Song Picture Books

I am a member of the Children’s Music Network.  This incredibly generous group of people are primarily music presenters to audiences of all ages. I enjoy learning from and sharing with this delightful community from all across the America. Some focus exclusively on early childhood and primary students. I joined the organization because my work straddles both the worlds of dance and music. The only difference is perspective. Most of the members add movement to song.   I add song to movement!

One CMN member is Nancy Schimmel.  Nancy put together a list of picture books that are singable songs. I think they’d be a fun resource for reading and singing….and dancing.
I haven’t worked with the list yet.  I’m sure you’ll get some ideas for ways of working with these songs.  When you do, please share with the rest of us!


Here’s Nancy website:

If you are interested in learning more about CMN, visit their website, too.

November 24, 2013. Tags: , , , . Creating, Favorite Books. Leave a comment.

What to do with… Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)


Download the track from iTunes or purchase the recording in its entirety one of the vendors who carries my CDs or from me (

Kindergarten through 2nd grade
Note: Adaptable for older preschoolers and grades 3-4

Gross motor skills are the building blocks of movement combinations, important for physical fitness enjoyment, play, coordination and brain health.

Group movement in general space encourages students to use awareness and self control in a communal setting.  These skills translate into better interactions on the playground, in the hallways and the lunchrooms.

Teaching locomotor movement is important for all these reasons.

A crucial skill is the ability to successfully guide students as they travel through the general space. This requires using clear language and smart strategies that help students build motor coordination while still being safe.

Strategies include:

Awareness of others;  self control

Use concentration and body control.
Move into the empty spaces, so you don’t get hurt.
Use your peripheral vision, your soft focus.  Eyes everywhere.
Bodies move, mouths don’t.

Awareness of the space

“This is the area for movement and these are the boundaries.”
Jog the periphery (or have a student demonstrator do it) to show the boundaries.
If the space is too big, set up a spatial barrier (e.g. traffic cones)
If the space is too small, take turns. Watchers sit in ready position, hands in laps, while Movers travel around and between.

Clear signals for starts and stops

Teach your signals and use them consistently.

Stops: When I guide children to move on a slow or medium speed, a double-beat on the drum is enough to signal ‘Freeze.’ For faster movement, first shake the drum to alert them that the Freeze sound is coming, then play the double-beat for stillness.

Starts: Stand up. Listen to the drum (or voice) for the speed and pulse of the movement.
Speak on the pulse, over the sound of the drum: “One, two, ready, start.”  After a while, the drum can do all the ‘talking.’

Clear signals for transitions.

As we change from one thing to another in a movement sequence, give advanced notice, several beats ahead.

Choices and Consequences

Don’t be afraid to stop the music/activity, have everyone sit, ask the children to tell you why you stopped the activity, review concentration and body control, and invite everyone to start again.

“If you don’t think you have the body control for this activity, you may sit here or here.”
Always invite the person who sat out to come right back in on the next activity.  This is not a punishment, but an opportunity to observe what others are doing accurately.

Setting Up Instruction for  Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)
There are eight basic locomotor movements: walk, run, hop, jump, gallop, side slide, skip and leap.

Students begin in a seated position, in a circle or in scattered space.

Move your arms like an old fashion locomotive train and say: Locomotor movement goes from one place to another.

Do this as a call and response several times.

Check for understanding: What do you call movement that goes from one place to another?

Next, call on individual students to model different forms of locomotor movement by traveling around the inside of the circle, so that all can see. 

Connect the exploration to letter sound recognition, as modeled in the following examples.

Change students each time.

To address diverse strengths in your students, you might have one student name the movement, and another demonstrate it.

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that we all use to go from one place to another that starts with the “w” sound? What is it?   (Select one student to model “walk).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we use to go quickly from one place to another that starts with the “r” sound(Student models “run.”  Or you could say “j” sound for “jog”)

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on one foot that starts with the “h” sound?  (Student models “hop”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on two feet that starts with the “j” sound?  (Student models “jump”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that ponies do that starts with the “g” sound?  (Student models “gallop”).

Now that we are all going to be moving through the space, it’s time to learn about general space

General space is the space we share as we travel from one place to another.

When you move through the general space, you’ll need body control and concentration.  

Let’s scoop up a little concentration dust and rub it in.
You’ll also want to be like a potato…. eyes everywhere, but no mouth.

Remember to move into the empty spaces so you don’t get hurt.  

Stand tall one and all.

Let’s travel through the general space doing these locomotor movements.   My drum will talk to you with the pulse of the movement.  When you hear the freeze sound, stop!  Let’s walk……(freeze) Let’s do the movement that goes on one foot….hop! (freeze) Let’s do the movement that starts with the ‘g’ sound….gallop (freeze).  What locomotor movement starts with the “j” sound and uses two feet off the ground?  Jump…. (Freeze). Good job moving into the empty spaces!

Sit ready position. 

Now play the song!  You have prepared the group to be successful.

Note: The last locomotor movement in the song is RUN.

Options for this:

1)   Divide the group in half. Half will sit while the others run the boundaries. Then trade.

2)   All run the boundaries.

After the song, take time to breath and recover. The song recaps the different locomotor movements musically. This can be a time when students are breathing.  Use some of the language connections for summative reflection.

November 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with… Step On the Beat (title track)

This is the second in a series of posts offering suggestions for working with specific material in the context of a full lesson plan or as an individual activity.

Step on the Beat is not available for individual download; it is designed to be a complete curriculum package and professional development tool unto itself.

