This year, I’ve shared some of the ways we try to bring parents to our school. As a Title I campus, this is a big focus for us, and we hold home and school connection programs each month. Any time we can get parents involved, student excitement soars, and giving the parents a glimpse into what their children do all day helps them better support their learning at home. This month, parents were invited to a PE showcase, where the 1st grade classes showed off their dancing skills from the rhythm unit they’ve been studying for the last few weeks.
For the showcase, students arrived wearing their class spirit shirts and went to the gym to join their classmates. Parents attended a short PTA meeting, then they all went to the gym as well. The students were there waiting in long, straight lines, and they could hardly contain their excitement as adults filled the room. Joan Serice, one of our PE coaches, welcomed the parents and gave them an idea of what they would be seeing. She talked about the rhythm unit they’ve been studying in PE and how the students had learned the concepts of left, right, forward, and backward. She then turned on the sound system, and the music for the "Mexican Hat Dance" poured from the speakers. The students began a choreographed folk dance, jumping from left foot to right foot and back again. As the tempo of the music changed, they found a partner and moved in a circle around each other. They were absolutely beaming as they did this, and the camera flashes from their parents made it look like a red carpet!
After the folk dance, the music changed to a more current song, and they began a new dance. Kristen Dickson, our music teacher, danced with them. I asked her to share her secrets for teaching almost 150 1st graders to dance in sync. She responded:
A few weeks ago we combined all the 1st grade classes in the gym to learn and practice our second dance to "Call Me Maybe." I started with small sections, teaching them slowly without the music. We worked a lot on "right" and "left" directions since our dance had lots of moving right and moving left. Slowly we would put together the different sections and practice with the music. We worked on keeping a steady beat, and sometimes I would break apart the different motions and have them practice just one isolated movement. For example, one of the moves requires the students to step forward three steps and hop, then move backwards three steps and hop. I would have them march in place for three counts and hop over and over again so that they would get the preliminary movement down. Then I knew they could add the forward/backward movement and be more successful. We had a specific "starting position" so all I would have to say were those words and they knew to stand straight and put their hands by their side. The key to something like this is REPETITION! We did it over, and over, and over again. The performance wasn’t perfect by any means, but the kids enjoyed it and honestly, when you’re working with 1st graders the expectation is that they remember most of it and have a good time doing it!
All in all, it was a fabulous showcase. I like to measure the success of any home and school connection program by the looks on the faces of the kids and their parents. Judging by these pictures, I’d say it was a successful night!
Next month, we will invite parents to attend an evening Poetry Jam, where students, teachers, and parents can share their favorite published and original poetry. Stay tuned!