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!
This is the 5th post in my “Thoughts on Teaching” Series.
I just completed a two-week residency with a group of 4th graders at a public elementary school in my town. This was a large (28) and diverse group. There were a lot of concentration problems. Some were ‘too cool for school’ and their self-consciousness distracted them. Here were a few issues that came up.
Issue 1: “I don’t want to work with my partner”
A former college student of mine shadowed me on the residency. One of her questions was, “what do you do when kids don’t want to work together?”
Boy, does this one come up in every day life!
It can be very frustrating when one of two children (paired by their classroom teacher rather than self-selected) digs in and says, “he won’t do anything” about his partner.
For us, patience is a virtue. Try several points of entry, and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
1) “Show me what you’ve got.” I just ask them to show me anything and use it as a catalyst to build.
2) “What’s your idea?” Hear from both parties, and model pulling different ideas together. This is a good solution to the problem of: “my partner won’t do anything I say.”
3) “Take a break.” One person may be unable to work that day. Let her sit out, while the compliant student creates. The next day, they may be able to work together and there will be material to start from.
Issue 2: Listening
What’s the point of teaching if you cover the material but the material does not cover the child?
Some quick solutions:
1) “If you can hear me, put your hands on your __________” (head, shoulders, etc.) A quick scan around the room tells you who was tuned out.
2) Have them show (or tell) you. SHOW – When you review what you’ve just presented, have the group raise their hands when they hear the cue (or whatever the content is you are trying to impress upon them). TELL – If you call on the students who know, you’ll still have the space cadets floating out there. So ask the space cadets instead. Sometimes I will tell specific students that I will be calling on them immediately after I give the instruction, and they will have to repeat the key point.
3) Break it into chunks. Smaller bits are easier to digest.
Issue 2: Owning It
When students create and then perform their dances with no energy, apathetically, with small and cramped movements, and a sense of embarrassment, they need coaching.
1) Show 2 ways – Demonstrate the self-conscious, boring way and the energized, committed way.
Have students show, with their fingers indicating #1 or #2, which way was more interesting to watch. (They always pick the committed way). Then talk about why. “The audience doesn’t want to see your attitude about the thing you are doing. They want to see the content. Be committed to what you are doing. Let the audience see it.”
2) Make it bigger! Dances often ‘shrink’ in energy and size. Get everyone on his or her feet and have the students experience a big kinesphere of space, reaching in all directions. This gets the blood flowing and serves as a ‘reset’ too. Then, when they return to their dances, use the kinesphere image for overall size and energy.
3) It’s yours. Remind students that these are their creations. Own it!
This week I worked with several challenging 1st grade groups in the music room. Not a big room, and at least 4 students had poor impulse control.
However, I wanted to do The Stick Together Game (from Step on the Beat) as a follow up to teaching Body Shape Jam (from AlphaBeat) for a lesson on Body Parts. This would involve traveling, stopping, connecting parts, then traveling again with parts connected.
Here’s how I set them up for traveling. First, we did a call and response of “General Space, Go!” with voice and gesture, clapping the syllables of ‘general space,’ and pointing across for ‘go.’
Next, I demonstrated traveling, with words recited rhythmically, while playing the pulse on my hand-held drum:
Move into the empty space/ bodies moves-mouths don’t/ listen for the stopping sound/ stop on your spot//
Each short phrase was 4 beats long, so the demonstration was 2 8’s long, which is a good duration for general space traveling practice. The last 4 counts included shaking the drum to indicate the stop was coming and playing a strong double beat to indicate stop.
I kept my key words to address body control, spatial awareness, and listening skills, which are crucial to success.
Then, we did it as a group, with my words and drum. A third practice was ‘drum talk’ only.
Happy to say that, when we did the group activity in general space, it was a success.
I might add that my locomotor choice for this activity started with walking on the pulse. We could graduate to gallop or skip if students demonstrated the crucial success skills. But not the ‘r’-sounding one (let the children figure that out themselves!)
I’ve talked about Apples and Oranges in other blog posts, as well as in “What to do with…”
(If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Step on the Beat through my website, katekuper.com, or from West Music.)
Today I worked with a challenging group of 1st graders with poor body control, and poor interactive and listening skills.
Thought I’d do Apples and Oranges as a partner dance.
We started with slap and clap, building up from one slap/clap each to two each.
