Controlling the Creative Chaos Part II: Traveling within structure

Here are two methods for controlling the environment while allowing children to move through the space.

One is moving around in a circular formation, starting and ending in a place in the circle.  The other is traveling from a single file line, one by one, as when we do an obstacle course.

Circular Formation

To give children an opportunity to move freely, instead of following precisely in a single file around the circle line, try an activity that has a clear beginning and ending and does not go on for too long.   Little Birdies (Songs for Dancing #19) is a great activity for this.  It is a story dance about birds that sleep, wake up, fly and go back to sleep. It begins with children on the floor, kneeling and with heads down, like they are in an egg, sleeping. An image they can relate to is the size and shape of a rock. One by one, wake them up.  Indicate the direction for flying by using gesture (this challenges their focus and concentration) and then have them follow you as we fly around.  When it’s time to come back to the nest,  come to the center of the circle and use “come here” hand gestures.
The objective at the end is for the birds to use body control to fly in from right where they are, and flutter down to the sleeping bird shape.
To disaster-proof this activity, I make sure the children watch for three things when I model how to fly: stretched out arms, brushing back feet, light and buoyant movement quality.  Then we practice, flying once around, as I sing or rhythmically say: “Our feet brush back, our arms are wide, our bodies are light.”  The other disaster-proofing is to demonstrate the “come here” hands from the middle of the circle, ask the children what it means, and emphasize flying in from right where you are.

What can go wrong?

Problem: Children fly in the wrong direction, against the flow of traffic.
Solution: Swoop down on the child and steers them in the right direction.

Problem: Children don’t look down as they fly in, and trip over a child who has already arrived.
Solution: Keep your eyes open as you fly in.

Problem: Children runs flat out and don’t fly.
Solution: Stop the music.  Ask the ‘runner’ to demonstrate ‘flying.’  Compliment them on their body control.  Start the activity again.

Problem:  Too many children flying.
Solution: Split the group in half.  Half are watchers with ‘binoculars’ (use your hands for these).  The other half are birds.  How to trade at the end? Stand up, walk to trade places, sit to watch or to make sleeping birdie shapes.

Line Formation

Traveling from a single file line involves:

  1. Keeping the line moving up to a starting point
  2. Signaling (cuing) children to move one by one, and…
  3. Making sure they add in to the end of the line

Place a poly spot, yoga square or a tape mark to indicate “start from here.”

Initially, oversight works really well with three adults.
One adult is the ‘gate keeper.’ ‘Open the gate’ to let the child at the head of the line start moving.
Another adult is at the end of the line to keep children moving up to the starting point as they feed in at the end of line.
The third adult stands at the mid-point of the obstacle course, cheering on the movers, overseeing the flow of the activity.

As you get better at this, you can tell the children to ‘start when the first child gets to (a specific point in the course).’ This empowers them to ‘open the gate’ by using their concentration instead of leaving that up to an adult.

What does an obstacle course look like?
Set it up like an arc, from the starting point to near the end of the line.  Have a couple of special stopping places, something to go over, under or around, and a final stopping place (make a shape!) before going to the end of the line.

What will you need? place spots (yoga squares, etc), small traffic cones.
Also fun to use: chairs, mats, hula hoops, piano bench, etc.


Concept: Body Parts

  1. Side slide to the first spot.  Make a shape with three parts on the ground.
  2. Side slide to the next spot.  Make a shape with two parts on the ground.
  3. Run and leap over the cones, stretching your legs and arms.
  4. Make a shape with one part on the ground at the last spot.

Concept: Relationship (over/under, around, through, between, on/off, connected…..)

  1. Gallop to the first spot.  Jump off and on the spot.
  2. Crawl under the bench to the next spot.  Jump off and on the spot.
  3. Leap over the cones.
  4. End on the last spot and make a shape with your arms and legs connected to your body.

Concept: Pathway (straight, curved, zig zag)

  1. Skip straight to the first spot.  Make a shape.
  2. Skip in a curved pathway around the cones.
  3. Run to the chair and sit in it.  Go backwards to the next chair.  You are making a zig zag pathway to run and sit in the chairs.
  4. Skip straight to the last spot.  Make a shape.

To Teach: 

  1. Form the single file line by asking children to stand ‘between your arms.’ (Children line up so you can see them when you hold your arms forward.)
  2. Children pivot to face the space and sit ‘ready position’ in the single line, watching with concentration.
  3. Model the journey.  Then start again and ask the children to tell you what you should do as you repeat the sequence.
  4. As they go one by one,  verbally repeat the key concepts of the sequence.  Cheer them on.
  5. Let each one go all the way through before you start the next one, or start the next one when the previous dancer is halfway through the sequence.

Suggested Music: Free Dance (Songs for Dancing #18)


April 29, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Working with Kate's Material.

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