A great teacher has the ability to make the repetitive material exciting and new. This is especially a challenge for teachers who teach beginners, elementary school-age classes or preschool classes where a lot of repetition of simple steps is necessary for systematic progression. One way to keep class fresh and new is to bring props into the classroom.
Props help all types of learners retain and discover more about the steps they are learning. However, there is something magical that happens using props for dancers who are tactile learners. When they see a prop, touch it, feel it and use it, something clicks in their brains to help them learn the step or correction.
Finis Jhung, one of the most sought-after ballet teachers, uses props (to the right): he has a square for finding--and maintaining--your center, and his "plum" line is a variation of plumb line, used to show alignment. Many teachers who use vivid descriptions will find that a simple prop will take their teaching that much further.
Suggestions for props:
- Beanbags (balance on body parts, gentle tossing, passing in circle)
- Kickball-size foam balls (roll to different students while stretching in center split)
- Scarves (creative movement, free dance, ballet class)
- Maracas or percussion instruments (make 'music train' with toddlers / with older students-half of the class makes the beat while the other half dances to it)
- Parachute (toddlers)
- Pom Poms (emphasize arm movements)
- Teddy bears / puppets
- Jumprope (create different movement paths on the floor and mimic them with the body)
- Magic Wands (for littles: tip toe walks, bourree turn with them above heads and grant a magic wish while you arabesque)
- Rhythm sticks (teaching musicality and rhythm)
- Tambourines (again, musicality and rhythm exercises, also hold it in front of your creative movement dancers while they learn battements - try to tap the tambourine, with older children you can hold it up high during leaps and have them try to tap the tambourine while leaping)
- Candy canes at Wintertime (hold them long ways while doing dig heel walks. After executing a cramp roll, tap it on the ground 3x. Place end on floor and walk around it)
- Jingle Bells at Wintertime (shake out a rhythm, then match it with your taps)
- Canes (for a Broadway feel combo)
- Long/large scarves (for Arabian type dances during Nutcracker time)
- Chairs (for different movements-seated, stepping up on, spinning on one leg, etc...)
- Wooden suitcases to tap on
- Serving trays with elastic straps on the bottom to attach to your hands (works great for waitress type dances or Be Our Guest)
What props do you use in your classes?