Classroom Management Challenges in the Dance Class: The Dynamic Atmosphere of Dance, and Even the Particular Style of Dance, Influences How a Dance Class or Unit Should Be Conducted

Article excerpt

Teaching dance can be challenging because of the unique "classroom" management situations that often arise from the dynamic nature of the content. Management is a delicate navigation of advance planning (Franklin, 2006); rule setting; the establishment and implementation of daily protocols, routines, and interventions; and the teacher's own presentation (Baker, Lang, & Lawson 2002; Freiberg, 2002). In a study by Marzano and Marzano (2003), of all "variables affecting student achievement ... classroom management had the largest effect ..." (p. 2).

Different forms and styles of dance may require different management strategies. For example, in recreational forms of dance such as folk and social dance, students often need to demonstrate appropriate interpersonal behaviors such as a willingness to work with all classmates as partners. In forms of dance such as modern, jazz, and ballet technique, students need to learn stylized and codified movement skills as well as demonstrate appropriate audience behaviors. Creative dance content presents additional management challenges because of its emphasis on greater student freedom and problem solving. This article will examine a variety of classroom management strategies relevant to the dance class during the various instructional phases, including planning the lesson, preparing the environment for maximum management efficiency (the lesson "preset"), greeting the class as it enters the dance space, introducing the material (this includes the focus, review, and the statement of objectives), presenting the learning experiences, closure of class, tips for transitions between tasks or activities, and finally, strategies to handle unexpected events. Throughout, the word "teacher" will be used rather than "dance educator" or "physical educator."

Planning the Lesson

According to Perron and Downey (1997), it is important to be "preactive" rather than reactive in establishing effective management strategies in the dance class. Ideally, adopting a preactive attitude means planning the dance class well before the school year commences. According to Freiburg (2002), becoming familiar with the school, the community, and the students is a necessary first step in planning. Successful classroom management then continues with the conception of a unit or lesson idea. Content (that is, what is taught) is a fundamental "domain" of management (Froyen & Iverson, 1999). When planning, the teacher needs to consider issues such as how familiar students are with the content; how the community, administration, parents, and the students feel about dance as a subject; and what facilities and resources are available for the lesson. For example, facilities for dance vary from a specific studio space, to multi-use auditoriums, to trailers. The nature and size of the space will affect lesson planning and management.


The teacher learns quickly that every class is different in terms of demographics, learning styles, kinds of intelligence (Gardner, 1985), developmental ages and stages, prior experiences, and student expectations. Each of these factors influence planning and, ultimately, successful classroom management. Some specific strategies include the following:

* Be clear about the class content. The teacher needs to make certain that the educational objectives and learning experiences are congruent to the content.

* Work backward from a unit of instruction to determine the best way to structure and pace each individual lesson (Freiburg, 2002).

* Rehearse the lesson content before teaching it if it is unfamiliar.

* Take time to reflect on the transitions between tasks. Planning the events' organization and transitions so there will be minimal down time will produce efficient management in the dance class.

Presetting the Lesson

Presetting the environment for maximum efficiency helps to create effective classroom management. …