Strictly come teaching: 3 ways dance can boost learning

From boosting EAL inclusion to providing memorable teaching moments, this is why Jess Livock thinks primary teachers should embrace dance

Jess Livock

dancing

When was the last time you did a bit of dance to boost learning in primary lessons?

At first glance it may sound like a strange question but I believe that dance has numerous benefits for pupils to help them learn and have fun across numerous different areas of school life.


Read more: How to use music to boost literary understanding

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1. EAL inclusion

At a time when many schools are welcoming international arrivals on a regular basis, we need to continually hone our integration approaches while working with empathy to understand the journey lots of our children have been on.  

Dance is recognised as a powerful tool for the inclusion and pastoral care of our EAL pupils.

Indeed, as an ArtsEqual research initiative found: "Group dance has a positive effect on social interaction, group spirit and sense of empowerment in groups where pupils do not have a common spoken language."

Researchers also found dance to be a “powerful form of cultural expression promoting feelings of belonging and allowing pupils to share something of their heritage, wherever that may be.”

2. Stamp in key ideas

Uncommon Schools, an outstanding multi-academy trust equivalent in the US, train all their teachers to "stamp" pupil learning at selected moments throughout the lesson. 

In other words, highlight the key learning point and hammer it home in a way pupils won’t forget. 

Dance and movement within the classroom helps link and lock vital concepts in pupil memory: can you create the equation with your bodies and work through it with each symbol moving as they do their job? 

Can you show me a pencil jump followed by a stamp if you think this phrase needs an exclamation mark? 

Ros Wilson’s Kung Fu Punctuation on YouTube is filled with ideas so you don’t need to choreograph the movements yourself.

3. Non-competitive options within PE

Traditional, competitive PE or sport can be intimidating for some of our young people. However, dance can offer a way around this, with many of the same benefits, if not more.

The aforementioned ArtsEqual research paper found ‘many children…who dislike result-orientated physical activities enjoy forms of moving that allow more freedom such as dance’. 

Dance can be taught without competition while still measuring and assessing progress on an individual rather than a ranked level and allowing pupils to focus on how the movement looks and feels to them within their wider socio-cultural context. 

A University of the Arts Helsinki policy brief found that this “is why dance can play a useful role in preventing…social exclusion among children’ who can reject or shy away from more traditional forms of sporting social engagement.”

 

So what are you waiting for? Get your dancing shoes out and get ready to hit the classroom dance floor.

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Jess Livock

Jess Livock is the founder of MOTION Dance Initiative, having gained a QTS in Dance and working full time in schools for eight years. Having been head of faculty for practical subjects and an NQT coordinator, she now teaches, delivers CPD and provides curriculum consultancy to promote outstanding dance across primary and secondary schools.

Find me on Twitter @MOTION_Dance_

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