This year I've revived a tradition I had tried out at EOSA, my end-of-the-week class closure Recognitions Circle (I got this one from Rebecca, who teaches at Presidio Middle School in SF — thanks, Rebecca!). At the end of each Friday class, we gather in a circle and I ask for students to recognize someone "who helped you this week, or inspired you, or just did something great that you noticed…" Some weeks we have more recognitions than others, of course (just as I am diligent about leaving enough time in some weeks more than others) — but I am already, after nine weeks, starting to see a classroom community building.
Early on, I heard a lot of very specific or very general appreciations, especially of friends: "Mary helped me figure out that new step," or "I want to appreciate my whole group for our teamwork on our choreography project." But then students began to appreciate classmates whose names they didn't even know ("I don't know her name... but the girl in the pink t-shirt is so on top of all the steps" — a great opportunity to learn each others' names, of course); and a couple of weeks ago, someone offered "J___ inspires me to want to dance like him — he puts 100% into everything he does, and he looks great!" Just this past Friday, as we were practicing the Thriller dance, one student who had sat out the class observing wanted to recognize the whole class: "I hadn't planned on performing in the Thriller flashmob, but watching you all dance it today, you looked so great it makes me want to be in it after all!"
Of course, the next step will be to phrase the appreciations more in terms of specific dance vocabulary… but for now, it is lovely to see a supportive community coming together in the dance room.