Looking for new ideas to integrate The Arts into your Primary classroom? Here are some free lesson plans to get you started. These lesson plans are easy to do and link to the language used in the Australian Curriculum Dance. Have fun!
Lesson Plan: Different Perspectives – Year 4, 5 and 6
In this lesson students make a dance that comes from different perspectives. They explore the way people view art works from many different perspectives, depending on their own life experience, cultural view and values.
These differing perspectives are neither right nor wrong, just different. By looking at someone else’s point of view we can expand our ideas around a topic or widen our understanding and empathy for others.
In dance, we use contrasting dance elements to choreograph dances that express different points of view or perspectives. In this lesson, using a range of stimulus, students explore interpreting movement and understanding choreographic intent.
Understanding others point of view is a way of building children’s ability to successfully work in collaboration with each other.
- Cut up a picture into pieces and give each group a piece. The students use that piece of picture to reconstruct what they think the picture may have looked like.
You will need to have the groups separate so they can’t see what each group is doing.
- Then assemble the entire image.
This then leads into a discussion about seeing the whole picture instead of just one small part.
- Use these pictures as a stimulus for this activity. The students identify the two things that they may see in the picture.
The first picture is probably the best for this activity.
- The children, in pairs, create a still shape that shows the two different views of the paintings.
In making the shapes they must use as many contrasting Elements of Dance as possible. For example, one dancer makes curved shapes, and the other dancer makes angular shapes, or high level/low level, or facing different directions, or using contrasting parts of their body.
- They then write down which contrasting elements of dance they have used.
If your class is more advanced and has done a similar activity to learn about contrast, you could do it in groups of four, so that they can use more contrasting spatial elements.
- The students then turn their shapes into a travelling movement, keeping the original intent of the shape. Ask them to add and write down further contrasting elements. For example, direction, speed, floor pattern, different movement qualities or contrasting rhythmic qualities.
- Using contrast as a choreographic device, working collaboratively, two or four dancers create a dance that represents different perspectives.
Picture books can be a good stimulus for this activity even with older children. The Magic Beach by Alison Lester has a different view on each page. Tree: A little story about big things by Danny Parker and illustrated by Matt Ottley also has a CD that was recorded by the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra that could accompany the dances.
Another book that is good for this age group and more advanced from a reading level perspective is Dear Mrs LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague. The viewpoint of the dog is quite different from what is real!
Students view a dance work and describe and explain the meaning from their perspective and then find out the intent of the choreographer.
Moth (2003) by Bangarra Dance Theatre is a good example for the children to describe and explain what they think the dance is about. Start the video 14 secs in to avoid them seeing the name of the piece.
Some guiding questions could be:
What did you think the dance was trying to say or describe?
What made you think that this was what they were intending?
How were your interpretations different from the choreographer?
Why might you have a different viewpoint about the dance?
The students could use these questions as scaffolding for a writing activity that shows how they have used the Elements of Dance to explain their interpretation of the dance.
Lesson Plan: Good Helper Ladybird– Kindergarten and Preschool
In this lesson early childhood students explore how ladybirds keep the aphids away from our food crops. They develop fine motor skills balancing the ladybirds, gross motor skills to balance in a group and build strength to hold a still position.
It also begins the important conversation about safe dance practice in the classroom as they find new ways to stay safe together.
They explore how we can be helpers, developing socio-emotional skills important in being part of a learning community and a family. When we ask children to ‘be a helper’, we not only motivate them to be helpful but shaping their self-concept. They see them selves as being good and worthy of approval.
In 2014 the Journal of Child Development reported on research that indicated that preschoolers were more willing to stop what they were doing and help when they were asked to ‘be a helper’.
In this lesson children begin to make dance that represents their ideas about how they are helpful in different parts of their lives.
- Using small lady birds have the children count how many lady birds they can balance on a rock. These ladybirds are readily available in craft shops and you can see from the image that I have made the task more difficult by using a rounded rock.
By placing the ladybirds in a container on the opposite side to the child’s dominant hand it encourages them to reach across their centre line.
