• About Jodi


    Jodi P Falk, M.F.A., C.L.M.A.is an international educational consultant, choreographer, dancer, yogi, and teacher. Her work centers on the vehicle of movement and the arts to promote educational wellness, conflict resolution, proficiency, personal and spiritual power. She can be reached at: jodi@dancingsoul.org or 413-522-4386.
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  • Moving Metaphors: Lesson in Poetry and Dance

    By msondesigns | March 30, 2009

     

    Authors: Jenn Blackburn, English Teacher, and Jodi Falk, Dance Director, PVPACHS

    Overview & Purpose: This series of activities was designed to allow students to explore poetry through movement. Many of these lessons can be done in one class period or spread out among several class periods. It is our intention to explore how dance can inform one’s understanding of poetry and conversely how poetry can inform one’s understanding of dance. In the spring of 2008, we applied these activities to a poetry unit with four ninth grade language arts classes. This fall we are applying these activities to four ninth grade language arts classes in their unit based upon John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me. We created this unit with these objectives in mind:

    1. To illustrate how both poetry and dance are forms of language.
    2. To demonstrate how movement can serve as a bridge between the abstract and the concrete.
    3. To provide multiple types of learners the benefit of varied approaches to teaching.
    4. To provide opportunities for immediate visual feedback regarding students’ understanding.

    5) To provide multiple opportunities for all students to actively engage during activities.
    MA Standards Addressed:
    ELA Standards: 1 Discussion, 8 Understanding a Text, 11 Theme, 14 Poetry, 18 Dramatic Reading and Performance

    Dance Standards: 1 Movement Elements and Dance Skills, 2 Choreography, 3 Dance as Expression, 4 Performance, 5 Critical Response, 10 Interdisciplinary Connections
    Objectives:

    Students will be able to:

    Materials Needed:

    1. space for students to move freely
    2. handouts with guidelines, procedures and definitions
    3. index cards containing words with varied connotations
    4. pens or pencils
    5. copies of poems you will use and explore during exercises

    We used: “i am accused of tending to the past” by Lucille Clifton for the connotation and denotation exercise, “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes for the action and descriptive words exercise, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou for the theme exercise, and finally “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks and “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar for the rhythm exercise.

    1

    Instruction:

    1.  
      1. Students will be introduced to the activities and objectives of the unit.
    1.  
      1. Elements of dance: space, time and quality, and choreographic principles
    1.  
      1. Connotation and Denotation Exercise- What are connotation and denotation? Why do poets make specific word choices? Can students find examples in the poem where a word with strong connotations is used? How does it affect the meaning of the line or poem? Can students demonstrate the connotations of words, phrases and lines using movement?
    1.  
      1. Action Words and Descriptive Words Exercise- Review the definitions of verbs, adjectives and adverbs before reading the poem(s). Identify examples of each from the poem. Select a group to explore the poem(s) with specific focus on the words in your assigned category. Can your group members perform the poem to a dramatic reading? How do group choices and performances compare or contrast when focus is shifted to different types of words?
    1.  
      1. Theme Exercise- What is theme? What is a theme statement? Can students identify a theme for a poem? How would they embody that theme using movement(s) or a montage?
    1.  
      1. Rhythm exercise- What is rhythm? Can students pick up on a rhythm and repeat it? Can they create their own rhythms? Can they identify rhythm in poetry?

    Feedback: It is important for the teachers to provide feedback and assistance both to individuals and to groups throughout the course of each activity. Do not forget to allow students time to critique each other’s performances in a respectful and genuine manner. (You may need to model this.) Allow students the chance to explain their intentions for their choices and possibly consider what else they would have done following feedback or if given more time.
    Reflection: At the end of each activity, as well as at the end of the unit, we provided time for discussion and summary of the activities that took place as well as the information covered. Students were asked to give feedback both through discussion and through a short survey.
    Other Possible Applications: This year we created an integrated dance and language arts lesson using the characters of Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird. Students explored the ways that characteristics can manifest themselves physically. Students explored movements such as rising, sinking, spreading, narrowing, advancing and retreating and applied these techniques to characters from the novel. Students established walks, movements and mannerisms for various characters and had the opportunity to create interactions with other characters.

    We have also used movement to explore the shape and sounds of words in poetry.

    For a detailed description of each exercise to use in your classroom, feel free to contact Jodi at jodi@dancingsoul.org

     

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    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH: Mixing the modes! Sibling rivalry in Genesis and the human puzzle game

    By msondesigns | February 19, 2009

    Recently I completed a residency at Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I came to work at first with the Judaic staff on bringing movement into their curriculum. I ended up not only working with the staff, but also with the middle school students finding ways to embody (and thereby enhance and re-member) their tefillah, or prayer.

    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH

    Three distinct modes of how movement and text, in this case the text of tefillah, were used with the middle school with varying levels of success. The three are: wordplay, the essence, and personalizing question. Full descriptions of these individual modes are in earlier blogs. In this lesson we mixed essence and personalizing.

