Behaviour

What is Behaviour?

Sometimes children may behave in ways that could place the child or others at risk of harm or danger. This could involve physical actions (e.g., pushing another child, damaging equipment), the way that a child interacts with others (e.g., shouting, saying unkind things), or difficulty engaging a child in dance activities (e.g., not listening to the teacher or following instructions, children running away).

Behaviour always serves a purpose. It is a means of communicating what someone is feeling, a need or a want that is not being met. Things that might increase the likelihood of these behaviours include communication, social and cognitive challenges, and feeling anxious or scared.

What might be some challenges in the dance class?

  • In the dance class, behaviour might include rough physical contact (e.g., pushing, hitting, or heavily bumping others), running away and/or not listening to the teacher, or verbal aggression (e.g., yelling or shouting at others).
  • Some kids may show behaviour that impacts the dance class, such as loud, disruptive, and/or hyperactive behaviour.

Set clear rules

The structure and rules of the dance class should be covered in the first class. It can help to use pictures as well as words to explain the rules. Keep a short list of the rules in a place that is clearly visible to the children. Review the rules and consequences regularly if there are concerns about a child’s behaviour. You could ask parents to go over these at home with their child to help them remember.

Establish a routine within class

Set a lesson routine that is consistent each time the students attend class. Routines help provide structure and set up behavioural expectations. Students often feel more secure and less anxious when they know what to expect. Follow routines consistently.

Be consistent

Consistency is key. If rules are set, it is important they are followed at all times. Everyone should try to respond in the same fair and calm way, including teacher’s assistants and parents.

Set up ‘home-base spaces’ to give structure to class

Give each student a specific location in the dance space that acts as his or her “home base.” The students can take this spot when listening to directions, checking attendance, or completing warm-ups or cool-downs. The spot can be marked with tape, a plastic spot-marker, or an identified floor line.

Focus on the behaviour and not the child

Focus on the behaviour not the child, for example, by saying “that behaviour is not okay” rather than “you are not okay”.

Praise good behaviour

Focus on and praise the behaviour you want to see. It is better to reward desired behaviour than discipline undesired behaviour.

Involve parents

  • Involve parents: If behaviours of concern persist, involve the child and their parents to discuss solutions.
  • Teach parents the rules: Teach parents the rules too so they can reinforce it with their child.
  • Parents can help calm kids: Sometimes kids might become angry and upset with other children and the reason for this might not be clear. Giving them a break and getting their parents to help might assist them to calm down.

Have a 'safe' backup or ‘diverting’ activity

Have a ‘safe’ activity that the child can do if things become too demanding. This would be an activity that they enjoy.

Allow breaks to calm down

Some kids might get upset if they feel like they haven’t done something perfectly. Allow them a break or to do whatever they need to calm down.

Vary movement activities

Short and specific movement tasks work better than long ones.  Some kids might not be able to focus for a long time on one activity. Structure the class in short, interesting, and contrasting experiences. Movement games could be alternated between dance exercises.

Communicate clearly

Make sure you have the child’s attention before giving instructions. Use short sentences. Only give 1-2 instructions at a time. Check the child’s understanding by asking them what you have said.

Have a visual schedule

Use a visual schedule that kids can see at all times so they know what’s coming up and can more easily transition from one activity to the next.

Connect with the child individually

Using the student’s name and making a comment about his or her favourite dancer, sport team, TV show, or other interests may help a child feel more at home in the dance class.

Use dance stories

A dance story might be needed to teach a kid a new dance skill or to help them play.

Set beginning and end signals

Beginning and ending signals set up group control and focus students. Beginning signals could be: one beat of a drum or word cues. End signals could be: two beats on the drum or wood block, or simply the words “freeze” or “stop” signal students to end.

There is usually a lead up to behaviour and a consequence

Think about what the triggers of a behaviour might be and change or avoid them.

There is usually a response to or consequence of behaviour which might inadvertently reward it and make it likely to occur again.

For example a child might be sent off to help with the music which they like to do. ‘Time out’ or sitting quietly may be a more appropriate behavioural strategy.

Things to consider

Behavioural concerns are often a sign of a different underlying area of challenge, such as understanding instructions, paying attention, or regulating emotions. See the tips for Cognition, Communication, Attention, and Anxiety for more information about these areas. It is important to speak to a parent if you have behaviour concerns – they know their child best and may be able to help understand triggers for the behaviour of concern and what strategies work. See the ‘How to’ page for tips on how to tell a parent you have a concern about their child’s behaviour.

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