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How to capture the wandering attention of your tiny tap dancers?

Published on February 25th 2021 by Hillary-Marie

I got a message from a fellow tap teacher the other day seeking guidance and support on how to manage a class of 5-8 year olds, specifically with capturing their attention.

I get this question a lot! And I thought it would be a fun one to share with you guys here on the podcast. Especially since in the U.S., we find ourselves midseason where the class energy can sometimes become overwhelming.

“I wanted to see if you might have any advice on managing a tap class of 5-8 year olds. I feel like I am constantly having to tell them to be quiet, especially since they really can't hear me with the mask unless it's silent, and I can't hear one of them ask a question if there's any noise. I use shave and a haircut as our quiet signal- I do the first part and they do the last two notes. Sometimes that works but sometimes it is just for a moment and then some of them will start talking or moving around after just a few seconds. Sometimes I will just stand there with a peace sign in the air and say I'm just going to wait until they are ready. We talk about how we are missing out on time to have fun and learn when I am constantly having to ask them to be quiet. It's my second year having some of these kids and it's only slightly better because I don't have as many kids in this class this year due to smaller class caps. I try to keep the class moving quickly from one thing to the next but this is still an issue. Any advice would be appreciated!”

This can be so tricky because not only is it affecting the experience of the kids in the class, but it also has a way of bringing your energy down as a teacher. We want tap class to be an exciting event for everyone involved, you included!

Be Heard.

I’m noticing that her student’s can’t hear her because she’s teaching in a mask. The immediate solution to this is wearing a wireless microphone while teaching. If a studio isn’t willing to purchase it for you, I recommend purchasing it for yourself regardless. Here’s a link to the wireless headsets we’re using at my studio. We’re loving it!

Call and Response.

I love using call and response to get a child’s attention, especially when they’re younger. And while shave and a haircut is a beautiful piece for call and response to use for older dancers, it’s a bit trickier for the little ones. For this reason, I recommend simplifying the call that they respond to.

The basic - clap clap clap clap clap (1 2 3 + 4). You’ll have to do it a few times to get their attention, maybe 3 times total. You go - some of them go - you go - more of them go - you go and then all of them go.

Another one I like to do is, “clap once if you can hear me… clap twice if you’re a good listener… hands on your head… touch your nose… touch your toes… hands on your hips… now freeze! I’m looking at an awesome group of good listeners!”

I like this because it’s dynamic. We’re getting their attention by giving them instructions to move, rather than giving them instructions to pause.

Keep it moving.

I recommend finding 5 different ways to do the same exact thing.

We know they need more time to focus on specific vocabulary and techniques, and maybe their attention span is shorter than the time required for them to connect and drill the technique at hand.

So you’re continuing with the same concept, but it feels different.

Face the mirror and do heel toes forward.

Now let’s do heel toes across the floor.

Now let’s do a circle and heel toe in teh center of the circle and step heel back.

Now let’s do a combination that happens to have heel toes in it.

Now let’s do call and response with heel toes.

Your goal is to find 5 different ways to drill the same exact concept. It feels completely different to them though because they’re children, so it feels fresh, and it keeps moving along, but it also gives them the consistency they need to drill the technique they need to work on.

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