What to do with….Imaginary Journey

Imaginary Journey is from AlphaBeat. (You can download the track or the whole CD from itunes or order a disc through my website: katekuper.com)

Use visual supports!

Children may have no knowledge or experience with ‘astronauts’ and their ‘helmets.’ Not to mention ‘ice skates,’ or ‘meadows.’

I link this to the “S” words that demonstrate energy/movement quality: sharp, smooth, shaky and swinging.

I show them the letter ‘S’ and the blended sounds of ‘sh’ /’sm’/’sw’
for the energy words. Every time they identify the energy, we briefly move on our spot, still seated, using that energy. Show me shaky movement…Freeze!

Then, as I show them each picture and we talk about what we see in the pictures, I ask them about the quality. How will we move as astronauts? Smooth. Through blue Jell-O? Shaky.

I add other ‘S’ words as we go along: skate, stick, snow, strong and slow (for taking big steps through the snow).

I also model the line of direction (LOD) we’ll use as we go through the space (generally around in a circle).

Finally, after the dance is done, I show each picture again and ask them: What did we do when we were here? Or “How did we move when we were here?” I can follow that up with “Was it smooth or sharp?”

This is a great way to work on imagination and energy qualities, and make language and vocabulary connections.

I’ve attached a collection of images you can show before you start the activity.

Imaginary Journey Images

June 24, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , . Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. 1 comment.

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.

Tambourine and Stick Info

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

Drum $26.95


Mallets ($24.95/pair)


Approx per teacher/classroom cost: $40 (excludes shipping)

April 22, 2014. Tags: , , , . Favorite Music. Leave a comment.

Foot Song

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.

Foot Song
(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.)

April 2, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Favorite Music, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Transition Magic. Leave a comment.

What to do with…Do Your Own Dance

Do Your Own Dance  is from Songs for Dancing.

Use this to teach the concepts of level, direction, or different movements to ages 3-7.

This dance can be done traveling through space with older children, or in-place with younger.

The form is:

  • Start in a shape
  • Do your own dance
  • Do different movements: hopping, jumping, turning, twisting.
  • Freeze in a shape. Change level from high to low, then back up to high.
  • Do your own dance
  • Do different movements: twirling, melting, popping, step-hop.
  • Freeze. Make a wide and high shape, like wings.
  • ‘Fly’ from high to low on your spot (or, if traveling, back to the circle).



How To Teach:

Formation: Circle or spread to a perfect spot.

Make different shapes: high and wide/big, low and closed/small. Stretch to make big, high shapes.  Bend to make small, low shapes.

Practice the easier movements: jump (two feet), hop (one foot), turn, twist, melt and pop.  Remember to keep your feet under you when you melt, so you can pop all at once or bit by bit.

Practice the challenging movement: step-hop.
Teaching Tip: Sing the Skipping Song melody (also from Songs for Dancing) to practice. “Step on one foot and hop on the same foot, step on the other foot and hop on that foot.”

To end, practice stretching out your wide “wings”, balancing on one leg, and flying from high to low.

Put on the song and go! Keep cuing what’s coming next, to help children stay with the sequence. Encourage variety in ‘do you own dance’ depending on your concept focus.


1. If you choose to develop the skill of moving through space with younger children, you can build up to it. First, do it in self space over several sessions. Then move it from place to place as younger children become more familiar with the structure of the song and competent in their use of space.

2. Turn this idea into a circle dance game, with one child at a time going into the middle to ‘do his/her own dance’ while everyone on the outside copies the moves.  Model the activity by showing one movement in the middle, then leave the circle and come in again with a different choice.  This suggests that the person in the middle do ONE movement choice. Call on raised hands or name the child to invite individuals into the circle.  Invite them out by saying, “Okay, next person.”   Invite shy children to go in two by two. Suggest movements (with a whisper word) to ‘frozen’ dancers.

End with everyone doing their own dance at the same time in their place or in the (crowded!) middle of the circle.

Try Free Dance from Songs for Dancing as the music for this, or other lively music.

This is a great work out!

February 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Developing Skills, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with…The More We Are Together

What to do with….
The More We Are Together (from AlphaBeat)

Use this to teach the concept of Direction to ages 3-5.

The form is

1)   Sway side to side

2)   Swing forward and backward

3)   Sway side to side

Musical Interlude: Make your hands into butterflies.  Fly up and down, and then fly away (hands separate)

1)    Swing forward and backward

2)   Sway side to side


How To Teach:

Formation: Circle, sitting Ready Position (Legs crossed)

Teach the word direction.  Clap the syllables: Di-rec-tion.  Do it as call and response.

Teach the six directions.  Point and say each direction, then students respond.  Do this twice.

Forward! Backward!

Up! Down!

Side! Side!


In the first part of our dance, we’ll sway side to side.  Let’s do it!

(Sing: The more we are together, together, together, the more we are together the happier we’ll be)

In the next part we’ll swing our arms forward and backward as we sing.

(Sing: For your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends)

We’ll end this part by swaying side to side again.

(Sing: The more we are together the happier we’ll be)

Stand Tall! 

