Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Teacher, May I?

Ideas and advice from teachers

With 10 minutes of class left I noticed five sets of eyes wandering to the window. Time for a fun activity! I searched my childhood memories for a game that would engage these 7- to 10-year-old beginning jazz students, and Mother, May I? sprung to mind. I changed “Mother” to “Dance Teacher,” replaced the “baby steps” and “giant steps” with dance steps, and presto—I had a new class favorite.

With students standing in a horizontal line on one side of the studio, and me on the other side, a dancer would ask her question: “Dance Teacher, may I do three step ball changes?” I would respond with the game’s traditional response of “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not.” Others asked to do kicks, chaîné turns, piqué turns, or leaps. The first dancer to reach the line where I stood was the winner.

The “No, you may not” response came into play if a dancer’s request, such as “May I do 50 leaps?”, would allow that student to win the game before anyone else had a chance. Some dancers added an extra step or two as they came forward, but again, the Dance Teacher was able to use the “Yes” or “No” responses to keep the game fair.

The following week my students begged to play the game again, and we did, with students alternating as the Dance Teacher.

The game yielded wonderful results. Students had to use their dance vocabulary, and as they asked and answered questions, their confidence grew. Plus, it made those last minutes of class fun.

I shared this idea with our studio’s ballet teacher, who elected to stay in the role of Dance Teacher each time because of the extensive size of the ballet vocabulary. Yet the game proved even more popular in her class. —Holly Derville-Teer


Holly Derville-Teer is the owner/director of Hillsboro [OR] Dance Center.