Curriculum-Integration Techniques, and Ideas for K-2

As a Teaching Artist, I often had to generate dance ideas that connect with curriculum.

Here was my approach.

I would research the topic that the grade level was working on, and look for and jot down:

  • Descriptive words (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives)
  • Sequence of events that create structure (such as science processes, words of a poem)

I might brainstorm and partially group-write a script or poem with the kids and clean it up later as needed.


Then, I’d seek to match my research with:

  • Action (in place)
  • Locomotion (traveling)
  • Shapes (individual, group) that stay
  • Shapes that move (e.g. water that sways, clams that open and shut)
  • Quality of Movement (including expression, emotion)


I’d look for:

  • Music selections
  • Words that would guide the action.

(Words and music could be the score, at the same time or alternately.)

Many of my own creations have come out of this process. 


Let’s look at some examples for working with younger students (grades K-2)

From AlphaBeat, a couple of science-integration ideas which you can find written up in the AlphaBeat Companion Guide

For 1st “Little Seed” and “Trees”

For mature 1st grade and 2nd “Snowflake Dance”  

Here are some ideas from other resources for 2nd graders

For a dance about the Water Cycle, see “Water Dance” by Thomas Locker as a terrific point of departure. You can excerpt material for spoken word.
For music, I recommend the storm section of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Marimba Dances – 1 from Light in Darkness by Evelyn Glennie.


For Habitats (Ocean,  Desert, Rainforest):

I group-wrote, very often, an ocean dance with the students (use Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals as your soundtrack).

For desert,  you can glean from Diane Siebert’s book Mojave.

I wrote my own poem and music for a rainforest dance.  (It’s in the Oct/Nov 2010 Issue of Activate Magazine…see later part of this post)


Here’s a list of topics I’ve successfully explored with K-2 students:

Language Arts

  • Alphabet Order
  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Punctuation
  • Folk and Fairy Tales
  • Verbs and Adverbs (more a 2nd grade and up thing)

For poetry, I particularly love The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutzky  as a resource


  • Telling time
  • Add – Subtract – Multiply



  • The Seasons
  • Insects: metamorphosis, life cycle
  • Weather: water and weather, clouds
  • States of Matter
  • Animals: Adaptations, ways they move


Social Studies


A couple of other integration pieces (and this is just a small sampling)

Interdisciplinary Learning through Dance – 101 MOVEntures

A book/CD/DVD. Curriculum-integration lessons are divided into K-2 and 3-5th lessons


Rhythm of Math: Teaching Mathematics with Body Music (A Kinesthetic Approach)

Keith Terry

A 3-5 focused-curriculum

This resource is very rhythm-centric but it’s a very cool blend with movement and VERY math strong.


Anne Green Gilbert and her Laban-based, concept-based approach is great for fundamentals
Including Brain-Compatible Dance Education
and Creative Dance for All Ages, 2nd edition (which came out last year, and includes some video and additional resources as downloads).


Some of my documented integration lessons are in issues of Activate! Magazine.

This is mainly for music teachers, but also includes some movement. You can back-order some issues of  Volume 5 that include science-integrated activities for K-2 and companion strategies that go with them.

No. 2: Oct/Nov 2010 – Crazy Locomotion Relays (a great strategy for generating lots of locomotor movement ideas) and Rainforest Dance (Done to an original poem and includes music)

No. 3: Dec/Jan 2010/11 – Animal Tracks

No. 5: April/May 2011 – Water and Weather: Exploring Science through Movement (includes music)


If you have ideas of your own, kid-tested  favorites, please share!



June 14, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Curriculum Integration, Favorite Books, Favorite Music, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Teaching Tips, Thoughts on Teaching Series, Working with Kate's Material. 2 comments.

Fantastic Forces, my new dance and science book, now available

I’m so excited to share the news that my dance and science integrated curriculum book has just been published. Fantastic Forces is a book, CD and DVD combination, designed like Songs for Dancing and Step on the Beat. It’s based on an evolving unit of study I first experimented with in 2000 and have revised and improved over many dance residencies, primarily with 3rd grade classes.


I created songs and rhythmic speech music, with long-time collaborators Neal Robinson and Rocky Maffit, and documented demonstration teaching with long-time video collaborator Bill Yauch.
To give teachers a nice broad plank of science understanding, I also collaborated with Troy Vogel, a science professor at the University of Illinois.  He kept my ‘magical thinking’ at bay, and his explanations appear throughout the book as “science corners” to enhance understanding.
The material is a big unit of study, integrating music, movement, and all the integration strategies I use so that students can gain understanding through multiple points of entry – seeing, hearing, saying and doing.
There are many opportunities for students to problem solve in pairs, adding the collaboration component to critical thinking.

My hope is that music, classroom and physical education, and dance/drama teachers can even work together to implement the material.

You can order your copy directly from the publisher.

I’m also available for professional development workshops to help ignite and launch teachers in implementing the curriculum.

May 17, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Favorite Books, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Working with Kate's Material. 1 comment.

Recommended Resource: Creative Dance for All Ages 2nd edition

One of my blog followers asks:
I am trying to do an exercise, movement and dance course and need to prepare a movement sequence featuring air and floor patterns, for an adult class. Are there any resources you can suggest?