Now let’s do it standing. (Sing and do.)

Add on:  Let’s add some forward and backward movement with our legs when we swing our arms forward and back.

Model: Step forward with one foot and close the other foot to it.  Step back with one foot and close the other foot to it.

Our feet do “go/stop!” forward and “go/stop!” backward as we swing our arms forward and backward.  Let’s practice!

“Go/stop!” “Go/stop! “Go/stop!” “Go/stop!”

How many times did we do  “Go/stop!”?  Four!

Let’s do it again.

(This teaches body control and shows the children that we only take ONE step forward and close to it before we repeat backward.  Otherwise, most children will run multiple steps forward and back, or ignore body control entirely)

 Now let’s do our dance from the beginning.

Side to side sways!

(Sing: The more we are together, together, together, the more we are together the happier we’ll be)


Forward and backward swings

“Go/stop!” “Go/stop! “Go/stop!” “Go/stop!”
(Tip: Sing the prompts to the melody of the song)


Side to side sways!

(Sing: The more we are together the happier we’ll be)

Teach the musical interlude:

Sit Ready Position.  Now let’s do butterflies.

Reach your arms straight in front of you, palms up.
Cross your wrists, palms still face up.
Hook your thumbs.  Now you have a butterfly!
(Fingers flutter)

Butterfly flies up … Butterfly flies down…

Butterfly flies up … Butterfly flies down…

Stand Tall!

Let’s do butterflies standing. (Repeat the whole process.  Fly up, fly down, then up to a middle level and butterflies ‘fly away’ – two hands separate, ready for the forward and backward swings.)

 We’ll end with ‘Go/Stop!’ and side sway!

Let’s do it all with music.

After a while you can replace ‘Go/Stop!’ with the lyrics (For your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends).

Always give the basic cue before the transition, until they know the dance:

Side to side!
Forward and backward!

Make butterflies!

Butterflies fly away and swing forward and back?

Side to side!




January 31, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Creative Dance Lesson Plans, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. 1 comment.

Zipper Songs (and Dances)

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.

Weather Song

(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.


Other verses:

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…



January 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Favorite Music, Transition Magic. 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.

What to do with …. Apples and Oranges

What to do with….
Apples and Oranges (from Step on the Beat)

I’ve talked about Apples and Oranges in other blog posts, connected to teaching galloping, for example.

(If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Step on the Beat through my website, katekuper.com, or from West Music.)

The children asked to include this dance as a favorite activity for our Informance (Open House, informal presentation of a lesson).

We identified “Body Parts and Energy” as the conceptual through-line for the 4 & 5 year olds’ Informance.

For 6-7 year olds, the concept focus was “Body Parts and Shape.”

Here’s how we adapted Apples and Oranges for each age group, conceptual focus, and lesson plan component:

1) For 4-5s, as a Creating activity

Creating includes invention and/or improvisation.  We decided to make the A section focus “Body Parts.”

After learning the clapping pattern A section, we asked the children to suggest using a different body part other than the knees for the ‘slap.’ What should it be?  We performed that part in the section, with the ‘circle round’ that we do in place with younger children (or when we want to go quickly through the dance), where we just turn around on our spot .

After practicing, we chose ANOTHER body part for the second ‘slap.’

Then we put it all together: slap/clap/slap/clap/ And turned the other way for  ‘circle round’//

Time for the B section focusing on “Energy.”

Next, we designated half the group as Apples, half as Oranges. (Since parents were dancing with the children, we had people choose by raise of hands, rather than half and half or every other one).

Leader modeled how Apples would  ‘dance away’ and ‘dance back home’ WITH A SPECIFIC ENERGY while Oranges would stay and clap on the pulse.  We chose swinging movement away, and shaky movement home.

But wait!  Why should the travelers have all the fun?  Those who stayed had to keep the pulse tapping on A SPECIFIC BODY PART.

Everyone practiced.  Then MUSIC GO!

2) For 6-7s as a Developing Skills activity

Developing Skills is about hard-wiring technical abilities and challenging memory within sequence.

First, we focused on Body Parts. We practiced the B section traveling movement in scattered space: side slide with head going up toward the ceiling and center (area of the belly button) drawing a letter “U” with every slide.  Skip with knees lifting up.  Gallop with one foot chasing the other, pointing the toes … like a real chassé!

Second, we emphasized Body Parts and Shape for the A section.
Find a partner and a spot in scattered space. Practice slap & clap.  Add one body part for the slap (idea from the children that we all use) and clap.  Add second part and clap.  Sequence first-part slap/ clap, second-part slap/ clap.  Teach ‘angular elbows’ around for an elbow swing with your partner.  Ask for prediction, when we repeat, what will happen with elbow swing? (We’ll go the other way).

Here comes the shape emphasis.

Decide who is an Apple and Orange in each pair.

Apples will travel.  Oranges will stay.

Travelers will use two of the three locomotor skills we practiced earlier.  (Travel away with the side slides and back with the gallop.)

