The Dance Lesson Formula
Every dance lesson begins in the planning stage. At university, planning one lesson seems to take forever! With experience this gets easier as we develop our own ‘formula’ for putting a lesson together.
But what is that formula when creating a dance lesson plan? How can we use our knowledge of lesson planning in other curriculum areas to develop quicker ways to identify what’s important in a dance lesson?
The important questions that frame a dance lesson plan.
These are a few questions that will assist in putting together your own dance lesson formula. These questions will equip you with a mindfulness about the teaching strategies you are using. They will encourage you to be reflective in your planning and encourage a freedom for you and your students to do something different in the learning environment.
What is your stimulus, theme or topic?
A great starting place is identifying a stimulus. This could be something you’re are doing in other areas of the curriculum. HASS, Literacy and Numeracy all link very well with dance. Children understand through the body and communicate more advanced knowledge through showing.
Your starting point may just be about the body moving or specific areas of the dance curriculum. You might begin by identifying what students are yet to know or understand.
Alternatively, they could be learning how to use known information or strategies in a different context. Doing this discovers how deep your students’ understanding is. This is where integrating dance with other learning areas becomes really interesting!
What stimulus is going to be not only engaging but inspire inquiry and meaning making? Is it thought provoking?
Try to find an idea that links to the curriculum you are using and that you can apply the follow questions to.
What might this dance lesson achieve?
Essential to any class is the learning intention of the lesson. What are the outcomes and learnings you hope to accomplish in the lesson? What will success look like at the end of the process?
Consider what the students should be able to do with the content. Are the skills transferable?
Modelling and showing examples are important to the lesson plan as you want to let the students know in advance what they need to do to accomplish success. However, in the Arts there are often multiple ways of solving the same problem.
Avoid showing what the class will achieve but rather focus on the individual or team investigation of the movement problem or task. It maybe more valuable to note there could be a range of equally acceptable goals for the lesson.
In dance you could be aiming for a performance outcome. This could culminate in a formal performance for parents or community or a more informal showing for peers or another class.
You will require rehearsal if you are going to perform the dance for others outside the class. Without adequate rehearsal the dance activity may end up being a negative experience for both students and teacher.
When teaching Choreography or making dance the students explore the possibilities of the stimulus within scaffolded activities that make transparent the artistic processes of making dance. This could involve a combination of learning about the elements of dance and some ways of forming or organising the movement material that the students develop.
If the intention of the lesson is about responding to dance, you need to consider whether they will respond to their own or others’ dances. If they are viewing professional choreographers work or the work of their peers, they will need to be supported in how they observe. This approach is similar to how you would lead them through responding to text.
Be clear about how using the stimulus, theme or topic will achieve the planned learning intentions.
What part of the dance curriculum will be the focus of this dance lesson plan?
Go to the curriculum you are work in and make sure it aligns to the area you plan to teach about.
In the Primary dance classroom, it is always good to have a focus or one or more Elements of Dance for each lesson. This ensures that you are unfolding each element from multiple perspectives.
The activity ideas for teaching about using cannons in dance choreography are a good example of this approach.
Will you be using examples of professional dance works as examples or perhaps previous student work? Ensure that these examples show the focus of lesson clearly.
What life skills could students be learning in this dance lesson?
The obvious skills involved with participating in a dance activity are learning about dance as an art form, our culture communities and the society in which we live. However, there are many life skills that could be one of the learning intentions of your dance lesson.
Being specific in the planning stage about what your success criteria will be for these life skills, will bring clarity to the dance classroom.
Here are some life skills you may consider:
Communication and interpersonal skills including assertiveness or use of self-control.
Emotional intelligence skills, for example, self-awareness and empathy
Critical thinking skills
Creative thinking skills
Problem solving skills
Decision making skills
Resilience and the ability to cope with problems
What could this dance lesson develop into?
You should also consider the form that the lesson will take and how you will assess the learning that takes place.
Have you incorporated a range of independent and group activities?
Are students asked to communicate through movement?
Is it a standalone lesson or part of a series of lessons or whole unit of work?
How will you develop authentic arts assessment that measures significant arts learnings and behaviours?
Might it take the student inquiry deeper and therefore need to adaptable enough to be stretched across several lessons?
Is it able to show how the students will use their new knowledge and understandings and improved performance or does it need a subsequent lesson/s?
The dance lesson plan should lead to greater student understanding of a topic, concept or idea.
Try to predict some of the misconceptions that students may have around the subject for exploration and include strategies to overcome them as a part of the lesson plan structure.
What are the relevant skill levels of the students?
You need to look at what you have planned so far about your learning intentions and decide what the students need to know and be able to do at the start in order to be successful at the end. This means offering multiple ways for children, regardless of their starting point to extend and improve.
Students need to be given opportunities to use their own judgement within their individual skill level.
Ensure that the stimulus has the potential for inquiry, engagement and growth and that lesson offers support and challenge.
What are the ways you and your students are going to gather evidence of success?
Reflecting, implementing and evaluating are important for both teachers and students. Ensure that each of these are a part of your lesson planning.
What opportunities are there for your students to reflect throughout the lesson?
Are the activities you have planned able to unfold the learning and then apply it in practice?
Are there planned opportunities for targeted feedback throughout the lesson?
Are your students a part of the evaluation process both in the planning stage and the implementation?
The information gathered through these processes will enable you to deduct the kinds of concepts that students will be able to recall and reuse overtime.
Successful dance lesson planning
Planning a dance lesson is a rewarding and creative part of primary school teaching practice. The steps are the same as any other part of the curriculum. It should reflect your understandings of teaching and learning principles and best practice.
And as with other lessons of inquiry, these dance lessons are dynamic in nature. They can be used again in the future but will change and be added to over time.
Teachers need to be agile in their planning to reflect evolving research into teaching practice and to respond to students’ changing interests and needs.
Having these questions as a part of your planning will assist how you reflect and revise the lesson in the future. This is not a definitive list but a good starting place.
Confidence in creating an arts-rich teaching program can be built over time and you can find a wide range of ideas and ready-made dance lessons in Dance Teaching Ideas to help you get started. View the Dance teaching resources with lessons already prepared for you.