The Five-Minute Dance Party


It happens every time. “Five minutes until it’s time to pack-up,” I announce and I hear pleas from my students. “Can we PLEASEEEEEE have a dance party?” they beg. I smile, look at the clock once more, and answer them, “sure why not?” My students love our five-minute dance parties and to be honest, so do I (true for us, true for them). They are fun, they incorporate movement in the classroom, and they are a great way to let loose when all of our mental energy has been spent.

Recently, thanks to an outsider’s observation, I realized that our Five-Minute Dance Party is so much more.

But first, here are the rules:

  1. When it’s your turn to be in the middle of the circle, you can do whatever you want – just no headstands, cartwheels, or flips (we learned the hard way once).
  2. You can say “pass” if you don’t want to go in the circle.
  3. You can go in with a friend or teacher.
  4. It takes courage to be in the spotlight, so clap, cheer, or give thumbs up for those who are in the middle.
  5. And yes, the teacher takes a turn too.

We formed a circle, started the music (music suggestions below), and everyone busted a move. We were joined this particular day by a special visitor, my husband, Rob.

Sometime after Rob’s visit, he started asking me a lot of questions about the Five-Minute Dance Party. Originally I thought it was humorous that out of all of the things he saw in the classroom during his visit, the Five-Minute Dance Party resonated with him the most. In my mind, I gave him a “pass” – he’s not a teacher. He probably just thought it was “fun.” But what he shared with me really got me thinking…

He said it was unique to see 20 kids brave enough to jump in the middle of a dance circle. That scares most adults. It made him think about the importance of risk-taking. He reflected on his school experience and how he wished he had more opportunities to safely take risks. He went on to connect this to lessons he has learned in the business world. Ask any successful person in business about their success and they will tell you that being comfortable with risk is one of the keys to unlocking their full potential. So, the earlier you become comfortable with taking risks, the easier it becomes later in life.

I was dumbfounded, proud, and humbled. That was his takeaway. I had wrongly assumed he was talking about the dance party simply because it was “fun.” The more I thought about it, the more I was able to identify some important messages the Five-Minute Dance Party teaches kids:

  • It’s okay to be vulnerable.
  • It’s okay to try new things.
  • We’re in this together.
  • You have talent. You can shine.
  • It’s safe here.
  • It’s okay to be unsure.
  • It’s okay to let out physical energy.
  • Express yourself.
  • It’s okay to be silly. It’s okay to have fun.

What began as a simple way to let energy out has become one of the most important 300 seconds of a kids’ day.

Now I challenge you. Think about what your Five-Minute Dance Party could be. What can you do to create opportunities for your students to express themselves and take risks? I invite you to share your ideas in the comment section below or on Twitter @InKidsShoes.

Looking for some great, child appropriate songs and brain breaks? Check out Go Noodle – it’s free! Personal favorites: Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s Get Loose and Get Yo Body Movin.

True for Us, True for Them

pexels-photo.jpgImagine you attend an all-day professional development course with a group of your teaching colleagues. You arrive and enter a large conference room with hundreds of other teachers. As the presentation starts, the leader of the conference instructs everyone to sit “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor for each presentation. What would you think? Terrible, right? And what if while doing that, you were asked to learn? Does that sound like a good learning environment for you?

Assuming you answered “no,” ask yourself this as an educator: would kids want to do that, sit in one position all day to learn? If it’s true for us, it’s for them. One of my professors in graduate school once posed this example to explain how we as teaching professionals often miss such a simple guiding principle: if it’s true for us, it’s true for them.

As teachers, we make hundreds of decisions every day. It’s exhausting. While not a catch-all, the true-for-us-true-for-them approach helps me make more purposeful decisions. Whether it’s planning an effective lesson or making a split-second decision while I’m teaching, I ask myself: how would I want to learn? What do I need in order to learn?

Here’s something I know to be true: I learn by trying and failing and then trying again. True for us, true for them. I learn through active, experiential learning rather than passive learning. True for us, true for them. I learn through collaborating with others. True for us, true for them. I learn by moving, thinking out loud, getting personalized feedback…true for us, true for them.

Now, think. What if we all took a few moments each day to reflect on this notion and then put it into practice? It’s possible that if you reflect on your own learning needs, it might provide insight into children’s learning needs.

Join me as I ask questions, seek to find answers, and build connections while I put myself in kids’ shoes. 

Connect with me via Twitter @InKidsShoes and @MrsGarwitz (my classroom account).