This spring, Spectrum launched a new program called ‘Storytime Ballet’. This class was aimed towards the 3-4 year age group, and by mixing literacy into a typical dance class, it gave the students a very unique, engaging, and effective way to learn ballet.
At the beginning of each class, we (the instructors) would start off by reading a new dance related story book. It was anything from ‘Cinderella’ to ‘Nina, Nina Ballerina’. This was the base for what would be learned for the rest of the class. The students would then stand up, and the story would be gone through again in a more interactive way, after they had become familiar with it. Essentially, the students would dance the story. So, when going through the story, we would ask the students what move they wanted to pair with a certain action in the story. We would begin by teaching them some basic moves, like when they mentioned jumping in the books, the students would want to jump. Here, we’d teach them a sauté, and then they’d begin associating that ballet move with jumping. There were more simple ones, like jumping, but some actions would have them thinking a bit more. We had hoped throughout the weeks, each book would add something a little different or new, and that the new moves being learned would continue growing. Once the students felt comfortable with these moves, they would be able to go through an entire story inputting which moves they believe best matched what was going on in the story.
The class worked as a great new method for teaching dance, especially for a younger age. Since learning the moves had a purpose, through each new story, the students seemed to be more engaged as opposed to simply learning each move. There was a new story each week to focus on, and since we used stories the students were interested in, they seemed more eager and willing to dance. As well, it was great getting each of their input in different areas of the stories. Each student had a chance to voice their opinion each class and use their creativity to interpret different actions and scenarios in the story. They loved having that opportunity, and as this is an age group with typically a lower attentiveness, I feel they were more engaged and excited to participate.
The combination of literacy was such a helpful tool in getting the students to understand new concepts. At such a young age, by simply telling them the name of a new move and showing them what it is would be so difficult for them to grasp. By adding the stories, the students had something to relate to each new move and ended up learning and remembering each new move much quicker than in a typical ballet class. They had to creatively pair each new move with an action and sometimes had to interpret the less obvious actions into new moves in a creative way. Students had the chance to experience engaging in literacy as well as learning to dance, and mixing the two resulted in a fun, exciting, and challenging new class.