What is Formative Assessment? Definition from CarnegieMellon,
"The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:
Why do we need formative assessment in a dance classroom? As a teacher I find in many classrooms, especially those that meet once or twice a week for only an hour, it is difficult to fit in everything you would like to teach. We want to instill in our students; vocabulary, technique, history, an understanding of choreography, and passion! How do we know our students are on the correct path to success, aside from watching them execute the given combination?
In this post I will address a form of formative assessment I have come up with that focuses on vocabulary, execution of movement, and choreography. This assessment can be used to address one or all of the aforementioned areas of dance.
How do we begin? Flashcards. I created three colors of flashcards.
Next I divided the class into groups of 2 or more students. Each group blindly chose 5-8 Yellow cards (depending on the size of the group, and their level of dance). The dancers took these cards and within their group tried to define each term. They then matched the Yellow card to the correct Pink card so I could check their work.
Once they had the correct vocabulary term matched with the definition, they chose Green cards that showed the execution of the step, or if it was a static position, the correct image that defines the position.
I asked the students to line up the cards on the floor to create a movement phrase. They could put the cards in any order the wished. I left this instruction very open for the students, I wanted them to be creative and problem solve through creating movement. Once they had created their first movement phrase, I had them rearrange the cards and create a new movement phrase. This was put together to create a small choreography.
I found this assessment to be incredibly successful with students between 8th and 12th grade. They enjoyed the process, which was vastly different from a typical ballet class, and were able to problem solve and use team work to create something new and different.
Other ways to use the flashcards -
I teach many students throughout the week, from different areas of New England, different ages, and at different points on their dancing careers. I have students with passion driven towards college and professional companies, and I have students who want to be placed out of their comfort zones and try dance for the first time, as well as every student in between.
I'd like to share with you a dance activity which is based on the creating process. I’ve used it to help my ballet dancers of all levels to branch out of their comfort zones, especially if ballet is their primary class. This activity could be used for any student and does not have to use ballet vocabulary as I have used.
The dancers are divided into groups. Each student in each group is given a ballet vocabulary word; pas de chat, changement, fondu, to name a few. They are asked to define those words. As a group, the dancers are also to come up with one word that has 3 letters; cat, mix, sew, for example. I then ask that they write this word a variety of ways.
Example: Group 1
Pas de chat – step of the cat
Changement – to change
Fondu – to melt
3 letter word: (written in different ways; BOLD, italicized, also large, small or in cursive.
The vocabulary words are used as the bases for choreography, and the 3 letter word is used as a bases for formations and travel. I tell my students to create a dance using their words, but not to use them as literal ballet terms but instead to explore their meanings. A pas de chat is a jump that travels with both legs moving through passe. But if I simply said, step of the cat, how would you move? This encourages the students to move differently and explore new levels.
By writing the 3 letter word in different ways they are seeing how movement patterns are created. I then ask that they use this as a basis to change their formations during their choreography. This can be anything from creating the letter with their bodies, or moving their bodies to create the pattern of the letter, or maybe they dance around the letter.
I find this activity creates successful and engaging choreography. Students feel confident because they are not just told to create and choreograph, they are given a guideline. It encourages them to work together as a group to problem solve, explore the space around them as a group, and expand their movement vocabulary.
I am a teacher first and foremost. I maintain an active lifestyle and keep myself on my toes by teaching several age groups, at 3 studios and 1 gym, across 2 states. Some will ask me, why? Because I love to teach! Plain and simple.
When I was graduating from the undergraduate program at the University of Utah I had a decision to make; audition for companies, or stay in school. I chose to pursue my MFA for 3 main reasons, my asthma, my knees, and so I could pass along my knowledge to others. I am grateful every day for the decision I made to stay in school and pursue my degree. The doors that have been opened and closed throughout the years are learning experiences that I can cherish and carry with me.
From 3 years old to adults, anyone can learn to dance. Not everyone will pursue a professional career, but we can all enjoy the art form through our various abilities. I love seeing small children finally get the step hop pattern in a skip, or an advanced student who accomplished 32 consecutive fouette turns. From shuffle ball change to a grand pirouette, dance is exciting!
I teach 6 days a week, sometimes 7 during performances, so I am constantly asked, why also teach group fitness? Because I love to move and I want my body to stay healthy. Going to the gym does not have to be a strenuous , drag your feet kicking and screaming activity. I have come to love fitness through classes and being in a room filled with people doing the same thing as me, without any judgment. Les Mills is about creating Fitness Magic; achieving goals together through instructor motivation and fantastic music. And what is better than participating in these classes? Putting the mic on, getting up on stage, and watching the success in front me.
So if you sit there and think, this girl is crazy, she teaches too much, she doesn't rest, she travels too far. Just remember at the end of the day, I've taught someone something, and I have learned from what I taught. Teaching is a two way street and passing my knowledge on and seeing the passion returned through determination and joy from success, makes my entire day just that much more fulfilling. Some days are harder than others, but learning takes patience and time!
What is asthma.? "Asthma (AZ-ma) is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breath), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing." (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute) I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 3 years old. All my life I have been effected by several triggers including allergens, exercise, and stress. What a great combination for a dancer!
Here is the advice I would give anyone living with asthma who uses it as an excuse not to live to the fullest. Don't let it control your life! Asthma is a very manageable disease. In my case, asthma is best managed with medications, regular exercise and a modified diet. As a child I would be on as many as 4 medications at a time. My personal obsession with purchasing new handbags, probably comes from my insistence on wanting to carry my inhaler myself.
According to livestrong.com, "Regular physical activity increases the strength of your lungs, increasing oxygen intake and helping you breathe better all the time, not just during exercise. Aerobic exercise increases the functionality of the muscles involved in breathing." I do not let my asthma stop me, but I do need to monitor myself closely and know my limits. If I am sick with a cold, I know that exercise will increase my chances of an attack, so I have to check with myself, is this too much? What do I need to do to stay healthy? I have had moments while teaching group fitness that I have had to stop and use my inhaler, and I do not find this a problem. I find it a triumph! I am showing my members that I am able to continue and protect myself. If that means I walk on my aerobics step instead of run for a moment, that is ok.
You're probably wondering about the modified diet. I do not consume a large amount of dairy. In fact I try to avoid dairy all together with the exception of special occasions. I LOVE cheese, there is no question about it. I will take it an all forms, melted on pasta, stringy, in cubes. Don't even get me started on ice cream. The relationship to dairy and asthma is not scientifically proven to the extent that I can hand you a study and prove myself. However after personal research I found that this is a correlation between dairy and early asthma in infants and children. So on a whim I dropped all dairy and casiene products. Within a month I was sleeping better, I was able to breath better. Within 3 months I dropped my first asthma medication and a month later dropped the dosage of my second medication. You don't have to take my word for it, but if you need some great dairy free recipes, I am your girl!
So what is the moral? Don't give up, don't count yourself short. Asthma is manageable and we should never let it stand in the way of living our lives and reaching our goals.