Teachers know that getting students out of their seats is a great way to keep children engaged and enjoying learning. Integrating movement and dance with daily classroom learning is an effective method of keeping students motivated while increasing their activity levels. Being active is not necessarily doing set exercises like star jumps and sit ups. Through a range of dance activities children can explore their creativity, develop physical strength, agility and stamina and learn through interdisciplinary pedagogy.
It can be challenging for teachers at all levels to meet the need for students to develop greater levels of creativity and to be advanced problem solvers.
Here are some ideas for bringing dance into your primary classroom to enhance the learning experience and to build a supportive learning environment.
1. Dance to learn information
A great place to start, is thinking about ways to support what you already do every day in the classroom and then layering a physical element. When doing spelling, have the students use their body to shape the letters.
Just as teachers use songs to memorise counting, grammar and other facts, movement can be used as a strategy to retain information. When teaching young children to count backwards doing a rocket ship countdown and blast off with their bodies is much more memorable than sitting in a desk. Joining with a partner to create obtuse, right and acute angles with your body gives an instant visual recall as they transpose it to paper.
2. Supporting an Active Classroom
Mobile station-based activities that require you to move from one location to another can also be used to introduce dance movement and vocabulary. Depending on what the lesson theme is you can have the students move in a specific way as they change stations. Have them describe how they moved, what it felt like and how it linked to the activity they had just participated in.
An example would be if they were learning about Magnetism and each station was labelled with a positive or negative force. As they moved from one hands-on activity to the next, they are repelled from the last station and drawn towards the new destination. Their description of their movement should include use of the Elements of Dance: Time, Space, Dynamics, Relationship.
“I was moving slowly, in a sustained way, as my body was drawn towards the table. I was travelling at a low level. As different parts of my body were drawn across the floor, I tumbled and rolled towards the positive force. I was a positive force as I was draw towards a negative station.”
3. Learning about cultural practices
Dance is an important part of the structure of communities. The celebration of song, dance and storytelling are essential to understanding diverse cultural contexts. Dance is present in our everyday life through entertainment, tradition and religious practices.
A quick activity is to have students keep a diary of every time they see dance over a 24-hour period. Consider dance in advertising, studio dance, cultural dance and dance on computer games. When they come back with their diaries have them describe the dance that they connect with most. This can be a good way to get to know your class at the beginning of each year!
In your classroom, dance can be used to celebrate and remember an important event or to commemorate a special occasion in your school’s community.
Think about using dance in advertising as a way of supporting students’ persuasive writing activities. Have them watch an advertisement that contains dance. Click here for a fun example. The students need to identify how dance is used to persuade the audience to buy the product. In groups they create a dance -based advertisement for a product of the teachers choosing.
4. Dance as a of your part community
Dance can be used to help children see themselves as a continuation of the community’s history, finding identity and their place in the world. Expression is an important part of community life and is supported across all art forms.
A great way to discover the history of your community is developing a project with the elderly. This could be a wonderful opportunity for an exchange of stories, music and dance.
Where is dance in your local community? Which cultural groups have dance groups? This interaction helps children to find their place within community through a playful interaction with their local culture.
5. Explore history through dance
Make history come alive in your classroom with examples of how people danced and communicated through dance. By looking at dance we find out about how people lived and how they form social relationships.
Learning through the stories, music and dance help children to remember the feelings, highlights and people that they associate with an event. It gives them a way to make personal discoveries. Playful participation in movement reinforces nuanced ideas about historical figures and events while still being an enjoyable experience. Look at this article on How to use dance to teach about history.
6. Using dance to teach about our environment
Dancing in and about our environment connects students with specific sites. Dancing with the environment, rather than at a location, supports the conservation of the ecosystem. They use dance and nature to investigate and explore their relationship with their natural world.
Movement, gesture and action are used to communicate with their surrounds and to better comprehend the relationship between human and environment.
There are many examples in professional settings of choreographers being informed by their natural surrounds. Exploring their own creative responses to the balance and alignment, meditative sounds and movements in nature, supports students artistic and expressive growth.
To find out more about how you can explore the environment in your classroom through dance go to the free lesson plan about Waterways.
Being active in the classroom is not just using interactive and collaborative learning experiences but may also be based on physical, expressive and artistic learning. Using dance in your primary classroom is a chance to link many areas of the curriculum while having fun with your students.