Oranges will MAKE A BODY SHAPE and keeping the pulse WITH ONE BODY PART (can be audible or visual).  Nod a head! Tap a foot! Bounce into one hip! (Etc.)

All practice shape and keeping the pulse.

Then practice travel and shape/pulse.  Practice trading.

MUSIC GO!  On second travel, skip away and gallop back.

December 14, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Creating, Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, Recitals, Studio Teaching, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

What to do with… Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)


Download the track from iTunes or purchase the recording in its entirety one of the vendors who carries my CDs or from me (katekuper.com)

Kindergarten through 2nd grade
Note: Adaptable for older preschoolers and grades 3-4

Gross motor skills are the building blocks of movement combinations, important for physical fitness enjoyment, play, coordination and brain health.

Group movement in general space encourages students to use awareness and self control in a communal setting.  These skills translate into better interactions on the playground, in the hallways and the lunchrooms.

Teaching locomotor movement is important for all these reasons.

A crucial skill is the ability to successfully guide students as they travel through the general space. This requires using clear language and smart strategies that help students build motor coordination while still being safe.

Strategies include:

Awareness of others;  self control

Use concentration and body control.
Move into the empty spaces, so you don’t get hurt.
Use your peripheral vision, your soft focus.  Eyes everywhere.
Bodies move, mouths don’t.

Awareness of the space

“This is the area for movement and these are the boundaries.”
Jog the periphery (or have a student demonstrator do it) to show the boundaries.
If the space is too big, set up a spatial barrier (e.g. traffic cones)
If the space is too small, take turns. Watchers sit in ready position, hands in laps, while Movers travel around and between.

Clear signals for starts and stops

Teach your signals and use them consistently.

Stops: When I guide children to move on a slow or medium speed, a double-beat on the drum is enough to signal ‘Freeze.’ For faster movement, first shake the drum to alert them that the Freeze sound is coming, then play the double-beat for stillness.

Starts: Stand up. Listen to the drum (or voice) for the speed and pulse of the movement.
Speak on the pulse, over the sound of the drum: “One, two, ready, start.”  After a while, the drum can do all the ‘talking.’

Clear signals for transitions.

As we change from one thing to another in a movement sequence, give advanced notice, several beats ahead.

Choices and Consequences

Don’t be afraid to stop the music/activity, have everyone sit, ask the children to tell you why you stopped the activity, review concentration and body control, and invite everyone to start again.

“If you don’t think you have the body control for this activity, you may sit here or here.”
Always invite the person who sat out to come right back in on the next activity.  This is not a punishment, but an opportunity to observe what others are doing accurately.

Setting Up Instruction for  Locomotor Movement (from AlphaBeat)
There are eight basic locomotor movements: walk, run, hop, jump, gallop, side slide, skip and leap.

Students begin in a seated position, in a circle or in scattered space.

Move your arms like an old fashion locomotive train and say: Locomotor movement goes from one place to another.

Do this as a call and response several times.

Check for understanding: What do you call movement that goes from one place to another?

Next, call on individual students to model different forms of locomotor movement by traveling around the inside of the circle, so that all can see. 

Connect the exploration to letter sound recognition, as modeled in the following examples.

Change students each time.

To address diverse strengths in your students, you might have one student name the movement, and another demonstrate it.

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that we all use to go from one place to another that starts with the “w” sound? What is it?   (Select one student to model “walk).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we use to go quickly from one place to another that starts with the “r” sound(Student models “run.”  Or you could say “j” sound for “jog”)

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on one foot that starts with the “h” sound?  (Student models “hop”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement we do on two feet that starts with the “j” sound?  (Student models “jump”).

I’m thinking of a locomotor movement that ponies do that starts with the “g” sound?  (Student models “gallop”).

Now that we are all going to be moving through the space, it’s time to learn about general space

General space is the space we share as we travel from one place to another.

When you move through the general space, you’ll need body control and concentration.  

Let’s scoop up a little concentration dust and rub it in.
You’ll also want to be like a potato…. eyes everywhere, but no mouth.

Remember to move into the empty spaces so you don’t get hurt.  

Stand tall one and all.

Let’s travel through the general space doing these locomotor movements.   My drum will talk to you with the pulse of the movement.  When you hear the freeze sound, stop!  Let’s walk……(freeze) Let’s do the movement that goes on one foot….hop! (freeze) Let’s do the movement that starts with the ‘g’ sound….gallop (freeze).  What locomotor movement starts with the “j” sound and uses two feet off the ground?  Jump…. (Freeze). Good job moving into the empty spaces!

Sit ready position. 

Now play the song!  You have prepared the group to be successful.

Note: The last locomotor movement in the song is RUN.

Options for this:

1)   Divide the group in half. Half will sit while the others run the boundaries. Then trade.

2)   All run the boundaries.

After the song, take time to breath and recover. The song recaps the different locomotor movements musically. This can be a time when students are breathing.  Use some of the language connections for summative reflection.

November 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Developing Skills, Elements of Creative Dance, Kate Kuper on Teaching Creative Dance, What to do with...., Working with Kate's Material. Leave a comment.

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