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)
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:
- Alphabet Order
- 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
- Folk Dance (Sanna Longden’s material is great, as are the New England Dancing Masters.)
- How societies work (try creating a dance using democratic process, with voting!)
- Rules and laws, and why we need them (making dances with rules)
A couple of other integration pieces (and this is just a small sampling)
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)
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!
People ask me about what hand-held instruments I prefer for teaching.
I use a tambourine with two rows of 8 jingles and a soft-headed mallet.
With the drum, I can cue starts and stops, freeze and move.
I can change the texture of the sound by playing the head of the drum with the stick, my hand, or against the side of my thigh. I can play the side with the side of the stick, or my flat palm. I can shake the jingles.
I can play a regular pulse on the drum head or side, alternating between the two to indicate a change of movement (e.g. from walking to hopping and back again).
This is the drum I use for “Drumtalk” when I teach children to listen for the different sounds and move to them: shake, freeze, melt and pop up.
If you want to order your own, here’s the info:
Tambourine with jingles
Remo Fiberskyn 3 (TA- 5210) Comes in black (70 is the product number for that color), red (52) or white (00)
My drum is black.
Vic Firth American Custom Timpani T1- General (VIC – VFT1)
Comes two to a package. Each teacher needs only 1.
Best prices: Steve Weiss Music
Approx per teacher/classroom cost: $40 (excludes shipping)
Once in a while I get an inspiration while the children are standing in line waiting to leave at the end of class. If there are dawdlers, why penalize the ones who are in line? That’s how Foot Song came into being.
Foot Song is a way to keep children engaged during transitions such as the one I just described. It’s also a fun song to use at the start of a lesson on teaching parts of the body or to shake sillies out. You can be in any group formation to do it.
Here it is, with notation.
(to the tune of Old MacDonald) – key of F
F C D C A G F
I see feet that are standing on the floor, what can those feet do?
A A# C A C A# A# A
Can they jump, jump, jump? Can they jump and jump? Can they jump, jump,
G F (spoken or sung)
jump, jump, jump? STOP!
Repeat with tap, tip/toe/turn. Open it up to children’s suggestions: kick, hop, swing, etc.
(Note: The more more kinds of movement the children know, the more ideas they will suggest.)
I just discovered an early music educator named Judy Caplan Ginsburgh.
Check out her website (http://www.judymusic.com) to watch her 15 minute in-service in which she teaches music and movement activities.
One of the songs is called “Everybody’s Got a Little Music in ‘Em.” I’d heard this song before, by Rabbi Joe Black.
Judy uses the form and melody of “Everybody’s Got a Little Music in ‘Em” to teach elements of music.
Download the song at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/sing-along-smile-with-judy/id6069397
Here’s how she front-loads the song/activity.
“You are going to be a music band. Your body will be the instrument. Experiment with your making sounds on your body – only your body, no one else’s. Use your hands by clapping, snapping, tapping, and patting your body like an instrument. You can make sounds with your tongue by la-la-la ing during the singing part.
Every group of musicians has a boss. The boss is called the director or the conductor. A conductor signals when to make sound or movement and when to stop. When I move my baton like this (wave baton) that means ‘move and make sound’. When I do this (signal stillness) that means ‘stop, hands down and listen’.
Let’s learn a little bit about music.”
Verse – Leader: Everybody’s got a little music in ‘em, music in ‘em, music in ‘em,
Everybody’s got a little music in ‘em, I can hear it when you sing (cue group to join)
Chorus – Group: La, La (and make body percussion)
2) Rhythm (rhythm is the beat)… when you sing and play
3) Melody (melody’s the tune)
Adapt this for dance elements (and write more for different elements)
Everybody’s got a little dance in ‘em
I can see it when you (bounce and twist)
2) Level … I can see it when you move high and low
3) Size … I can see it when you get big and small
4) Pathway…. I can see it when you move curved and straight
4a) Pathway…. I can see it when you zig and zag
5) Everybody’s got some di-rec-tion in ‘em… I can see it when you move side to side
5a) Everybody’s got some di-rec-tion in ‘em… I can see it when you move up and down
5b) Everybody’s got some di-rec-tion in ‘em… I can see it in your for-ward and back
6) Everybody’s got a little dance in ‘em, I can see it when you (sway and turn)
Judy also has a really sweet song called “Colors in My World” which she does with multicolored streamers. It could also be done with scarves.
Colors in My World
Scarf Dance to Beautiful Music
Download the song at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/youre-amazing/id199179750
(Disaster-proofing: “If I see these magic scarves being used a certain way that isn’t safe, they are going to magically disappear.”)
Chorus: There are colors all around, colors like a rainbow, lots of colors in my world (2x)
During the chorus options: twirl, sway, up and down, move them like a rainbow, change hands
There is blue for the sky, where the birds fly way up high….
There is yellow for the sun, when it shines we play and have fun….
There is green for the grass, where we really shouldn’t throw trash….
There is red for the flowers, they grow tall when the rain showers….
During the verse: If you have that colored scarf hold it up and show to everyone on your verse. Or everyone has colored streamers and each person holds up that color in the streamer on the appropriate verse.
Thank you Judy for your lovely ideas!
Zipper songs (and dances) allow for variation within structure. For example, zipper songs change one element of the lyric, “zippered” in, while the rest remains the same.
