Development Series, RA Dance Blog, Teaching Tips

Toddler Ballet Syllabi

There are so many franchises offering lesson plans and syllabus for you to use to help build pre-ballet classes. However many of these require certain rules in which you need to follow, and costs that need to be paid to them. When you’re a dance teacher with accreditation through an organisation you are probably already paying various fees in order to enter students in exams, so paying yet another organisation for the ability to teach does seem a little ridiculous. In order to combat this I’ve been piecing together my own little syllabus for my pre-ballet class. I’d love to share with you how I’ve been putting this together in today’s post.

The first thing I did to create this was to find a few little subheadings of movements that I would love to include in every class. The ones I’ve chosen may not be appropriate for you, so feel free to adapt. I’ve gone with Warm Up, Technique, Sitting, Jumping, Travelling, and Creative. So each week I aim to do at lease one exercise that sits under these subheadings. Some weeks we may do two jumping exercises but no creative, and other weeks the opposite may be true.

Under each subheading I’ve then identified certain movements that I’d like them to have mastered by the time they move up to the next class at the age of 5, as well as some fun exercises. Some examples include; plies, firework hands, bounces, hops, marches, and tip-toe walks. When writing these down, I tried to choose movements that would really help them to progress in their ballet technique, but not be too structured that it takes too much concentration.

Next is the fun, but hard part: creating the exercises for each movement. With toddlers I’ve been finding that having an exercise that only includes one movement is so much better than overcomplicating it. This may make it seem that classes will be boring, but you can still add in different speeds or bits of acting, just don’t make these parts the main focus. To my bouncing exercise is set to a Peppa Pig song where the children imagine their bouncing in muddy puddles, so we put our welly boots on and get going. The song is too long to let them bounce the whole way through the music, so about halfway through there’s a bridge and we go camping in our tents before pointing at all the animals we can see in the woods. This gives them a little break but also engages them a little more than just bouncing throughout the whole song.

To make the above a little easier I separated the movements out into 3/4 different lessons. I know that doesn’t sound like very much variation, but at that age repetition is one of the ways that they’ll start to grasp the technique, so I don’t feel that bad when I start repeating the lessons. It also gives them another chance to get the exercise as perhaps the first time they weren’t really concentrating but the second their friend isn’t right next to them. Each lesson for me has a theme, this could be anything; from toyshop, to princes and princesses. Anything that glues the class together a little will just help you separate each class in your head and get the children excited to move. Within these classes you may also want to repeat certain things, so if skips are really important for you, include them in more than one of your lessons. That way the children get more practice and can focus on something slightly different when the theme changes.

Once I have the themes and what I want to include that week I go on the hunt for music. Honestly, this is the part that probably takes the longest, so do set aside plenty of time to create your syllabus if you’re doing it from scratch. I use Spotify for this, as this is what I use during class, and simply drag the songs to a new playlist for that theme, jotting down what piece is for what exercise. Here I tend to also think of the exercise while I listen to the music, just to make sure it will actually work in the way I want it to. Don’t be afraid to use traditional ballet music either, the Wiggles can only get you so far.

Then it’s just a case of choosing which theme I want the class to be that week and looking up the lesson plan. This does make it a lot smoother every week and saves on so much planning. When I become bored or less inspired by an exercise or theme I’ll swap it out for something different. That way I’ll be constantly adding to my lesson portfolio, without having to pay an organisation to give them to me.

Paying into a franchise does have its benefits though. Many are successful, and so having an advert on their websites can really help to boost customers. Many also provide you with lots of marketing resources to share with the community around you. However, they may take a percentage of your profits and have a high buy in charge, or recurring fees, as I mentioned at the top if you’re already qualified this just seems like a replicated charge. It’s a bit more work but I’d like to think it’s also more rewarding as you can mould your young dancers in the shape you want in order to help them with more advanced steps as they age.

Of course this isn’t the only way of creating your syllabus, but this is the way I’ve done mine to start with. If you’ve any tips for creating toddler syllabi I’d love to here them as I develop my ballet teaching. Leave them down below and let everyone read your ideas.

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