The Inclusive Classroom: Speaking With Our Bodies

skher brown residency

Skher Brown teaches world cultural awareness, body coordination and interpersonal skills through the basics of Capoeira Angola, an African-Brazilian martial art form that is a blend between a dance, game, and self-defense. In his new residency, Capoeira Speaks: Dancing for Social Intelligence and Life Success Skills, students develop non-verbal communication skills through body language and kinesthetic movement. This residency is well-suited for inclusive learning settings and those with behavioral, social, emotional, and/or physical disabilities.

 

“Over 90% of all communication is nonverbal, yet far too little focus is placed on teaching our children how to empathize with others and build relationships. Capoeira Angola is a non-verbal language that uses our bodies to speak instead of our mouths.”

Social intelligence affects how students manage their own behavior, their decision-making process, and how well they are able to navigate social situations. It is, along with academic achievement, one of the greatest predictors of success. Learning to read and respond to body language helps students learn to communicate more effectively, strengthening their social intelligence, thus increasing their chances of success.

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apoeira Angola creates a culture of being more aware of one another. It’s communicating all at once with everyone in the room,” Skher explains. “I will say with my movement, ‘I’m about to ask you a question, I need an answer,’ and the student will respond with his or her choice of movement–the ‘answer’. Over 90% of all communication is nonverbal, yet far too little focus is placed on teaching our children how to empathize with others and build relationships. Capoeira Angola is a non-verbal language that uses our bodies to speak instead of our mouths. Once students learn the movements, they come together and begin to have a conversation.”

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Capoeira requires students to be very expressive with their entire bodies, including their faces. Participants smile, open their eyes wide, and use animated gestures. These movements help students connect with their own emotions, which translates into being able to recognize and connect to the emotions of others.

Skher Brown

Students take ownership of the new community culture and protect it.”

In Skher’s residency, students take turns observing one another performing the dance movements of Capoeira. “After the dance routine, we form a large circle for participants to look at one another using eye contact. Here, students express what positive observations they noticed about their partners. Then, students share how it felt to give and receive positive reflections. Invariably, though the expressions might start out a little stiff, the mood and classroom environment always turns into a welcoming and connected space. Students take ownership of this new community culture and protect it.”

Skher Brown is one of nine selected roster artists who received training in a variety of inclusion tactics to utilize in the classroom through the Inclusive Allies program in partnership with Disability Rights Maryland. Learn more about our programs for students with special needs and the work we are doing to ensure that all students receive the many benefits of engaging and inclusive arts-integrated classroom experiences.

Model the Way

Young Audiences Arts Integration Specialist Kristina Berdan leading the arts-integrated Professional Development Week for teachers and artists Summer Arts and Learning Academy.
This week, Kristina Berdan, Young Audiences Arts Integration Specialist, led a week of professional development in Arts Integration for 72 Summer Arts and Learning Academy teachers and artists. The Academy kicks off on July 5.

How our teachers and artists get ready for Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy

If you were a school teacher and had just spent the last ten months in the classroom, where would you be on the 7th morning of your vacation? In bed? In your PJs on the couch? Perhaps in Ocean City? Anywhere, but a school building participating in 35 hours of professional development and gearing up for 5 weeks of summer school, right?

On the 7th morning of their summer break, 36 of our amazing Baltimore City Public Schools teachers were with Young Audiences and their 36 teaching artist partners participating in a week of professional development and preparation to teach in Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy, which kicks off at four sites July 5. We’re talking true dedication!

Whether Young Audiences is working with kids or adults, we believe learning should be creative and fun. That goes for these 36 teachers! Thankfully, Kristina Berdan, who designed this week-long training, is Young Audiences’ Queen of Fun! But not just your normal fun — the intense, laugh-out-loud, creative, hard fun — that comes with joyful learning through the arts.

Case in point: Kristina wrote, sang and recruited backup dancers to perform a parody of the classic, “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (lyrics shared at the bottom) to welcome our teachers to the training.

When asked what inspired her to create and perform this song, Kristina said she wanted to do something special for the teachers and teaching artists. After all, they are giving up their summer break (and the rare opportunity to sleep in!) for the next five weeks to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children who normally would not be able to afford this opportunity.

Young Audiences is asking a lot of our teachers and artists. We expect them to challenge our students AND themselves to take creative risks, try something new, and put themselves and their powerful ideas “out there,” regardless of who is watching.

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Some examples of how that happens: Teachers who have never tried incorporating vocal percussion into math lessons will be doing so with help from their partner musician. And dancers who have never connected dance to literacy units will be doing just that with their partner teacher. Through this training, we help all teachers and artists take risks, learn and actively collaborate to develop their craft.

Dawn Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher, said the difference in how Young Audiences develops teachers lies in creativity. “When you are creative about it, people are going to remember what you are teaching them. That is why I love this training and love arts integration. In many trainings I go to as a teacher, instructors sit and present information. They tell us what to do but don’t model and show us how to do it. If you expect the world out of us, then show us what you want it to look like by modeling it. That’s why arts integrated trainings are so incredible.”

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The training that Kristina has designed is filled with intense, thoughtful, collaborative sessions, including:

  • How to create a learning environment that impacts the social emotional learning of students
  • How to use portfolios to give students a voice in sharing work that is important to them
  • How to connect reading and writing exercises to students’ lives
  • How to intentionally build community
  • How to create authentic opportunities for students to reflect on their work and their own creative processes
  • How to integrate the art authentically into literacy and math

Kristina and her team modeled how to do all of this through the arts and through powerful partnerships between artists and teachers in classrooms.

After the 35 hours of arts integration training wrapped up on June 30, our 72 Academy teachers and teaching artists walked away inspired and prepared to create a world for their students filled with creativity, meaning, connections, joy and — of course, learning! Here are some final thoughts shared by both teachers and artists on our Graffiti Reflection Wall:

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To see Kristina in action, performing this song (lyrics below!) at the training, click here!

Summer summer summertime
Time to stop the summer slide

Here it is the school
Greatly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm

Just a little somethin’ to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore school that has gotten to be
A little bit out of control it’s cool to learn —
But what about the arts that soothe and move our kids
Math and literacy in the mix
Cuz we know it works so let’s put on the fix
And think of the schooling of the past
Adjust the stress — let creativity blast
Artists and teachers together in time

Just put them in classrooms and lay back
and this is summertime

Chorus
School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
And back then I didn’t really know what it was

But now I see what have of this
The way that kids respond to these artists

The classroom — it rocks and kids are singing tunes
And sculpting with clay and dancing through rooms

Rapping to their beats and acting on their feets
Filming and recording — all out of their seats

Here in BMore we are in four schools
All filled with arts cuz we know that’s cool
Kids are reading and writing through the arts
Doing math, making art, reflecting, showing their hearts

Being assessed in many different ways
Celebrating learning each and every day
And with a pen and pad we composed this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summertime
Chorus 

Stay Connected!

Follow us throughout the next five weeks as we share daily inspiration from Summer Arts and Learning Academy classrooms!

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