- Place hula hoops around the space and invite the children to see how many people they can balance together inside each hoop. They need to work together to stay inside the hula hoop. Use high middle and low levels to increase how many people can balance together.
You will need to talk about safe dance practice around others before you begin this activity. Talking about how ladybirds help look after us keep health crops by eating aphids will lead to how we will look after each other in this activity.
What makes someone helpful?
How could you be helpful in this activity?
What is careful touching?
How might we look after each?
What will I do if I lose my balance?
If you are doing it in larger groups, it can be safer to do it with just a few children at a time in a single hula hoop. I would suggest this for younger students who may be just developing their balancing skills.
- Look at pictures of lady birds and discuss the shapes they make when they are on a plant and when they are flying. Have the children explore these shapes.
Is the shape angular or curved?
Does it look different with the wings closed and the wings open?
- The children then improvise movements to the words of a song about ladybirds. You may have one you use in the classroom already.
Here are a few suggestions.
In this song, Lady Bug Song, they have suggestions for movements that include flying high and low, fast and slow, round and round, over here and over there.
Lucky Lady Bug is a very catchy song and great to singalong with. However it doesn’t have as many movement suggestions.
- The children use ideas about being helpful to create actions that represent the helpful jobs.
How are you a helper in the classroom?
How are you a helper at home?
- Create a dance about the jobs you do in the classroom and at home. Each child may have a different dance, or you could create it as a group.
This could be making your bed (use swinging movements across the body), setting the table for a meal (transferring weight from one side to the other), putting bread in the toaster (crouching down, counting and popping up), putting toys away (quickly moving around using different pathways).
You could do the dance in two parts with one part in the classroom and one at home.
With older children you could form a Human chain of ideas about how we can help each other and be helpers. Each child makes a still shapes to represent the helping activity that they feel proudest about doing. The shapes are joined together by each child connecting a body part.
You may like to make a chart on the wall that lists the ways that children can ‘be good helpers’ at home and at school and include photos of them in their dance shapes.
Lesson Plan: Welcome Dance – All Year Levels
In this lesson students will observe a range of Welcome Dances from cultures around the world and then choreograph their own class dance.
Around the world many cultures feature Welcome Dances as an important part of their offerings to people from outside their immediate geographical environment. It is a way of gracefully signifying that access to their people has been granted.
An offering or gift often accompanies a Welcome Dance. This can be in the form of flowers or earth from the ground, fruit or a scarf.
Often it is the sentiment behind the Welcome Dance that is most important rather than the act of giving an object.
- After watching several examples of Welcome Dances from around the world the students find the countries on a map of the world.
- The students in the classroom who may be from other countries, identify where they are from and show it on the map. Do they know about welcoming dances from their countries? You may like to set this as a lesson preparation activity for the children to ask their parents prior to the class.
- Answer the following questions, this could be in the form of a whole of class brainstorm:
What is a welcome dance?
What is important about a welcome dance?
What elements of dance are common to these dances?
How do these dances use gesture as a way of communicating the idea of the dance?
How significant are the facial expressions of the dancers?
Is it performed by men, women and children?
Is the music important to the mood of the dance?
Welcome Dance Examples
Maasai Welcome Dance (this also has a good explanation of the dance and what it means)
- Students in small groups are given four MOVEMENT cards. These cards have a single locomotor or non-locomotor movement on them. Here is a list of word you could include: walking, leaping, skipping, galloping, pulling, waving, spinning, twisting, clapping, sinking, rising, curling, stamping.
Ensure that each group gets a selection of both locomotor and non-locomotor movements.
- Students then receive four BODY PART cards. This may include: ARMS, KNEES, HEAD, FINGERS, TORSO, SHOULDERS, PALMS, HIPS, ANKLES.
- Using these cards, they must devise FOUR movements that are ‘welcoming’ using a MOVEMENT card and a BODY PART card for each movement.
- Using the four movements they have devised in the activity above they decide which order they will go in.
- They then decide on two different group formations to use for their dance.