    MIXING THE MODES!
    Lesson 4:
    Modes: Personalizing and Essence
    Text/prayer: The sibling rivalry stories in Genesis
    Players: middle school day students

    1. Talk about the sets of siblings that are mentioned in Genesis most often.
    a. Cain and Abel, Yitzhak and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers
    2. What do these sets of brothers have in common? What is different?
    3. Personalizing: What kinds of relationship do the students have with their siblings? Are they alike? Are they opposite? Take Jacob and Esau – how are they alike? How opposite? Do they ever reconcile? When?
    4. Essence: the metaphor of opposites needing each other to grow, or to move to their rightful place in the Torah, how opposites “attract”.
    5. The human puzzle game is a favorite among children of all ages. Have one student make a shape that is interesting. Here, we asked one of them to make a shape like he/she was Jacob. What would be some of the characteristics of his stance, his arm/hand gestures, etc.
    6. Then, ask another student to put him/herself in the empty spaces, the negative spaces (art term) of the student being Jacob. They are to try to fill in at least two negative spaces. This will look like interlocking puzzle pieces.
    7. Then ask the Jacob person to leave, and let the second person stay still.
    8. See what the not-Jacob space looks like, the opposite of Jacob…. Or is it? Is our not-self a reflection of our self and therefore part of us? Are we also our opposites? Sometimes, the second person will look a lot like what Esau might have looked – bigger, rounder, more “earthy”.
    9. Continue to find opposites in the human puzzle. You can keep working with the actual Torah characters, and try to learn something about them, or just keep on doing the puzzle game, and learn something about what it means to embrace your opposite, or to know that you and your opposite are related.
    10. Ask the students how doing this game relates to their own siblings at home?
    11. Heritage student answers: My brother completes me, We have more in common than I thought, when we are together – we are one…

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    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH: part three / personalizing with Havdallah

    By msondesigns | February 19, 2009

    Recently I completed a residency at Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I came to work at first with the Judaic staff on bringing movement into their curriculum. I ended up not only working with the staff, but also with the middle school students finding ways to embody (and thereby enhance and re-member) their tefillah, or prayer.

    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH

    Three distinct modes of how movement and text, in this case the text of tefillah, were used with the middle school with varying levels of success. The three are: wordplay, the essence, and personalizing question.

    PERSONALIZING
    Personalizing the prayer or text is another way for young people to understand meaning. (Especially middle school students!) Find a question about their lives that relates to the text, and they will very soon find meaning! And, then find movement that corresponds to that meaning. This may look mimetic at first, but with learning how to exaggerate movement by manipulating time, space, and quality, the movement will look more like a dance.

    Lesson 3A:
    Text/prayer: Havdallah
    Population: Middle school day students

    1. Read the full havdallah prayers in English and Hebrew.
    2. Find a key question that relates to the theme of havdallah, such as, separation, or separation between something special, and something ordinary, or normal.
    3. The question given to the students was: what do you feel and what do you do when you have to leave something or someone special? (Like leaving Shabbat, for instance…)
    4. Answers were: hugs, waving, sadness, looking deep into someone’s eyes, and moving away quickly to not get too emotional.
    5. Put the movement they created, or help them find movement for the emotions (e-motion!) they discovered and put it in an order that they like.
    6. Recite the prayer while doing the movement, and then just do the movement to the humming (lalaing) of the Havdallah service. Do the movements in silence and see what that looks and feels like.
    7. Talk about separation, and why it is helpful to create a ritual around separation. Why do we do havdallah? How does it make Shabbat, and how does it start the week? Talk about other separation rituals in Judaism.

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    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH: part two / essence with Elohai N’shama

    By msondesigns | February 19, 2009

    Recently I completed a residency at Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I came to work at first with the Judaic staff on bringing movement into their curriculum. I ended up not only working with the staff, but also with the middle school students finding ways to embody (and thereby enhance and re-member) their tefillah, or prayer.

    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH

    Three distinct modes of how movement and text, in this case the text of tefillah, were used with the middle school with varying levels of success. The three are: wordplay, the essence, and personalizing question.

    ESSENCE
    The essence, or essential metaphor of the text, is another way into the text where movement can be beneficial. In looking at a text, often an image comes to mind that is either described or alluded to in the text. This image, or metaphor, can be put into action with movement. The student then can really understand, or stand under, the meaning in new ways.

    Lesson 2:
    Mode: Essence
    Text/Prayer: Elohai N’shama
    Population: middle school students in Jewish day school
    .

