Dance games

It important to remember when we play dance games with our students that we are playing them for a reason.  Knowing what the game will achieve for your students will lead to better outcomes.

dance games

Above all, a dance game must be fun!  If the teacher is having fun, it goes along way towards the dance game being successful.

The two games outlined below are designed for very different reasons.  This will require the teacher to take contrasting approaches to both.  The Turtle dance games needs a gentle and supportive tone and The Roller coaster is all excitement and danger.

Being expressive in the delivery of dance lessons encourages children to be creative, imaginative and expressive themselves.

Relaxation – The Turtle  

The aim of this game is to develop the child’s ability to bring a low activation state intentionally. These kinds of relaxation activities teach patience.  It may also promote the ability to listen, leading to children being more receptive and participatory.

They help children control emotional and cognitive behaviours.  This impacts physical and mental health through reduced stress and anxiety.

  • Tell the children they are going to be a turtle. You may like to show them of a film of a turtle going back inside its shell when it gets frightened.
  • Lying on their stomachs in the shape of the star, slowly they recoil their arms and legs inside the shell, using their muscles to bring their limbs under their bodies. The getting inside the shell is in response to being threatened of feeling afraid.
  • Now they are inside their shell they feel safe, surrounded by their hard shell like a suit of armour. Gradually they are relaxing, release the muscles in their arms, then their legs, in their tummy, shoulders, back and face.
  • Breathing slowly, they imagine feeling safe and relaxed, thinking about something that makes them feel happy. Gradually they release their arms and legs back out to the starting position.

You can repeat this several times, making the relaxing happen a little faster as they grow used to the technique.  You may like to discuss, after the activity, how they felt and if they thought there were situations where this relaxation game could be helpful.

Body awareness – The Roller coaster

Being aware of how your body moves in the space is important for spatial awareness.  This is also crucial for strength and balance.  If your children are constantly running into chairs and desks, this could be a very important game.

Children need to listen to the teacher throughout this game and follow instructions.  The following of rules is an important part of any game, and the children need to be reminded that they need to listen to stay safe on a roller coaster.

dance gamesThis game is only limited by the story telling abilities of the teacher.  Try to use as many movements in your roller coaster story as you can, being sure to include twisting the torso and moving the head.

The teacher names the body parts as the movement is described, using as many of the different names as possible for the same body part.  For example, stomach, torso, abdomen, tummy, belly.  The aim is to isolate body parts, move them as directed and be able to identify the body part when named.

The children begin by sitting on the floor, cross legged, behind each other.  They need to be close enough to be able to touch each other’s shoulders, but far enough away not to hit anyone.

The teacher stands facing the children at the front as they will be demonstrating the movements as they tell the story.  Remember when you are facing the children you will use the opposite side to what you are saying. For example, ‘The roller coaster is leaning all the way the to the right side’, you will lean to the left side.

dance gamesThe game is also about encouraging using facial expressions when improvising in movement.  The children will follow your facial expressions as well as your body movements so be expressive as you tell the story.

  • In the story the roller coaster begins slowly as it climbs up the first hill. They must all be quiet so they can hear what will happen next.
  • It is so steep that everyone leans back a little (not enough to lie down). The body slowly comes upright as you reach the top of the hill.
  • As the carriage picks up speed you are going so fast you ‘lose your tummy’. The children have to pull their stomachs in and breath in.
  • Next it goes round a steep corner to the right, being careful not to lean too far or you’ll fall out of the carriage. Then a sharp turn by the left.  Really using your torso and keeping your hands in the carriage at all times.
  • Turn around and check that your friend is all right behind you but make sure you don’t leave your seat. Get ready for another big dip and throw two arms up into the air.
  • That was scary so you’re going to put both your hands over your eyes and curl your body forward. One finger at a time, take your hands from across your eyes and see what’s coming next.
  • It’s a series of up and down hills, your shoulders are going up and down with each hill.
  • Finally, the roller coaster comes round the last corner to the right, slowing down to where you started from.
Alternative versions

This activity is best done sitting with very young children but may also may be done travelling through the space with older children.  In that situation the teacher will determine how fast they will travel to stay safe.

These directed games are a good way to begin a dance class as they combine listening with isolated movement and dynamic stretching.  They act as a physical and cognitive warm up.

Young children will enjoy the narrative elements and respond imaginatively to the creative approach.  The stories are only an outline and you can expand or reduce them according to the ability of your class.

It is important that the teacher is fully engaged and enthusiastic in these movement activities as we are asking the children to suspend their disbelief and to join us in being imaginative.  The more expressive and descriptive you can be with your use of language the more successful the dance games will be.

For more ideas about dance lessons to use in your classroom take a look at the Free Lesson plans