They need to keep in mind that the dance is about ‘welcoming’ and the order of the movements and the group formation will be instrumental in communicating this intent.
- Then share the dances with each other.
The children may like to combine all the groups together to make a larger dance that could be performed when welcoming a guest or another class into their classroom. Students need to have opportunities after this activity to reflect on and write about how the movements made them feel.
Revisit this dance several times across the term to make changes and increase the ‘feel good’ qualities of the dance for both the dancers and the audience.
Lesson Plan: All about me– All year levels
Coming back to school requires teachers to become acquainted with their new students. Many students will need structured approaches to goal setting after the disruption of holiday time to their usual routine. You can use this dance lesson to get to know your students and for them to learn about each other at any time of the year.
The students learn about some basic Elements of Dance and you can observe how much they know or remember about dance. You can also see how they interact in person with each other and which communication skills they may need to brush up on.
This lesson promotes goal setting in a happy and healthy classroom environment.
Students use a bunting shaped form or a worksheet to record the following information. The All About Me bunting can be used to decorate your classroom. There are many examples online that you can use as a template.
- My self-portrait – this can be a line drawing or something more structured for older students.
The self portrait component can be a separate art activity if you have the time and then be used as stimulus for the shape making.
Using this information, the students make three shapes to show the first letter of their name, the month of their birthday and a pose that shows something about their personality. Encourage the students to think about their shapes as sculptures in an art gallery that is having an exhibition about them.
They then have to move their shape to a different level and decide whether it is a curved or angular shape or a combination of both.
Divide into pairs and look at each other’s ‘art exhibition’. Decide on a name for each exhibition together.
Students then decide on the next part of uncovering information about them. They write two sentences about:
- My favourite things: food, subject, colour.
- When I’m older I want to be ….
Using these ideas, the students create a travelling movement that goes from one side of the room to another. They need to decide what words describe the movement and does it match with the two sentences they have written about themselves.
They share their movements with the class and write their words on the board. In brackets next to the word they write a dance word to match the description.
Having a list of dance words from the Australian Curriculum: Dance that are appropriate for their year level, will remind them of what they have done previously.
- Decide on one main goal you would like to achieve for the rest of the year. ‘My goal is to…’.
Ensure that the goal is clear and worthwhile achieving, measurable, has time limits and is achievable.
Will achieving this really make you ‘sparkle’?
- Create a body shape for the goal that represents the emotions you will feel when you reach it.
- What three steps will you need to take to get there? ‘My plan is to…’
- Then create shapes for each step that visually represent what you will do and how you will feel.
The teacher will need to give examples of what is meant by these goal criteria. Having a group discussion supports the students in working out not only the goal but what the criteria will be.
Try to make it a learning goal (being able to create a dance) rather than a performance goal (getting an A for dance). This encourages children to concentrate on mastering a skill not just completing a task.
The goals will be different according to the year level. Writing sentence starter can provide scaffolding and give the students ideas about where to start.
This dance activity could be the starting point for talking about the learning intentions and success criteria in your classroom.
Lesson Plan: Teddy’s Awesome Adventure – Yr 2 and under
The inspiration for this dance lesson plan comes from using a Teddy or other favourite toy to support children in learning about their natural and created environment.
It encourages children to tell stories about what they see around them and to observe changes that may take place.
The students learn about using narrative in dance and how movements represent ideas.
They are also exploring Time (fast and slow), Levels (High, Medium and Low) and locomotor movements (e.g. leaping, skipping, climbing, slithering, walking).
- Take the children for a walk with their toy through the school, local park or bushland to find natural objects. They can describe where their toy is going and what they are doing in that environment. They could identify dangers, things of wonder or man made impacts such as rubbish.
Just as the children would collect shells on a beach have them collect objects of nature that will remind them of their adventure.
Older children may want to take photos of their toy in specific parts of the landscape to document the adventure. If the teacher is taking the photo, talk about what they would like to take the photo of.
- Back in the classroom, paste cut out pictures of the environment or use the photos and the natural objects they have found onto a storyboard. The story will tell of an adventure the toy has had.
