Leading With Kindness One Dance Step at at Time
This time of year, schools direct their attention towards programs and policies that support healthy relationships and a positive school climate. When initiated effectively, there is a much greater likelihood that students will feel welcome, included, and safe throughout the year in the company of their teachers and peers. While the conversation is complex and can go in many directions when addressing discrimination and inequities related to gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and so forth, it can also be narrowed down to a single point. Kindness.
Children need to be able to grasp concepts that they can understand and apply. Although we can speak with them (at an age-appropriate level) about critical issues that address gender inequities, racial discrimination, and such, I also think it’s important to look through the lens of kindness. Ultimately, people wish to be loved and accepted. They wish to be heard, seen, and to know they matter. Kindness is a way in which we can create positive school environments where all individuals feel included regardless of their identities.
Kindness is often explored in the classroom. Teachers are creative beings who regularly come up with kindness related activities and lessons. There are also many picture books dedicated to the topic that work brilliantly to get students thinking about it from different perspectives. Another way to creatively explore kindness is through the body. Essentially, kindness is a way of being that is demonstrated through actions and words. Students can investigate what kindness looks like (actions we take), sounds like (words we speak), and feels like (how the actions and words are perceived).
Want your students to lead with kindness? Why not do so one step at a time?
- Invite students to “bodystorm” (it is the same as brainstorming, but through the body) a number of ways that kindness can be demonstrated through movement (e.g., stepping aside to let someone pass, tipping a hat, a smile).
- Have students move around the room to music with the intention of being kind. Can they move while being mindful of other people’s personal space? Can they smile or wave at each person they move by?
- Invite students to work in partners to mirror each other’s movements. One person is the leader while the other follows. This activity is collaborative and creative while also building community. Encourage students to dance with someone they do not know as well, rather than their best friend. Play positive and uplifting music that inspires joyful movement. Have the students do this with a few different partners.
- Read an age-appropriate book to students on kindness. Students can act out the book while it’s being read. They can also take on the role of a character in the book and non-verbally demonstrate an aspect of them through movement (e.g., mime a scene from the story or create a short “character” dance).
- Have students work in small groups to create a kindness tableau (a frozen “picture”). They create a scene (e.g. at a park, library, grocery store), with various characters, and show the scene to the class through a tableau. The class can talk about what they see. What is happening in the scene? Who are the characters? How do they know there is an act of kindness taking place? How can they tell by looking at the way the students’ bodies are posed in the tableau?
- Show students a piece of artwork that represents kindness. Invite them to interpret the art through their bodies. This can be done by putting on music and having them improvise movement together as a whole class. Students can also be put in groups to create a short interpretive dance piece. Make sure they demonstrate aspects of the artwork (e.g., colour, line, texture, shape, pattern) in their movement.
- If kindness were a colour what would it be? How would that colour move? For example, if kindness were yellow what might that look like?
- If kindness were a body part, which one would it be? How might it move to show it is kindness. For example, if kindness were an elbow how might it dance?
Traci L. Scheepstra, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Embodied Learnings. Want to know more about her work in education? Read here!