Since September, we have made many changes to our classroom routines to help better meet the needs of students. One of these changes involves the continuation and extension of play, even during my prep coverage. Reducing transitions and extending blocks of play …
- have allowed children to better settle into play.
- have allowed us to dig deeper into inquiry topics and work more with smaller groups of children.
- have helped to create a calmer classroom environment with a more consistent routine.
I share all of this though because these changes mean that children are playing for about four hours a day. (I know that this seems like a long time, and it is, but as I explained in this previous post, there’s a lot more to it than that.) As you can imagine though and likely see in our daily blog posts, four hours of play equates to a big mess on the floor. Tidy up time is definitely not my favourite time of the day!
Yesterday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I were talking about this clean up time. I think that we were both feeling stressed after the day’s clean up experience.
- Why did it take so long?
- Why was it such a challenge?
- What could we do to make clean up time less stressful?
Paula said that maybe we had to go back to a “Dance Tidy” to increase the incentive for tidying up. I replied, “I wonder if a Dance Tidy is actually better, or if it just makes us feel better, which creates a better experience overall.”
Let me explain this Dance Tidy to you. Paula introduced me to it this year. Basically, she picks a student that is tidying up, and they request a song for us to play. We play the song over the sound system in our room. When that song ends, Paula picks another child that chooses another song. These songs are not of the nursery rhyme variety that I was accustomed to back in Kindergarten. They’re usually variations of popular music, and they all keep us moving.
I’ll admit that I was initially skeptical when I heard of a Dance Tidy.
- Will the songs be too loud? Will they dysregulate students?
- Will children actually clean up?
- Aren’t we supposed to try and encourage silent cleaning?
But for a variety of possible reasons, this tidying up option works really well at the end of the day.
- Maybe it gives students the energy they need to move and clean at a time of the day when we’re all sleepier.
- Maybe it makes a mundane task (cleaning up) more exciting.
- Maybe it makes us feel better, which changes how we respond to children at a time of the day that can be stressful.
Today we tried our Dance Tidy again. Yes, there were still children that didn’t clean up. Yes, there were still children that needed more support to tidy up. Yes, it still took us a long time to clean. But Paula and I were both still smiling at the end of the clean up, and the classroom looked marvellous. I think there’s something worth celebrating here.
I’d also like to add here that “a teacher whose limbic alarm is firing, can’t facilitate tidying up.” But how often do we try to do so? I wonder if a Dance Tidy helps quiet our limbic alarm. What else might work? How do you remain calm so that clean up time ends on a good note? I’d love it if we could all share strategies that work.