Arts Bridge Scholar: Mattie Davis at Brookhaven Elementary

I am a Dance Education major and this semester I taught sixth graders at Brookhaven Elementary. During my time at Brookhaven I saw a couple of different teachers and classrooms, as I rotated classrooms every couple of weeks. Because of this rotation, I had the opportunity to revisit my lessons and revise them to create an even more effective program.

My lessons focus on dance concepts based on the B.E.S.T. (Body, Energy, Space, Time) principles. I strongly believe that teaching dance to children has many benefits that carry into their lives outside of the classroom. Dance helps students develop kinesthetic awareness, skills in creativity, imagination, collaboration, as well as social skills.

My Arts Bridge goals for this semester include improving my teaching skills, including presence, classroom management, and lesson planning. I also hope to create meaningful relationships with the students and a fun classroom environment for learning. I want to do this all while implementing their core curriculum in a new and fun way that hopefully appeals to many different kinds of learners.

States of Matter

During one of my lessons, we learned about the different states of matter. This lesson specifically focused on how the molecules move within the different states of matter, and how movements change as the state of matter is changed. The main thing that I learned from this first lesson is that I tend to be physically stiff when I teach. I really need to move around the room more so students learn how to use the space and feel seen the entire time.

Students gained an understanding of the molecules in different states of matter, and learn how gaining and releasing energy affects these states. They showed this understanding through embodying these states through movement and evaluating problems to translate into choreographed movement within a group. In order to demonstrate these principles, first the class warmed up by using the Brain Dance, then moved their bodies as if they were different states of matter. For example, students acting as a solid tried to use as much axial movement as they could without picking up their feet; “liquid” students moved as if they were filling a container by visualizing a box surrounding their body, noticing how their movements changed when the shape of the container shifted from tall and narrow to wide and flat; students acting as a gas filled the room by expanding and moving their bodies as quickly as possible. 

Then, class members practiced dancing the changing states of matter, gaining and releasing energy and learning terms like condensation, melting, evaporation, and freezing based on how many beats they heard from my drum. Each set of beats determined which state of matter they were to dance. Next, students were given an ordinary matter-changing-state scenario and asked to make and perform a dance that used movements based on the states of matter included in their scenario. For example, one scenario looked like this: When I went to school, I noticed there was snow on the ground. By the time I had recess, it was warm outside and all I saw were puddles. Then when I left school at the end of the day, the puddles were gone. 

Video of Lesson 1, Changing States of Matter

What I Learned

I noticed that students responded really well to my voice and energy in the classroom, and some students who would not participate in lesson 1 did participate by lesson 3.

Lessons I learned from these teaching experiences include: 

  1. Be clear with your rules and procedures from the very beginning. If students don’t understand instructions the first time, go back and make sure they do. There is nothing wrong with demanding correct behavior from students.
  2. Walk throughout the space to show the students that you are watching and listening. Standing at the front allows for students to hide in the back or move away from your view. This leads to off-task students, including hiding under desks, not participating, and creating safety issues for those around them.

3. BE LOUD! Students match your energy no matter what that is. So if you are quiet and timid, they will be too. I found that when I was into it and demonstrating full-out, students felt more comfortable moving and speaking up as well.

In the future, these are the elements I want to improve in my teaching: 

  1. Stating objectives clearly and in small pieces so that students understand and do not get confused: I found that I wanted to get through my lesson so badly that I would fly by the rules of my classroom. This led to more people being off-task and more time being spent on bringing them back. At the beginning, I also didn’t have a clear call-back signal to rein them back in when things got too crazy. During subsequent lessons, a clear call-back worked effectively to engage student responsiveness, regain student attention, and move forward.
  2. Add more time for fun and games in lessons. Dance should be fun and at times, the lessons felt like all work and no play.
  3. Add more creative imagery into my lessons: I really want to create this world with students that they can explore. This is done by constantly using vivid imagery throughout my lessons. Examples can include: hot chocolate in the freezer, boiling water on the stove, etc. These words and images can be used so that my lessons are more vibrant and engaging.
  4. Don’t rush through the lesson. Don’t worry about getting through all of the content: it is more important that the students understand what you are teaching and what they are learning than to finish all of the activities and content. Don’t be afraid to slow it down and try again to help students get it right so that the lesson is clear.

I am so grateful that I got this opportunity and believe that it has helped me grow extensively as a teacher. I will take all of these tips and experiences into my career and apply them as I continue into this field.

Comments (4)
  • Mattie, your writing is a perfect example of reflective practice. It’s inspiring to see you reflect, revise, and celebrate your performance. I’m so proud of you. It was a privilege to observe you. Your energy in the classroom is stellar! The teachers always commented on that.

  • It is so fun to see your great work in the classroom. I can see your growth. those are lucky students to have had an experience with you.

  • MATTIE! You are a wonderful teacher. Full of energy and passion for dance and it is contagious to your students. Thanks for sharing your talents with the school and the district. You taught me so much as well. May the force bee with you!

  • I felt inspired by Mattie’s engaging manner and contagious energy and confidence. She did such a good job demonstrating movements and had a clear plan at the outset. The students were so responsive to her!

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