For the ‘circle round’ part –I would typically do as a right and left elbow swing – I had them ‘gypsy’ around = circle around a shared axis with only eye contact, not touching. Next, I attempted the elbow swings.
Not gratified by the outcome, I switched strategies.
We formed a circle, still standing next to partners. Each partner committed to being either an Apple or an Orange, and I checked for understanding with raise of hands.
I explained the ground rules for traveling – skip, gallop or side slide – and demonstrated the duration by modeling.
Then each group practiced.
I had to stop the activity to remind NO RUNNING. (In fact, I had to interrupt individual dancers during the activity for the same infraction…. but no injuries occurred and cooperation was restored!)
Next, we did slap, clap and turn around on our spots, as I have adapted for 4 & 5 year olds.
In the repetition of the dance, I had them turn to their partners for slap and clap. This gave the dance just enough social interaction/cooperative skill building to be satisfying to the age group.
The positive outcome reminded me that we educators can blend strategies from different developmentally appropriate categories to get just the right balance, instead of staying away from the activity all together.
This entry was prompted by a question from reader Kerry B., who is currently teaching at a ballet studio. She wants to know how to integrate the expectations of ballet for young students with the creative, concept-based approach.
Here’s the story dance exemplar she provided, and my response.
Example: “At the Castle”
For ages: 4-5
Driving to the castle, skipping to castle stable, marching with soldiers to get horses, trotting and galloping with horses, marching to dungeon, creeping around dungeon, tip toe out, walking into garden, hopping on stepping stones. Tip toe into room to prepare for ball, group and solo dances at ball, grande waltz, leaving ball
Driving – An American in Paris (Gershwin)
Skipping – Skipping Song from Songs for Dancing (instrumental only)
Trotting & Galloping –
Galloping Song from Songs for Dancing (instrumental only)
The Magic Toy Shop: Tarantella, Shostakovich
Ballet Suite No. 1: Galop, Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake Suite, Op. 20A – 6 Act3: Spanish Dance
Marching – Firebird: Infernal Dance of King Kastchel’s Subjects, Stravinsky
Creeping – Op.46, In The Hall of Mountain King, Edvard Grieg
Tip toe – Walk – Hop – Tip Toe – Ballet Suite No. 1 – Music Box Waltz, Shostakovich
Waltz – From Coppelia
Driving to the castle… pathways and directions in space.
Skipping to castle stable, marching with soldiers to get horses…. light and strong weight (or can continue with previous concepts)
Trotting and galloping with horses….locomotor movement and speed. (Or can continue with previous concepts) Imagination – be the horses.
Marching to dungeon, creeping around dungeon…. levels in space.
Tip toe out, walking into garden, hopping on stepping stones…. structure a phrase with elements from each locomotor movement idea. Repeat it several times. Can bring back the pathway and direction concepts.
Tip toe into room to prepare for ball…. This is a transition to reimagining the environment. Preplan with dancers for where they will end in the space for the next section. Potentially a large circle, so that in the next section, dancers will take turns in the middle.
Group and solo dances at ball…. opportunity for ¾ time lyrical improvisational dancing. Can tap dancers on the shoulder to indicate when they dance in. When you cue them to come out, they tap a dancer to take their place.
Grande waltz…everyone dances!
Leaving ball… end in a final body shape.
We just had our Informance – ‘informal performance’ – which we also call ‘Stay Day’ or ‘Open Class.’ We invite parents, family members, and friends to come, watch, take pictures or video, and best of all – PARTICIPATE! This is the only class where parents can see what a typical class looks like. Otherwise, we are closed to observation.
In the fall, Creative Dance is a mentoring program for college students learning to teach, so we have several people sharing leadership during the lesson. My role is to narrate the rationale behind each section and to lead the final closure activities. In the spring, I teach with one assistant only, and we trade leadership throughout. I continue to narrate before each lesson component.
I asked my students to come up with a “To Do” list that would help them plan future open classes.
HERE IT IS!
Informance/Open Class “To Do” List
At the beginning of the semester, include information about the Open Class. Two weeks before, remind parents about the upcoming informance/open class. The week before, post signs and send out an email reminder.
Print out business cards or flier promoting the class for the next semester and for referrals.
Throughout the semester, track favorites activities from the lesson for Exploring the Concept, Developing Skills, and Creating.