You might like to support this storytelling by reading a story book that has a similar narrative. Come the Terrible Tiger by Kim Gamble or Teddy’s Night Lost in the Bush by Bruce Peardon.
- The children create words to go with the pictures to tell the story of each picture. This can be single words written by the teacher for the younger students or short sentences written by the older children.
- Children create a still shape with their body that represents one picture in the story. Perhaps the climax or the most remarkable moment of the story is the best for this activity. What is the toy doing? How is it reacting to what is happening? Is your expression and the shape of your body telling the story?
When the teacher taps the child on the shoulder the movement will start.
How fast will you move? If it’s a moment of fear or tension you could do it in slow motion.
What levels are you using? Are you falling from a high level to a low level?
What kinds of movement will you use? Are you creeping, swinging, skipping, leaping or slithering?
After exploring the movements perform to the class. The teacher could find music to suit the moment in the story to accompany the performance. Soundtracks from movies are good for these kinds of dance activities as they can really build the atmosphere.
To extend this activity film the dance and the teacher reads the story from the storyboard as the children watch. Older students may wish to read or improvise telling their own story to the dance. On second viewing younger children may wish to tell their own story.
Lesson Plan: Life Cycle – Yrs 3 and 4
This activity is based on Informative Writing activities you may be doing in class. The lifecycle of animals can become repetitive and a little dry for many students.
From a dance curriculum perspective, you can introduce the use of slow motion (Time) to transition between shapes (Space), representing changes through the lifecycle.
Begin with a teacher led group discussion about ladybirds and their lifecycle.
• Lady birds have special organs in their feet that help them smell. Set up the room with pictures of different things that the students can imagine smelling (you may want to have some samples for them to smell). Include rain, mint, banana, lemon, butter, flower, sweat and jasmine. The students move around the room imagining that their feet are smelling different things.
How will they show their reaction with their movement?
• How do ladybirds move at each stage of their life cycle?
1. Egg Stage, small and still,
2. Larval Stage, scurry at low levels,
3. Pupa Stage, begin to harden and gradually stop moving and
4. Adult stage, flying after it warms up then back to hibernation.
Students learn about using shape to create meaning and to represent changes in their natural environment.
Pick an animal you have previously written a report about – movement inspired activity to use words about movement from their report– 3 or 4 stages.
• Using the stages of their lifecycle the students have researched, they create a series of still shapes to represent each stage. Emphasis the use of levels (Space) and positive and negative space (Space) when creating shapes.
• Students then explore movements that transition from one shape to the next in slow motion (Time).
• A teacher led discussion about how this life cycle has developed and why will build the learning even further. This could involve further research from the students.
Invent, name and draw an animal and describe its environment. You can make a written table with these components as headings to help them form their ideas and to support the oral presentation in the next activity.
• Students create what their animal’s lifecycle might look like and what influences it. Perhaps climate, food source, surrounds or predators?
• Repeat the activity above using their own animal as the stimulus this time
The students then perform their movements and give a short oral description of the animal and where it lives.
To extend this activity ask students how they used shapes (positive and negative space, levels, curved and angular shapes) to convey their ideas about the lifecycle.
Lesson Plan: Coding for Kids – Yr 2 and under
The activities in this dance lesson are about breaking down tasks into small steps to achieve what you set out to do. Actually, it’s a precoding activity for young children. Coding is just a step by step guide to your computer to accomplish a task you want it to achieve.
Here younger students explore pattern, direction, number and shape using fine motor and gross motor movement. How many of these activities you do will depend on the age of your children.
Start by creating the road from their house to their friend’s house in a spiral.
• Draw a spiral on a piece of paper with a house at each end.
• Use coloured pebbles or markers to line the spiral. The rules are the car can’t drive forward until the pebbles are laid down on the line.
This is a fun activity for younger children to help develop their fine motor skills for writing.
• Create a large spiral on the floor wide enough to walk around heel to toe. Working on this together is fun and you can start to create patterns with the colours to begin understanding regular patterns.
