Ties for Folk Dancing
I’m always looking for tips and tricks to make classroom management a little easier. Last summer at my Orff Schulwerk levels training I learned a truly wonderful idea about using ties to simplify folk dance and movement instruction. Since then I’ve thought of a lot of different ways to use this idea in my classroom.
This tip about using ties came from my wonderful movement instructor from Orff teacher training, Jennifer Donovan. Jennifer is a fabulous resource for movement ideas, tricks, and tips and does workshops and Orff movement training all over the country.
In the levels training we were talking about how kids can be finicky about choosing a partner, remembering their place in the dance, etc. The neckties help to take away a lot of that stress by giving a physical reminder to kids about where they are in the dance and what the need to do next. Here are some ways that I find that the neckties help simplify instructions and support my students who need a little more.
Neckties for Folk Dance – The Benefits
Partners -When you ask kids to partner off for folk dance it can either be easy and simple or it can be a total hassle. Depending on the class and their temperament, my kids will be really relaxed about choosing a partner or they can be finicky and picky. If those fussier kids get their way, choosing partners will take so much more time than it should and someone will end up with hurt feelings.
Neckties make choosing a partner much more simple since it takes the guess work out of “who can be my partner,” cutting down on transition time. I start by having half the class come and put on a necktie. This takes only a moment since most of my neckties are pretty boring and dull and kids don’t take forever choosing a “favorite.” Sometimes I’ll even cut down on this process and hand out ties so that kids don’t get hung up on choosing.
Once half of the students have with a tie around their neck I tell the other students to pair off with someone who has a tie. “Your duet has to have one kid with a tie and one kid without a tie.” This is a little step but it makes choosing partners a little easier and definitely speeds up the process.
You can also use this for classroom management. If you have two or three kid who have trouble working together give them all ties. That way they have to partner with someone else and don’t even have the option of partnering with one another.
Know your place – I love using neckties to help define the dance. Think of a square dance setup. You need one student to be the “gent” and one be the “lady” if you’re following traditional folk dance places and setups. Using ties will let you take out those gendered words and simplify your language. You can just say “ties on the left of the duet” or “ties move and the other partner stay put.” I try and vary this so that the tie kids don’t get ALL the fun. Putting the ties on ONE of the partners helps so much because then you can have them alternate jobs and no one in the pair ever gets confused about their part.
See the room – Neckties help YOU see what’s going on and assess your situation. If you’re teaching a reel you could easily say “tie partners on the left and non-ties over on the right.” Then you can look up and down the alley and quickly tell if kids are on the correct side or not. It’s a super fast and easy visual cue and makes it so much easier in any formation (square dance, circle dance, reel, etc.) for you to see if students are in the right spots or not.
Direction – Imagine if you’re teaching something pretty complicated for the first time like a “Grand Right and Left.” Think about how different it could be if you could say “if you have a tie, turn to your right and if you don’t, turn to your left.” It makes movement through the space and around the circle so easy. “If you’re a non-tie you should be grabbing the hand of a tie person every time.” There are so many little moments when I refer back to the “tie” “no tie” to sort things out. It clears things up for me and makes directions easy for students.
Getting Your Ties – Clean out the Closets!!
So, where can you get ties that will work well in your classroom and not cost an arm and a leg? I asked friends, put a request for ties out on Facebook, and sent a school-wide email to my colleagues. I had lots of quick responses from folks in my church choir and from teachers at school who said they would happily clean our their tie collection or raid their husband’s closet to get rid of some of the old and unused ties. You can also find bags of ties at garage sales or thrift stores for just a few dollars. Why not send a note home to ask parents and also include a little blurb about folk dance and how these ties will be incorporated into learning. It’s sure to peak the interest of more than one parent out there!
If you find neckties for cheap or free but you’re worried about the “thrift store smell” you could always put them in the dryer at home with a dryer sheet and set the dryer on “high” for a little bit. The heat and the dryer sheet should take out some of the bad smell and kill any germs. As long as you get the ties for free then if the heat of the dryer melts some of them it won’t be a great loss.
Once you have the ties you probably want to keep them in a “permanently tied” position and not a traditional tie knot. I’m used to tying ties and can do it pretty quickly but I don’t want to have students coming up day after day saying that the knot had come undone. I don’t mind tying ties, but that would just get annoying.
For these classroom ties I put the tie over my head, tie it, make sure it was a length that would fit over MY head, and then take it off to pull the knot as tightly as I can. This way it should stay at the correct length and the knot will be so tight you can’t really adjust it up or down. I’m not going for a picturesque knot but want something functional.
The ties at this length hang loose on kids but who would really want a tie that kids could pull tight and choke one another? Since I used my own head as the judge (remember I tied them long enough that I could get it off over my head) I figured that if the tie tied at that length could fit over my head it undoubtedly could fit over a kid’s head.
My ties hang on a fun little coat tree that I have but you could use 3m hooks, a pegboard, a coat rack, or just keep them in a bag or box. Ties don’t take up too much space which makes them easy to store and easy to pull out at a moment’s notice.
Again, thanks to the amazing Jennifer Donovan for this fantastic idea! I use these ties all the time and love how it makes my life easier! AND this was just one of the hundreds of ideas that I learned and use daily thanks to the training that I received from taking an Orff-Schulwerk Level. Check it out. It’s worth your time!