Creating a Dance Word Wall in the Primary Classroom

teaching dance lessonsDance activities for primary students can be fun and engage students in valuable arts learning.  But dance can also provide exciting ways for teachers to explore literacy.  Vocabulary used during dance class is rich and descriptive and assists in students broadening their describing, interpreting and evaluating skills.  Creating and engaging in dance education activities requires students to respond physically, orally and in a written form to clarify, justify and question their creative choices.

So how do teachers support this learning in their primary dance education activities?  One simple way is to create a Word Wall. For a clear definition and some great ideas for using these in your primary classroom visit this site.  

The Word Wall, in a dance context, enables the students to develop dance specific vocabulary that adds depth to their knowledge of the artistic processes of choreography (making dance) and performing dance.  It gives them a structure and a language to talk about how they make, perform and talk about dance and movement.

Making your Word Wall

Begin by dividing the wall into the Elements of Dance.  There are different ideas around the world about how these elements are referred to, but they are loosely divided into Body, Space, Time, Energy and Relationship.  Energy is often referred to as Dynamics. These terms provide a title page for your word cards that can be added to as you work through dance education activities.

The elements of dance are present in every movement.  You can’t move without them!  

Understanding the elements of dance is essential to purposeful body movement in dance and forms the basis of all dance education curriculums.  They provide students with the movement vocabulary to dance and to speak about dance.

To start your Word Wall, have a focus for the vocabulary used in each lesson.  For example, in your lesson you may be teaching about Direction (vocabulary)as a component of Space (Title page).  Under Direction you can then add the description of the movements; forward, backwards, up, down, diagonal, sideways, turning, direct-indirect.  You can add more information to the Title page by including a definition of the elements that are appropriate to the school dance curriculum and age level of your students.

To further support your students’ development of dance related vocabulary and descriptive adjectives/adverbs, you may add another level to your Word Wall.  For example, the focus of the lesson may be on Energy/Dynamics (Title page), looking at the contrast between  the Dynamic Qualities of sustained and percussive movement (vocabulary) and therefore the next level on the Word Wall may be smooth, soft, malleable, continuous, rigid, sharp, prickly and stiff (description).

Vocabulary, both dance specific and general, forms the basis for students writing or talking about their own dances or the dances of others.

Using the Word Wall in a Dance Education Activity

  Develop dance writing tasks that use the Word Wall as a starting point then use the written material as the starting point for a to plan a dance lesson

  • Taking the example of the contrast between sustained and percussive movement, in pairs, develop four movements joined together, choosing between either sustained or percussive movement quality. 
  • Join with another pair who have a contrasting quality and write a dialogue that using the movements as a stimulus.  For example, ‘Put it down!’ (percussive movement), ‘I can’t as I’m relaxed and floating’ (sustained movement).
  • The group of four then explores a ‘conversation’ or a ’call and response’ movement phrase, selecting the order that the movements should go in to fit with their dialogue.
  • After showing the class their movements, they then orally describe the movements (using the Word Wall descriptions and other adjectives), clarify the order of the movements and justify their choices of movements.

Word Walls are a way of reinforcing frequently used terms in Dance.  They provide a reference point for writing and discussing, expanding student understanding about word connections and usage.  So, get creative and make your classroom walls a building block for visible and accessible literacy.

      Dance education teaching resources to use in your primary school dance classroom …COMING SOON