Thoughts on building a sequential movement vocabulary in the elementary music classroom

Q: I want to be more intentional about developing a movement vocabulary in my elementary music classes. Which one of your publications would be best for providing a sequence and some activities for doing this? I have all of your books. I just need guidance on where to start.

A: My books and music include many activities that align to concepts in music and dance. A concept-based approach to teaching is more effective and enduring than an activity-based approach. Students learn specific concept-related vocabulary. Teachers can layer on new concepts and vocabulary from week to week.
You, the teacher, can also REPEAT ACTIVITIES in different lessons THROUGH THE LENS OF A DIFFERENT CONCEPT.

Here is a suggested 9-week sequence, organized by concept, rationale, activities, age-ranges, and source material included.

Note:
I always start with a warm up, which may be my second lesson, having captured their interest with something exciting on the first day.

I use Brain Bop for warm ups. Sometimes, for K-1, I change it out with the warm ups on AlphaBeat or Everybody Do This from Songs for Dancing. For the most part, though, I favor the brain-based sequence (Anne Green Gilbert’s Braindance) found on Brain Bop.

  1. Concept: Place (Self & General Space)
    Rationale: To recognize and learn where we are in space, leaving room between self and others, moving and stopping, and traveling safely. The first lesson should be fun and exciting.Activity Examples:
    Step On the Beat (K -5) Step on the Beat
    Action Dance (K-3) AlphaBeat – self-space emphasis
    Do Your Own Dance (K-2) Songs for Dancing

     

  2. Direction (Up/down, Right and Left, Forwards and Backwards)
    Rationale: To learn how to describe and respond to all directional movement, whether moving in self or general space.

Activity Examples:
Sodeo (K-1) AlphaBeat
Apples and Oranges (K-5) Step on the Beat
Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Level (High, Middle, Low)
    Rationale: To learn how to describe and respond to relative distance from the floor.

Activity Examples:
Hinging (3-5) Step on the Beat
Little Seed (K-2) AlphaBeat
Little Birdies (K) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Spatial Relationships (Over, Under, Near, Far, Between, Around…..)
    Rationale: To understand our relationship to space, self and others in order to move with more skill and awareness. This also builds the vocabulary of preposition words and teaches positive and negative space.

Activity Examples:
Shape Maker/Shape Explorer (2-5) Step on the Beat
Travelers and the Magic Forest (1-2) AlphaBeat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Expressive Qualities (Energy, Flow, Force, Weight)
    Rationale: To recognize the difference between smooth, sharp, shaky and swinging movement and explore creative ways of changing between these energies as students move in place and through space.

Activity Examples:
Popcorn and Melted Butter (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Imaginary Journey (K-2) AlphaBeat
Action Dance (K-2) AlphaBeat
Show Your Feelings (K-2) AlphaBeat
Near and Far (K-2) AlphaBeat

 

  1. Rhythm & Speed
    Rationale: To make the connection between the music and dance elements of tempo, pulse and pattern

    Activity Examples:
    Trip to the Zoo (Speed) (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Flea Song (K) Songs for Dancing
    Everybody Do This (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Apples and Oranges (K-5) Step on the Beat
    Here We Go Round and Round (K-2) Songs for Dancing
    Walking Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Parts of the Body
    Rationale: To learn body parts vocabulary and explore creative ways of using parts of the body when moving, making shapes and working with others.

Activity Examples:
Hinging (3-5) Step on the Beat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat
Body Shape Jam (K-3) AlphaBeat
Here We Go Round and Round (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Flea Song (K) Songs for Dancing

 

  1. Pathways Floor and Air
    Rationale: To learn that we make patterns on the floor as we travel, and patterns in the air with different body parts, using different levels, directions, and spatial relationships.
     

     

    Activity Examples:
    Step On the Beat (K -5) Step on the Beat
    Down by the Station (K) Songs for Dancing
    Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Shapes: Straight, Curved, Twisted, Angular, Symmetrical and Asymmetrical
    Rationale: To learn shape vocabulary and explore creative ways for use shapes when moving and working with others. Dances begin and end in a shape.

Activity Examples:
Shape Song (K-1) Songs for Dancing
Trees (K-2) AlphaBeat, followed by…
Travelers and the Magic Forest (K-2) AlphaBeat
Stick Together Game (K-5) Step on the Beat
Do Your Own Dance (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Over the Top (3-5) Step on the Beat

 

  1. Locomotor Movement
    Rationale: To learn and recognize the eight basic locomotor movements, individually and in movement sequences.

Activity Examples:
Locomotor Movement (K-5) AlphaBeat
Galloping Song (K) Songs for Dancing
Skipping Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing
Walking Song (K-2) Songs for Dancing

 

 

Other educators share their thoughts: 

Here’s what dance educator Betty A. from Urbana, IL says about her six-week creative dance unit organization:
“I use a variety of resources. But, my top choices would be the Anne Green Gilbert book (Creative Dance for All Ages)* and your resources. Any time someone asks for creative dance resources that is my standard answer. I do concept-based teaching. My focus is creative dance (dance elements -BEST – Body, energy, space, time). I try to teach one dance to all classes to discuss choreography. It might be a folk dance or a dance that we create together. 3rd through 5th grade always has a group choreography project using the concepts we have learned / explored. Of course, I try to cover all of the State Learning Standards, but often cannot get to all of them in 6 weeks.

 

*Kate adds: Anne Green Gilbert created a later publication called Brain-Compatible Dance Education. This book is organized by lesson plan component rather than concept, and included both many Braindance variations (like the material on my Brain Bop CD) AND references to Eric Chappelle’s companion music called Contrast and Continuum, Volumes I – IV. I use both books.

 

Here’s what dance educator Cissy W. from Lafayette, LA says about using my material in her units:

When I started trying to analyze how & when I use your CD’s at my various levels (K-5) and realized it was a very complex thing. I am not absolutely consistent with what I use first. Usually the Welcome Song followed by the Flea Song is a good start with my younger classes. I used to start with the Train Song, but now introduce that later in my sequence when we are studying pathways and sometimes even have 2 or 3 short trains going at once!  If I think they need to calm down and focus, I do the first section of the Brain Dance warm up from Brain Bop. Lately, I have been using the Galloping Song to transition from their table seats to their Poly spots on the dance floor. I use the Action Dance from AlphaBeat to review locomotors and break the ice with my new 3rd graders at the beginning of each 9 weeks. Other things are seasonal: The Haunted House in October, The More We Are Together for Valentine’s Day.

How do YOU organize YOUR dance unit?

January 23, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Lesson Plan Organization, Teaching Tips, Working with Kate's Material. 1 comment.