Lesson Plan Series for ages 3-5: Lessons 11-15

This is the third and final post in this Lesson Plan Series.

Notice these things:

  1. Simplify more complex activities to make them age appropriate.
  2. Teach a skill, then apply it in the following activity.
  3. Use visual supports to teach, empower and improve memory.


Simplify more complex activities to make them age appropriate.

For Here We Go Round and Round, I adapted a circle dance that is usually done holding hands, traveling around the circle line.
Since the concept was ‘Body Parts.’ I made the circling into ‘circle one body part, one way and the other.’ The sequence of the dance remained the same except for that.  I posted the downloadable visual support for this dance, found on the Songs for Dancing CD, so we could use it as a visual reference. See my post called What to do with…. Here We Go Round and Round for more details on that.

Teach a skill, then apply it in the following activity.

See my post called Using Galloping Song to teach Apples and Oranges  for more details on that!

Use visual supports to teach, empower and improve memory.

Use the letter “S” to teach qualities: smooth, sharp, shaky and swinging.  You can even use letter blends – sh, and sw – if you want to up the challenge level.  Use the “S” visual for review, to check for understanding.

See my post called What to do with….Imaginary Journey to download the visuals for that activity.  Use the visuals before you teach, while you are teaching, and when you review.  Very powerful and empowering for the children.

Finally, use your collection of visuals as an archive.
When it’s free choice time, I place three pictures in front of a child and ask him/her to choose which activity we will do.  If there’s time, pick another child to choose another activity after you’ve done the first one.  There are all kinds of methods you can use to select and sequence free choice activities when the visual supports are available.  I keep my visual supports in page protectors in a binder. I either  put the ones I’m offering for free choice on a 1″ book ring for ease of flipping pages, post them on the board, or lay them out on the floor.

Here are the last 5 lessons in this series.

Lesson 11 Body Parts 2
Lesson 12 Body Parts 3
Lesson 13 – Pulse and Pattern
Lesson 14 – Expression and Quality
Lesson 15 – Imagination and Quality

Enjoy your time with the children!

November 23, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Steps to Guiding Creating

In my Creative Dance for Children mentoring program a few weeks ago, we got to talking about the steps for guiding Creating activities in class.  This pertains to ages 4-10.

When guiding students, you have to assume a leadership role at many points along the line.

First, you lay out the structure for creating as clearly and simply as possible.  Visual aids, such as mapping or vocabulary, may help a great deal.  If you are working from a poem or a picture, you have it posted.

Next, you divide the group into sub-groups if you have enough assistants in the room (for younger) or if the children have self control and concentration to function successfully in small groups. When first empowering students to work independently, duets are good.  Generally 5 is a large group.  Before you send groups off to work, have a sound signal ready that will mean ‘freeze, sit, look and listen’ so you can get everyone’s attention once they are spread out in the space. This could be a drum or hand clap pattern.

Make sure to have a nice distribution of ‘chiefs and indians’ in the group so the leadership is balanced. Also balance out off-task and on-task folks.

Instruct groups to first plan, then get up and test their ideas.
Next, they need to refine their ideas, ‘set’ (that means remember so you can do it again) and practice.

After that, they can re-evaluate their choices, refine again and practice.

Give the groups a short amount of time to work (5 minutes), and check for progress, allowing for another minute to wrap up before showing.

Move among groups during the working process. Ask them: ‘show me what you’ve got’ if they appear stuck or have completed the assignment.  They can refine if they are done, and get back on track if they are stuck.

If you see one off-task child in a group, you can join them for a while to calm that child and help with focus.

When it’s time to perform, select your order of performance. Stronger groups should perform later in the line-up, since they know what they are doing and will remember it.  This is also so as not to intimidate weaker groups who may feel less successful once they’ve seen the stronger groups. Put anxious groups early in the line-up, too.

Review or teach audience and performer skills. Audiences watch with a purpose, don’t practice their own dances, are still, silent, respectful and facing towards performers.  You can check what the purpose is they are watching for (usually the concept or structure of the dance). Performers are still at the beginning and end (a big breath helps), do their best, and don’t get flustered if they make a ‘mistake’ (since the audience doesn’t know the rules of their dance anyway!). Even though these are only ‘studies’ that performers are show, audiences can still applaud at the end to show appreciation.

Reflect on the dances. Decide on how to approach this. Will everyone have an opportunity to volunteer an observation, or one group comments upon another, with that rotated around?  A spokesperson from each group? Lots of possible ways to do this.

What are good reflection questions? You can guide the group to recall elements from the purpose of the dance, memorable moments they saw, sequences, etc.  Groups can themselves talk about the process of making the dance: what was the leadership dynamic?  If there was one thing you could change about your dance, what would it be?  Again, lots of internal reflection possibilities.

In our program, we find this process takes about 20-25 minutes, from start to finish in a group with approx. 12 children and a maximum of 5 groups.

