Teaching time is important all year round, even when we are approaching the Christmas break. Those moments in the classroom when your may have finished early, have completed the set work for the day or are just awkward gaps in the learning flow are important teaching moments.
Dance is a good vehicle for providing challenging activities that are participatory, fun but also relevant to the learning in the primary classroom. They have high levels of engagement and are motivating at the time of year when children are anticipating holidays.
Having these kinds of activities prepared and ready to call on at anytime is essential for high levels of student engagement. Dance activities do not necessarily mean you have to go to a large open space, as many can be done in the classroom or outside under the trees.
Having quality dance filler activities ensures that each precious minute is used for teaching.
What is the role of creative dance?
Using dance for these short, medium, or sometimes longer activities helps students call on prior knowledge covered throughout the year. These activities allow students to use a range of knowledge from other learning areas other than in a dance context. This could include written activities, visual art, music, drama, media arts, or STEM.
Even in a short amount of time students can build on base level skills as they solve creative problems. The activities promote curiosity and interest as they test their newfound skills through dance.
These activities are particularly effective for children with short attention spans as they may only take five minutes to complete. Alternatively, they can encourage children who like to ponder to think more spontaneously and to take quick action.
The filler activity is also useful in drawing a focus on learning that may have occurred at another time during the week. It can act as a part of the culminating process, supporting children in bringing together ideas.
In this way filler dance activities can be part of children’s reflections on learning. Talking, writing, and creating movement help them process ideas that may have formed when the classroom was moving fast and there were many concepts being covered.
These short creative dance activities scaffold reflection and give students time to organize their thoughts.
Characteristics of good creative dance filler activities
- Clear aims that link to the learning you are focusing on
- Have the resources and the activity planned and on hand so it is easy to access.
- Don’t bite off too much in a short time. It may be able to unrolled in stages over time but each part of the activity must have a short discrete part.
- Try to factor in a reward. This could be as easy as free choice Friday or an outdoor drawing session. I had a Year 3 class that always chose another dance class!
Favourite creative dance filler activities
Quick Dance Activity: Dance Olympics
In this activity you use cards that have pictures of athletes participating in Olympic sports. Hold a card up and the children change their dancing to mirror that sport. Think of social dances like ‘The Sprinkler’ ecept using sport as the stimulus. To make it more complex for older children, hold up a second card that states the Element of Dance you focus on for your movement. For example, one card could be Weightlifting, and the second card is Time.
The results are often hilarious but this activity is a great way to test knowledge of the Elements of Dance. It also requires a quick, creative response to a movement problem.
Medium Dance Activity: Reflection Session
The end of the year is an appropriate time for students to reflect on what has happened in their classroom over the year. Begin this activity by having a sheet of paper for each student with the following questions.
What strengths did you identify throughout this year?
What gave you joy?
What are you most proud of?
What are you excited about?
After writing down their answers, the students then make up a movement that symbolizes each answer. They will have to draw on knowledge from the dance classes they have learned about throughout the year.
Longer Dance Activity: The Remembering Dance
In this dance activity the children, as a group, identify their strongest memories of this year. Starting this reflection in an intentional circle allows them to share ideas and ensures that the reflection is purposeful, supporting social and emotional learning.
Coming up with a name for the circle means that you can return to this activity several times to keep their creation focused. The Circle of Remembering and Respect is one that my class has come up with in the past.
Choosing the music should be the responsibility of the class so it stays relevant to them, but you may like to use a range of your own alternatives as they devise their dance.
This dance requires them to use the choreographic devises and techniques they have learned in class throughout the year. It also encourages them to utilize organisational skills and time management as they complete the dance in a set time frame.
Recording the dance on film or creating a diary filled with photos of the process as well as the final product can become a keepsake for the students. Have each student compile their own personal one and have the class sign each. Decorating this Autograph book can be a quiet task that can be done in the final weeks of term.
Organizing your dance filler activities
Having these activities ready to go is important to the flow of the classroom. Keep cards or stimulus material in labelled paper bags with step by step instructions. Finding the prepared resources and then forgetting what to do with it is extremely frustrating.
If you are using the activities above, print the instructions out and glue them to the outside of the paper bag with all the required elements. Don’t forget to write music suggestions as spending time trying to find appropriate music can really slow down the activity.
Sorting dance activities into days of the week with descriptive names can be fun and be an inspiration for new ideas. For example, Music Monday, where the activities are about rhythms, songs or song and dance activities, Teaching Tuesday, where the children teach each other dances they may know or have made up, Wind down Wednesday, which has relaxation based activities that require stillness and mindfulness, Throwback Thursday, where students have to recall a dance or activity from another lesson, Flashy Friday, where the focus of the activities are on performance rather than choreography.
These are some of the many ideas you can use in your classroom as you wind down towards Christmas. Showing a movie on those lame duck teaching days is an option, but these dance activities may help with your students’ transition into the next year.