Another look at “Drumtalk”

A music teacher recently told me how she has adapted “Drumtalk” for grades K-3rd.

This is something she does at the start of the year, when just getting to know the children and working on listening skills.

Instead of the drum only saying ‘shake,’ ‘freeze,’ ‘melt,’ and ‘pop up,’ it speaks Animal!

Playing a djembe, she makes sounds that suggest animals. Fingers drummed lightly and quickly on the head might be ‘squirrel.’ Dragging a fingernail over the head might be ‘snake.’ Strong, slow, loud strikes may suggest ‘elephant.’

She lets the group of children decide what each sound means, and plays again as they move as that animal.


By the way, you can use any drum for this, not just a djembe.

May 16, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Exploring, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

Creative Dance Activity Categories, Teaching Skills, and Examples

Many creative dance (and song) activities that we use with young students fall into these categories: pattern dances, guided explorations and improvisations, and gross motor coordination.  Some activities are blends.

Pattern Dances (and Songs)
Activities that require following a specific movement sequence to a beat.

1) Some pattern dances are teacher-centered with all aspects of the dance laid out by the teacher.

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to describe and demonstrate the pattern. Scripting help.
  • Be in the present and a little in the future (in your thinking and cuing)
  • Feel the speed and evenness of the beat
  • Become comfortable with using your voice as an instrument
  • Demonstrate one step at a time, then have children repeat that
  • Chain on each new idea
  • When guiding as the music plays, provide verbal transitions ahead of time

Examples of Pattern Dances

  • Sodeo (AlphaBeat)
  • Walking Song (Songs for Dancing)
  • Here We Go ‘Round and Round (Songs for Dancing)
  • The More We Are Together (AlphaBeat)

Examples of Pattern Songs

  • Clap Along Song (Step on the Beat)

2) Some pattern dances are student-centered where some ideas come from the students and are then used by the whole group as part of the dance. Many pattern dances can be adapted to be more student-centered, creating greater group ownership of the experience.

Additional Teaching Skills

  • Be able to provide prompts and choices for student input.
    Example: For this part should we gallop or side slide?  Should we clap high or low? Should we turn slowly or quickly?



Guided Explorations and Improvisations
Activities that give children room to make their own movement choices.

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to describe and demonstrate the rules. Scripting help.
  • Use a student demonstrator if the activity involves more than one person (e.g. interacting or changing partners)
  • When using props (e.g. scarves), demonstrate and describe first, then pass out the scarves (so children will concentrate on the demonstration)
  • When working with another person, demonstrate and describe first, before choosing a partner (so children will concentrate on the demo)

Examples of Guided Explorations and Improvisations

  • Stick Together Game (Step on the Beat, voice prompted and instrumental only)
  • Action Dance (AlphaBeat)
  • Haunted House (Brain Bop)
  • Imaginary Journey (AlphaBeat)
  • Drumtalk (AlphaBeat)

Gross Motor Coordination  (Developing Skills)
These are activities to hard-wire skills, such as galloping and hopping.  Obstacle courses are typical for this, with a starting and ending point.

Suggested Music: Free Dance (Songs for Dancing #18)

Teaching Skills

  • Be able to demonstrate the skill or use a student demonstrator
  • Feel the speed and evenness of the beat
  • Become comfortable with using your voice as an instrument
  • For an obstacle course, assign tasks to other teachers and aides:
    ‘gatekeeper’ (at the starting point, to let children in one at a time)
    ‘encourager’ (positioned at the mid-point of the obstacle course, to cheer on individuals) – Usually the one who taught the activity
    ‘line supervisor’ (makes sure the line keeps moving up to the start   point)
    ‘spotter’ (generally at the end of the line, spotting to see that individuals complete the course (Body Shape!) and travel to the end of  the line)


“Blends” are activities that combine two or more categories, such as “pattern dance and improvisation” or “exploration and gross motor coordination.”

Blend Examples:

  • Everybody Do This (Songs for Dancing)
  • Little Birdies (Songs for Dancing)
  • Apples and Oranges (Step on the Beat)
  • Step on the Beat (Step on the Beat)



January 6, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Exploring, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.