Here’s a really fun lesson idea connected to animals, animal movement, literacy, science and just plain fun! Use ANIMAL TRACKS: Some Basics found at the end of the lesson for ‘authentic’ animal movement ideas.
Moving Like Animals
Animal Tracks: Some Basics
Duffy, Dee Dee. Forest Tracks. Boyds Mills Press, 1996
Dorros, Arthur. Animal Tracks. Scholastic, Inc. New York. 1991
Ways of walking like animals (Start from spread to personal space)
Do half group watch, half group do, then trade.
Explore ways of moving around the room.
Bird Walk (and flutter, fly)
As you explore, combine ways of walking with pathways and directions.
Making Animal Tracks (Start in flanking lines for across the room)
Refer to Animal Tracks: Some Basics
Extension Idea: Repeat tracks with additional things to think about:
Pick an animal you’d like to be. What do you look like?
Are you short or are you tall?
Are you big or are you small?
Are you heavy or are you light?
Do you move by day, or by night?
Are you quick or are you slow?
Do you move high, do you move low?
Do you stop and go?
What do you look like? I don’t know?
Where are you?
in the woods
in the meadow
in the desert
in the rainforest
Going Further: Notice carefully how you use your fingers and toes.
Do you need your whole hand and foot?
Finger tips? Toes only?
Heel of your hand? Sole of your foot?
A mix of these things?
How would you move your parts? Head? Neck? Arms? Legs? Torso?
How would you: Eat? Drink water?
Extension Activity 1: Small groups form based on a specific animal, sit in individual circles.
Choreographic Assignment (3-5 minutes)
1. Decide how to move to the center of the space as your animal
2. Perform some type of action in the middle of your circle as your animal OR
Travel around the circle as your animal
3. Decide how to move back out to the edge of the circle as your animal
Then, all groups sit in large, semi-circle (if performance-based) OR large circle (if process-based). Show dances one by one.
Extension Activity 2: Read Forest Tracks. Duffy, Dee Dee. Boyds Mills Press, 1996
This book uses the format of Listen (the sounds the animal would make), Look (the tracks the animal would make), See (picture of the animal).
As you read, have children guess what animal is coming next, before you turn the page for See.
To dance the book, use the story following the format of Extension Activity 1. Use the text to shape the dance, with everyone making body percussion sounds on Listen! Small groups decide ahead of time which of the animals in the book they want to be, and go in, group by group, for rabbit, deer, raccoon, etc.
For skunk, everyone goes in, bit by bit. Teacher comes in as skunk, and everyone scurried back to his spot on the circle.
Decide with the group what to do for the jeep tracks at the end, or don’t include it in your story dance.
ANIMAL TRACKS: Some Basics
based on material from “Into Winter” by William P. Nestor
PACING done by dogs, cats, foxes, deer
Both limbs on one side (right) move, then both on the other (left). Track fairly far apart, forming a zig-zag pattern.
DIAGONAL WALKING done by animals with wide bodies and short legs (racoons, skunks, woodchucks)
hind left foot and front right foot move, then hind right foot and front left foot.
BOUNDING done by slender, long bodied animals with short legs (weasel, mink, otter)
front feet go together, then hind feet follow as a pair.
when walking, hind tracks fall behind front.
when running, hind fall into front tracks, or even a little ahead of front tracks
GALLOPING done by animals with short forefeet and long hind legs (rabbits, hares, squirrels, some mice)
similar to bounding, but hind feet land on either side or ahead of forefeet
RUNNING done by shrews, voles
combines running and galloping. similar to diagonal walking, but with tracks wider apart
Now that the weather is changing, the children are getting restless. Yesterday, I aligned my lessons with 3-5 year olds to address this.
One group did “Little Seed” from AlphaBeat. I set up the activity by first exploring body shapes and level changes. We also spent a little time on Energy, by doing a live version of “Drumtalk” (also found on AlphaBeat) and talking about the “S” words “Smooth,” “Sharp” and “Shaky.”
Then, we talked about seed shapes, roots and shoots. See the notes for the Companion Guide on the AlphaBeat page on my website (a download, available in the side bar). We explored three kinds of seeds and how they fall. Heavy seeds fall directly down, sharply. Light, blowing seeds drift down. Maple seeds spiral down. (I used the vocabulary spiral). We practiced each of these seed types, chaining the next one on as we learned it. Then, I asked them to choose their favorite one to use in the dance.
Then I demonstrated the dance with the music and asked them to observe what I did. Next, they all did it. Lastly, I divided the group into two and they took turns being ‘audience’ and ‘performer.’
With sufficient front-loading, this is a very satisfying activity.
Another group did the Trees poem from AlphaBeat and following that with “Travelers and the Magic Forest” (also on AB). As with the seeds exploration, for each new tree we chained on to the sequence. I kept it simple, combining their ideas (e.g. What does a king wear? A crown! What would the king of trees look like? We made a shape balanced on one leg (child’s idea) with a crown made from two hands (another child’s idea) or showing simple solutions (e.g. an aspen has trembling leaves. Let’s tremble our fingers.)
Keep drawing out the critical thinking from the children. (e.g. If a poplar grows up straight and tall, where would you start to show that? Being high or being low? Low!)
Travelers and the Magic Forest
We did this in four “quadrants” after scattering to self space spots. I joined each group to help them with the journey through the forest and back home again, and to help them see that traveling “between” the other trees was more fun that just going “around” the whole group (something they are used to from other activities). It helps when you have other teachers and aides in the room, to anchor different groups.
This could also be done in two groups. One stays, one goes, and they alternate three times.
Using “Free Dance” from the new Songs for Dancing, I have three students go into the middle of the circle to do their own dance, as everyone on the edge copies. After everyone has had a turn in the middle, everyone goes in and we all free dance.
This has been a great way to discharge that extra energy, to build community, and to be personally creative and expressive.
I follow that with “Resting” to bring everyone back to calm and centered focus.
Apples and Oranges
This dance, from Step on the Beat, also helps everyone dance in an exuberant, yet structured fashion. With the youngest, we don’t even attempt to hold hands and follow the circle line; we just turn around on our own spot during “circle ’round.” We reverse the rotation the second time.
Then, half the circle is Apples, and follows the leader (the teacher or aide) around the circle line (galloping or skipping) while the Oranges put on their binoculars and watch.
Next time, it’s the Apples’ turn to watch while the Oranges dance.
In the next full rotation, the children follow the circle line in the opposite line of direction (again, lead by you, having moved over to the other side) doing the same or different form of locomotor movement.
Happy Spring Dancing!