To recap:

  • Frontload the assignment.
  • Divide groups, teach the sound signal for getting their attention.
  • Give a time limit, and a wrap-up time limit.
  • Move among the groups to check for understanding.
  • Decide on the order groups will show.
  • Review Audience/Performer expectations
  • Be ready with meaningful reflection questions and a strategy for how reflection will be conducted.

And, of course, have a pleasant look on your face and a smile in your heart as you work, oops, I mean ‘play.’ Creating is challenging fun!





November 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Creating, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Reflection and Closure, Studio Teaching. Leave a comment.

Tips for teaching 2-3 year olds

Here’s a good question from a reader: Do you have any ideas or tips, suggestions for the 2 and 3 yrs. old group? Their attention span is so short, and preventing chaos it’s always a must.  Do you have any suggestions on how to balance the fun and learning concepts with this age group? In your opinion, what are the most important concepts and skills for the 2 and 3 yrs. old to learn in a dance class environment?

This is such a tough age when it’s just you and a group of children, rather than a parent/child program. My first thought is always to include parents with this age group when possible, so they can bond and communicate through movement, develop a shared vocabulary of movement and continue the play at home.
However, if that’s not possible, look at where these young children are developmentally. Little ones have not yet grasped the idea that you cannot read their minds. They also play in parallel rather than relating to one another.

In her book Creative Dance for All Ages, Anne Green Gilbert says 2-4 year olds learn through imitation, manipulation, observation and exploration.

Let’s look at each of these.
For imitation, use a lot of “I model, you copy” and “Do what I do.” Teach with tons of eye contact and positive, smiling energy. Modulate your voice. Scan the group with your eyes.
Strike just the right balance when pacing the lesson. The first time you do it, go slow enough to catch their attention. In later repetitions, you can speed up a bit. Keep teaching light, friendly, and fun. And don’t take it personally when kids go through their changes. Mood swings are common; don’t get attached to the sadness…they don’t!


Manipulation means using touch to communicate. When I do cross lateral movement, for example, I will pick up the arm or leg of the child next to me so she/he can feel the action. Think of all the finger play, tickling and bouncing games that have movement in them and can be done one on one, in a parent/child class. A hand puppet is a fun prop to use for appropriate touch, such as teaching body parts. Around goes the puppet touching each child on the shoulder, the knee, etc. as you name the parts.

Observation means watching and listening. Some children will choose to watch you and do very little movement themselves in class, even week after week, and then go home and sing the songs and perform the actions in the safety of their familiar environment. Be patient with the shy watchers. They will come to you.

Exploration is about teaching the dance concepts. Limit yourself two ideas for a concept area, such as size (big and small), level (high and low), direction (forward, backward, etc.) and speed (fast and slow). When you come back to a concept later, you can layer in additional points. Look for activities, songs and stories that emphasize your chosen concept, and let that be the thread that runs through the lesson.  Check for understanding by having children show you: Show me a big shape!  A small shape!

If a child can see, hear and do the concept…. they are on their way to understanding it.

Work in a circle.  Move in all directions and levels on your spot.  Move forward and back towards the center of the circle (It’s like a flower closing and opening, the petals meet in the middle.…model that once before they join you!) Move around the circle line.  Eventually, days into the semester, move away from and back to the circle (model that, too…..expect chaos.  Be ready with a sound cue that says ‘dance away’ and  ‘come back home.’)

Use visual aids: pictures and picture books. Alternate between picture and movement instead of all the pictures followed by all the movement.  Example: Using the book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, have children move each animal as it appears in the story, then return to the book, sit down, and discover the next animal. Guide the movement with ideas you’ve already come up with, such as a big and small face for a lion’s silent ‘roar’ or a tip-toeing, arms-reaching -up ‘giraffe.’ This will also control the chaos.

Sing! Play lively music!

The age of a child plus 2 minutes = a typical attention span. Therefore, structure your lessons in 5 minute increments and make sure to keep the instruction brief with plenty of movement time.

Expect to ‘play rather than plié’. By that I mean hard-wired skill development should be fun and brief.

Repeat, repeat, repeat…then do something new.

Set routines and follow them…. just plug in different activities but keep the structure familiar. You can even post the routine and point out where you are in the flow of the lesson during the first few weeks. This relaxes the anxious child who wants to know when they will go home! Familiarity breeds comfort.

Transition strategies are also part of routine and familiarity. Name the formations and transition strategies with the same words, play the same clean up tune, etc. In time, everyone becomes empowered and loves to show you that they know what to do when you say the words or play the tune.

Through dance, we teach the super-important life skill of following instructions.

My four tools that I want children to know are Concentration, Body Control, Imagination and Memory. (You can simplify the language: Watch and Listen, Control Yourself, Pretend, and Remember) I teach each with a gesture and use the word/gesture combinations frequently. Sometimes all I need is the gesture.

Decide on your cues/words for transitions for following instructions, such as ‘look at me’ or “my turn first, now your turn” or “1,2,3 ears on me, eyes on me as well” when modeling a skill.

What are some other strategies that you, my readers, would like to share on this topic?

November 9, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching. 1 comment.