I am often asked questions by teachers wanting to use more dance in their classrooms. Many are wanting to integrate dance into their existing lessons rather than teaching a discrete dance lesson.
This article looks at the five most asked questions by Primary/Elementary school teachers just beginning their arts integration journey. Many of these questions have been discussed in DTI articles but there are links to these if you need further information.
What is most important is that teaching dance in your classroom is accessible and easy to implement once you start experimenting with it. As you become more confident you will find yourself become more inspired to use dance and movement as a part of every teaching day.
Why would you teach dance in Primary school?
There are so many advantages to teaching dance to young people I hardly know where to start!
Firstly, there’s the physical aspect to dance. Moving your body is good you both children and teachers. Sitting is the new smoking as far as being dangerous to our health. We all need to move more as a part of how we live everyday.
Through dance children learn new skills about how they can balance, coordinate body parts, and develop gross and fine motor movement.
Dancing offers opportunities to exercise in a creative, joyful way that is not just about raising a sweat or winning a competition. Children are releasing endorphins as they explore their own bodies while connecting with music.
Secondly, because of those endorphins they are experiencing some powerful emotional understanding. Exploring ideas through their bodies enables a body connection to their thoughts and feelings.
Thirdly, dance supports intellectual development on many levels. This could be about observing, experiencing, interpreting, and articulating ideas. It could also involve developing literacy through images and movement, or developing language through story telling and working in the abstract.
What types of dance can be taught at school?
You are only limited by your access to information, skills, or a dance practitioner.
Genre based techniques such as ballet, jazz,or tap may be limited as they can require a dancer with some training to teach the technique safely. Any genre may be taught. However some may be unsuitable for the age group due to subject matter or physical skills required.
The dances may also be inappropriate for the cultural make up of your class. If you are teaching culturally based dance you will need to check with local community groups or professional teachers of these kinds of dance about what is suitable in your situation. Becoming educated about other cultures always begins with consultation.
Creative movement, often choreographed by the students or social dance are more accessible for teachers with little experience. There are many ways to integrate these into lessons you have already planned.
What are the best dance activities for kids?
Integrating dance with what is being taught in the classroom is a starting point that most teachers are confident to use. What is essential is that you are clear about what the learning aim of the lesson is.
Will it be about dance or the learning area you are linking to?
In addition, the lesson should be enjoyable, engaging, and age appropriate. For some ideas about what this look like try some of the Free Lesson Plans on DTI.
What is a dance lesson in school like?
In a Primary/Elementary school dance lesson the activities will be about making, performing and/or talking about dance. Each of these areas is as important as the other.
I have called the different phases of the lesson Warm up, Exploration, Development, Culmination/Reflection here. But as you will see these terms can be linked to the phases of the lesson that you are using in other Learning areas in your specific curriculum.
The class begins with a Warm up and should include a question that the Exploration to follow will address. The Warm up can be physical or it could be about introducing a topic or researching what will be the stimulus for the choreography.
The next phase is the Exploration, where movement problems or questions are investigated. This is a bit like a science experiment where ideas are explored.
During the Development phase the children make creative decisions about their work. What works well and maybe what could work a little better. This will include a rehearsal phase if your outcome is performance focused. If your focus is on choreography, you could include a showing of the work to classmates. If you have a focus on responding to dance you may include a written activity or a discussion at this point of the lesson.
The Culmination/Reflection is where we show our finished product and reflect on our responses to our own and others work. This can be a discussion, a written activity or even another movement activity to show our feelings or emotions about a piece of dance.
How do you teach dance to young people?
Teaching dance is the same as for any thing you may be teaching in your classroom. You will need to consider who is in your class and their learning and emotional needs.
Pick an appropriate dance genre that suits the aim of the lesson. It is no use using salsa dancing if you are teaching about Japan! Choosing a dance genre is like choosing a book to link to your topic. There are many to choose from and you can always find one that enables children to experience the learning from a different perspective.
Keep in mind class size and the space in which you will dance and the surface of the floor. If you are taking class on concrete you will probably avoid going to the floor or doing any kind of ballistic repetitive movements, and keep the children shoes on to dance.
Consider the skill level of the children which could include their physical capabilities. Also keep in mind emotional and intellectual capabilities of the children.
Ensure you are practicing safe dance this is not only physical safety but will include emotional safety. Creating activities that are culturally and gender sensitive support all the class having a positive dance experience.
Graduated dance activities from simple to more complex only moving on when you observe that the class is confident and ready. We need time to be creative and to reflect on the dance and make changes to improve what we have developed.
Confidence is essential to the creative process so always be positive and supportive. Plan for ways to celebrate each child’s creative journey. Finding that you can do something you have never tried before is uplifting. It will inspire children to aim higher and to not be afraid to try doing things differently.
If you are excited about introducing dance in your classroom, you’ll really be excited about what DTI will be releasing next week! Together we can put more creativity in the classroom.
Please share this article with other teachers, there’s a good chance that it will help them in their classrooms.