Select from among those favorites to write lesson plans, keeping in mind the possibility of parent participation. Make sure the lesson plan is very complete. Divide up lesson sections among teachers and assistants. Practice parts thoroughly so as to be competent and relaxed in front of the parents.
Have a prepared introduction. This includes introducing all teachers and assistants and a brief summary of the concepts that we’ve worked on during the semester.
Have a prepared short description of the whole lesson structure, with specifics presented before each activity (including the rationale for each component). Integrate remarks into the lesson plan so all teachers and assistants know what’s coming, to help with class flow and a sense of community.
THE DAY BEFORE:
Set up seating for “audience.”
Have a sign when the parents walk in saying “Welcome Dancers and Families” as one last reminder, and to welcome them into our classroom.
Clean/sweep the floor.
Have props and materials all ready set to the side, easy to find.
Have the concept on the board written clear and large so all can see.
Have music on a playlist, organized, easy to find.
THE DAY OF:
Keep the before class-activity really simple, so anyone can join in. (We put out scarves)
Watch the clock or have a timekeeper to keep us on track.
Keep inviting parents and family members to participate throughout the class.
Make closing remarks, at which time you can get promo into parents’ hands.
Follow that with a fun, communal closing activity that includes everyone, and ends with the children and teachers organized for a group photo.
Be prepared for ‘hugs, hand shakes and high fives.”
Have parents help clean up.
Note: A few activities (from Kate’ material) that work well for parent/child involvement in an open class:
Explore: Stick Together Game from Step on the Beat
Developing Skills (or Creating) for All: Apples and Oranges from Step on the Beat
Resting: Resting from Songs for Dancing
Creating (or Explore): Shape Maker/Shape Explorer from Step on the Beat
Closure: The Goodbye Song from Songs for Dancing
Our lab program meets Saturday mornings. We run two rooms simultaneously. There are generally 12 children in a class, who have chosen to take this class (self-selected). After our first day with the children (ages 4-5, 6-7, 8-10) here were some remarks I made in response to my college students’ comments.
Building Trust and Emotional Safety
- Get on your students’ level, physically (particularly important with younger children). Go ahead, squat down!
- Give them something to do right away (we always have interesting props set out on yoga squares so everyone can go to a spot and find something as they come in the door)
- Be enthusiastic and supportive
- Be honest and caring
- Show interest
- Be loving
- Never be afraid of your students. You are the Alpha dog in the pack!
- Give freedom within structure, which conveys permission to be expressive
- Consider the “V” of freedom. Start narrow and gradually open out. (As with good parenting).
- Plan activities that help kids get comfortable with community (like sharing yoga squares with more than one person) and a get-together, welcome, name song
- Be flexible with the shy kids; the transition may be harder on them. But expect that by 3 days into the semester, they will have adjusted. (although our class rule is no parents in the room, I make an exception for the separation of that one child on that first day).
- Make sure all voices are heard (call on others besides the raised hands)
- “No” is a ‘wall’…..look for ‘window’ options instead. “No” is reserved for safety and boundaries (such as it’s not okay to hurt yourself or other people in class)
- Learn and use students’ names frequently. We take pictures of every child wearing a name tag the first day, then never have to use name tags again.
- On Day #1, the room should be creative, but structured enough not to be overwhelming. Otherwise, with too much freedom, issues would arise.
- Set boundaries and expectations the first day, and have an easier time thereafter. Example: Always give instructions while students are seated.
- Establish audio cues the first day that indicate “clean up, time to warm up”. My go-to instrument for the start of class is a recorder (block flute) upon which I play a series of 3 simple motifs based around the notes B-A-G. Each motif guides students to pick up, put away, find a spot for warm up.
Last summer I attended a workshop on Language of Dance with Tina Curran. Also teaching was Frederick Curry, certified in Laban Movement Analysis (which you can Google and find out more about).
Each day of the workshop focused on a different umbrella topic, including body, space, shape and relationships, and effort/dynamics. These concept categories are familiar to me through the work of Anne Green Gilbert. But the view lens and perspective of both LOD and LMA gave me a fresh take on concept teaching.
I’m going to talk about space, and in particular the kinesphere, because – since returning from the workshop – I’ve been exploring this in all my teaching to great effect. Lately I’m teaching children ages 4-10, college-aged students and people over the age of 50. Everyone is responding very positively to the learning.
