Dancing with D'Arts - 1. Getting started

Duration: 6:42

Transcript – Dancing with D'Arts - 1. Getting started

[music playing]

MICHELLE DAVIES: There's the students that came here today, a variety of our students across the support unit. We have 7 classes here. So we have students with us everywhere from a severe intellectual disability, a moderate intellectual disability, a mild intellectual disability. We also have students that-- some of the students here today have autism with their intellectual disability. And we also have students with mental health and we have students that, you know, broad-- across the broad spectrum of, you know, the out-of-home care program and Aboriginal programs. So the selection of students here today who had such a fantastic time as part of the dance come from, yeah, the broad spectrum across special education.

VIRGINIA FERRIS: In this unit, we'll be looking at setting up a dance space, strategies or techniques to help support a creative, yet safe space to work in, finding out who's in the class, techniques to help students who have a diverse range of needs. So to start with, setting up the dance space. Ensure the room is bright, free from obstacles, and accessible for your students. Your room may need more tactile objects if you have low vision or blind students. You may need to describe what's in the room or to point to objects in the room to remind students to be safe.

As a task, I've often asked students to calculate the size of the room so they're already thinking about the space before they move. Have the music source close at hand, easy access for you, not in a cupboard so as not to lose the energy of the room. I often create several music playlists to draw on depending on the task of the day. I always have a mix of music that's varied, for instance, soundtracks, soundscapes, contemporary, popular, old school favourites.

For many students that require more of a bass sound for vibration sensation, such as hearing impaired or deaf students, have the system set on the floor. And if possible, have a wooden floor. Depending on the time allowed and who's in the room, suggest taking off school shoes and having comfortable clothes to move in like a sports uniform.

Make sure students' needs have been met before you begin: going to the toilet, washing hands, having water, et cetera. Having extra carers who participate and assist you is crucial for a successful lesson. Give the students and carers a short rundown of what's expected for the day or what you would like them to achieve within your time frame. If you are lucky enough to have support teachers, encourage them to participate and have fun.

CHRIS GILLETT: Get off the wall. Come and join us in the space. Be a 'fat cow'.

Be a planet that just spins off its axis and crashes into a thousand pieces. Because then you get that actual physical, real-life experiencing it. It's a different thing from observation to actually physicalising it and doing it. Number one, the kids will really love that you're taking part.

VIRGINIA FERRIS: Maybe some strategies to help you create dance in a safe place are use a 'friendly circle', maybe at a low level or understanding level.

Yes, exactly. I remember. That was fantastic.

Maybe choose to be at the front of the class as in the traditional dance class or, if more suitable, just have a face-to-face with one student. Use the 'voices on and off' method to set up the control and bring the class back to the focus when needed.

Oh, I've just turned my voice back on for a minute. Using the word stimulus such as 'freeze'.

And I'm now going to say freeze!

And ready, freeze!

[music playing]

This is the Australian Sign Language sign for freeze. Which will be visually fun and allow a fun way for the students to hold a shape or stop in the room if it's unsafe. Using simple copy of actions rather than the voice sets up students to use the 'follow the leader' technique. Of course, students who may have a vision impairment or who are blind may require more descriptive words to begin. Keep these words really colourful, not boring. Use a different voice than the usual teaching voice to engage.

Okay, here we go. And orange. Rock.

[student yells excitedly]

Suddenly you're in the party. Well done.

Find time at the beginning of the session to know who's in the class today. One thing I've learned is to use the energy and the students in the room on that day and what's happening in their life today. For example, some students may have struggled getting to school by bus. So this could be useful when creating a dance task today. You could do a transport dance to ease the concern of the student. Also knowing what your students are capable of, but allowing them to take risks when being creative.

Remember, there's no right or wrong when dancing. The only limitation is coming from the teacher's perspective of dance and what it's supposed to be. Many teachers feel that they have to have the students all doing the movement in unison. But don't be afraid to explore creativity and allow a difference in the room. I've often found that the students give me the ideas. Allowing them this ownership is very powerful, creative and very effective for learning.

Trying to do and be everything for all your students can be very challenging for a teacher. A support person or a carer can assist you monitor each student's needs. Perhaps a deaf student or a hearing impaired student may need assistance such as an interpreter to attend the session.

And I want you to travel around the triangle with your material over their body parts. Okay? All righty, here's the material, thank you.

Using a noise or sharp movement can also help control students with limited attention span. Movements such as quirky movements or noises [snap] [snap], simple rhythms such as a clap [clap] or clicks [snap]. Noises can all spark attention.

I'm using a visual stimulus based on finger spelling my name. I can learn this simply from the Auslan Signbank website or from a trained interpreter or maybe a student can help you with this. Today, we went around the class to communicate movement about who we were. Some students used finger spelling. Others used movement to suggest their name.

So, remember these tools that will help you. First of all, setting up the space, having support, a carer, 'voices on and off', using 'freeze', finding out who's in the room today, and, finally, using stimulus. Next up, we're going to look at creating a warm-up dance.

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