Teaching Dance to Grade 8 Students

As a Phys. Ed. And Health teacher in a Toronto school, I am required to teach Dance which is a separate mark on report cards.

Teaching Dance to young children is usually met with enthusiasm by the students; however, my students are in grade 8 and since this was my first opportunity to teach Dance to students this age, I was not anticipating a positive reaction.

As expected, I heard some groans, mostly from the boys, when I announced that we would be doing a unit on Dance. One can try to avoid sexism as much as he wants but one can still clearly define the likes and dislikes of grade 8 males and females in a Phys. Ed. Class. For example, the students who tend to be more aggressive in sports are male while the students who tend to like Dance more are female.

I racked my brain before the unit started, thinking of ways I could stimulate the students. I finally decided that I would teach a few dances that did not involve touching or body contact (a big issue in schools) but I also invited the students to teach a dance, perhaps one that was important to their own cultural background.

The dances I taught were harmless enough: the slosh, the hand jive, the highlife from Ghana. Students participated in a lacklustre fashion and I got the impression that many were only doing so to justify a report card mark.

Only one student, a Chinese boy, took me up on teaching students a dance. He taught the lion dance and he did an excellent job, recruiting other students to assist him.

However, the most impressive component of the Dance unit was when I just let the students practise their own choreographed dances on their own and to let them perform for the rest of the class.

It was then that the Dance programme really succeeded.

These dances were not the way I dance, their songs were not my type of dance music. But they were doing it their way; expressing their way of thinking. They were entertaining without offending.

And that’s okay by me.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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2 Responses to Teaching Dance to Grade 8 Students

  1. Ryan Brooks says:

    Haha, very good.:) If only you could video the kids dancing like maniacs, you’d have a viral video in the making. The whole ‘absence of touching’ thing in schools peplexes me a little. I get why it’s important, and teaches physical respect and personal boundaries. Still, physical affection (by which I mean touching, hugging, etc, not the inferred euphemism :)) has always been a big part of how I’ve learnt to express myself. Of course, my wife has compared me to an anthropomorphic Labrador, so maybe a little restraint’s not a bad thing… 🙂

    • randycoates says:

      Thanks for the reply, Ryan. Unfortunately, touching in an affectionate way is discouraged among teachers, too. We’re all afraid of being accused of a crime. Things get really tense when a small child has hurt himself and is crying passionately. He/she will instigate a hug and we all want to return it but are not supposed to.

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