When creating dance lessons for your Primary classroom you ultimately want what’s best for your students and what is able to be achieved within the constraints of time, space and your personal capabilities. The best Primary dance lessons will look very different in each classroom and for each year level.
Feeling comfortable with dance in the classroom may take a little time to get used to but it’s well worth the effort. Students frequently identify any activity that moves as their favourite.
Physical Education or Gym may be wonderful for athletic children but difficult for many. Dance offers a physical outlet that develops coordination, stamina, resilience and creativity.
Children who enjoy STEM style activities love dance as they work together to come up with possible solutions to creative problems. They use the frameworks that are familiar involving implementation, solution, performance and reporting.
What is a great dance lesson?
For a teacher’s perspective I asked Emma Harford Birkett, an Australian Primary school teacher, for her ideas about the her best Primary dance lessons. Here she reflects on her teaching and her students’ response to dance in the Primary classroom.
What are you looking for in a Primary dance lesson? Is it about developing critical thinking or more about getting students moving or something else?
In a primary dance lesson, I want the students to learn to use their body and movement as a means for communication and expression. The lesson needs to have a clear learning intention and a connection to the curriculum so that the learning can be integrated.
We are looking to get the most out of our time, so a lesson in English or Science that can be taught through dance is a winner!
What makes a dance lesson successful?
Success is seeing the students thoroughly understand the intention for the lesson and demonstrating their understanding of the success criteria. I want them to feel a sense of safety in the room and build confidence, self-awareness and a willingness to be vulnerable.
I also feel successful if the students as a group demonstrate the skills of working together, supporting their peers and being encouragers for one another. It’s fantastic if everyone goes away with a smile and a feeling that they had a wonderful time in class today!
Which kinds of activities get the best response from the students?
My students respond best to activities where the teacher is confident in modelling and expressing themselves in the same way. Students can be very reluctant to give it a go if their experience of dance is limited. Seeing their teacher be expressive, creative and thinking outside the box encourages them to do the same.
Students thrive from working with a peer group and feeling a sense of accomplishment in what they have created as a team.
Which dance activities do you think these are the best for their learning?
The best activities for their learning are the ones that are related to a real world context for them, for example moving for a purpose, moving like an animal or character, expressing a feeling or story, or creating movements that complement a text such as poetry.
My students really enjoy role play and becoming a character which, they can do through dance. It complements and enhances their understanding of literary texts. This approach seems to capture those reluctant dancers who need a character to hide behind in their first introduction to dance.
So what does make a great primary dance lesson?
• Accessible for teachers and students
• High quality critical thinking
• Provide opportunities for multidisciplinary learning
• Encourage innovation and invention
• Solving authentic problems
• Learner driven
• Creating, responding and performing
• Fun and engaging
• Collaborative and hands on
• Scaffolded and supported
Using dance in your primary classroom can be a rewarding experience for you and your students. Developing collaborative and creative dance activities supports many areas of the curriculum. Arts projects provide wonderful learning opportunities and create a atmosphere of exploration, invention and joy in your classroom.
Engage and enrich your students through the imaginative and expressive potential of dance.
Take a look at the collection of resources to support dance in your primary classroom. You can find tips and strategies with ready prepared content for using dance.
Many thanks to Emma Harford Birkett for her insightful reflections on teaching and learning practice.