Yes, parents want to know that their kids are having a good time in dance class, but they also want to know that they are safe, they are learning, and they will be progressing.
Have you ever experienced an “organized” sport or activity that was completely disorganized? Maybe it was something you signed your own child up for or an activity, team or class that you were in personally. How did the lack of organization and the presence of chaos make you feel about being involved? Did it make you want to sign up again? Did it make you feel that you got your money’s worth. Probably not. So why do I see so many dance studios that are charging premium prices let their classes fall into chaos.
Let parents know that they made the right decision to enroll at your studio by making sure that every single class runs smoothly, safely and joyfully. Here are some tips for cutting the chaos in your classes for younger students, so that you can stay focused on helping your dancers progress and have fun.
Be very clear what the rules of the class are from the very beginning of the session and review them every time you get a new student. Find a way to make learning the rules of your class into a fun game. Play it at the very beginning of class at the start of a new session.
A few good rules are…
- Ears need to be listening when I am talking.
- Voices need to be quiet when I am talking.
- Bodies need to be practicing with me when I am showing the exercise.
- Be sure your students know what they are allowed to touch and not allowed to touch.
- Cover rules that keep them safe like not hanging on the barre and not running in tap shoes.
Get Off to a Good Start
Start every class the same way so that students know exactly what to expect. Have students line up at the door and wait for you to invite them into the studio. (You don’t want your class to start with 12 preschoolers running and screaming through the room while you’re still trying to change from your tap shoes to your ballet slippers.) Then bring them in either with a set activity that they know or a unique one that gets them listening and reminds them they are entering the dance studio and bringing their dance class etiquette with them, while gently raising their heart rates and warming their bodies up.
Don’t Raise Your Voice
Use something other than your voice to get attention back to you if your class is getting loud or not listening. Try teaching your class a specific clapped rhythm and tell them that whenever they hear it they need to be quiet and clap it back you. Let them know that means it’s time to focus and listen to you.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Make verbal explanations short and clear. Use imagery and language that young children can understand and relate to. Children up to about age 5 will learn more by mimicking what you’re doing than by having you explain it.
Have your music ready on a playlist and your lesson planned out. If you have to take time to look for music or think about what to work on next your class will likely have time to get out of control. Being prepared will ensure that your class will have a good pace to keep students’ attention and engagement.
If you see that what you planned to work on is not working for your group you need to be able to switch gears fast and not lose your classes attention.
Make sure that you always follow the same set of rules and that the rules apply to all students. When a student does not follow the rules, ask them to remind you what the rule is. For example: I have a rule in my studio to not touch the mirror. It can occasionally be challenging for a 3 year old to remember. If I see a student touching it, I will ask them quietly, “What is the rule about our mirror?”
Consider creating a studio wide set of rules for classroom conduct and posting it in each studio.