I always start by looking in Anne Green Gilbert’s book Creative Dance for All Ages.  It’s organized by concept.  Under ‘pathways’ you can find ideas.

Anne has just released a 2nd edition of the book.  It’s a real step up from the original 1992 publication.  I recommend it. If you don’t already own this book, get it.  If you have the original, get the new one.  She’s included music recommendations using Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum music and references the BrainDance (what I call ‘The Developmental Movement Pattern Sequence” as found on Brain Bop).

Here’s the link to Creative Dance for All Ages, 2nd edition.

Anyone have other great leads and suggestions?



June 8, 2015. Tags: , . Favorite Books, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance. 2 comments.

What to do with…Show Your Feelings!

Show Your Feelings! is found on AlphaBeat.

Use visual supports to frame the experience.
I recommend Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner. This book has photos of children making faces and covers almost all the feelings in the song.
Before you do the song, read the book. For non-readers, I replace the word ‘loving’ with ‘peaceful,’ since that vocabulary appears in the song. I usually skip the page with ‘serious’ and ‘silly.’

As you do the song, you can say, “Hmm, I wonder what’s next?” modeling the feeling of being ‘curious.’

After you’ve done the song,  review the images again.  You can ask them if the group was ‘curious’ about anything during the song….someone will likely chime in “We wondered what was next!”

You can also create your own visual supports by taking pictures of your students (individual or group) as they perform the song. Print the pictures and caption them with the emotions. Make an emotion word wall, and use these as a reference to help children verbally identify and express their emotions.

Thanks to Rachel at the Savoy Head Start for the emotion word wall idea!

Lots of Feelings book cover


March 25, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Favorite Books, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Teaching Tips, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

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.

Books for Creative Dance

A good friend of mine turned me on to this blog called Dancing Words.  It has suggested books to dance, and the concepts that connect to them.  A great resource!  I also have a link to it in my Blogroll that I’ve named “Dance Books for Children.”

September 21, 2013. Favorite Books. 1 comment.

Favorite books for dance making with younger students

My all time favorite is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell because you can interact with the text (it’s a flip book; the children have to guess the animals) and they can travel through the space as different animals.  I tend to stop after each animal so the children can dance them, then call them back to the book for the next page.

Another fun interactive book, that gives sound and footprint hint to help children guess the next animal is Animal Tracks by Dee Dee Duffy.  Fun for moving more specifically like animals: bounding, pacing, diagonal walking, etc. (Google that!)

Everyone likes to dance We’re going on a bear hunt.  We like the one illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

I just found a book called The Magic Hat by Mem Fox that looks like a winner.

The Mitten, illustrated by Jan Brett, is fun for relationship lessons.  Everyone gets very near in the mitten, which we design on the floor with yarn (or with people on the boundaries).

There’s a cool one for pathways called The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer that I learned about from Beth Melin-Nelson at the Level I training for American Orff Schulwerk last summer in Dallas.

For older students (7 and up)

Diane Siebert’s books: Mojave, Truck Song, Heartland –are rhythmic poem books that lend themselves to choreography and can used with older children too.

Ditto for Thomas Locker’s book Water Dance.

What are you dancing?


Below are some great dance books that I recommend for the the dancer(s) in your lives.

1.  I am a Dancer – by Pat Lowery Collins (ages 3-8) – A wonderful imaginative story about how we are dancers wherever we go! Really nice illustrations as well.

2.  The Animal Boogie – by Debbie Harter (ages 3-6) – A rhyming text presents animals as they dance their way around the jungles. This books also includes a sing-a-long CD!

3.  Giraffes Can’t Dance – by Giles Andrede (ages 3-8) – A wonderful story set in the jungle! This book has a great message for all of us!

4.  Let’s Dance – by George Ancona (ages 4-8) – This book shows the joy of dance with children and adults from many countries who leap, turn, and boogie. Stunning photographs!

5.  Marie in Fourth Position – by Amy Littlesugar (ages 6-10) – This is the story of Degas’s little dancer.  After Marie models for the artist and sculptor Edgar Degas, Marie feels transformed into a butterfly and becomes known all over the world as “The Little Dancer”.

6.  Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two – by Patricia Lee Gauch (ages 4-8) – When Tanya, the smallest and wiggliest girl in her ballet class, makes friends with a talented newcomer, they both learn something.  A wonderful book with ballet terminology.

7. Ailey Spirit – The Journal of an American Dance Company – (ages 12+) – An incredible book with eye-opening photographs illuminates the performance and artistic quality of this well known dance company.

8.  Basic Principles of Classical Ballet – (ages 12+) – This is the one book I carried around with me throughout college. A nice little book for serious ballet students that has stood the test of time!  A real nice reference book.

9.  Modern Tap Dictionary – by Glenn Shipley (ages 10+) – A wonderful little book for tap students. Great explanation of steps and terminology. Another oldie, but goodie!

These books can be found on and/or at Barnes & Noble.

Books that are fun for summer and swimming. 

Used this one today with Head Start (3 to 5 year olds) and then played “C’mon and Swim” recorded by Bobby Freeman to do the moves from the book.  Totally fun!

Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London (ISBN 0-670-8551-0)

May 26, 2011. Favorite Books. 1 comment.