• Then walk heel to toe into the middle of the spiral and then see if they can reverse it by walking backwards.
It’s always good to stand near the children as they do balance activities in case they overbalance.
Create a map to get from their house to their friends, with instructions, by moving from one point to another. Mark the starting point in the room and the end point. You need to have some obstacles between the two points eg. chairs or walls or desks.
• Using two different coloured markers/pebbles, with one colour being ‘moving forwards’ and the other being ‘moving sideways’, have the children create instructions of how to get to their friends house.
The number of pebbles in a line shows how many steps you take and the colour shows in which direction.
• Cut out a series of 5 or 6 shapes. Each shape will represent a movement. The older children can write down the movement on the shape, for example jump, balance with one leg lifted, turn around, clap four times. For the younger ones, write the movement on the shape or have a series of movement pictures that you can glue to the shape.
• The children put the shapes in a sequence, rehearse the movements together and then they perform the movements to music four times.
To make this activity more difficult change the order of the shapes and turn them over so the children have to remember which shape has which movement.
Lesson Plan: Where the Wild Things Are – Yrs 1-4
This dance activity is great for doing at home with one or more children. It provides a way for children to express their feelings and thoughts through creating movement and facial expressions. The book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is always popular with this age group and there is also a film of the same name which you may want to watch. This dance activity can help develop strategies in getting the ‘wild things’ under their control.
• Read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
• What is the main setting? Who are the characters? Are the wild things scary? What does Max do to control the wild things? When you get little wild what do you do to calm down? Does it work? Why does Max get a crown?
Gather together some objects from around the house and create a ‘wild things’ costume. Remember to include their ‘terrible claws’ and ‘terrible teeth’. You might try to make a mask out of paper and string. Or a hat that looks like a wild thing.
Wearing your costume, try seeing how a monster might move. Are their movement heavy or light? What sort of facial expressions might you use? Would you use your body and arms to make a scary shape?
Take a photo of the best raging wild thing shape and then the calm wild thing shape. How do they look different? How do you feel when you do them?
It’s fun to save the photos as a record of their dance creations. It helps them to remember the learning in the activity.
Make a wild rumpus dance. Find some music that helps you to have fun dancing. Some suggestions are Wild Thing Dance Monkey . As you dance, try to keep your Wild Things shape and facial expressions and think about whether the movement is heavy or light.
Make a crown out of paper
Think of three things that make you feel calm and in control of your emotions. They might be thinking about family, friends and your favourite place in nature to go.
Find three movements that will take you to this happy place and when you have done them you can wear the crown!
For older children you can get them to write a story about how they tamed their ‘wild thing’ and earned their crown.
Lesson Plan: Sink or float -P -3
This dance/science lesson is about DENSITY, the weight of an item in relation to its VOLUME. Some simple things you need to talk about first will be “What is volume?” The simplest way to explain it is that VOLUME is how much space something takes up. For example, the teacher will take up more space than a student.
DENSITY is changed by the molecules being close together or further apart. The closer the molecules are together the denser an object is. At first, students may think that if something is heavy it will sink. To help them understand more about how density works show them a big and a little rock and observe how they both sink.
Dance is such a fun way to get students engaging with science through hands on experiments and movement.
Find objects from nature that sink or float – cork, stones, leaves, wood, apple (or other fruit), pumice stone, or pick up objects on a walk through the garden.
Students do a Quick Think Grouping activity where they make a grouping of molecules to predict each objects density. The grouping must be in the shape of the object, using the number specified by the teacher, with the amount of space between students to represent the molecules.
For example, if the teacher held up a leaf and said the number five, five students would make the shape of the leaf, standing a distance apart.
As a whole class they then predict which objects will sink and which will float and sort into piles. Then, in a bowl of water, experiment with each object. It always looks more attractive to children if the water is brightly coloured.
For older children, you could get them to make a list of their predictions and see how accurate they are for each object. Do some objects sink and float? Have three columns with the headings Object, Prediction, Results.
