News and Update

Write Dance News

We hope you had a great Summer holiday.

The last 2 months has been a very busy time for as with lots of exciting opportunities to extend and develop the Write Dance training materials as well as our own professional expertise.

Diana has travelled to India on a study visit and presented her UK perspective on her work in teacher education and early years principles to head teachers and senior managers at a conference in Tamil Nadu in India.

Nicole has been writing and developing coaching materials to increase confidence and motivation with pupils.

In June we were able to work  with Ragnhild Oussseren the author of Write Dance  and discuss new projects. As a result of this have  spent time last month adapting  our materials and have created new training sessions.

Ragnhild Oussoren now has a link to our Write Dance training website here in the England. She is promoting our site to teachers and teacher educators who are overseas because many find it more convenientto train in England than in the Netherlands

 

New Training Sessions

Introduction to Write Dance

  • Provides an introduction to the themes and underlying principles in Write Dance and includes Preschool and Nursery themes as well as content from the Write Dance book. It is designed for practitioners who are new to Write Dance or for those who may have bought the materials and want support to get started and/or provide training for staff.

More Write Dance..

  • Designed for those who are already familiar with Write Dance and want to extend the activities. This training recaps on the main principles of write dance and focuses on content from the `More Write Dance ‘ book.

The content for these trainings are normally twilight or  half day though material can be combined for full day trainings and bespoke trainings. Please contact us using the enquiry form for more information.

Write Dance Train the Trainer.
We receive many requests from those of you who are interested in becoming a Write Dance trainer in the UK. We have discussed this with Ragnhild and we are keen to run a course like this next year. At present we do not have any dates..

Dates For Trainings

Currently we respond to requests from individual schools and organisations who host the training sessions for us. These sessions are frequently open to other teachers/practitioners in the locality.

We do  appreciate that many of you write to us as  individuals  who want to attend a training for yourself.  The good news is that we are planning to host regional  trainings for individual participants  from January 2013 more details to follow. We will of course update you via the newsletter.

Share your experience

We would love to hear from those of you already using write Dance. Send us your success stories and any challenges you may have so that we can respond and share them on the website. Please email info@writedancetraining.com

Wishing you all the best for the Autumn term

Best wishes

Diana and Nicole

Write Dance training

 

Write Dance author, Ragnhild Oussoren, visits the UK

What a fantastic day we have had today, working with Ragnhild at the conference in Manchester. We are delighted that we have been able to update our own training sessions and learn more about her new ideas for Write Dance workshops.

We spent the day focusing on all three books and we were delighted to see the ‘gallery’ of children’s ‘music drawings’ from many European countries. We are excited about our plans with her for the next academic year and we look forward to telling you more.

Participants had a great day and the feedback was wonderful. As usual, Ragnhild was inspirational in her teaching, reminding us that everything in Write Dance is right. Music drawings and movement exercises reinforce cross-curricular themes in a holistic way.

For those of you who attended today, please email us your success stories and your creative ideas.

Case Study – Implementation of a Whole School Approach

A visitor to Murston Infant School observing a handwriting lesson might wonder how it is that children who are leaping and dancing around the hall to classical music can be working on their handwriting.

Murston Infants is situated on the outskirts of Sittingbourne in Kent.  Together with the adjacent nursery it serves a community with a very high level of need.  The nursery and the school recognised that conventional methods of teaching writing were just not working and so decided to find a radical way of tackling the problem.  The teacher-in-charge of the nursery first learnt the Write Dance method watching a video and reading the teacher’s guide.  She gained more confidence when she visited other schools that had adopted the Write Dance approach.  The Deputy had a personal as well as a professional interest in Write Dance because her own children had made great progress in writing at their school, Ethelbert Road Infant School in Faversham, because it had been adopted as a whole school policy.

What is ‘Write Dance’?  It is a programme to help pupils develop a fast, fluent, flexible and legible handwriting style.  The theory and the underlying principles of ‘Write Dance’ are supported by the approaches such as ‘Instructional Preferences and Learning Styles’.  Teachers who have heard of ‘Brain Gym’, ‘Brain Compatible Learning’, ‘Emotional Literacy’ or ‘Learning to Learn’, will recognise the same principles in Write Dance.

Write Dance was first introduced to English Schools by the author, Ragnhild Oussoren.  She approached Kent LA Learning Support Team to help her organise a series of workshops.  Ragnhild is a graphologist; she devised the programme during her professional career when working to improve students’ handwriting.  Her research taught her that physical exercises plus ‘movement-drawings’ produce the best handwriting results.  This theory is well known among physiotherapists and occupational therapists in relation to pupils who have motor difficulties.

The reason that Write Dance is revolutionary in English, and now Welsh, schools is because the teacher uses music to teach the movements to the whole class.  Good practice for pupils who have difficulty learning to write from an early age is good practice for all children.  The overwhelming success is shown not only by the resulting cursive handwriting by the time the pupils reach year four, but also by the fact that the pupils are active learners who engage in learning activities with their peers and their teachers.

