I've just finished a five-day residency up in Indianapolis as the second part of Young Audiences' Signature Core Service pilot. Most of the time it seems the dance and rhythm aspect of this program brings kids closer to the page by motivating them to write, sometimes for the very first time, multiple meaningful sentences about their experiences creating original dance steps. The program can also help kids think of math as a friend, not a foe, also for the very first time.
The kids I just worked with, however, were already very comfortable in the symbolic realm of mathematics and also possessed strong verbal-linguistic skills and positive problem solving attitudes. They were, however, still fourth graders in their bodies and feet (and I mean that in the best possible way). In addition, they were good at following directions, and really dug into the activities I outlined but...
....upon reflection, I realize now they might have been bored.
They might have been bored because they really knew their math, but at the same time they couldn't really do more than fourth graders normally can do with their bodies. I think that if I had had more time with them, or could do it over, I would have found a way to get their brains more engaged while their bodies worked at age-level.
I would have challenged them to really play with their patterns. For example, instead of just making a Pattern A and B and combining them into a third, 8-beat pattern (which is a great amount of play in itself), I would ask them how many different ways they could recombine the four beats that made up each pattern, and then encourage them to ask more questions along that line of inquiry: What if we reflected the pattern to itself, beats 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1? What if we took our two favorite beats from the two patterns and traded them with someone else? "What if...?" is one of my favorite questions, after all, because you never know where it will take you.
Despite these musings of mine, I think things went well. Here are their perceptions and reflections of the first three days of the residency...
Day One: "You have a friend who was absent today and missed the first day of Math in Your Feet. Tell that person about all the different ways you made patterns with your feet."
First, we had vocab words, such as hop, slide, clog, etc. then, we made and [sic] pizza, and used all of the dances. For example, we did sausage as slide. As it says, Math in Your Feet!
Today Ms. Malke came in and we learned all about dance steps. This is called clogging. Clogging and step-dancing are actually cousins! When we were dancing sometimes we put our feet to a 90°angle and other times she told us to turn our feet to an acute angle. We also used a lot of math vocabulary words. We all had a great day full of dancing and math.
Today for an hour we did math in your feet. We did clogging, and the chug. We made a pizza in our mind and did different dances to represent what we put on the pizza.
We made patterns by dancing. When we danced we also made rhythims [sic]. We also pretended to make pizza.
Day Two: "What did you have to do to dance congruently with your partner? Using complete sentences, name at least three things that had to be the same. What kind of challenges did you and your partner face to make your dancing congruent?"
To dance congruently with my partner we had to count out the four beats. The timing, dance steps, and the beats all had to be the same. One challenge we had was timing at first, but then we practiced and practiced and we finally got it at the same time.
My partner and I had to take one step with our right ft. 1st, then left, turn 180° right, then 180° left. The kind of challenges we had to face are having to make sure we both knew what order our steps were in then we counted 1, 2, 3 to know when to start.
Do the same dance you have to keep a steady beat, go at the speed of the slower person, and practice.
My partner and myself really didn't have any problems, but if I had to pick three I would pick that 1. was that I could not get the steps right. 2. We could not stay together. 3. We could not figur [sic] out how we wanted to do are [sic] steps like for example speed fast, mideam [sic] or slow.
Me and my partner faced lots of challenges. We did a 270° turn wich [sic] was hard to be congruent while doing. The speed, movement, and moves had to be congruent.
To dance congruently, I had to say something to signal us to start dancing. The 2 diagonal splits & 1 side split had to be the same so it would look good.
Day Three: "Write a friendly letter to your partner. First, tell this person about what you had to do to reflect your dance pattern across the line of reflection. Then, tell your partner what your favorite MIYF dance move is and why!"
I had to turn right instead of left to mirror your moves. I love our Pattern A! It's casual, but interesting. I can't wait to see Pattern B.
To reflect our dance pattern across the line of reflection you had to do it in the opposite sides and I did it originaly [sic]. My favorite MIYF move is a slide, with our feet together, and back just because it's fun to do!
In Math in Your Feet we did a line of reflection and how we did it was we had to pick a person to be the original and the reflector. The reflector had to do oppsite [sic] lefts and rights. My favorite dance move was the cross because it is fun and it makes me feel like a real dancer!
I had to instead of going right diagonal at first I had to go left to right Diagonal. I don't have a favorite dance move because I don't like to dance.
I love having you as a partner because you don't get mad when I mess up and you agree with anything we do. I could go on with the tanes [tons] of things good about you but I'll stop there.
First, we had to pretend we were looking in a mirror. We had to switch our rights with lefts and lefts with rights. My favorite dance step is turn because I like getting dizzy.
I love fourth graders!