Why am I so excited? Because sensing ourselves in space is so important.
Here’s what I’d like to share.
The kinesphere is the space around us. I give the image of a ‘hamster ball’ – one of those transparent globes that allow your pet to run around the house without getting away from you. I prefer this image to ‘bubble’ because it’s not as fragile. You can touch the inner surfaces without breaking through.
Within the kinesphere, we can grow and shrink, changing size. ‘Extension’ is the word for stretching and reaching the limbs in all directions. ‘Flexion’ is the word for bending our limbs at the joints, shrinking towards the core. Therefore, ‘extension’ moves us towards ‘big’ and ‘flexion’ towards ‘small’.
As we explore extension and flexion within the kinesphere, staying in one place (standing, sitting in a chair, or sitting on the floor would be options), we create pathways. Reaching directly out from the navel or core, we make direct pathways. This is called moving centrally. Upper and lower limbs can move centrally in all directions, challenging balance. Central pathways are straight, direct and radiate from the core.
Peripheral pathways touch the inner surface of the kinesphere. Movers sweep limbs across the space, in curves, in all directions. Tossing over the top is peripheral movement. Keep the image of touching the kinesphere to encourage big reach, and remind movers of the space behind and below, too.
Transverse pathways cross the midline, passing from one side of the kinesphere to the other, in front and behind the body while remaining in one place. Smaller, intricate movements may appear in this exploration. The pathways can take direct or indirect routes as they cross the midline. Encourage movers to explore all limbs, both upper and lower.
After exploring size and pathway in the kinesphere, take a walk or transition into a warm up and see how your sense of space is affected. How does this change your spatial awareness? Do you move with more volume? Are you aware of all sides and dimensions of yourself in the space, not just the front of the body?
This is a great way to start a movement exploration, and establish a bigger and more dimensional sense of self and others.
With early childhood, in the school setting, when the children come to me, I use Down By the Station (from Songs for Dancing) as the transition to entering the gross motor space and forming a circle.
It sets the stage for imaginative play, reminds children that they have not come to ride the bikes or play on the climbing structure, and ends us in a desirable spatial formation.
From there, we either sit or stand for a welcome activity, followed by our warm up.
After doing this song/activity every week for many weeks, the children were no longer ‘transformed.’ Spirited children were getting into other people’s personal space, etc. It has become one more single file line, and we know there are already plenty of those in the school setting!
I DO know that children like to MOVE, and, once the newness wears off, walking on the beat just won’t cut it.
SO…I told the children we were going to do a special kind of train. First it was a JUMPING train. Then, after we’d pointed out all the different animals and plants we saw on our train trip and returned to the song, we were a HOPPING train.
This changed it up just enough to add interest, it was aerobic and exciting, and accomplished the activity objective (get into the space, end in a circle, sing, move, imagine).
Look for different locomotor movements (stomping, turning, tipping side to side), energy qualities (shaky, sharp), or levels (high and low) to spice things up in your own train….or when leading ANY SINGLE FILE LINE.
Think outside the box (car)!
If you are already doing the Developmental Movement Pattern Sequence found on my CD Brain Bop (also called the “Braindance” developed by Anne Green Gilbert), you might enjoy using these same 8 patterns to develop a technical warm up for your students ages 7 or 8 and up.
I suggest working with one or more colleagues to brainstorm ideas that work for ballet, modern, jazz or hip-hop. Start with one technique only, and develop a progressive warm up that follows the sequence while also teaching elements and principles of the technique.
Then, film or otherwise document the different sequences and keep them handy. They can be used on a rotating basis.
In my Creative Dance for Children seminar, college students divided into groups and created. I videoed and posted, so that whoever was lead-teaching had a point of departure. The warm up was refined and improved upon from one week to the next.
In our ages 8-10 class, we divided our semester into 4 weeks each of modern, ballet and hip hop just for the warm up. The rest of the lesson followed a concept-based approach for technique, improvisation and composition. We did refer back to the “technique of the week” in the across the floor phrases, layering on new technique ideas as they were introduced through the warm up over the course of the semester.
In preparation for our “Informance” (informal, open class), students decided ahead of time which of the three different warm ups they wanted to share. That became the warm up for the demonstration class, shared with parents and friends.