Artis Community’s Head of Dance, Louise Prosser has been working with Llantristant Primary School for over 12 years as a visiting artist. The school uses a topic-based approach to the curriculum. Learners spend one and a half hours in alternate weeks, working with the visiting dancer. Teachers are convinced that the linked dance work develops pupils’ experience and understanding, with improvements in oracy and written work as well as performance skills.
Louise originally contacted the school 13 years ago to set-up taster sessions at the school to promote the community dance pathway programme that she leads. After delivering one class, the Headteacher at the time requested that she deliver sessions on a weekly basis as part of the curriculum. She has been there ever since and now has a very strong relationship with the school.
The dance activity focuses on different requirements of the National Curriculum each half term – for example, in History, Geography and Science - as well as fulfilling the dance-related aspects of the section on creative activities in the Physical Education (PE) curriculum for Key Stage 2. It also enables teachers to deliver the relevant sections of the national Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) for Years 5 and 6 in terms of Literacy, specifically:
Each half term, the teacher provides information about the new topic to be studied. Louise researches the topic and plans a dance programme to enhance the work. She also finds any necessary props and resources..
For example, during the Tudor topic, she researched Tudor music and dance forms, Tudor banquets, Henry VIII and his wives and other related subjects so that her programme would link closely with the learners’ classwork. At the same time, the learners carry out their own research so that their ideas are crucial to the eventual outcomes, both in dance and in their oral, reading and written work across the curriculum.
Each group has a dance session for an hour and a half in alternate weeks and each half term culminates in a ‘sharing’, a performance at an assembly for the whole school.
The dance activities link with the learners’ current topic so work goes on in parallel throughout each half term. The children bring elements of the knowledge they gain in class to the dance and the dance enhances their understanding and motivation. For example, they research the topic using spider diagrams to brainstorm the topic. They also use KWL grids as a starting point to identify what gaps there are in their knowledge and then record their findings in a Fact File (The KWL grid tables capture what pupils Know, Want to know and what they Learn).
The children discuss and make decisions about the form of their eventual performance, and each series of work concludes with evaluation by pupils.
At the end of each half term, the children perform their dance at a whole school assembly. Parents are invited to attend and, throughout the projects, there is good communication with parents.
Learners show improved dance skills and a considerable increase in confidence in performance as they move through Years 5 and 6 so that many are keen to continue with dance outside school hours and join the community classes organised by Artis Community.
Teachers are convinced that learners’ understanding of their regular topics is greatly enhanced by dance work. Their written work for example, show a good standard of achievement, which teachers feel is partly as a result of the associated dance activities.
There are clear and measurable improvements in oracy, particularly in discussion and collaboration and in the development of performance skills, and the direct relevance of topics to the dance classes encourages learners to undertake independent research which informs their writing.
The children respond imaginatively to their topics and the approach of combining class work with dance provides clear motivation that increases their involvement in and enjoyment of their learning. The main gains are in personal development but there are also noticeable improvements in their co-ordination and core strength. Skills in listening, working in a group and generating ideas are enhanced. Self-confidence has increased, particularly among some of the boys who were initially dubious about taking part in dance but who now express considerable enthusiasm for the work.
Collaborating with artists in this way helps develops teachers’ skills within that medium. In this case, teachers would not have had the confidence or the skills to use dance to enhance learning.
Using novel methods of introducing curriculum content and/or linking ideas in order to demonstrate understanding of previous learning allowed teachers to see learners’ skills that would not have been as apparent had learners just been taught traditionally.
Artis Community creates opportunities to take part in creative dance and visual arts programmes across the South Wales Valleys and beyond, working in partnership with schools and a range of other organisations