Integrating Dance in the classroom

integrating danceConnecting dance with other learning areas is a time saving way of creating diverse and dynamic learning experiences that link a multifaceted curriculum. It is a way of clarifying student’s ideas about how they see their place in a complex world.  It encourages active participation by the students and accommodates many different learning styles.

Integrated lessons usually cross over two or more subject areas but have a single focused learning objective.  Creating integrated lessons can save you time but it does take planning.

Reaching out to other teachers who may have different skills in other learning areas can support your lesson planning and save time. Sharing is caring.

An integrated approach can be either multidisciplinary in that the focus is on each of the disciplines or interdisciplinary where the lesson is organised around common learning across subject areas.

It is important to have a clear learning goal and not to confuse the aim of the lesson.  Stating these goals at the beginning of the lesson makes it clear what the students are trying to achieve.

The different subject areas should complement each other, and the connection should be clear to the students.  By going to the curriculum and seeing how skills, information and understandings line up across the subjects and year level is a great place to start.

Benefits of Integrated Learning

Each child in your classroom may be interested in completely different subjects.  By combining several learning areas your students can explore things that may not, at first, be attractive.

Thanksgiving movement songs for toddlersEach child can shine in their own way.  It results in positive emotions in your students and helps children to be optimistic about their abilities.

Connecting a range of subjects and using different learning approaches, enriches the lives of children as they explore and question. It encourages a view of a continuum of learning and, like the education system of the ancient Greeks, discourages a hierarchy of subjects.

The multidisciplinary nature of integrated learning reflects the composition of the community that surrounds children.  Dance, as a part of integrated lesson planning, shows pathways for using dance for future employment opportunities as a part of those communities.

Using Dance in integrated lessons enhances other learning areas through developing skills for the 21st century and beyond.  Creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking are paramount in the dance classroom and in the integrated learning model.

Integrating Dance with other Art forms or with key learning areas, brings deep and complex learning as students are asked to think across ideas looking for similarities and contrasts.

The art of dance uses movement to create meaning about the human experience. It is for more than exercise or entertainment.

Jane Bonbright, executive director of National Dance Education Organisation.

To implement dance as an ongoing part of how we deliver learning, requires a strong commitment by classroom teachers.  Once you can see the amazing results of how the Arts enriches your students and engages them, you’ll be hooked on integrating dance as a part of normal classroom pedagogy.

How do we combine dance with another learning area?

It is important when planning an integrated lesson that you decide which of the subject areas will be the main focus.  Ensure that you are addressing the learning objectives of the focus subject and that you include relevant information from the other learning area.

Avoid trying to cover too many skills.

Science lends itself to creating movement as it is often about different stages of a process.  Getting small groups to devise dance that represents different stages of a process, that incorporates an interpretation of Bloom’s Taxonomy, can really enrich learning.

integrating dance in the primary classroomTo create a dance about The Water Cycle, the dance could be separated into six groups: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, transpiration, runoff and infiltration.

Each group needs to research what happens in their part of the water cycle (Knowledge) and then explain to the class what they have found (Comprehension).

They then need to devise a series of movements that illustrate what they have learned (Application) and compare it to the other parts of the water cycle as performed by each group, using the Elements of Dance and the Science observations (Analyse).

As a group they then create a dance that joins the different parts together using transitions between movements (Synthesis).  Then decide if the dance clearly represents the water cycle or if it needs other elements like lighting, props, music, or costumes to better illustrate the process (Evaluate).

For more ideas about creating a dance class using The Water Cycle see these Free Dance Lesson Plans.

Lesson ideas for integrating dance

Some things lend themselves to integrating with dance like exploring the Human Body.  For each lesson you could focus on different parts of the body.

The warmup should include a wide range of movements that use that focus body part.  Keep in mind the different ways joints can move and show illustrations of these movements.

You could even add to complexity by using it as a beginning activity for a unit on Simple machines.  Then you are connecting two aspects of science and dance.

You could explore Matter and investigate the chemical change and the physical change using Contrast as a choreographic devise in dance to illustrate these.

Photosynthesis also has elements that are fantastic for look at Dynamics in Dance.  Water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, chloroplasts and the actions of absorbing and release in response to each other is engaging and creative.

Integrating dance and science makes the children think scientifically about the process and in the abstract as they make movement about the phenomenon.

The reason we use dance…is because researchers found that dance helps you with your problem solving skills and also increases their (children) confidence.

Rocio Cuevas, Stem from Dance, “New York Teens are Learning Coding and Science through Dance”, in Forbes, Feb 15, 2020

A disconnected curriculum results in children seeing learning as bits of information rather then a holistic way of questioning, understanding, and making sense of their lived experience.  Life is connected, not compartmentalised or fragmented.

Integrating lessons captivates the imagination of children, motivating them and leading them to become lifelong learners.  This results in them making their own natural connections and having a deeper understanding of content from many perspectives.

The dance projects and Dance Units on Dance Teaching Ideas are integrated with other learning areas appropriate for the Australian Curriculum.