For many teachers teaching a dance may not be high on their list of things to do. However, using dance as a part of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts is as easy as telling a story or putting a list of sentences on the board.
Creating a dance in the primary classroom is like structuring any project-based activity. Project- based learning encourages democracy in the classroom through collaborative practices that support knowledge creation and student independence. Teachers are skilled at turning information into actions that make a difference.
By using the phases of the dance lesson to unfold new information and devise learning activities, teachers can use dance to implement the same processes used in many other areas of the curriculum. The gathering information as a part of preparation, discussing and improvising ideas collaboratively, settling on a course of action and then building connections between ideas in order to come up with an artistic product are the same processes used in science, engineering and information technology.
Creating a dance using project-based learning often raises many more questions and more avenues to explore.
Here’s how to begin to create a dance
The teacher is not always responsible for the choreography. Student devised choreography is often a highly effective way to teach about the ideas from the curriculum.
Children love to show you what they can do. Like every learning activity in the classroom students need to know what skills they are learning and how they will be able to measure their success.
Here is an example of how to create a dance, using a range of choreographic devices, about social dance in a historical context.
Creating a dance
Warming up in dance is not just about warming up the body. Children need the underlying information or skills to give them the basics they will need to complete the task.
Take for example this dance movement problem based on social dance. You might like to start by giving students information about social dance in particular point in time. This could be related to what you are investigating in HASS.
The Hand Jive
You will need to identify information about People, Place and Time. In the following example we have used the Hand Jive from the 1950’s.
Originating in London in 1957 at a club called The Cat’s Whiskers, the Hand Jive was created as a way of dancing using less space. The dance floors were often very crowded, the girls would dance using repetitive hand movements that involved thigh slapping, clapping and other body percussive movements, with very little foot movement. Resembling the clapping games played in the school ground, these movements were highly elaborate versions of social actions like hitch hiking.
You may like the class to do some research into the teddy boys and teddy girls of this era. They will find some fascinating information about the music, dress and activities of this ‘tribe’.
- Children watch a video about the Hand Jives of the 1950s. Avoid the one in Grease as the opening is not appropriate for Primary schools
- Children, in pairs, create their own Hand Jives. Start with a simple movement and add on, keep going back to the original movement and then embellish or add on to the complexity of the movement.
- Students can then adapt their dances using the Elements of Dance. Think about using Space, Time, Dynamics and Relationship. They can create a table that shows how they used the various elements to make their dance.
This activity presents a picture of society in that time, demonstrating social interactions between young people in social situations. It develops coordination of eye and hand and encourages students to work together to achieve a movement outcome.
Through structuring movement ideas for dance, they learn about the elements of dance and choreographic device of Embellishment, using dance to tell cultural and community stories in a historical context.
Learning about a range of choreographic devices, as a part of the curriculum, gives the students additional skills to use in their choreography .
- Teach The Sid Shuffle from Ice Age: Continental Drift.
- The students, in pairs, adapt the set dance using choreographic devices on Movement Problem Cards. Use the definitions from the Dance Glossary in the Australian Curriculum. Use the choreographic devices that are appropriate for the class group.
- Students then perform for each other.
In this activity the class makes individual plans for choreographing their own social dance. Use the following questions as the basis for the planning.
- What is something that you are really interested in and that you would like to make up a dance about? Try to make it something that is about the current time in history.
- Identify which Elements of Dance you will be using?
- Is it a partner dance or one that is done as a group?
- What music will you use?
- What choreographic devises will you use?
- Write a plan of the steps you will go through to carry this project out.
Creating a dance can be an engaging way to apply project planning in a different context. The students take ownership of the knowledge and the product, asking questions and search for answers by sifting through information attained for themselves and with the help of a teacher.
These kinds of Arts activities are highly relevant to children which results in them being invested in the outcomes.
Next Term try making your own dance in class and see the results.
For more creative dance ideas to use in your home or classroom look at the readymade lesson plans and teaching resources available on Dance Teaching Ideas.