Forum: Irish / Irish - Beginners

Teaching techniques for little kids
By cowan19
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 08:02 AM
Edited by cowan19 (216277) on 2009-09-14 08:03:11

I am teaching a few 4-7 year old kids beginning irish dance at a local dance studio (I am not a tcrg, but I've studied with one).

Does anyone have any tips for different techniques, exercises, games, etc. that can help them to learn? I tried to start out with 123's, but they are not ready to grasp this yet. :)

I've done things like skipping to the music, trying to clap on the rhythm (even this was a challenge), and tapping their toes to the rhythm. I want to keep it fun, but I also want them to progress and actually learn some steps eventually. It really is amazing to think that kids can be at the championship level at 7 or 8 years old!

Thanks for any and all advice! --erin

5 Replies to Teaching techniques for little kids

re: Teaching techniques for little kids
By China_Doll
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 09:34 AM
Reward systems -stickers, small candies For camps our TC had little gold medals(they are plastic- you can get them at party supply stores) It is amazing how little things like that can really grab their attention and help them focus perhaps a sticker to those who master a certian piece of a step- a little medal for the one who tries hardest or improves most. give them a little chart and at a certian number of stickers they can have a gold medal. It wouldn't cost too much on your part and little ones really get excited about rewards
between the ages of 4-7 there are some real big differences in how they focus and understand things so just be patient and have fun with it.
re: Teaching techniques for little kids
By dance10looks3
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 11:13 AM
YOu can also make drills into games. Have them walk around the room making Vs with their feet, first flat and then on their toes. Do some jumping off both feet and then one foot at a time, in time to the music. Use music other than Irish - some kids songs (Barney! Wiggles!) are great to use. Play different kinds of Irish music and have them freeform dance the way the music makes them feel (reels are different from slip jigs are different from jigs and so on). Get them in touch with music in general, and familiar with using their bodies in time to the music. But there isn't a shortcut, you just have to break the actual steps down. And make sure that it is clear that you are not a certified ID teacher, and that it is a recreational class only, or there could be disgruntlement later on if a parents thinks otherwise.
re: Teaching techniques for little kids
By cmdc
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 01:33 PM
That is quite an age range for one class. If possible, I'd keep the 4 - 5 year olds together and then the older kids together. In other dance forms, the 4 - 5 y.o. only do creative movement. Yes, a genius child can grasp some dance movements but overall its learning that "oh, I have a leg, and it can do this!". Keep it SUPER simple. Lots of releves, points, parallel vs. first position, do NOT attempt 5th position with these kids yet. I generally don't teach anyone younger than 6 in ID anymore, like I said, it's basically just creative movement that prepares them for all dance forms in the younger ages.

With my 6 and up group I start the class off with the warm up which includes regular (single) skips, then jumps in first position (but for the first month or 2 I don't stress turn out) then go back to skips. I go into drills that move across the room, generally as a whole group or a couple at a time. Things like just walking crossed over and kicking your butt - super challenging for this age group. Then point lift back going backwards. Then 7s. Then I teach them their first reel step, but remember they may not be ready to learn the entire right side during the first class. I'd say 90% of kids I teach are able to do so, but not everyone. At the end of class I try to do 3 -5 minutes of freeze dance. I do it the Irish way when I teach ID (I teach other styles), so I just put a reel on and they are allowed to single or double skip in any pattern around the room. Then I stop the music randomly and they must freeze in whatever position their body is. You could also have them freeze into 1st position to grind that into their heads. You can also do this later on with leap 2 3s, 7s, etc. You can play Irish dance tag with skips, 7s or leaps where it's regular tag but you are only allowed to skip, or to leap, or do 7s, etc.

Take frequent breaks, but repeat stuff over and over. REALLY slowly. I use Culkin School's One More Time cd quite a bit with begineers because it has slow speeds of all the dances. Your kids may not even be able to do 7s to a reel speed of 80 at first or for a while. This is ok, it takes time to gain coordination. I always concentrate on what your body should be doing before I introduce technique and speed. Obviously you don't want someone slouched over or totally sickled feet but turn out and super crossing are not important at all in the beginning.
re: Teaching techniques for little kids
By colgate
On Wed Sep 16, 2009 02:46 AM
The kids in my studio (all 12 of them) are aged 3-9 so similar to the ages you are working with. Remember each kid is different when it comes to dancing. One of my 3.5 year olds can do 'skip23s', another is still mastering single skips, one 4 year old is entering her first feis next month & has only been dancing 8 months, another 6 year old has been dancing over a year & is still working on her reel.

First thing to do is make it FUN, lots of positive feedback, smiles, hi-5s etc. I always give the kids a stamp on their hand at the end of class.

In class we always do our stretches first, drink, play 'follow the leader' (single skips - if they can't do it, just encourage them to have a go) & work on keeping their arms by their sides, kicking their bottoms, pointing their toes - they verbalise what they need to do. I always ask 'where are we going to keep our arm?'. Drink. Then I usually work the kids in small groups of 2 or 3 on whatever step/dance they are up to. Drink breaks in between. Then play the clapping game (they MUST follow your hands to keep the beat - let them choose different body parts to tap - bottoms is a big hit with kids). More small group work, play freeze at the end, followed by a warm-down & stamps.

Sometimes to get the kids minds working, we do jump23s up & down the hall to the music. Maybe work one step at a time - work on the jump23s, then the kids that can do the 8 in a circle, add on the side 7s steps etc.

Good luck! I hope that helped a bit!
re: Teaching techniques for little kids
By reeldancerstep
On Wed Sep 16, 2009 06:17 AM
Can't help with techniques or games but don't forget the power of the "Big Girls"!! My DD loved last year's class schedule - the champs came in to warm up as the Beginners were ending class and cheered them on.

On nights when she wasn't motivated "oh but you'll see all the Big Girls tonight" did the trick every time!! Having a few Big Girls help with class is also HUGE! Remind the older girls how much the little ones look up to them and a quick hug or smile or wtg makes their class! So do the little rewards!!

Also help get your parents involved...suggesting music to listen to at home to help build sense of ryhthm etc...writing down steps so if little ones practice they can get help.

Have fun - it's a magical age!


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