The first few weeks of school are important for establishing your classroom procedures and expectations. However there needs to be fun activities to break up the ‘sit and listen’ style activities.
Children have been in an unstructured environment for many weeks during the holidays and they will need to strengthen their ‘listening and focus muscles’ in preparation for learning. Movement, Arts. and STEAM activities are all useful in this part of the learning cycle. They stimulate creativity, curiosity, and resilience through games and project based tasks.
Dance and movement activities help to develop a sense of classroom community. They support connections between students with each other and with the teacher by getting to know more about each other.
Dance and movement activities should not only be fun but appeal to all personalities in the classroom. Their aim is to alleviate anxiety in the children and the teacher.
The dance activities should be flexible enough for students to participate with enthusiasm but allow for the more introverted child to engage at their own pace. It takes children time to work out the class dynamic and where they fit within it.
Teachers also will need to be able to participate with enthusiasm as well as having time to sit back a little and observe.
Dance is a great way to welcome your students to your classroom. There is a Welcome dance as one of the free lesson plans on DTI.
Dance activities for the first weeks of school
Here is a list of different ideas for movement based activities and links to free examples both on DTI and from other teachers.
Developing listening skills is something that people of all ages need to engage in with more enthusiasm. This includes me! When we show our students that we have really listened to them, we acknowledge their importance. It shows our respect for them.
The listening activities should be a part of how you engage with your class throughout the year but in the first few weeks it is really important. Try to remember at least one thing about each child that you can ask a question about later in the week. It could be about their pet, their sibling, or a hobby they love.
A fun activity to do in the second week is to have the children try and remember something special about every person in the class. This includes the teacher. You need to give some little hints like ‘I think that could be worth remembering’, or ‘That’s an interesting fact I might save for later’.
In the dance class you may drop a few hints about your favourite music or dance style. Give a little background on a choreographer or a dance performance you went to.
You will need to acknowledge their good listen skills to make it clear that that is something that is valued in your class. Do this same activity at various times throughout the year to remind them of the importance of listening and paying attention.
Put craft wooden sticks in a cup with the names of short games or activities and each child gets a chance throughout the week to choose one. There are many dance and movement activities on DTI that are possible examples, or you can choose your favourite Brain Breaks.
Getting to know you
These activities are crucial for you beginning to understand your students’ needs. Knowing more about your students supports personalising your teaching and learning approaches. They are also helpful for students new to school in getting to know their classmates.
What’s My Bag
Each child is given a paper bag to decorate. In the bag they put self-portrait, a paragraph about their most treasured possession, their proudest moment, a fun fact, and a holiday highlight.
Next, they create a fast tempo movement sequence that represents each element in the bag, finishing with a freeze frame of their self-portrait. Share the movement sequences accompanied by some high energy music.
The movement sequences may be performed together in small groups or individually depending on how confident your class is at performing. These bags and the movement sequence may be added to over time and shared again at the end of term.
Ice breakers are quick activities that get people talking, laughing, and moving. They help children feel more comfortable in new situations. DTI has many icebreakers that you can use for a range of age groups.
Move if You…
This game is a little like musical chairs… but without the music and without the chairs.
Sit in a circle with one person in the middle. The middle person calls out for a certain group of people to move — for example, “Move if you’ve danced on a stage” or “Move if you’ve danced in another country.”
If the student answers “Yes”, they run to a new seat in the circle. They must take someone else’s seat, or they are the one left in the middle.
The one student left standing is in the middle for the next round.
Team building is perhaps the most important part of your first weeks with a new class. It is crucial to the functioning of the classroom that they connect and be able to collaborate harmoniously. Team building in the dance classroom is an essential part of creative learning.
In this dance activity you are making words as a team. Each small group is given a bag of letters. They have to list as many words as they can with the same number of letters as there are group members.
You can make the groups of any number depending on the literacy abilities of the age group in your class.
Next, as a group, they spell out each word using their body.
Before you go…
There are many fantastic websites that support children feeling comfortable in the classroom. Here are a few of my favourites.
20 Back to school activities has a range of activities from Early years through to Middle school. They are not all movement activities, but they cover many ‘getting to know you’ style activities.
31 fun “getting to know you” icebreakers for kids has activities that range from the Arts, STEM, and literacy activities that are learning experiences as well as fun to do. There are some wonderful ideas and all easy to fit into your teaching program in those first few weeks.
Children’s psychological well being is a teacher’s highest priority. By growing a healthy class community students can engage and learn in a harmonious, positive, and supported environment.