Currently viewing the tag: "teaching tips"

by Nancy Strolle

It’s September and another school year is beginning, as well as another year of dance lessons. New students are just beginning to settle into learning their pas de basques, sheddings, hops, and springs. We know highland dancers are dedicated, but they like to have fun too. Here are a few games that can be used in class; they can be enjoyed by new and experienced dancers alike!

1. Highland Hopscotch

In each square, the dancer must do the specified movement. Use these suggestions or come up with your own!

Hop 4 times in 1 on two feet

4 highcuts in 2

4 spring points in 3

PDB right in 4

PDB left in 5

Assemble and change in 6

1 shedding right foot in 7

1 shedding left foot in 8

4 toe heels in 9

Take a bow in 10 “sky”


2. “Have You Ever Seen a Lassie/Laddie?”

Gather in a circle with one dancer in the middle. During the verse, the circle spins around the dancer. Once the verse is done, the dancer must perform a dance movement. Then the entire circle imitates the movement, a new dancer is chosen, and another verse is begun. Sung to the tune of “The More We Get Together…The Happier We’ll Be”.

Have you ever seen a lassie,
A lassie, a lassie?
Have you ever seen a lassie,
Go this way and that?
Go this way and that way,
Go this way and that way.
Have you ever seen a lassie,
Go this way and that?
Have you ever seen a laddie,
A laddie, a laddie?
Have you ever seen a laddie,
Go this way and that?
Go this way and that way,
Go this way and that way.
Have you ever seen a laddie,
Go this way and that?


3. “The Scotsman in the Dell…”

Gather in a circle with one dancer chosen as the “Scotsman”. The dancer must close his/her eyes as the circle spins, then stops at the end of the verse. Without peeking, the dancer points to the “wifie” who joins the middle of the circle as the game continues. There must be the same number of verses as players. The “haggis” becomes the next “Scotsman” if playing multiple rounds.

Sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”

“The Scotsman in the Dell”……

Takes a “wifie”

Takes a “bairn” (or several)

Takes the “coo” (or several)

Takes a “scottie” (or several)

Takes the “haggis”

The “haggis” stands alone


 4. Flora MacDonald Says

Same rules as Simon Says, except partcipants must do only what Flora MacDonald says to do.

5. Dance Teacher, May I?

Dancers are each given a highland movement to perform along with a number of steps they can take if successful (ie. “Charlie, dance 2 sheddings with your left foot then take 2 giant steps forward”). The first one to reach the teacher across the room wins, and becomes the new “dance teacher”.


What dance games do you enjoy? Share them with us in the comments.

by Jo Kalat, Teacher and Adjudicator, Cary, NC

 Ah – September.  The students return to school and dancers back to the classroom.  It’s great to see the happy faces again and I begin to think forward to the long winter and what we hope to accomplish.  I have my own goals for my students, but I have learned that it is important to help the students identify their own goals.  It motivates them to work harder and sometimes I have learned that their goals for themselves are not what I thought they were.

Highland dancing is such a wonderful activity for teaching young people (and even adults) to set goals and to strive for excellence.  We aren’t born wanting to work hard, sweat and get tired. We learn to do it so we can accomplish things of which we can be proud. We have to identity those things that are important to us to be able to push ourselves to greater heights.  Goals direct our attention and effort to goal related activities.  They energize us and give our actions purpose.

Every year in September, I go through a goal setting exercise with my students.   It seems obvious what our goals are.  We all want to get better and win trophies – right?  Not so fast. Here are a few important things about goals we need to understand.

A goal needs to be:

  • High enough to be worthy of our effort and also attainable.   High goals lead to greater effort than low goals.  Yet, none of us will work towards something we believe to be impossible.
  • Specific and measurable.  Just saying I want to improve will not motivate us.  We need to establish a goal that we can know that we have achieved. For example, we might say I want to be able to do 16 backsteps with my leg sliding down the back as approved by my teacher.  Or I want to be able to perform the Barracks Johnnie.
  • Goals should be stated in the positive. (I will consistently place my right foot in second position with toe and heel in line with supporting foot rather than I will not sickle my point.)
  • Goals should be performance oriented, not outcome oriented and as fully in your control as possible.  (i.e. a good goal might be to be able to do 16 hi-cuts fully stretched and get double beats on each one.  Winning a trophy, while exciting, is not a goal that is fully in your control.)
  • Goals should be written down! We are much more likely to achieve a goal that we have announced publicly and made a commitment to.  This step is crucial to success.

I always ask my students to make short term, medium term and long term goals.  For instance a six month goal might be to learn a new step.  A 1 year goal might be to increase fitness as shown by the ability to complete a six step fling, ending as strongly as started.  A 5 five year goal might be to complete a professional exam.

So now what?

Once you have made your goals, I believe it is also important to make a plan to achieve this goal.  Your plan also needs to be specific.  Let’s say your goal is to be able to do shedding with your knee turned out at a 90 degree angle from the line of direction.  Your plan might include doing 12 reps of a particular turn out exercise 3 times a week and certain stretching exercises so many times a week.

Create a team

I ask my students to create a team of people who will help them accomplish their goals.  It might be their teacher. Their parents might remind them to practice.  A good friend might provide encouragement.  But we all need people to keep us moving forward towards our goals.


Once we have set our goals and made our plans, it is important to periodically evaluate how we are progressing.  If after working on our plan for 2 months, we aren’t making progress towards our goal, then we need to revise the plan.  The goal is still attainable; we just need a new method.


Let’s not forget the rewards.  We all work a little harder for an extra reward.  It may be only ice cream on Friday if you do all your practices or it maybe that Mom and Dad can help out by offering a dance trip if you accomplish your goals.  We all know the real reward is the sense of pride in ourselves and our accomplishments. But ice cream can help too!


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