Books that connect with the Dance Elements

dance literacy activityUsing literature to support dance learning is one of the most common ways to plan a dance lesson in Primary school.  Picture books, graphic novels, chapter books and comics can be an effective stimulus for children to learn about the Dance Elements.

When using books to support dance learning you can choose to use the whole story or just the theme of the book.  Even a single illustration from a picture book or graphic novel can get an emotive response from your students that starts the creation of a movement.

Alternatively using dance to support literacy in your classroom is also important and is an important function of the Arts in Primary schools.

Many books are obvious winners with the children as they cover themes and ideas that are familiar to them.  But when choosing one for dance the teacher needs to identify whether it will provide a clear enough stimulus for the age group you are working with.

By linking the dance lesson to a particular dance element or elements it ensures that the children can investigate further from a movement and a literacy comprehension perspective.

Dance Activity Toddler to Year 2

Children in this age group are just beginning to explore storytelling through books and illustrations play an important role in them

I got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison – describes impromptu dances using the rhythm around you.  Although this is a relatively simple story, it has bright illustrations and is a good starting point for getting the children to observe the rhythms in their surroundings.

dance activity for literacyIt is a great activity for getting children to really listen.  It also acknowledges children’s imagined world by getting children to ‘hear’ the rhythm with their eyes.

The book explores the dance elements, primarily through the rhythms and tempo, but also through the use of the body and Space.  There are learning opportunities about shape, level, and size that are simple and clear.  

How to use it

Create a dance that uses the body parts and the rhythms mentioned. You could begin by doing a ‘call and response’, changing the rhythms made by different body parts and having the children copy like an echo.

Go into the playground and school environment and listen for rhythms and then create a dance using the ones the children hear.  You even like to record what you hear to check on later back in the classroom.

Further suggested books for dance activities:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Roaring Rockets, Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Dance Activity Year 3 and 4

Year 3 and 4 get involved with series of books, using them as a way of continuing to follow the lives of the characters they are reading about.  This is why online gaming and phone interaction with friends starts becoming more attractive.

literacy and danceYou may be reading a chapter book as a part of a classroom activity and use a dance activity to predict what the children think will come next.  Using questions like ‘I wonder what … thinks about that?’ to start them imagining the thoughts of the characters and then creating a dance activity to represent their ideas, is a different take on approaching literacy.

The Stonekeeper, by Kazi Kibuishi, which is the first book in The Amulet series, although involving some tragedies and several illustrations that may be a little scary (the tenacled monster), is an enthralling read.  This graphic hybrid novel has choreographed confrontations that will encourage this age group of students to explore Relationship as a Dance Element.

How to use it

Using a single illustration to envisage what characters in the book may do or feel is a great way to create abstract movement by manipulation this dance element. The children can explore their body in relationship to the floor, to other body parts, and to each other in these imagined spaces.

Further suggested books for dance activities:

Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both by Roald Dahl

Dance Activity Year 5 and 6

This age group may be more interested if they choose the book for themselves.  You may choose to give them a selection that covers themes rather than just about movement as a subject.

dance activities using books

Graphic novels are fantastic stimulus, and The Arrival by Shaun Tan is one of the best and has been widely used for dance activities in Primary schools.  The visual elements in the book are evocative of many children’s lived experiences and can support learning about migration, family relationships and facing the unknown.

A more recent publication is When you look up by Decur.  This is a quite large book that is a combination of a graphic novel and illustrated book.  The themes cover the ideas of how our imagination can be used when we put away our technological devices and about finding compassion.  There is some not very subtle moralising, and the text is sometimes not up to the standard of the beautiful illustrations, but overall, this age group will love the surreal nature of the story.

The illustrations in the book are not anatomically perfect and this provides an opportunity to talk about how each body is different in dance and responds to the same movement in a different way.

Decur, an Argentinian self-taught artist, in an interview, observes,

“…if its crooked (the illustration) and the anatomy is not perfect, that is actually what I like the most: when the drawing is not perfect.  In fact, we are not perfect, not emotionally or physically, we are not symmetrical and that interests me a lot.”

Discussion about how authors create, are a way of encouraging individuality and exploration in children when developing their own movement.

How to use it

These ideas spark creative thinking about how we explore the many ways to use a single dance element.  The story moves in and out of imagined worlds which enables the young choreographers to create movements that may be abstract and realistic.

Decur also uses many visual art techniques in the illustrations, such as acrylics with coloured pencil over the top and layered paper cut outs.  These visual arts techniques may also open the door for discussing similarities to the use of choreographic devises and the manipulation of the Dance Elements in choreography.

For example, using a group of four, you may use a different element for each member of group creating a dance to focus on.  When each of these movement sequences has been created, they then layer them on, manipulating their initial sequence to combine with the others in the group.

Further suggested books for dance activities:

The Box of Delights by John Masefield, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg.

These are just a few suggestions for starting places for dance activities that link to books.  Start looking for a dance activity in each of the books you are reading in class and you will find a wealth of creative material.

Literacy is a part of arts practice so link the two subject areas in your classroom to stimulate imagination, intrigue and investigation in your Primary classroom.

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