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Dance Education Tips from the Trenches

Dance Education Tips from the Trenches


Available As


    • Survive the realities of teaching dance in public schools.
    • Explore new methods for teaching children the creative process.
    • Obtain tips on teaching children the art of performance.

    Prepare to handle the common and uncommon obstacles that every creative dance teacher faces—obstacles that you never learned about in methods courses.

    Dance Education Tips From the Trenches is a light-hearted collection of 83 essays that present real-life stories, quips, and survival tips for teaching creative dance in public school settings. The book is an excellent source of practical solutions for teaching children the creative process and ensuring successful performances.

    Whether you’re a new teacher or a veteran, this essential survival guide will help you handle class management, class organization, logistics, motivation, gender issues—every challenge you may encounter.

    Author Cheryl Willis, an experienced dance educator who isn’t afraid to admit her mistakes, shares real-life stories she uses in her own classes. Her approach is honest and humorous. And her reality checks will alert you to the everyday minutiae that can bog you down, and help you overcome it.

    The easy-to-follow, consistent format makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. When you’re wondering about a situation, simply scan the obstacles and essay titles to find the one most relevant to you.

    Each essay follows the same template, with an icon highlighting the following elements:
    • Obstacle
    • Solutions
    • Tip
    • Trench truth

    About 50 cartoons are sprinkled throughout the book, keeping the tone light and humorous. You can easily read Dance Education Tips From the Trenches in one sitting, which makes the book ideal for busy teachers.

    With Dance Education Tips From the Trenches, you’ll feel as though a friend is by your side sharing mistakes and solutions—and reminding you that you can still laugh at your job and enjoy the many wonderful moments of teaching creative dance.


    Resource for elementary dance, physical education, and classroom teachers as well as student teachers and PETE faculty who teach creative dance to children K-6. Supplemental textbook for teaching methods courses in dance, physical education, and elementary education.

    Table of Contents


    Prelude: The Dance

    Part I. The ABCs of Dance Education
    Chapter 1. A Rude Awakening
    Why Don’t They Move?
    Ya Gotta Know the Territory
    In God We Trust
    Gender Differences
    Does Socioeconomic Class Matter?
    Ethnic Diversity
    Getting Started
    Moving the Students
    Chapter 2. Establishing Class Rules
    The Rules
    Rule 1 Be Good to Yourself
    Rule 2 Respect Others
    Respecting Partners
    Chapter 3. Managing Your Class
    Give Me That Old-Time Religion
    Praise and Correction
    Educational Views on Praise and Correction
    Dance Class Management System
    Step-by-Step Management Plan
    Constructive Rest
    Steps to Cooperation and Collaboration
    Chapter 4. Creating a Dance Space
    Preparing the Space
    Sharing the Space
    Establishing Boundaries
    Creating Personal Space
    Dancing in Mashed Potatoes
    Other Spatial Concerns
    Chapter 5. Planning and Organizing Your Classes
    Where Do I Start?
    Who Are These Kids, Anyway?
    Class Procedures
    Methods for Grouping
    Lesson Plans
    Logistics of Integrated Arts
    Signaling for Attention
    Chapter 6. Grades, Assessments, and Rubrics
    Grading System
    Comments on Report Cards
    Chapter 7. Your Role As a Dance Educator
    Organizing the Program
    Creating Goals
    Teachers Are Human
    Clear Relationships
    The Teacher and the Therapist
    Taking Care of Yourself

    Part II. The Creative Process
    Chapter 8. The Creative Process: The Idea
    The Exploration Stage
    Exploring in Teams
    The Creation Stage
    Creating Under Time Constraints
    Grouping for Creating
    Gender Effects on Creating
    Showing the Dance
    When to Show the Work
    How to Show the Work
    The Critique Stage
    Critiquing in the Primary Grades
    Critiquing in the Elementary Grades
    Clipboard Critiques
    Chapter 9. The Process Continues: Performance
    Reworking According to the Critique
    Reworking for a Performance
    Rehearsing for a Formal Performance
    Rehearsing in the Space
    Dressing Up the Gym
    Preparing Psychologically
    Informal Grade-Level Program
    Preparing for the Formal Performance
    Directing Formal Performances
    Reviewing the Process
    Chapter 10. Dance Education for Parents and Faculty
    Putting Creative Dance in the Spotlight
    Educating Parents
    If You Don`t Have the Principal`s Support, Don`t Take the Job
    Understanding and Accepting Creative Dance Education
    Getting All Teachers on Board
    Chapter 11. The Dance Audience
    Creating Dance Audiences
    Studying Dance As Culture
    Using Videotapes of Dance Genres
    Using Live Performance to Create Thinkers
    Audience Skills

    Afterword: And Now We Dance

    Appendix A: Performance Rules
    Be Ready
    Know How to Cope With Surprises
    Know Where to Go
    Know How to Deal With Nerves
    Control Yourself
    Know That Your Performance Is a Gift

    Appendix B: Lagniappe
    Water Story
    Vomit Story
    Earthquake Story
    Pencil Throwing Story
    About the Author

    About the Author

    Cheryl M. Willis, EdD, is an award-winning dance specialist. She has worked as a classroom teacher in the United States and in Libya, North Africa, and is currently a creative dance specialist in the public schools in Vancouver, Washington. She has worked as a reading specialist in K-12 schools, successfully owned and directed her own dance studio, and taught in a performing arts center for theater students. She also has taught dance at the college level and choreographed and taught at a performing arts center.

    Dr. Willis is a member of the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and was named national dance educator of the year in 2000. She also belongs to the National Dance Educator's Organization.

    Dr. Willis earned her doctoral degree in dance at Temple University.