Before I decided to become a music teacher, the last time I had tried any type of folk dance was, well, when I was in my own Elementary Music class in 4th grade. I remember loving them, but not the details of many. I also remember that we had a square-dance night where you could bring a parent and teach them the dances. I brought my dad and he ended up in the yearbook, but I was cut out of the picture (can you tell what I thought was important in 4th grade?). I hope to start a night like that here at my school sometime soon.
My first few years, I tended to shy away from folk dancing for the sheer fact that I was unsure of how to do and teach many of the dances. Since then I have gotten a few ideas to help me along- as well as some great resources with GOOD directions. I have been to workshops and classes and now have a lot of dances that I love to teach my students.
One of the books I love is CHIMES OF DUNKIRK. This is a book published by The New England Dancing Masters and it has a CD and very clear directions. In the book there is a great intro, as well as a glossary with more detailed information on each of the steps. There are diagrams to help you figure out exactly what they mean and even the melody written out for some of the songs so you can play it yourself. They also have the option of buying a video so that you can WATCH the dances which I know really helps some people who haven't done this type of dancing before. This book has circle dances, square dances, and line dances (dances in longways sets) and they are all easy and fun to do.
I typically start with line dances in my class- Virginia Reel type dances including Alabama Gal, Sweets of May, Galopede, and Paw Paw Patch among others. We also do some circle dances in the lower grades (3-4) such as Great Big House. All but Paw Paw Patch and Great Big House are in Chimes of Dunkirk. We do more difficult dances in 5 and 6 grades such as Shoo Fly (in another one of the New England Dancing Masters Books) and fun square dances. I am hoping to combine some of my classes with the gym teacher this year so we have more room to really get groovin'.
If a dance is more difficult, I always have students come in during recess (by volunteer) to learn the dance first so we can then demonstrate for the class and the other students have a visual of what the dance is supposed to look like. This has really seemed to help my teaching of the folk dances this year.
Check out CHIMES of DUNKIRK here and get movin' in your room! At the link there is a full table of contents, as well as a preview of some of the songs. Have fun!