Music, dance with movement-drawings and mark-making is used to teach the necessary experiences and physical skills to young children helping them to learn a fluent, flowing and flexible handwriting.  Story telling and visualisation strategies facilitate the essential language, ‘visuo-motor’ and visual perceptual skills.  The national writing strategies advocate that pupils should be taught cursive handwriting.  The best way to introduce cursive script is to teach gross motor movements followed by the same (but smaller) fine motor movements to make Write- Dance and ‘sound-scape’ pictures.

After some initial training, the staff at Murston Infant School went on to develop exercise sequences and activities to supplement the Write Dance lessons that can be found in the published materials.  This teaching resource has facilitated consistency and progression across the school.  Every teacher has guidance notes and a bank of resources.  This allows them to encourage creativity within the lessons and gives them the opportunity to add their own personal interpretation, often through their personal taste in music.

The next step for the school staff will be to invite the parents to visit the school, watch Write Dance in action and to follow the progress of their children’s learning and development.

“We have only really taken to Write Dance since last September but the difference it has made to the children’s handwriting has been quite unbelievable.  Children who found singular letter formation difficult are now using a joined script fluently.  Children who had no confidence in their writing are now freely and willingly using a joined script throughout the school day.  The teachers’ handwriting has also improved!”

Dot Bromley – Head Teacher Murston Infants.

So how does it look in a lesson?

Always start with movement, dance and physical actions.  Use the hall or make space in the class to learn the actions and dance movements.  After the class has copied the dance a few times, do the actions to the music.  As soon as the class is ready, do the dances for the first five minutes then draw the dance movements on paper or on chalk/white boards?  The children will quickly learn the sequence and perfect the actions.  Use the ideas in the published materials.  Children will learn to recognise the music and the key words, then use these as signals or cues and will be able to respond with physical movements and dance.  You can do this as a short activity moving from literacy to numeracy or as group work.

Children use both hands to draw, left and right together, in unison, and in an alternate motion harmonising and balancing their skills.  To implement Write Dance, teachers need to understand the philosophy of seven movement principles in Write Dance, these are listed as:

  1. Straight lines
  2. Rounded shapes
  3. Circles
  4. Angles
  5. Direction
  6. Size and
  7. How to cross the mid-line.

A theme running throughout the teaching sessions is the experience of ‘opposites’.  For example when the children copy the teacher and make firm downward movements with their whole bodies, the teacher will then demonstrate and emphasise an equally strong and firm upward movement.

All the lessons are fun and pupils learn that everything they do is right.  Very young children may need to be shown how to hold a crayon in each hand without using a rigid hammer grip.  The Write Dance method is to use short and chunky crayons for an ‘all –finger’ grip because this ensures maximum flexibility in the wrist.  The teacher models the movements and makes sure that the children vocalise the actions that they make.  The teacher reminds the children to maintain the rhythm by bending their knees in time with the music, the singing, the rhymes or the commentary.  The children always need to be reminded to consciously breathe.

Children’s learning and development is supported through the story-telling, the movement sequences and visualisation techniques, which are set to music.

The lessons provide children with the physical experiences of balance, co-ordination and harmony.  They learn feelings of relaxation in contrast to the opposite feeling of muscle tension.

Basic resources in the teaching of Write Dance include large sheets of paper and boards painted with blackboard paint.  Paper and boards should be both on the floor and table (horizontal), and attached to walls (vertical).  Very young children can be encouraged to draw in shaving foam on the table.  There are many adaptations and extension activities that have been devised by teachers.

It is not surprising that the benefits reach beyond handwriting alone.  Write Dance is another tool for teachers and practitioners to include in their ‘tool-kit’ of resources and approaches to support children’s social and emotional development.

Write Dance is first and foremost fun for both teachers and children and so it enhances self-esteem.  Pupils learn that they can make choices, express their feelings and risk filling large sheets of paper with their ‘writing-drawings’.  Teachers benefit from having a way to engage and activate the class while providing the best start for all young children learning to write.  The results are truly remarkable, especially in those schools where the ethos and culture create opportunities for children to become active learners.

“Taking into account that cohorts vary, standards in writing have steadily improved due to our approach to the teaching of cursive handwriting, with particular reference to the interdependency of the development of fine and gross motor skills throughout our curriculum provision. Write Dance plays a significant role in enhancing and supporting this across the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1.”

Sylvia Wilson, (2003), Head Teacher Herne Infant School.

Diana Strauss is the Co-founder of Write Dance Training, a Write Dance Trainer and a Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University.

If you would like to find out more after reading this article you can watch the DVD, read the teachers’ book and listen to the CD.  Paul Chapman Publishing / SAGE Publications
1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP
T: 020 7324 8708 F: 020 7324 8600 www.sagepub.co.uk

Or you can visit Herne CE Infant School, Palmer Close, Herne,
Herne Bay, Kent CT6 5DA.  Ask to speak to Sylvia Wilson.
Telephone:  01227 740793.
Email:  headteacher@herne-infant.kent.sch.uk