I like to sing zipper songs with the children while we are waiting (by the door, in the circle, by the bus, by the bathroom, etc.) The need for this came up in my teaching because I ask children to remove their shoes to dance. It takes a while for shoes and socks to come off (and on). Because ‘down time’ can only lead to ‘off task’ behavior, we always want to have plenty of creative transition ideas at the ready.
In the following Weather Song, weather and body part are zippered in.
Use gestures, too. And modulate your voice to reflect the quality of the words and actions.
(To the tune of Frere Jacques)
Snow is falling, snow is falling,
On my head, on my head.
Snow is falling, snow is falling,
On my head, on my head.
Rain…on my knees….
Meatballs…on my shoulders…
Good weather ideas:
Sun is shining…on my __________.
Weather: Fog, drizzle, hail…
Funny things: Cats, Frisbees, Basketballs…
Ask the children for ideas, too.
Find A Spot zipper song
This one is for finding a spot in the room to dance. I use yoga mats cut into 10 equal pieces as ‘yoga dots.’ As I’m tossing them out, students move from the circle to their spot as I tap them on shoulder, knee, etc.
I sing the intro, then touch 3 – 5 children.
As I’m singing the intro, I’m tossing out spots.
This fun transition moves quickly, gets everyone to a spot, and gives me the control to tap the most self-regulated students first.
After I’ve sung the pattern once, students get the hang of it and suggest other body parts.
I often pause by the next child I’m going to tap, look at them, and wait for that child to name a new part to use.
I might change the part for every line of the song. I sing until everyone has a spot!
(To the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It)
When I touch you on the _______________ find a spot (tap, tap, tap, tap)
When I touch you on the _______________ find a spot. (tap, tap, tap, tap)
When I touch you on the _______________ find a spot, find a spot. (tap, tap, tap, tap)
When I touch you on the _______________ find a spot. (tap, tap, tap, tap)
Options: shoulder, knee, back, head, wrist, elbow…
The second lesson I teach in my fall semester is size and level. These two concepts pair up nicely. As you’ll see in the lesson plan, we often think that ‘high’ means ‘big’ and ‘low’ means ‘small.’ Actually, near or far reach from the core or center of our bodies indicates size. Level is distance up or down. (Read my blog post on the elements of dance for more on this subject).
In this lesson, I cite a selection of music from one of Eric Chappelle’s CDs, which you can now download as an individual track from CD Baby.
I also mention the Australian group, Shenanigans. They are a really fun ensemble, with lively, energetic music for creating a joyful atmosphere. You can get their CDs through West Music or download an album from itunes. Lately, I’ve been enjoying their CD called Bush Dances of New Holland Vol 2 as pre-class music.
Finally, Eric Chappelle’s music is available as individual downloads through CD Baby.
Eric is the composer who works closely with Anne Green Gilbert, the author of Creative Dance for All Ages and Brain-Compatible Dance Education. His 4-volume series, Contrast and Continuum, is super-useful for working in the concept-based format. In fact, in Anne’s Brain-Compatible book, she suggests specific tracks from Eric’s music for specific activities.
Many of my lesson plans cite his music for specific activities, too. Now you can get just the tracks you need, or download a complete album.
It depends on the style of jazz you are teaching, the phrases you are choreographing, the dances you are making.
Any time I hear a “jazzy” tune, I make a note of it and add it to my compilation.
Here are some that have caught my attention…
- “Twisted” by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross
- “Yellow Moon” by the Neville Brothers
- Various tracks by Joe Zawinul and Weather Report (e.g. “Birdland”)
- Various tracks by Pat Methany
- Various tracks from “Comparsa” (an album by Deep Forest)
What are you using?
Thinking about what is biorhythmically appropriate for children…
I like tracks that suggest skipping, galloping and side sliding as ways to locomote, as opposed to running or walking.
When we do Travelers and the Magic Forest (from AlphaBeat) it just feels so good for locomotion with the swing-feel of skip, gallop and side slide. It’s uplifting.
From the new version of Step on the Beat:
I’ve been playing Clap Along Song and Apples and Oranges (Instrumental Only = IO) for Shape Museums.
Shape Maker/Shape Explorer (IO) for resting, for blind mirror, sculptor and clay.
Other resting tracks….
Brain Bop tracks 13 and 14.
Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum Volume 3 #17
Carol Rosenberger “Such Stuff as Dreams…”
James Galway Nocturne
Warm Ups for older students
Peter Jones Gradual Motion
All the IO tracks on Brain Bop
Also really love….
Deep Forest Comparsa
…GREAT for choreography
Here are my favorites for early childhood:
Songs for Dancing: Down by the Station, Welcome, Shape Song, Little Birdies, Goodbye Song
AlphaBeat: Sodeo, Drumtalk, Show Your Feelings!, Action Dance, Little Seed
Step on the Beat: Apples and Oranges, Clap Along and Stick Together
Brain Bop: Early Childhood Warm Up, Haunted House, Brain Bop
I won’t list the specific tracks. His music is fun and funny for the younger set.
Children’s Dances Volume I (we dance to this a lot before class starts)
Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum Series (Vol 1-4)
Specifically, all the skippy tracks for across the floor, Vol 2 #11 for leaping, Vol 4 #17 for Resting, and Giants and Babies (Vol 1 #14)
Except for Jim Gill, who has his own website, all the rest are available from West Music or directly from the artists.
How about your favorites?