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Lesson Openers: 5 Dance ideas to engage your students

Lesson openers are short dance activities to spark interest and build excitement and curiosity for your lesson.  These could be thought of as a dance warm up, however they often provide a mental and physical preparation for learning.

lesson openers for Primary school

They are more than an ‘appetizer’ to the ‘main meal’ of the lesson.  Sure, they capture the children’s attention, but they act to get them involved in the process of the lesson.

The dance lesson opener should be quick to explain, quick to do and quick to move on from.  It needs to get the focus immediately without long, drawn out rules to a game or summaries of what the lesson will be covering.

Unlike Brain breaks in Primary classrooms, these dance activities are aimed at preparing and energizing the body and mind for what will come in the body of the lesson.

Keep in mind that while some of the activities may be more challenging, you are setting up each child for success.  This is about boosting confidence in their ability to learn and respond.

You can use dance lesson openers to set the tone of your lesson, raise energy after the lunch break, or to introduce the theme or topic of the lesson that follows.

Preparing the dance lesson opener

It is important that your lesson opener is prepared and ready to go as the children enter the class.  Speed is the name of the game.

The value of the activity should be obvious to the participants and use information they have already covered in class previously.  Having to explain a concept they are unfamiliar with takes away from the seemingly spontaneous nature of the activity.

You need to know exactly what you are asking them to do, so your instructions are clear and concise.  Having the instructions written down either at the front of class or on a PowerPoint slide ensures that everyone can understand what is required in the activity.

Sometimes, if the activity is written or oral, you could include an example of what you are looking for.  This helps all levels of ability in your class to participate successfully.

# 1 Promoting Critical Analysis and Self Reflection

3 Minute Activity

Show the students a movement phrase once and then they duplicate what they have seen.  Then watch again and they assess how close they were to the original movements.

Teaching Ideas

How long the phrase of movement is will depend on the age group of the children.  If you are not confident to create the movements yourself, there are many dance phrase examples on YouTube that you can show the students.

How many times you repeat this activity with different movement phrases, will be influenced by how much time you have in the lesson, how the children are responding to the task and how well it leads into the activities that will follow.

Link the movement to what you will be covering in the lesson that follows.  This can also be used as a discussion starter.

lesson opener for Primary school

#2 Articulating movements using dance words

5 Minute Activity

The children individually devise a movement phrase and, in pairs, observe each other perform the phrase.  After seeing the movement phrase once, write a description of your partner’s movements.  After reading each other’s work the choreographer suggests modifications.

Teaching Ideas

Encourage students to use dance terms, like the Elements of Dance, that you may have covered in previous lessons.  This activity could also be an oral description rather than written.

#3 Common Misconceptions about Dance

10 Minute Activity

Write a sentence/paragraph about dance that has intention mistakes.  Students spend a few minutes identifying and fixing the mistake and then compare with a partner.  Then give feedback to the class.

Teaching Ideas

Don’t tell them how many mistakes there are in the sentence.  The mistakes should be about facts rather than spelling or grammatical mistakes.  This is about general dance knowledge.  What ever your students have investigated previously or are about to learn about is suitable.  For example, it could be about a dance style, a dance work, or a choreographer.

#4 Dance Element Vocabulary

15 Minute Activity

Think of all the words you can to describe SPACE as a dance element.

In pairs, show examples of your words and then share with the class.

Teaching Ideas

Do this with any or all of the Dance Elements.  For example, SPACE -Levels, Direction, Floor and Air Pathways, Shape.

You could have children write them at the front of the class as a sharing activity if they are less confident with these dance terms.

dance lesson openers for Primary classrooms

#5 Brain and Body Sketching

12 Minute Activity

Show a diagram and the children have to ‘draw’ it with their bodies from memory.

Teaching Ideas

Try to move this activity quickly by only showing the diagram for a short time and then removing it.  They need to start moving quickly so they don’t copy from each other.

The complexity of the diagram will depend on the age group of the students.  I try to start with a simple shape and then move to a more complex collection of shapes.

Try this for a great deal of movement and fun

These dance and movement activities are good brain and body wake up but they also promote rigorous thinking.  The activities often start interesting a worthwhile discussion in the classroom without awkward questioning and long silences.  Use these lesson openers to ensure maximum student engagement.

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