As a dance teacher I realise that all children bring different skills to dancing and differ in skills depending on age, ability, gender, emotional and cultural needs. I feel I have a responsibility to meet the needs of all the dancers I teach to maximise their achievements. I plan inclusive dance lessons which actively involve all learners to meet the syllabi of BATD and SQA as well as requirements of other professional organisations including ice dance, drama, swimming and learning support. Skills acquired in lessons will be different in a technical class compared to a creative session but in both contexts I differentiate to meet the ability, health, social and emotional needs of learners in my lessons. I priorities differentiation to include students who could otherwise disengage from learning.
Differentiation by Age
In community classes learners are broadly divided by age group. This contrasts the ice dance and Higher Dance classes where levels are divided by ability and content must be differentiated to prevent loss of motivation because of cognative and image related skills which develop with ages. I recognise it is important to establish correct movement quality at a young age using basic movements to build a foundation, rather than complex movements which are performed incorrectly. It is more difficult to correct practiced technique that learners have embodied. As learners mature they may feel frustrated at revisiting basic movements when they can cope cognitively with more complex movement patterns. Learners progress in physical, conative and psycho-social skills at three main age stages 2-5, 6-11, 11-16 years.
Differentiation by Ability
Although there are age groups where skill development is likely to occur, each class has a mix of abilities due to when they mature, their skills and personalities. When planning lessons I need to organise objectives for age and further differentiate tasks to provide inclusion and active involvement of all abilities.
- I differentiate most commonly in my dance classes by outcome. This benefits learning as all students can participate in the same activity at the same time at their level. This makes all learners feel included. e.g. In a beginners warmup I use tone of voice, narration and demonstration to allow everyone to participate at their level. All learners complete the same movements but more-able have better alignment, shape and stamina and less-able follow my progressive exercises and benefit from increased heart rate, dynamic stretch and muscle memory.
- Differentiation by task allows more-able students in my class to be challenged at their level whilst less-able develop basic skills. This works well if I guide learners to use the task most suited to their ability and provide positive feedback for achievement.
e.g. Demi-plies are taught in parallel. More able add armlines and can progress to turnout whereas less-able continue in parallel to correct alignment, balance and coordination.
- I find differentiation by learning activity is appropriate when learners are confident and secure in their abilities. Learners can then tackle the same objective in different ways.
e.g. When investigating dynamics, I arranged for learners to complete different activities investigating the effect of either energy, weight, flow or time on their original sequence. The activities suited the learning style of individuals and the product showed different dynamics which learners could critically analyse.
- I differentiated by pace as students rarely understand concepts at the same time and some learners take longer to complete a task effectively, particularly where they provide detailed responses.
e.g. During progression of gallops in zig-zag pathways most-able quickly achieved the pathway in slow pace and added levels and pace to progress the movement in the theme. Less-able had slower movements and relied on following more able until they achieved spatial awareness and muscle memory.
- My dialogue directs learners’ movement.
- e.g. I use emphasis and tone to allow students to embody movement dynamics and continual description to allow them to complete movement correctly, as they develop my focus changes to more complex aspects of practice including balance, armlines and expression.
e.g. When target setting my dialogue is tailored to individual skill progression and achievement.
Differentiation to overcome barriers to learning
Tasks, activities and resources provide appropriate challenge to ensure all learners maximise their progress. However, despite dividing learners into ability groups teaching requires effective methods to overcome learning barriers. Teaching in the community is not only about meeting learners vocational aspirations. I make positive and proactive steps to support inclusion independent of gender, culture, fitness and background and promote the same qualities in my students.
- Boys have less precise movements than girls at a young age but have less inhibitions when trying a new movement and have effective problem-solving skills. To ensure lessons meet these needs I differentiate by learning activity to include contact improvisation and activities which use muscle strength and stamina.
- I include all cultures and backgrounds in my lessons by providing the information using visual and kinaesthetic teaching strategies to overcome language barriers. I differentiate by learning activity where different cultures and backgrounds may interpret different stimuli in different ways during creative work and choreography. I find combining styles and backgrounds can augment final choreography. I differentiate tasks to include discussions and working in partners and groups where learners have a supportive environment to experiment with movement and ideas to achieve a shared objective.
- I differentiate exercises and activities to provide learners with alternative tasks if they are injured. I provide specific tasks to safely develop stamina, endurance, strength or flexibility where learners find participation difficult.
- When differentiating learners’ roles in learning activates I provide opportunity to develop leadership skills through the confidence of leading their group. Not all learners want to lead their group and differentiation permits this. Learners also partner others in class to support less confident learners.