Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: Is There an App for Keeping Control of My Classroom?

Photo courtesy of Rodriguez Diaz

Q: Do you have any app recommendations for keeping control of your classroom?

A: Sometimes it feels like teaching is less about dance and more about classroom management. Here are some app ideas to help you keep things from getting out of control.

My classes can get loud when my students work together in groups. One way to keep them aware of the noise level without yelling is to project an app at the front of the class called Too Noisy. This app uses the microphone on your phone to measure sound levels in the room. A dial on the app will indicate the level of noise with a needle that moves from green (quiet) to red (too loud). There are also background graphics on the app that change to reflect noise. For example, when it's not too noisy, there's an image of the sun in the sky with a happy face. As the class gets louder, the needle moves toward red, and the happy sun's expression changes from sad to horrified with its fingers in its ears. The settings allow you to change your levels if your tolerance for noise is higher.

Some of my other class troubles come from dancers who struggle with time management. A couple of my favorite apps that allow students to see time differently are Sand Timer and Time Timer. Both give students a graphic representation of the time they have left to finish their task. Sand Timer is just what it says—a digital hourglass. The Time Timer app (based on the classic timer that's long been a favorite of teachers) uses a red disk that covers a circular clock. As time passes, the disk disappears. This is particularly helpful when teaching younger students using "time-outs," since it gives the children a more concrete sense of the time they must stay in the area.

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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