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Swing Dance Competition at Fallon Middle School Moves and Motivates Students

September 18, 2016

DUBLIN, CA–A year ago, we were fortunate enough to observe a “Swing Dance” competition at Fallon Middle School that involved students from each grade. The genesis of this Physical Education section was the result of a successful relationship with colleagues from Thomas Hart Middle School in Pleasanton. At Hart, a fully employed swing dance program had been in place for over a decade. In the true spirit of collaboration, P.E. teachers from Dublin extended the reach out to learn about this program. As a result, staff from Hart MS offered their guidance and expertise to help implement a baseline instructional guide to help get this off the ground in Dublin Unified School District.

In what represents a true uplift, the Fallon Middle School P.E. staff imbedded this section into the first portion of the academic calendar. The results were clearly successful and obvious. In a year over year comparison, the level of participation essentially doubled. While the side benefit of a competition yields competition, the over arching goal was to increase engagement. To a great degree, this endeavor was accomplished. Over a three day period, students from the 6th to 8th grade were encouraged to participate and to perhaps take the crown of king/queen of the dance.

This year, we engaged with Physical Education teacher, Amy Jones to solicit her thoughts on this event. Amy is in her fifth year as a teacher at Fallon and her feedback was invaluable in understanding how this program has positively impacted the school site.

dsc_1280 There were significantly more dancers participating versus a year ago.  To what do you attribute this increase?

dsc_1239Amy Jones: “I believe, first and foremost, that the increase in participation is because our physical education department goes above and beyond to make the swing unit fun! We have the opportunity to team teach, utilize our individual strengths and interact with the all 7/8th grade students.  We also begin early on challenging our students to showcase their best moves in class and through this, they become accustomed to performing in front of teachers and their peers. Likewise, students have the opportunity to see their teachers dance, make mistakes and work to perfect their moves. Through this, students see the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone, try something new and for some, flourish in an environment that they might not have otherwise been exposed to. In addition, this year, as a culminating end of unit activity, we hosted a “sock hop” in each PE period, acknowledged the “best dressed” swing dancers, and encouraged students to experiment with new movement combinations.  This activity along with the “1950’s Spirit Day” captured the enthusiasm of the entire student body!“ As we have come to learn, there are several variations/styles of swing dance.  How do the couples assemble/choose their routines?

Jones: “During our three week swing unit in PE we model and teach the students 11 basic movements that build upon each other, beginning with the basic inside and outside turn.  As the unit progresses and the opportunity to compete in the swing competition arrives, we encourage students to let their imaginations run wild!  Many seek ideas from YouTube videos, incorporate gymnastic or athletic movements from other sports and many use this as an opportunity to reach out to grandparents for some first-hand knowledge of popular moves. This year, we have seen increased creativity from our students as their performances flourished throughout the competition.” Beyond the obvious cardiovascular boost, what other social benefits are the dancers gaining?

Jones: “We begin our swing unit the first week of school and traditionally, this week for many middle school students is spent trying to find where they fit in or devise a method to be accepted by their peers. Our swing dance unit helps to level that playing field! All 7th and 8th graders participate in the same unit are not required to dress out for PE and share the same level of anxiety at the mere thought of asking a fellow student, “May I have this dance?” Students begin to develop a common bond and many of the typical “beginning of middle school concerns” are forgotten.  In addition, many of the skills developed during swing dance are bridged across the middle school curriculum and aide in the development of physically literate, socially adept, lifelong learners.  Through swing dance, students begins to develop self-discipline, build confidence and relationship skills, establish a greater sense of trust and cooperation, alleviate fears of speaking or performing in front of an audience, and make new friends. Many students gain experience in setting and meeting personal goals, while fostering their verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Lastly, participating in swing dance can provide students real life situations in which to practice acknowledging and responding to social cues with proper etiquette.” Anything else that you would like to add? 

Jones: “The PE department would like to thank the swing competition contestants for their effort and dedication, the parents and families of the contestants for their continued support of our physical education program and our fellow teachers and support staff for their help with decorations, set-up and judging of the competition. Through this collaborative effort, our swing program and participation has continued to grow beyond our wildest dreams!  We can’t wait to see next year’s contestants and the routines they craft.  Go Mustangs!”

So, as you can tell, the Physical Education department at Fallon Middle School is continuing to add innovation – as well as fun into their program. As usual, the ultimate beneficiaries are the students. The acclimation of the tune “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats can only be viewed as a positive.


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