by Meg Gronau
Second in a series on preparation. Last time we talked about being a prepared dance teacher. Today we ask: Are the kids ready?
PART 1: The Big Picture: How a preschool dance class can help prepare your child for kindergarten…and a lifetime of learning.
Once I recovered from the whiplash of giving birth twice in 18 months, I started thinking ahead to preschool, and was immediately appalled by the cost of private preschools. Then I started reading about the importance of kids’ being “ready for kindergarten” and I started to really freak out.
The panic abated when I realized that being a playful, talkative family – reading to the kids regularly and encouraging their exploration and questioning of their growing world – would go a long way toward getting them ready for school. We also discovered ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) – a program that’s available in most Minnesota school districts, and gives parents AND kids some important tools for the start of children’s lives.
My experience with ECFE and its play-based, developmentally-aware curriculum helped me to understand that a preschool dance class is another great way for kids to get a head start when it comes to school.
Because a dance class is a microcosm of a school day. In our 30-to-45 minute dance class, the children interact with a teacher who calls them by name and who invites them to answer questions and share ideas. Children learn how to trust and take instruction from an adult who is not their parent – a critical skill for school readiness. In dance class, we have “circle time” where the children learn how to sit for a short period and listen. We work together as a team when we play with the parachute. We practice taking turns as we go “across-the-floor.” We learn about our bodies and explore space with our large and small muscles. We learn rhythm, coordination, and hear (and make!) diverse styles of music and dance. And the whole time, the kids are getting practice cooperating, getting along, sharing space and resources with others, and appreciating others’ work. We end class with “révérence” (the French, thus ballet, pronunciation is rev-uh-RONTS), when the teacher and the students take a moment to express their respect and gratitude for one another.
I’m not sure most of my students’ parents even know that we’re packing all this stuff into every single class! But all these things are really important things in real life – and that means they’re important for school. Every time your child comes to my dance class, I am working to help your child grow as a human being, preparing them to share this planet with other human beings.