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  Home > TPAC Education  > Wolf Trap > Early Learning Skills > Sample Activity  

Teaching Artist (TA) Chip Arnold and Head Start teachers Barbara Dyson and Angela Dodson and Teaching Assistant Ms. Higgins collaborated to develop the following activity inspired by a dance performed by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

Using a recording of the old spiritual "Wade in the Water", Chip leads a warm-up with the children moving to the music however they wish.

He may give them some coaching to encourage them to try different levels, different body parts, or call attention to something special in the way each child moves. He introduces an element of imagination describing all the different types of water they can wade in (rivers, puddles, the ocean, swimming pools). They begin dancing freely and segue easily into "other waters" dancing with the teaching artist adding details to fire their imaginations (This little creek has lots of big stones to step on as you cross it! What do you do?) Chip will also ask open ended questions to encourage the children’s imaginative input (What animals do you see? How does the water feel? ) and make adjustments in his directions to address any learning opportunities for coordination or gross motor skills. In addition, the teachers use this focus as a tool to make any connections to current curriculum topics having to do with water. The activity then changes pace and the teacher and children sit down with Chip to talk about the dance that they are going to make together. It will be a water dance, but an everyday-use-of-water dance. The discussion becomes about all the things the children know that you do with water. Every child is encouraged to respond, and as many of their answers as possible will be used; it will be their creation. They come up with washing the car, washing the clothes, taking a bath, washing the dog, and swimming.

Again the activity changes tempo and Chip asks the children to stand up and show him how to do each task, encouraging them to recite the steps (involving the emerging literacy skill of sequencing) and anything needed to do the job. The children pantomime and explain while Chip and their teachers encourage them. The teachers make a list and Chip makes mental notes of all the children’s choices incorporating everything from exact, realistic portrayals to funny moments to more generalized contributions. He finds something of value in all choices and calls the class’ attention to notice each as special. The children gain confidence every time they offer a suggestion. The rest of the activity will be continued in Chip’s next visit.

Part Two: Chip has the children repeat their everyday movement from the last class as a warm-up using different coaching techniques to draw them out and give them new challenges. (They get excited, "I can do it!") The teachers help him divide the children in groups for each water task that will be a part of the dance. Each group, with the guidance of the TA and teachers, explores what adding emotions and tempo variations will do to the water task movements. Chip lets the children suggest emotions and feelings and adds a few of his own to keep it fun. (How would you wash the car if someone were tickling you?)

The teacher and TA help the children choose what the order in which to place movements for their "dance." Depending on the class, and what they respond to, Chip may also inject a storyline about making the dance, perhaps turning himself into a funny character choreographer.

Part Three: In the next session the children "performed" their dance with music, but not for an audience, for themselves and their teachers. Learning happens in the process of creating the dance and the experience of putting it together, not in being able to do it right for someone else. Such a large project involves a myriad of opportunities to expand group awareness, cooperation and verbal skills. The TA makes sure each child is part of the process; a shy or troubled child might have the important job of "watching to see if he can tell what we’re doing."

The class is proud of what they have accomplished! One teacher videotaped her students so they could all watch themselves, and they are thrilled by their own little expression in dance!

Teaching Artist (TA) Chip Arnold and Head Start teachers Barbara Dyson and Angela Dodson and Teaching Assistant Ms. Higgins collaborated to develop the following activity inspired by a dance performed by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.


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