Ballet vocabulary. We want our students to have it. To understand how to speak the language. To be informed dancers. So we do any of the following things:
- Randomly ask them what any given ballet word means.
- Consistently reinforce the definitions before every exercise. Or at least try to.
- Send home vocabulary sheets and then give quizzes in class.
- Refer them to online ballet dictionaries.
- Get creative and send home crossword puzzles or any other worksheet to instill the words.
I have done all these things. I still do. I have had success with all these things as well. However, rarely do students find any of these things “fun”. Of course there is usually a small handful who adore puzzles and quizzes, but most just see it as another ‘thing to do’.
I stumbled (purely by chance) across an activity a few years back that did actually have the fun element. It was close to Christmas and this particular group was getting squirmy. Ready for the break to begin. My aim was to simply give them a fun activity to break the rut, but it turned out to be a really cool vocabulary exercise for them. Since then, I have done this a few more times and have seen positive results both in how well they retain information and how much they enjoy showing what they have retained.
Here is how it goes . . .
Create A Dance With These Words
On a sheet of paper, I list all the ballet terms we have been learning. I do not list any other words. Only the ones I know I have consistently drilled them on in class. They take this list of words and, as a group, choreograph a dance together.
*NOTE—I have found this works best when they have a fun song to work with, but preferably without lyrics.
- They are only allowed to use the words on the paper for which they also know the definitions. If they don’t know the definition, then they don’t get to include that step in their dance.
- To show they know the definition they must write it next to the word.
- If they wish to add more steps into the dance, they may add those words onto the list and then write the definition next to it.
*NOTE—This can apply to port de bras as well if your students are up for that challenge.
Challenge One—They must notate their choreography using the proper terminology.
Challenge Two—They must notate their choreography using the definitions.
Challenge Three—They must say the steps as they dance them. This can be hilarious.
What I have found is that they are surprised at how much they know; especially when they work together as a team. By drawing on each other’s knowledge, they all end up learning more and, because this activity engages so much of their learning styles, they retain this information so well.
By the end of the class period, they have a dance to show along with a list of ballet words they can officially put in their vocabulary vault. Plus, it builds the team and offers plenty of opportunity for a variety of critical thinking skills to be used. Not to mention it is loads of fun!
If your class finds itself in a position where a quirky group project is just what is needed, I highly recommend this little activity. Give them plenty of time, monitor to ensure everyone is being included, and then sit back and watch them think super hard about ballet!
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