Sweet Dance Moves! My Introduction to Health Class

Extraordinary

NOTE: This post has a lot of explanation that gives my Sweet Dance Moves activity context, and then a video demonstrating the dance moves that I described in the post. 

The first day of class with new students always gets me AMPED UP. While I know I’ll miss the students from previous classes, having a fresh start and multiple first days of school during the year at the start of every trimester is a unique opportunity to get back into those routines that always seem to fall by the wayside once the full force of the school year hits you.

One of the first things I do with my students is get them UP AND MOVING by having them DANCE. I have a specific dance routine I use with each grade level, and these are dances I took from various people. I’ll mention them as you see each dance move in the video below.

I decided to start off each class by teaching them a dance move after one of my summers being a facilitator at the New England Student Leadership Conference, which I’ve done every summer since 2012. There’s a lot of dancing that goes on there and one of the other facilitators, Deb Holt, mentioned that it’s important for students to turn in their “Cool Cards” (which grant them access to the theoretical world of Coolness and all associated benefits of that world) once they become a student leader. One way to do this is getting them out of their comfort zone in a safe environment. And as those of you who work with middle schoolers know…they’re WICKED cool. Like, ICE COLD cool. But you’re never too cool to dance around a little bit!

Quick Story About Being Cool: When I was in the sixth grade my teacher, Mr. Bedrosian, showed us a short clip of the TV show Thomas The Tank Engine. We were confused. Then he let us know that the narrator was Ringo Starr. Mr. B mentioned that if we ever thought we were too cool to do something (especially doing the right thing), that we should remember that a kids show about a toy train was narrated by the drummer from arguably the most influential band ever. And if RINGO STARR could do THAT…well there you have it. I was a huge Beatles fan back then, so I still remember this. I guess this is my version of doing that for my students.

I start playing the music and go into a little speech about having fun, making sure our bums don’t become numb so we don’t develop Numb Bum Syndrome (thanks, Andy!) during the school day because we sit down so much, and how we need to move our bodies more. I introduce what we’re going to be doing. Then I explain the importance of moving your body…then I model the dance move…then they practice the dance moves…

Well now my Skills Based Health Education people are all like…. “HEY! That sounds familiar!! It sounds like the skill development model for skills based health education!!” Read on, friends! Yes, teaching students to dance can help them understand how a skills based health education classroom works.

In summary, here’s what I tell students about getting out of their comfort zone after we’ve gone through the Sweet Dance Moves. I do a “chalk talk” where I write the big ideas about these things down. This isn’t verbatim, but more or less what I say (the bold words are what I tend to write on the board):

“In our skills-based health classroom, we focus on learning different skills that are based on the National Health Education Standards. Our focus is less on what you know and more on what you do. Part of this process is having me, the teacher, model the skill for you, just like I modeled our Sweet Dance Moves today. Then, we’ll break them down, step by step, and put them together. You’ll practice working on those skills, just like you practiced the different steps of each dance move today. For some of you, it will take repeated practice and more time than your classmates to get it, but that’s okay. When learning, you might make mistakes, but it’s okay to not get everything right away or all at once. Today some of you weren’t able to get the dance moves right away, or at all, and I didn’t get mad at you. Some of you went all out and really got down, and others only kind of did the movements. Everyone is coming from a different comfort zone, but I want you to know that this is a safe learning environment, and you can be your authentic self. I might have to figure out a different way to teach you, or to assess your learning. For some dance moves I gave you options that made things a little easier for you. That’s another way of using a big word called differentiation, but what it really means is that I’m doing my best to figure out the way you learn best, and that I’ll find different ways to figure out what you know and can do if the way everyone else does it isn’t working. In our classroom, you’ll get feedback on your skill performance so I can help you be the best that you can be. I didn’t give you too much individualized feedback during our dance session today, but I made some general comments to the class. We also danced so we could get out of our comfort zone, because the best learning sometimes happens when we’re there. This was also a risk for me! I don’t know many of you, you don’t know me, and there I was having fun busting a move.” 

