Use Children’s Books to #MakeDanceFun!

by on Apr 13 '18

Anyone who teaches tiny dancers knows that you must always keep things interesting and ever-changing in dance class to earn and hold their attention! ALL. THE. DAYS! If you’re a regular reader of Confetti on the Dance Floor, you already know that a huge part of our blog is focused on capturing these busy little minds and harnessing their creative energy. But some days, you show up to class ready and prepared, and even still, your go-to golden treasure chest of dance teacher magical amazingness isn’t even quite doing the trick. And that’s when you know it’s time to change things up a bit!

One way to do just that is by involving children’s books in your class! There are so many amazing children’s books out there that apply to dance, and many that you can easily apply to dance even if they don’t carry a dance theme!

Two of our current faves are Una the Unicorn Who Loves to Dance by Amelia Gatacre and Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle. What we love about both of these books (besides their extreme cuteness!) is they are illustration based, so they are both very easy to visually engage your dancers in the activities. You can simply hold up the pages and let the dancers imitate what they see on the page. And, of course, they are both dance-focused books, so you can follow right along without having to adapt too much!

We’re also looking very forward to the upcoming book launch of Lola the Ladybug from our good friend, Sarah Brinson (speaking of, did you catch our amazing Confetti Conversation with her from last month?). We’re certain it will be chock-full of fun for dance class!

We recently caught up with Katrena Cohea, who is not only a dancer, educator and writer, but also the founder and creator of Different Drummer Dance, a blog where you’ll find everything from book recommendations, tips and inspiration for your next party, info on how to make dance parties a part of your daily, hear reflections on current events and get smart on Ballet 101. As it turns out, she agrees with our philosophy on teaching little ones!

Katrena Cohea from Different Drummer Dance Photography: Justine Fernandez

“I love using books, poems, art, and songs as a jumping off point to set the scene for my young classes,” she said. “Books not only reinforce the dance concepts we’re learning about in class in a visual way and in a language that children can easily engage with, but are a great resource to reset and refocus when things get a little crazy.”

Photo courtesy of Different Drummer Dance Instagram

She also shared three of her all-time favorite books (and provided tips to go along with each one) that never let her down when it comes to planning a pre-school dance class that’s fresh, fun, and big-hearted:

  1. The Shape of Me And Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss will never lose his charm, and while there are several great books to choose from of his, this is my favorite because of its easy rhymes, giggle worthy illustrations and imagery, and overall message that all the shapes we dance in are completely perfect the way they are. Try using it to teach the concepts of shape, opposites, and pathways!

  1. Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This is another tried and true favorite for many teachers and families. Silverstein has the same rhyming charm that many Dr. Seuss books have, and his poems are not only whimsical, but cover a variety of concepts that young dancers love exploring. Poems like One Inch Tall, Acrobats, and Hug ‘O War set the scene for dancing big, small, with twists and turns, with partners and alone – the possibilities to get creative are endless!

  1. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

Kids love animals, and Gerald, the hero in Giraffes Can’t Dance is an especially lovable (but clumsy) giraffe. This story tells us how Gerald finds his feet and the beat, sending the message that everyone has their own unique way of moving. I love using this book to introduce different types of dances and rhythms to kids (the book talks about the cha-cha, waltz, and more). It’s so fun kids will be jungle boogie-ing in no time!

Thank you, Katrena!! We are so excited to try her book recommendations in class! Let us know if you try any of these, and also make sure you check out her blog, and follow her on social media, too!

Another fun idea for using books to #makedancefun comes from fellow Dance Teacher Summit Ambassador and studio owner, Donna Aravena of Seven Star School of Performing Arts in Brewster, New York. Once per month, she holds a free, 30-minute story time open to anyone in the community at her studio. Every month features a different book and includes a short movement activity to go along with the book. This is a great way to give back to your community and also a way to introduce kids to dance who may not have otherwise discovered it!

You can also incorporate these fun book activities into summer camps, birthday parties and even newsletters that you send out to your preschool families. The ideas are seemingly endless!

 As dance teachers, we all need fun, new ways to engage our dancers in class, and with so many amazing, existing books and new exciting books always on the horizon, they serve as never-ending sources of inspiration, especially when our wells are running dry!!

We’d love to hear from you…what are some of YOUR fave books to use in dance class?

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