Lesson plan ideas to support dance rehearsal in the primary classroom

ideas for dance lesson plansIn the primary school dance classroom, every moment is precious, and teachers are constantly looking to value add to their lesson plans across a range of curriculum areas. The crowded curriculum means that we all need to multitask when designing learning activities. 

Dance is a great way to foster primary student’s self-assessment and evaluation skills through planned and supported rehearsal strategies. 

Planning for students to run their own rehearsals empowers them to understand some of the important strategies around self-reflection and its role in dance rehearsals.  More importantly being clear about rehearsal planning makes students independently set goals, implement a rehearsal plan and work progressively towards task completion.

Following the steps outlined below will provide a clear teaching dance lesson plan to support your primary school students in independently running effective dance rehearsals.

What is a rehearsal?

Rehearsal in dance is a time of intense practicing.  It is the time when the final details are decided on.  The choreography, music, costumes and placements are complete and nothing new will be added or changed.  It is a time to concentrate on

  • Knowing the movements
  • Being able to keep time with the music or the other dancers
  • Being able to do it by yourself or with your group
  • Knowing where you are to be in the space
  • Knowing how to get on and off the stage/dance space
  • Using expression on your face and in your body to get your ideas through to the audience

How do I structure a rehearsal?

Like any activity that has a desired outcome you need to set clear goals before the task begins.  Here are some ways you can set up a successful rehearsal in your primary classroom.

  • Ask the students to decide on what might be important to do successfully as applies to the specific task.
  • What are the movements, steps, sections or elements that they feel need improvement?
  • Use the Elements of Dance to structure the discussion to further check for student understanding. 

The rehearsal will be unproductive if the class does not have a common understanding of the concepts that are central to the completion of the task.

Rehearsing danceFollowing this discussion, you may need to provide additional information to fill in any gaps in understanding.  This could include providing a reading, showing a short film or providing other resources that shows different perspectives on the rehearsal problem.

Be clear about how much rehearsal time they will have and what they could achieve in that time.  This will require them to have their own individual rehearsal plan. 

Provide an outline of the steps they will have to go through in order make the most of the time they have. 

This could include:

1. Identifying any problems with the task and prioritizing which are the most important to their goals.

2.  Decide on the best way to improve these difficulties.  How are they going to apply their knowledge?  It could mean doing movements slowly without the music or repeating a movement several times to get up to speed with the music.  Other solutions are having another student, or the teacher, observe and identify the difficulties in the choreography. 

Once again if you are having someone observe you need to be clear about which part of the choreography you want them to analyse. It could be the positioning of your body as you make the shapes, the dynamics or timing you are using or your facial expressions. 

Having dot points of these main areas, with room to write feedback, helps this evaluation stay focused.

3. They then need to go slowly over these problem areas without the music, paying attention to the detail of the movement.  Think about the positioning of the body as they make shapes, the dynamics they are using and their facial expressions.

4.Then repeat the dance with the music, checking they are clear about the changes to their performance.

5.Then do the dance again.   Have a classmate or the teacher watch and give some feedback.  Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what you look like as you move.  Providing a feedback sheet that focuses on the goals established at the beginning of class, really helps to focus this part of the rehearsal.

6. Do the dance again to really ‘lock in’ the learning. 

Finally, it is useful to have them assess the effectiveness of their rehearsal process.  This can be done by a group discussion or a short, written reflection.  Encourage them to challenge and question their decisions about what and how to rehearse. 

Ask students to appraise their level of focus, communication and time management and possible improvements they may make to process next time. 

But don’t forget to encourage them to find the ‘wins’ of the dance rehearsal process.

Always end the rehearsal on a high note!  The most important thing is to be enthusiastic, supportive and positive.  The very best dance performances are done when the dancer feels good about themselves and what they are doing.  If they are having fun, the audience is having fun!

For more detailed information on rehearsals and giving feedback in the Primary dance classroom take a look at the printable resources  in the Dancing with Captain Cook dance unit.  This resource contains Discussion Starters for Rehearsal, Reflection Sheets, Feedback Focus Sheets, Teacher Feedback Sheets and much more.  These may be used as a part of the unit or repurposed for other topics.

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