Tuesday, August 20, 2013

new school, new thinking about curriculum

I spent three days last week in the Curricular Progressions workshop with the folks from Luna Dance Institute, ostensibly to be working on refining my middle school dance curriculum before starting a new year at a new school… but instead of just tweaking the curriculum, I ended up shifting my thinking in a fairly major way, inspired by another participant in the workshop who is also starting a new middle school dance class. Her idea was that each week (with four classes per week), she will teach two days of improvisation and composition, one day of technique, and one day of video observation and response — with all those classes sharing a common focus in the elements of dance or principles of choreography. For example (to pick one at random), if the focus for the week were Levels, then the improv/comp classes would explore high, middle and low level shapes and movements, the technique class might introduce a combination with lots of relev├ęs and jumps as well as floor work, and on the observation day students could view works by choreographers who work with extremes of level in interesting ways.

As I said, I was inspired… Over the years, I've developed a comfortable flow to my school year — basic jazz and modern technique and historical social dances in the fall, world and cultural dance forms in the spring, with creative work / improvisation / composition interspersed throughout the year as the base, always with enough freedom in the schedule to try out new ideas. But I realized that I've become accustomed to teaching in discrete units, which may or may not relate to each other, and which may or may not build to a coherent whole. So I was excited by the possibility of finding a way to tie everything together, relate the technique lessons to the creative work, make those spiraling skills spiral in a way that makes sense…

So rather than making minor revisions, I've upended my curriculum and turned my head around in a completely new direction. I haven't got everything fully worked out past the first couple or three units, but I can tell my thinking has definitely shifted: the other day, during Hawkins technique class, when my teacher mentioned that Erick Hawkins believed all movement was made up of loops and circles, my first reaction was to start thinking how I could incorporate Hawkins technique into a unit about curved and angular movement (perhaps pairing it with Horton?).

It's just a little bit scary, starting a new school with entirely new curriculum, not falling back on my comfortable, well-tested lesson plans; but it's exciting as well. I'm looking forward to an interesting year (in a good way)!

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