Teaching Concepts with Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) – 1

Use Music and Movement to Teach Children

Thanks to the CreativeSaathi team for the creative representation for this story. Thanks to Morpheus Nag for the picture of the ashram. Thanks Dhrov Tikoo for the colorful squirrel and bird. Thanks Nikkil Thotham for the pictures of the monkey, dog, and cow. This is our second post where we have combined artwork from multiple CreativeSaathis!

Children’s songs are often used by parents and teachers to teach young children concepts such as body parts, animals, fruits etc. These songs are a fun way to teach that include many theater tools (e.g., music, movement, and storytelling).

This week we reached day 50 of 100 days of the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab being organized in collaboration with RASA India. This week we shared a movement activity for young children by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning.

While Ananth may not care for these children’s songs much now, the fact that his 1.5 year old nephew will be visiting us soon made him participate with much interest. He and I have been brainstorming ways to try it with Ishaan! Ananth has included his ideas to try with his nephew in his post.

Tips for Implementing TAHD Lessons

1. Practice I-Do, We-Do, You-Do Method of Teaching

A key point from the article above: Learning with a gradual shift of responsibility reduces task anxiety in students and makes studying a fun thing. There is proper time and space given to students to transition from a beginner to an independent performer.

Review this week’s lesson video. See how Ujwal Jagadeesh is using “We-do” teaching. One reason that we have done the videos with Ananth is that you can observe how the lesson is being taught. Even if you are not using the lesson itself, please watch the lesson videos. There are many things we can learn by watching guided participation in action.

Ananth can easily do a one-hour lesson because of this We-do format. He is mostly just observing and imitating rather than trying to process verbal instructions which are more stressful for him.

While I-Do, We-Do, You-Do method can be effective for everyone, there is a very important benefit of this method for our children – it reduces verbal instructions and prompting, reduces performance demands (Ananth mostly follows along as best as he can, with limited corrections in each class).

2. Imitate, Repeat, Memorize, and Improvise

Another key idea that I want to share is the process of learning through imitation, repetition, memorization, and improvisation. Children love to hear and move to the songs repeatedly. These songs are designed for repetition. There are extensive opportunities for children to imitate the parent or teacher. Repetition helps them memorize movements and concepts. Improvisation adds interest and variety. Repetition with improvisation provides predictability and novelty. Think of these four elements of the process when you do the lesson!

Review the video below and observe how imitation is being used in the lesson. Notice how imitation reduces prompting and verbal directions. Imitation is a useful tool for reducing stress because it allows lessons to be conveyed by modeling while limiting directions. However, the capacity to imitate is required. Since Ananth has danced for many years, he is able to quickly follow even if he cannot do all the movements perfectly in the beginning. The teacher also does not correct much during his regular Bharatanatyam lessons. He picks and chooses selected skills to work on rather than trying to correct everything at once.

3. Use Nonverbal Communication

Such movement activities provide many opportunities to practice nonverbal communication. Ananth is following Ujwal without verbal direction. Autistic children often have difficulty in following nonverbal cues as well as in imitation. The movement activity can be adjusted according to the child’s capacity to imitate and follow nonverbal cues.

Movement activities also naturally provide opportunities for nonverbal communication. The student has to track the teachers movement and follow. There are numerous movements to follow even in a simple children’s song!

4. Expand the activity

There are many ways to expand the exploration. Read about the animals. Draw and paint. Make crafts. Write about the animals. Explore other songs.

Consider the five TAHD tools: 1) Movement and dance, 2) Music and rhythm, 3) Storytelling, 4) Drama, and 5) Arts and crafts to identify extensions in a systematic way.

There are many children’s songs that you can use to incorporate movement and to integrate movement and language. Here is a video explaining Ramana Rhymes by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, faculty at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru.

Many parents are aware of the need to use visual tools. Many use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Theater arts tool (movement and dance, music and movement, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts) offer varied ways of engaging young children in learning about any topic. Once parents become aware of the possibilities for using such tools, they can find ways to implement theater arts for teaching their child any concept or topic.

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