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Why I love teaching Perform holiday courses

Gemma Payne, one of Perform’s most experienced Producers, tells us why she loves running holiday courses.

The summer holidays are coming, and I’ve just heard which holiday courses I’ll be running and how many children I’ll be taking on an exciting adventure. I love running Perform holiday courses. They are so much fun and so rewarding to teach as I see the children really blossom during those days they’re with us.

Getting started

Before a course starts, I attend central training where all course leaders immerse ourselves in the script, songs and dances for that theme – this summer we’re off to Neverland! I then get all of my materials, T shirts and name stickers, and check the register to see how many children will be familiar with Perform – they may have attended a holiday course or weekly class before or they may be completely new. I will scope my welcome session accordingly, ensuring that any new children feel settled as quickly as possible.

Meeting each other

As the children arrive on day one, I will pay special attention to those who may need a little more reassurance. Once we’ve waved off the parents and have all said hello to each other, we’ll play one of my favourite getting-to-know-you ice-breakers, ‘People to people’, where the children run around the room and find a partner to ‘join’ themselves to in some fun way. This helps the children lose inhibitions and forget about any shyness as they giggle and excitedly rush from person to person. I’ll then introduce the theme through games and play making sure that everyone knows the story. We’ll start to meet the characters using improvisation, saying ‘Tink, Tink’ in our best Tinkerbell voices while our Peter Pans will be saying ‘Let’s fly’.

Have a go moment

I usually introduce what we call the ‘Have a go moment’ early on as this provides an encouraging platform for a child to try something they may not feel sure about, like singing on their own. They choose to do this when they feel ready, and get a huge amount of praise and encouragement from the rest of the group once they’ve done it which makes them feel so proud! Most children arrive saying they don’t want to sing alone but, in most cases, once one child has a ‘have a go moment’ the rest tend to follow. At the end of the first day, they feel so proud of themselves and I can feel a real sense of achievement.

Positive reinforcement

On day two, the children rush through the door with big smiles, excited to continue our adventure. We’ll start with some speaking games, Banana Language being one of our favourites, designed to help any reticent children feel comfortable speaking alone. I weave in some activities to help all children feel able to contribute. For instance, Pirate Smee might say ‘I’m not scared of anything, there’s no way these children can blow me overboard’, with everyone having a turn at being Pirate Smee, saying these words aloud. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in building a child’s confidence, and when children see others doing Why I love teaching Perform holiday courses SUMMER 2018 17 PERFORM STORIES something they’re not sure about – and then see the reactions and smiles afterwards – they are much more inclined to give it a go themselves.

Building skills

As the week moves on, we’ll work through the Neverland script while playing a range of skillbuilding games. We’ll be ‘walking the plank’ like pirates – but not like real pirates – we’ll be silly pirates with the funniest walks you’ve ever seen! We’ll explore physical boundaries and I’ll incorporate some dance moves in readiness for our show routine. The children won’t know it’s about coordination or expanding their movement range, they’ll just think they’re having loads of fun. I’ll include games to help concentration, combining high-energy fun with stillness. One child will be Captain Hook and the rest of the children need to pretend to be his treasure chests. But, when he’s not looking, they’ll run around and try to save Tinkerbell, but they must keep freezing when he walks back in the room. They love it!


Teamwork is a big part of the success of the week and it’s important to me, as a teacher, that the children form friendships and feel comfortable and relaxed together in front of an audience. By that stage, there’s a real sense of comradery. They’re in it together, they’ve learnt lots and laughed together and it’s a joy to see the friendships that have developed. The course is so immersive that the progress in the children from day one to show day is immense, with initial inhibitions being replaced with big confident smiles.

Show day

On show day, the excitement is at fever pitch and the children can’t wait to see their costumes. The parents arrive, their faces light up and their reactions are just the icing on the cake of what has been a fabulous week. At the end, there is a huge round of applause – the children look so proud of themselves and they know they’ve done a great job as they run to their families for a cuddle. That’s what the week is all about.


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