rhythm
5) Lights off
6) Shhh Shhh Shhh in a rhythm
7) Thank you _______(name) for listening
8) I like the way _____ (name) has a calm body and is waiting for what I will say next...
9) Excuse me- This is me being louder than you...
10) Show me your best listening body.

I am sure there are a million more! A great teacher of mine once told me that a loud dance room is a learning dance room. I completely agree, but I also think that an important lesson for students is to learn, make, teach and perform a dance they have to be able to move their bodies without moving their mouths.

Do you do anything special to get your kids quiet? A saying, a signal? Do you sound like a broken record every class? Do you change signals for different age groups? I would love to hear! Sharing what you use might be so helpful to someone else!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I am considering purchasing a flip video camera to document my work with New York City Ballet and Mark Morris. I think it would be nice to have my own library of dances and stories I have worked on. I have never taken video of any of my work with my students, so I think it might be a nice change, and just maybe a little addicting!

Do any of you have a flip? Do you use it for your classes and performances? Just curious to see if this is popular among dance educators?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quotes worth a Smile

These past few days in class with the littles have been full of smiles!! I love when they say something that sticks with me for a few days. Thought I would share a few with you, in case you are in need of a smile!

At the very beginning of creative movement class I start with emotions. We make all the faces we can think of, happy--sad--silly--surprised! My favorite one lately has been a sleepy face! They think it's hysterical, so while I pretend to sleep they all scream at me to WAKE UP! It's so fun! One of the little boys in the class says "Ms. Maria, you can't sleep now! You are supposed to teach us how to dance."

Today in ballet class I was so excited to see some of the little girls I haven't seen since before the holidays. They were so excited to be at ballet. The moms say they couldn't wait to bring them to ballet because they drive them nuts talking about ballet class. One mom says "she's obsessed!" haha. Anyway- I was telling them that they made my day and that I was so glad that they were there. One little girl responds "We are so glad you are here too, Ms. Maria." The cutest right?

Did any of your students say anything that made you smile this week yet? I would love to hear the cute things your students say! I am sure they are worth a smile too!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Star Wars: What my students are talking about . . .

Hello my dears . . . I'm curious, what are your students talking about these days? To my surprise my students are talking about (you guessed it) Star Wars!! Now it's time to ask me if I know anything about Star Wars . . . answer - nope, not a thing. So tonight, here I sit, studying the characters and of course how they move.

Today we traveled to the mysterious (to me) land of Star Wars. I tried to have the kids explain it to me, they did a good job, but I still want to study it for myself. I had promised a little boy that we could travel there today (which, I forgot about). Some of the girls resisted until I told them there was a princess in Star Wars. The boys wanted to dance with guns (hmmm, guns?). I tried to tell them they could be robots or dance with the light sabers (light sabers? is that what they are called), but they were not buying it.

I am wondering how exactly we can do a dance about or in the land of Star Wars? Have any ideas? I would love to hear...

P.S. Did you have any idea there was a cartoon about Star Wars? I never knew this!! (Big thanks to Dan for clueing me in on this one!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Teaching with Another Teacher

Many times in a week I push in to a classroom to teach movement or visit a school as a teaching artist to teach ballet. I also have many times in a week that I have my own classes and there is not another teacher present. I am thinking I like my own classes better, but I was wondering about what can make collaborating with a teacher easier? Here are some of my observations...

*Most of the time teachers already have quiet signals, floor spots, rules, and words they use in every class that the students are familiar with. Even if the teacher does not tell me what these are (even if I ask) I still try to pick up on the words and tones of the classroom. This helps me adapt to what the students already know. It keeps it consistent and easy to follow for the students.

*Another challenge I find as a teaching artist is creating goals. Of course as a teacher, I have goals for my students. BUT since they are not "my" students, I try to keep the goals broad. I am positive that the teachers have their own goals for their students in their dance room or classroom. Even if we discuss these before hand, it takes time to adapt to the goals of their classroom. I try to focus on just one at a time, once we have mastered one goal, we move on to the next. Example: Doing a ballet warm-up without talking (this is hard for 2nd graders to do, just saying!)

*One more challenge for me is knowing the students- 1- There are so many of them I can't learn their names in the short amount of time I am there. 2- I don't know their behavior history and if the classroom teacher is not helpful with discipline, it's hard to get anything accomplished.

Do any of you push into a classroom or dance room? Are you a teaching artist? What challenges do you face with the teacher or the students? I find it more challenging than having your own class of students. It seems to me though that having one more teacher involved should make it easier- Right? Not so much! Maybe it's time to leave the teaching artist world?

I would love to hear your ideas on this!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Create a Dance with Symbols!

On Monday in my creative movement classes I introduced Motif symbols to my 4 and 5 year olds. I know what your thinking, isn't it a little advanced to ask them to remember all the symbols and the movements? It is actually so easy, and they love it! They can create their own dance using THEIR movement based on the symbols. Here is an example:

This symbol is shape (they think it looks like an apple, which it does!) Make a frozen shape!
This symbol is balance... we try to balance on many body parts (it's a very silly)
Then we try to put some of them together- Wiggle and Travel at the same time! So fun!
Connect and Turn (woah tricky) They love to come up with different ways to move and connect!
We then put them all together and we have created a dance!

With my 5 year olds I introduced the symbols of levels (high, medium, low) We add those to the symbols above. Make a low shape- Travel in the middle- Wiggle up high!

Have you tried using symbols with your students. I find that no matter how many times I use them, the kids never get bored, because we can always make a different dance. There are a bunch of other symbols you can find here if your students are older or really picking it up! As you can see I just hand drew them on paper... easy easy! We can never have enough ways to explore movement. Try it out!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter Ballet Classes

Hello my lovely readers,

I hope you have had a chance to check out my new website! Yesterday were my first ballet classes at Realbirth in Hell's Kitchen in NYC! I thought I would give you a glimpse into what the space looks like! It's a great space for ballet and is a very nurturing space for mommies and their babies to take a fun ballet class! Enjoy!

Here is the board outside on the sidewalk!

and this is the chalkboard by the front desk! (See Maria's Movers at the bottom? yay!)
This is the big upstairs studio that I use. It's so gorgeous!

If you are in NYC and have a 2, 3, or 4 year old, come check it out! You are always welcome!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Launching Maria's Movers Website!

Maria's Movers Website is up and live! I would love to hear your feedback on what you think about it! I am so happy with the way it speaks about my classes! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! xoxo

p.s. lots to talk about this week! More coming soon...

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Ahhh, the first week back after the holidays is always a tough one, but I am feeling equipped with new ideas, new classes and of course very rested. I approach this week with a new master calendar and new motivation tactics to exercise and take dance classes. I am looking forward to being happy and healthy! What have you prepared for the weeks ahead? New curriculum? New props? New music? I would love to hear!

Have a great week back and
In the meantime movecreateeducate...