I’d like to share some observations we made after one of my college students lead a combination for ages 6 and 7. The combo was march for 8, make two shapes for 4 counts each, slide for 8.
Technique Issues: We noted a relative weakness for moving on the pulse in a sequence. Some children had trouble staying on the pulse. Generally, we spend time on creative and exploratory activities that are not metered. We see that we can spend more time on metered movement. The children are ready and interested.
How to help them improve? This can be handled by observing the weaknesses and addressing one of them at a time on a pass across the space. e.g. just focus on the pulse. Perhaps, after observing the skill level, have the children just march across. Then just slide across. Then do the combo. Some other things we could help the children focus on….thinking ahead for transitions, improving their performance energy, being aware of their traveling partner.
Space Issues: We found that an adult helper waiting on the other side to keep the children organized in the far corner was valuable. Without a helper, we might have the children peel off and return to the first line, always moving across the floor in the same direction. Or, revert to short lines and make the phrase shorter (4 marches, 4 slides).
Behavior: we found that some children moved across in pairs with a student who had the same low-energy attitude, and this held them back. It’s worth checking to see how people are paired up and fix that, after they move across the floor once.
Here’s a really fun lesson idea connected to animals, animal movement, literacy, science and just plain fun! Use ANIMAL TRACKS: Some Basics found at the end of the lesson for ‘authentic’ animal movement ideas.
Moving Like Animals
Animal Tracks: Some Basics
Duffy, Dee Dee. Forest Tracks. Boyds Mills Press, 1996
Dorros, Arthur. Animal Tracks. Scholastic, Inc. New York. 1991
Ways of walking like animals (Start from spread to personal space)
Do half group watch, half group do, then trade.
Explore ways of moving around the room.
Bird Walk (and flutter, fly)
As you explore, combine ways of walking with pathways and directions.
Making Animal Tracks (Start in flanking lines for across the room)
Refer to Animal Tracks: Some Basics
Extension Idea: Repeat tracks with additional things to think about:
Pick an animal you’d like to be. What do you look like?
Are you short or are you tall?
Are you big or are you small?
Are you heavy or are you light?
Do you move by day, or by night?
Are you quick or are you slow?
Do you move high, do you move low?
Do you stop and go?
What do you look like? I don’t know?
Where are you?
in the woods
in the meadow
in the desert
in the rainforest
Going Further: Notice carefully how you use your fingers and toes.
Do you need your whole hand and foot?
Finger tips? Toes only?
Heel of your hand? Sole of your foot?
A mix of these things?
How would you move your parts? Head? Neck? Arms? Legs? Torso?
How would you: Eat? Drink water?
Extension Activity 1: Small groups form based on a specific animal, sit in individual circles.
Choreographic Assignment (3-5 minutes)
1. Decide how to move to the center of the space as your animal
2. Perform some type of action in the middle of your circle as your animal OR
Travel around the circle as your animal
3. Decide how to move back out to the edge of the circle as your animal
Then, all groups sit in large, semi-circle (if performance-based) OR large circle (if process-based). Show dances one by one.
Extension Activity 2: Read Forest Tracks. Duffy, Dee Dee. Boyds Mills Press, 1996
This book uses the format of Listen (the sounds the animal would make), Look (the tracks the animal would make), See (picture of the animal).
As you read, have children guess what animal is coming next, before you turn the page for See.
To dance the book, use the story following the format of Extension Activity 1. Use the text to shape the dance, with everyone making body percussion sounds on Listen! Small groups decide ahead of time which of the animals in the book they want to be, and go in, group by group, for rabbit, deer, raccoon, etc.
For skunk, everyone goes in, bit by bit. Teacher comes in as skunk, and everyone scurried back to his spot on the circle.
Decide with the group what to do for the jeep tracks at the end, or don’t include it in your story dance.
ANIMAL TRACKS: Some Basics
based on material from “Into Winter” by William P. Nestor
PACING done by dogs, cats, foxes, deer
Both limbs on one side (right) move, then both on the other (left). Track fairly far apart, forming a zig-zag pattern.
DIAGONAL WALKING done by animals with wide bodies and short legs (racoons, skunks, woodchucks)
hind left foot and front right foot move, then hind right foot and front left foot.
BOUNDING done by slender, long bodied animals with short legs (weasel, mink, otter)
front feet go together, then hind feet follow as a pair.
when walking, hind tracks fall behind front.
when running, hind fall into front tracks, or even a little ahead of front tracks
GALLOPING done by animals with short forefeet and long hind legs (rabbits, hares, squirrels, some mice)
similar to bounding, but hind feet land on either side or ahead of forefeet
RUNNING done by shrews, voles
combines running and galloping. similar to diagonal walking, but with tracks wider apart
Working with the instrumental-only version of P & MB with 4/5 year olds, the concept was Energy (smooth, sharp, shaky, swinging) and the structure was:
1) Galloping 4 cts through general space/in place- sway smoothly 3 cts. /REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music// Listen for quick instructions for next thing
2) Sliding with a swing of the arms 4 cts through general space/ sharp arm and body movement 3 cts in place/ REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music// Listen for quick instructions for next thing
3) Hopping 4 cts through general space/ float smoothly in place/ REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music//
Practice without music first. All move in scattered space. Remember to use soft focus (good potatoes – “eyes everywhere, no mouth”). Practice one phrase a couple of times. Layer on.