As those of you in the skills based #healthed world know, there are numerous connections to how our classrooms run. It’s a great introduction for the students! 

I initially filmed these dance moves and showed them to my fiance. She asked my why I wasn’t smiling and why I looked so serious (she also commented on my lack of range of motion in my shoulders during “Wipeout” because she’s a PT). So I refilmed and added some commentary. Despite having very good time to keep a beat (my percussion days will never leave me) that doesn’t mean I have the best dance moves, but that’s part of the fun.

Dance Moves Summary (Video Below):

  • Sixth Grade: Wipeout! I stole this from a presenter at SHAPE Eastern in 2017, and it’s also a GoNoodle Brain Boost under the Zumba category. BONUS TIP: Check out the “Surf Rock” channel on Pandora if you want to get in that nostalgic summer mindset.
  • Seventh Grade: Uptown Funk. This dance comes from James Orrigo, another co-facilitator of mine at the New England Student Leadership Conference. He taught it to us and 200 high school students, and I guess I’m spreading it now. BONUS TIP: if you watch the music video for this jam you’ll see I kind of almost sort of can mimic Bruno Mars!! Julio, get the stretch!!
  • Eighth Grade: The Wobble. Another NESLC Dance; I think one of the college facilitators, Nick, taught us this one. BONUS TIP: This is the easiest one (I think) to differentiate. The footwork, etc. is easily modified.

Want to teach those same dance move to your own students? Check out the video below! I know my mom is probably reading this, and I want her to know that my classroom isn’t messy, it just has that lived in look to it. 🙂

I’m sure my #healthed PLN can think of other ways to tie this into a skills-based curriculum. Let me know in the comments! And, as always…dance away!!

Now, about that grading…

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Skills Based Health Education & Bloom’s Taxonomy

I still need to write my final SHAPE Boston reflection, but I remembered something that came up in our presentation and wanted to share it. Implementing a skills based curriculum and following a set of steps to teach the skills in health education involves higher order thinking. It’s important for health educators to be able to articulate this using eduspeak that administrators or their evaluators, many of whom are unfamiliar with health education, will understand.

One characteristic of an effective health education curriculum, as defined by the CDC, is the following: 

An effective curriculum builds essential skills — including communication, refusal, assessing accuracy of information, decision-making, planning and goal-setting, self-control, and self-management — that enable students to build their personal confidence, deal with social pressures, and avoid or reduce risk behaviors.

For each skill, students are guided through a series of developmental steps:

    1. Discussing the importance of the skill, its relevance, and relationship to other learned skills.
    2. Presenting steps for developing the skill.
    3. Modeling the skill.
    4. Practicing and rehearsing the skill using real–life scenarios.
    5. Providing feedback and reinforcement.

These developmental steps directly mirror action verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy. All educators are aware of Bloom’s; it’s a commonality shared among all subject areas, including health education.

The screenshot below indicates which portions of the NHES Skills Sequence are included in an example skills-based unit, as well as where each lesson (the “#” column) falls under Bloom’s Taxonomy. The number of lessons may differ based on your own schedule, so if you were to make this chart it may look a little different. Action verbs, based on what students will be doing during the lesson, are also included. Feel free to use this image in your own evaluation binders, blogs, or presentations to school committees. For my Massachusetts folks: Standard 1-A-1 on the teacher evaluation rubric.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 9.42.14 PM

The progression from general information to specific information, and from simple to complex on Bloom’s Taxonomy, demonstrates a progression of learning experiences that allow students to, “acquire complex knowledge and skills.”

Most educators are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and administrators would certainly be looking for students to demonstrate higher level thinking during class. This chart can be used to justify the shift towards a skills based health curriculum, or as evidence of the higher level thinking that takes place during the teaching of skills and performance indicators from the National Health Education Standards. Health education IS academic, even when the focus is on teaching skills over content.

Now, about that grading…