Dance specialist and SSCo Kim Spiller offers advice to primary teachers about delivering high-quality dance

Kim Spiller has been working as a school sport coordinator (SSCo) within the Mandeville School Sport Partnership for the last two years. As a dance specialist working out of Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, a specialist performing arts college, she supports the development of primary teachers in her specialist area. Kim has been involved in mentoring staff and pupils, choreographing extra-curricular dance performances and producing extensive schemes of work for non-specialist primary teachers within her family of schools and wider school sport partnership.

So what advice can she give to non-specialist primary teachers about delivering high quality dance in their schools?

  • Don’t panic – not everything has to be put to music straight away. So many primary teachers I’ve spoken to have been worried about finding the right music and then not being able to hear the rhythm and beat. ‘How can I teach dance to the children if I can’t decipher the music myself?’ is the sort of thing I hear all the time.
  • Teach to a theme and bring the music in later on as an enhancement or even as background. In this way, teaching is focused on quality of movement and the creativity involved.  You don’t have to use a set form of dance – either traditional or non-traditional.
  • It is simple to fit dance into a cross-curricular project so that straight away children have a meaningful context and some knowledge with which they can develop their dance. It is much more difficult for children – particularly those with limited life experiences outside of school – to generate ideas from the abstract, so cross-curricular dance is much more accessible and relevant.
  • Don’t worry about having to demonstrate moves. You don’t have to be an expert dancer yourself to teach dance. Some actions can be shown by children themselves and – to get an idea of what a particular dance is all about – video footage of professional dancers is very motivational and can be used to good effect. If you’re trying to encourage children to reach a certain level, footage of previous years’ performances can be used. This has the added advantage of highlighting what children need to do to progress and achieve.
  • There are physical and creative aspects to dance, so give children a chance to develop skills, to choreograph their own routines and to perform.
  • When observing children’s performance look for clarity and precision of body movements and the control the child has over what they are doing. You should also be able to tell what the movement is supposed to represent – but the idea is not so much to recreate a movement but to interpret it in their own way. So for instance, a less able child might just produce a penguin impression whereas a more able performer will take words associated with the animal such as waddling, swimming or sliding and interpret the words in an imaginative, creative way.
  • Look for a child’s ability to piece together various movements smoothly so they appear as one without each individual action being submerged within the whole. Look also for their appreciation of what they are doing and where they are in relation to others involved in their routine and their ability to sustain a performance over time.
  • Some youngsters often rush through their movements, moving on to the next before the current action is fully completed. For these children, demonstrating each movement separately can raise awareness of which component parts need to be fitted together and in what order. For others, a demonstration of the whole movement enables the children to see exactly what they have to achieve in the medium term and gives them a reason for producing each smaller movement.