After each object students must model the movement of the object in the water. Discuss the pathways each object makes through the water and the time of the movement. Was moving sideways, diagonally or from high level to low level, was it fast or slow.
Blow the objects around with a straw and then draw the pathways they make. In small groups the students then devise a movement phrase to represent one or two objects to show their density.
They need to demonstrate how they work as a group to illustrate the molecules in the object, how the object moved through the water and whether it floated or sunk.
Use this lesson as a starting point for further science and dance explorations into buoyancy.
There are many great ways to take STEM and turn it into STEAM! Next time you’re planning a science lesson think about how your can introduce a little Arts to make your classroom really creative.
Lesson Plan: Waterways – Yrs 3-4
This is an example of a lesson for Years 3 or 4 that can be done to support learning about water in our environment. In this lesson plan, students work individually, in pairs and in groups to choreograph material from the stimulus of water and how water responses to changing environments.
They explore the dance elements using contrasting levels of energy and personal and general space as they explore water in the environment.
Lead a whole of body warmup that could include moving through the space e.g.: fast /slow, curved pathways, angular pathways, diagonal pathways, high level, low level, high/low energy, close together and far apart.
Students use their bodies, as a group, to explore how water moves through different landscapes. For example, a low lying flat plain or a steep mountain range. Then tell the story of the journey of a river from its source to the sea.
Have them draw the journey of a local river system as a plan for how they will move through the space. This could include features like dams, flood plains, mangrove swamps or waterfalls. Further support the movement by having the students write descriptive phrases on the drawings using language from a dance vocabulary Word Wall. Here are some ideas for creating a Dance Word Wall in your classroom.
Explore how a dam releases water; have the children start close together and move to further apart as the flood gates open. The students improvise how the water moves, exploring the dance elements of levels, dynamics, space and shape.
Be sure the students are made aware of the safety aspects of getting quickly to new shapes and to take care of other students in the space as the pace of the activity increases.
Students find a partner and create a movement to show the water, as it moves through the different environments, using the directions of under, over, around and through.
Each pair then choreograph a traveling movement that brings them together with the group. Must include percussive movements and smooth, sustained movements. Which environments may make the water travel with percussive energy? Which will make it move with sustained energy?
These activities could be joined to create a dance about the journey of the water in your local area. The movement is abstract but links clearly to the story of water systems.
Lesson Plan: Some Birds Fly Some Birds Don’t – P- 3
This lesson looks at grouping birds according to how they move. It allows the children to role play the part of a scientist while exploring ways to describe movement. From a dance perspective they look at locomotor movement using the stimulus of birds.
Have picture of a range of birds that the children may be familiar with and have them sort them into two groups according to whether they can fly or not. For an older age group, you may want to add in another category that is birds that swim; even create a Venn diagram that shows the cross over of these ways of moving.
Divide the class into two groups. One group is asked to move across to a point in the room. The further away this point is the more chance you have of getting a range of movement. The other group are scientists that are observing how they moved. Write the describing words in a word bank so the class can refer to them later.
You can introduce the dance terms locomotor movement and direction here as a way of describing the movement.
Did the movement travel? (Locomotor Movement) Did they move in a straight line, forwards, backwards, in a diagonal? (Direction) How did they move; fast or slow or somewhere in the middle? (Time) Did they move in a way you can describe with a name; walk, run, skip, hop, galop, slide, roll (Action)? Were they travelling close together or far apart? (Relationship)
Change groups and repeat the activity but ask the travelling group to think of some different ways they could move.
Show the students video of birds moving in a variety of ways. Think of contrast movements of the different bird; emus, black swans, ibis, hummingbirds. Ask the students to describe how they moved; for example, flapped, slowly and then hopped quickly. Make a chart with the bird pictures and the describing words.
In pairs have the students choose a bird, and using the describing words, create a locomotor movement that travels from one side of the classroom to the other. Give them some time to devise and practice their movement. Then have each pair perform their movement to music.
This lesson can be used in conjunction with a descriptive writing activity to support students using a wider vocabulary.