The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

 

The Magic of Winter!?!

 

Living in the centre of Canada, though not the northernmost part of Canada,  a larger than usual portion of our year is spent adapting daily life to (extreme) winter weather conditions.    Our children are very familiar with the excitement of the first snow, and the inevitable winter blues that affect us after months and weeks and hours of snow.  Extremely low temperatures often visit between snowfalls – cold enough that children are not allowed to go outside for recess.    As this is part of our geographical landscape the number of school days children miss because of weather is surprisingly limited.   Instead, allowances are made for those travelling long distances and for those in rural areas, and recess is adapted to the weather conditions whether than means only 10 minutes outside or recess in the gym.

Parents, teachers, and children agree that sometimes winter seems to be endless!  Oh, how we yearn for the days of not wearing boots, coats, hats, mitts, and layers upon layers of clothing!  (Can you sense the mid-January exasperation?)

Ezra Jack Keats’ book,The Snowy Day is the perfect book for reminding us of the fun we can have exploring in the snow, by ourselves and with a friend.   Simple activities, like going for a walk, become an adventure!   Walking in the snow we can see our footprints, we experience the ‘crunch, crunch, crunch’ sounds beneath our feet, and the feeling of sinking into the deep banks of snow (the best mode of travel in lieu of cleared sidewalks).

Keats’ captures the wonder of  witnessing the sparkling snowflakes falling, giving our landscape a magical lightness.   And those first moments waking  up after a snowstorm/blizzard, looking out into the neighbourhood that has magically been transformed into a sparkling, white, crystallized wonderland.

Taking this book into the studio, creative movement (3-5 yr olds) lessons can include exploring different pathways on the ground, the shapes and sparkle of snowflakes, tip toeing through the snow attempting to make the smallest footprints possible, and tunnelling through the huge piles of snow.     For 6-7 yr olds (pre-ballet) we can explore our footprints in the snow — turning our feet out and in (external and internal rotation), high tip toes with turnout, and long runs (for the boys) that take us soaring low across the snow.

The final page of the book seems to sum up a child’s early experience of our winters…little wee persons surrounded by HUGE piles of snow!

Everyday is truly and adventure.

Simply magical.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Book Review: Autism Everyday

Alyson Beytien is an Autism Consultant and the mother of 3 boys who are all on the autism spectrum. In other words, she is not only an ‘expert’, but a superwoman!  An autism specialist, Ms. Beytien’s collection of essays (originally published in Autism Spectrum Quarterly magazine) give parents and teachers practical strategies for living with, and teaching, children with autism.

As with all diagnoses, those diagnosed with autism range from low to high functioning levels, and absolutely every variation in between. An informative and insightful read, Ms. Beytien broaches the subject with humour and anecdotes from her family’s daily routines and challenges.  From her son’s obsession with trains to the decision to send one of their sons away to school, she shares the emotional roller coaster that she and her husband ride daily.

A fairly quick read (thank you!), Beytien avoids unending medical jargon and includes short lists of practical strategies at the end of each chapter.   Broaching the subject from the perspective of the parent, Beytien  shares her families daily life challenges with the reader, giving us not only her professional insight but (more importantly) her insight as  parent of 3 boys living on the spectrum.

Whether you have a child diagnosed with Autism, or you work with children who live with autism, this book is essential for your personal reference library.   For this teacher, Beytien has passed on some golden strategies that I am excited to try in my classes and has given me a deeper insight into the daily challenges of families experiencing Autism alongside their children.

Author:   Jacqui Davidson

Book Review: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Celebrating dance-ability!

First, let’s be clear – this writer loves giraffes!   Perhaps because we have height in common, or their graceful gate as they trim the trees or gallop across the plain, or their quiet and observing manner.  Whatever the reason, they are amazing creatures.

In Giraffes Can’t Dance we are welcomed into the ‘secret’ world of the animal kingdom where the animals gather to party in forest.   Naturally, its a dance party!  Waltzing Warthogs and Cha-cha-ing Chimps are among the many  getting their groove on and when it is Geralds’ (the giraffe) turn, his clumsiness is found to be entirely hysterical.   A new friend helps Gerald to find his groove to his own unique music and teaches the reader that everyone CAN dance!

The text is rhythmical and precise.  the colours are bold and beautiful, and the drawings are beautiful and have a movement all their own.

Recently I shared this book with a group of boys who happen to be a part of an Autism [ASD] group.  I hesitated to read the book as they are a bit older and are just at that stage where they might think its too ‘babyish’ for them.  To my surprise, they were captivated by the drawings of the animals, enjoyed the rhythmical flow of the text,  and excited by the notion that Gerald found when his own way to groove in the forest.    We then listened to three different pieces of music, all with different qualities, and explored how we would move to that particular piece.   The result?

Absolute Magic.  Even the student who usually shies away from exploring movement found his own groove in that class.

Thanks Gerald.

Book Review: Eating the Alphabet by Lois Elhert

What a beautiful way to incorporate healthy ideas into your preschool dance classes!

 

Lois Elhert has done an exceptional job illustrating the shapes, colours, and textures of a rainbow of fruits and vegetables from A to Z in her book Eating the Alphabet.  From A to Z (or Zed for our Canadian readers) she has beautifully illustrated the more common fruits and vegetables, but also some that are less common as well.

At the back of the book the author has included an index of all of the foods in the book, explaining what they are and where they originated.

Ways to incorporate this book into your class:

Pick a letter (page) of the alphabet and explore the different fruits and vegetables that represent that letter. Use the shapes and colors in the artwork as a springboard for the exploration of shape, texture, and colour with your students. Consider not only what is familiar, but also what is unfamiliar.  Talk about the energy we derive from the foods we eat and explore how energy, or the lack of energy, can make us feel.  Incorporate this into a lesson on exploring effort in relation to how energy affects us physically.

My students love to look at the shapes and colours on one page, pick their favorite fruit or vegetable and then go into their personal space to make their bodies into the same shape as the picture.  Enjoying a challenge, they get a kick out of trying to move around the room without changing their shape, or moving in the same energy that they think they might receive from eating that particular food.

To wellness in dance and life!

 

 

 

Book Review: Alphabet Kids

Robbie Woliver’s (2009) Alphabet Kids:  From ADD to Zellweger Syndrome, A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals   is a practical guide to the many disorders and syndromes diagnosed in children today.  Alphabet Kids walks us through multiple  syndromes and disorders (from A t0 Z), providing  us with situational examples and lists of common signs and symptoms.  Offering several  perspectives of supporting  research,  each disorder/syndrome is its own chapter beginning with terms used in the chapter, symptoms, causes, general diagnosis and treatment, and finally general prognosis.   References are included at the end of each chapter, providing the reader with a starting point for personal research.

With one in six children often being diagnosed with multiple, interconnected neurobiological, developmental, and genetic illnesses, dance teachers are wise to seek out knowledge regarding these syndromes and disorders.   This resource provides practical and useful information with which to facilitate communication between teacher and parent, encouraging a deeper understanding of behavior, to foster best teaching practices and cues.   As dance teachers our role is to understand any diagnosed conditions/syndromes of our students and to work with parents to find best ways to ensure success for the student.  Having a text such as Alphabet Kids in your library provides detailed information, written for the non-medical community (the layperson), and a place to begin your education with these syndromes and conditions.

 Author:  Jacqui Davidson