    1. Read the Elohai N’shama prayer in Hebrew and in English
    2. Discuss the meaning of neshama, and how it relates to neshima, spirit and breath
    3. Relate it to the pasook from Bereshit (line from Genesis) in the creation story that talks about HaShem breathing spirit into man through man’s nostrils. Talk to the students about what we breathe in and what we breathe out. Discuss how what we breathe out also helps co-create or maintain life (trees), as well as what we breathe in.
    4. Focus on the act of breath as an act of giving life spirit to oneself, and to the world, of being a co-creator.
    5. The essence, or essential metaphor chosen here is one of the cycle of breath as a cycle of life, sustaining creation. The prayer also talks about HaShem taking our breath away in death, and eventually restoring souls to the dead.
    6. Find, with the students, ways to make the metaphor physical.
    a. This might start with something literal and possibly giggle-producing such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (just enacting without doing for real or real touching).
    b. This might move to cycles of life, making circles with arms while breathing and connecting the circular motion to another’s circular motion in the group, and end with either a full circle connected or turning away and disconnected in death, and then re-connected in eternal life…
    c. The group may wish to enact a full life cycle, using breath to create the changes and transitions.
    d. Allow creativity to flow: what is it to both give and receive breath or spirit? What is it to know our own very physical interdependence with the world around us? How can they create a physical metaphor from this?
    e. This movement metaphor need not be slow or precious; speed it up, make it active, do it all in complete silence (a good way to focus the students) but keep it fun!
    7. Perform the movement metaphor or metaphors while reciting the prayer.
    8. Use the recording of some of the beautiful melodies that have been created for this prayer…
    9. Ask the students in what ways did they understand the prayer better, or in what ways did they find the connection between breath and life.

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    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH: part one / wordplay with Asher Yatzar

    By msondesigns | February 19, 2009

    Recently I completed a residency at Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I first came to work only with the Judaic staff on bringing movement into their curriculum. I ended up not only working with the staff, but also with the middle school students finding ways to embody (and thereby enhance and re-member) their tefillah, or prayer.

    MODES OF MOVEMENT INTO TEFILLAH

    Three distinct modes of how movement and text, in this case the text of tefillah, were used with the middle school with varying levels of success. The three are: wordplay, the essence, and personalizing question. These are modes I have worked with in any situation using text and movement.

    With the Asher Yatzar prayer, the one Jews say after going to the bathroom… yes, way… we used wordplay.

    Wordplay
    Wordplay is quite simple and literal. Find, or have the students find, key words in the text. These could be action words, (verbs), descriptors (adjectives), or just the main words that are repeated or have import in the context of the text. Using just these words, make either hand gestures (if students are sitting down), or body shapes, or even movements that describe these words. The students can do this in pairs, solo, or in small groups. Or, as we did in Asher Yatzar, we started as soloists, moved to pairs, and then worked with the whole group. Once the gestures or movements are made, then perform the movements while saying, singing, or having someone in the group say or sing the prayer.

    Lesson 1A:
    Mode: Wordplay
    Text/Prayer: Asher Yatzar
    Players: middle school students in Jewish day school

    The Asher Yatzar prayer is one of Judaism’s most basic, literally. It is said every time one uses the toilet, right after washing the hands and leaving the bathroom. It is basic in that it deals with an act that is so basic, and is said in gratitude to HaShem for first making us in such wisdom, making us perfectly so that if one opening was closed, or a closing was opened, and they shouldn’t be, we wouldn’t be able to stand before HaShem in gratitude. Or to stand at all.

    There were a few students in this class that didn’t know the prayer, or when or why it was said. The lesson plan was, and can be, the following:

    1. Explain the prayer.
    a. Write down various organs they couldn’t live without. (heart, brain, etc.)
    b. Write down actions that if they didn’t do, they wouldn’t survive. (eat, sleep, go to the bathroom…)

    2. Look at the prayer and choose most important words for the class.

    3. This class chose openings and cavities, and blocks or closings.

    4. Make a gesture with just your hands that shows both an opening and a closing at the same time.

    5. Now choose a partner, and make a gesture with your arms and hands together that shows both an opening and closing at the same time.

    6. Now see if the whole group can make a shape that is both and opening and closing.

    7. Rehearse all three shapes and transitions from one to the other.

    8. Recite the prayer, as a group, while first doing the solo, then duets, then the group. Recite the prayer first in English, then in Hebrew.

    9. Decide as a group which gesture will be performed where in the prayer, which works as a solo, as a duet, as the group gesture? This may change the order: perhaps students want to start off as a group, and then become soloists, to signify standing alone before HaShem, or they might find key words that the gestures align with, such as Haloolim Haloolim with the duet gesture, to show how many of the cavities or openings are possible…

    10. Decide as a group what the final pose should be. Perhaps it is whatever pose was the third one, or perhaps all stand Laamod lefanecha, standing before HaShem, and the rest of the prayer is recited standing still.

    11. Ask the students if they understood the prayer in a different way.

    a. Some of the Heritage students did not know the prayer, so they said they had learned a lot.
    b. Some were more conscious of the meaning of the prayer, as normally they are taught it in Hebrew, and are focused on the words more than the meaning.
    Some had stories to share about illness and being grateful when an illness is over: this has direct correlation to the Asher Yatzar prayer.

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