By watching the instructional DVD and looking at the book that comes with the set, you’ll have a very good idea of how to apply my teaching strategies as I demonstrate activities on unrehearsed students, as would be the case in your own teaching environments.

What to do with….

 Step on the Beat (title track: voice-prompted and instrumental-only)

  • Use this as a way to introduce creative movement and dance to children ages 8 and up. Make this your Day 1 activity in the unit. It teaches so many basic elements of dance.

    Before you get children up and moving, talk about self and general space, and the importance of moving through the space as though you were  strangers in a city.  Instead of walking with your friends, imagine that you are ‘a rhythm instrument’ whose job it is to show the pulse (beat) of the music rather than just a person strolling through the room.

      Self space is the space around you.  General space is the space we share.  Optional: Use the image of a  ‘kinesphere’ of space around as you move.  This invisible sphere, with you inside, can expand or contract depending on how close or far you are from other people.

    Get students up and moving to walk on the pulse.
    Remember: Bodies Move, Mouths Don’t!

  • Start the music at this point.
  • Observe your students…. If they are clearly not aware of one another,  teach ‘soft focus.’

      Soft Focus: We also have to be aware of others by using our peripheral vision. Stop and stand in one spot.  How many people can you see if you let your eyes relax? Hold your arms apart and move your fingers.  Can you see your fingers without turning your head?  We see in stereo.  Use your stereoscopic vision as you move through the space.  That way everyone is free and safe in the space.

  • Start the music again, or continue the music at this point.
  •  Form a circle as the music concludes, for Reflection.  Sitting Ready Position or standing, go around the circle and ask about all the contrasting pairs.
    See the Step on the Beat book for many details on this.
    Then ask about the sequence of events, starting with the special musical cues.
    Chain together the sequence and practice it in place, from the circle.
  • Use the Step on the Beat instrumental-only track to repeat the sequence with the special music cues, this time traveling through the space, challenging your students to recall what comes next with little or no prompting from you.
  • Closure: What is a sequence?  How did you know when to start and stop? How did you use Space?  Time? Energy?  Show me a high shape.  Move your high shape to line up……

  • Use this as a treat, after other more challenging tasks have been performed.
    I save certain fun things for “dessert.”  This is one.
  • Choreograph it as a dance with your dance club.  My friend Cissy Whipp, who teaches in Lafayette, LA, does this as a dance with her 5th graders.  Small groups choreograph some of the sections, other sections are danced as whole group activities.
  • Use it as a parent-child activity during an Open House.

  • Share it with a sub (especially if the children already know it).





November 12, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with….. (Little Seed)

This series of posts will address suggestions for working with specific material in the context of a full lesson plan or as an individual activity.

Here, I will share with you what I learn, as I continue to experiment and discover more ways of working with my materials.

If you don’t already own the curriculum piece I am talking about, you can either download the track from itunes (in the case of AlphaBeat  and Brain Bop) or purchase the recording in its entirety from me or one of the vendors who carries my CDs. (see my website for details:

Songs for Dancing and Step on the Beat are NOT available for individual download.  They are designed to be complete curriculum packages and professional development tools unto themselves.

By watching the instructional DVD and looking at the book that comes with each set, you’ll have a very good idea of how to apply my teaching strategies as I demonstrate the activities on children who are new to the material, as would be the case in your own teaching environments.

So, here goes!

What to do with….

#1: Little Seed (from AlphaBeat)

  • A danced poem, for K – 1st
    (also works with older pre-school and younger 2nd grade)
  • This is a short, manageable choreographic project.The dance is done on one spot. The poem serves as a narrative for a simple dance with a beginning (‘start as a seed’) middle (‘gradually grow’) and end (‘drop seeds…. begin the cycle again’).
  • Allow for improvisation.  Students decide on their own seed shapes, their own directional facing in the space as they grow. (We don’t all have to face forward…. what about sideways?) Seeds are transported from a tree different ways: fall, drop, spiral, float, or drift.  After exploring options, each student chooses his/her own. Final shapes should vary as well… suggesting that the life cycle of the seed is repeating.
  • Use this as an opportunity for students to practice the skills of being audience members and performers.
    After everyone has learned the structure of the dance and performed it once as a group, divide the group in half.  One group pivots on their spot to watch; the other half performs.  Trade.  Ask the audience to ‘watch with a purpose.’ Ask the performers to ‘be still at the beginning and the end, and do your best.’  Audience may show appreciation by applauding.  Performers may acknowledge appreciation by bowing.
  • Connect to Language Arts Learning. This is a poem.
  • Connect to Science. The key ideas in the poem include science vocabulary. When we learn in an unusual way (such as dancing and watching), we are more likely to make a memory of the theme and the key words.
  • Download the AlphaBeat Companion Guide from my website, for the lyrics to the poem and some teaching tips.

November 7, 2013. Tags: , , , . Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. 3 comments.

A Lesson on Energy for 4-5 year olds

Energy is an element of Force,  as described in the Laban vocabulary.
Force includes Energy, Weight, and Flow.

Some educators organize Energy under “Dance is BEST,” where the “E” stands for Energy.
(The other letters stand for Body, Space and Time.)

This is the 6th lesson in the sequence.

Energy addresses HOW we do something.  Emotion and expression are also part of Energy. The vocabulary in this concept includes smooth, sharp, shaky and swinging movement.

You could easily teach Show Your Feelings! from AlphaBeat as part of this lesson, and reflect on the different energy qualities found in emotion, expression and states of being.

Another way to explore Energy is to dance to the qualities of different, contrasting music excerpts and to different instruments, played live.

6 Energy for Ages 4 -5

November 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.