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!
Here’s a good question from a reader: Do you have any ideas or tips, suggestions for the 2 and 3 yrs. old group? Their attention span is so short, and preventing chaos it’s always a must. Do you have any suggestions on how to balance the fun and learning concepts with this age group? In your opinion, what are the most important concepts and skills for the 2 and 3 yrs. old to learn in a dance class environment?
This is such a tough age when it’s just you and a group of children, rather than a parent/child program. My first thought is always to include parents with this age group when possible, so they can bond and communicate through movement, develop a shared vocabulary of movement and continue the play at home.
However, if that’s not possible, look at where these young children are developmentally. Little ones have not yet grasped the idea that you cannot read their minds. They also play in parallel rather than relating to one another.
In her book Creative Dance for All Ages, Anne Green Gilbert says 2-4 year olds learn through imitation, manipulation, observation and exploration.
Let’s look at each of these.
For imitation, use a lot of “I model, you copy” and “Do what I do.” Teach with tons of eye contact and positive, smiling energy. Modulate your voice. Scan the group with your eyes.
Strike just the right balance when pacing the lesson. The first time you do it, go slow enough to catch their attention. In later repetitions, you can speed up a bit. Keep teaching light, friendly, and fun. And don’t take it personally when kids go through their changes. Mood swings are common; don’t get attached to the sadness…they don’t!
Manipulation means using touch to communicate. When I do cross lateral movement, for example, I will pick up the arm or leg of the child next to me so she/he can feel the action. Think of all the finger play, tickling and bouncing games that have movement in them and can be done one on one, in a parent/child class. A hand puppet is a fun prop to use for appropriate touch, such as teaching body parts. Around goes the puppet touching each child on the shoulder, the knee, etc. as you name the parts.
Observation means watching and listening. Some children will choose to watch you and do very little movement themselves in class, even week after week, and then go home and sing the songs and perform the actions in the safety of their familiar environment. Be patient with the shy watchers. They will come to you.
Exploration is about teaching the dance concepts. Limit yourself two ideas for a concept area, such as size (big and small), level (high and low), direction (forward, backward, etc.) and speed (fast and slow). When you come back to a concept later, you can layer in additional points. Look for activities, songs and stories that emphasize your chosen concept, and let that be the thread that runs through the lesson. Check for understanding by having children show you: Show me a big shape! A small shape!
If a child can see, hear and do the concept…. they are on their way to understanding it.
Work in a circle. Move in all directions and levels on your spot. Move forward and back towards the center of the circle (It’s like a flower closing and opening, the petals meet in the middle.…model that once before they join you!) Move around the circle line. Eventually, days into the semester, move away from and back to the circle (model that, too…..expect chaos. Be ready with a sound cue that says ‘dance away’ and ‘come back home.’)
Use visual aids: pictures and picture books. Alternate between picture and movement instead of all the pictures followed by all the movement. Example: Using the book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, have children move each animal as it appears in the story, then return to the book, sit down, and discover the next animal. Guide the movement with ideas you’ve already come up with, such as a big and small face for a lion’s silent ‘roar’ or a tip-toeing, arms-reaching -up ‘giraffe.’ This will also control the chaos.
Sing! Play lively music!
The age of a child plus 2 minutes = a typical attention span. Therefore, structure your lessons in 5 minute increments and make sure to keep the instruction brief with plenty of movement time.
Expect to ‘play rather than plié’. By that I mean hard-wired skill development should be fun and brief.
Repeat, repeat, repeat…then do something new.
Set routines and follow them…. just plug in different activities but keep the structure familiar. You can even post the routine and point out where you are in the flow of the lesson during the first few weeks. This relaxes the anxious child who wants to know when they will go home! Familiarity breeds comfort.
Transition strategies are also part of routine and familiarity. Name the formations and transition strategies with the same words, play the same clean up tune, etc. In time, everyone becomes empowered and loves to show you that they know what to do when you say the words or play the tune.
Through dance, we teach the super-important life skill of following instructions.
My four tools that I want children to know are Concentration, Body Control, Imagination and Memory. (You can simplify the language: Watch and Listen, Control Yourself, Pretend, and Remember) I teach each with a gesture and use the word/gesture combinations frequently. Sometimes all I need is the gesture.
Decide on your cues/words for transitions for following instructions, such as ‘look at me’ or “my turn first, now your turn” or “1,2,3 ears on me, eyes on me as well” when modeling a skill.
What are some other strategies that you, my readers, would like to share on this topic?
This next set of 25-30 minute lessons would work best in a gross-motor space rather than the classroom. However, if you are restricted to your room, make sure to clear away the obstructions that will hamper your success. Guide children away from the edges of the space and into the open spaces.
I generally teach in a circle, the most democratic of spatial formations and also the one that leaves all that valuable real estate open in the center. Go ahead and have some students be ‘jelly filling’ inside the ‘doughnut’ when possible. Different children can have that privilege on different days. You can also have every other child scoot forward from his/her spot on the circle, to leave more space on either side.
Another strategy for spreading children out is to use tape markings or portable markers, such as yoga squares. You already may have carpets with designs on them that the children have become accustom to. Just make sure they aren’t jammed together.
Changing the way you use space is NEW and novelty always creates a little chaos.
Give this new spatial arrangement three times……by the third time of doing something differently, the children — and you — will have settled into a ‘new normal’ during movement time.
These lessons are on the concepts of Direction and Speed, Energy, Shape, and Body Parts. In the middle of the sequence is a new warm up, to change up what you are doing with the children. After you’ve done this new warm up 3-5 times, you can go back to the previous warm up and switch them out thereafter. This is also true of welcome and hello songs and dances.
My ‘Rule of Three’ applies here, too. Do a new hello song times, then switch it out with something different. The children will appreciate the novelty at that point.
Working with the instrumental-only version of P & MB with 4/5 year olds, the concept was Energy (smooth, sharp, shaky, swinging) and the structure was:
1) Galloping 4 cts through general space/in place- sway smoothly 3 cts. /REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music// Listen for quick instructions for next thing
2) Sliding with a swing of the arms 4 cts through general space/ sharp arm and body movement 3 cts in place/ REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music// Listen for quick instructions for next thing
3) Hopping 4 cts through general space/ float smoothly in place/ REPEAT sequence 3 times – melt smoothly and pop sharply with music//
Practice without music first. All move in scattered space. Remember to use soft focus (good potatoes – “eyes everywhere, no mouth”). Practice one phrase a couple of times. Layer on.