Let’s dance in your classroom! Warmups and cooldowns.

Having trouble getting started with dance in your classroom?  Here are some quick dance teaching ideas to try in the primary classroom. 

Shape in Primary Dance

Warm up games

These games, done at the beginning of the class, should include a warmup for the body and the mind

Ideally, they will start slowly so the children have time to think and are moving individual body parts quite slowly and end with thinking quickly, while moving their whole body at a much faster pace.  They may also begin with nonverbal movement activities and move on to games that encourage thinking and talking about dance as well as moving.

The activities should be aerobic enough to raise the heart rate and should include isolation of body parts and mobilization of the joints.  Try to think about what the rest of the lesson will be focused on. 

For example, from a physical perspective, if the class will require a lot of moving in and out of the floor, then the warmup activity will involve quadricep, arm and hand weight-bearing movement. 

Stuck in the Mud

In the dance version of Stuck in the Mud, the room is divided into quadrants for different body parts that are ‘stuck in the mud’.

1. Head, both hands and right foot,

2. Both hands and left foot toes,

3. Both hands and elbows,

4. Two feet, two knees and two hands.   

Two students are ‘in’ and they tag the other students, who then are ‘stuck in the mud’.  Their ‘stuck’ shape will depend on which quadrant they are tagged in. 

The only way to release them is if another person who is not stuck goes under the student that is stuck to free them.  Change the quadrant descriptions each time you play this game.

Action Whispers

If the lesson is focused on the elements of dance, you might try a game called Action Whispers.  The teacher devises a short, simple phrase of movement that uses, for example, high, middle and low levels and curved and angular shapes. 

This phrase is then shown once to the first student, while all others have their back turned.  One by one they show each other and pass it on. 

The ending showing to everyone is a great discussion starter about which elements are different and how it might have been challenging.  Remember to impress on the children that it doesn’t matter if you get it right or wrong but just to perform it to the best of their ability. 

How long or difficult the initial movement phrase is will depend on the age and dance experience of the students.

Alphabet Soup

This game is a good one to warmup for doing group choreographic activities where they are encouraged to connect physically with each other.  Alphabet Soup makes them think quickly so that they are not focused on physically touching each other, just the shape they are making. 

It works best with 20 or more students in a larger space. 

The students are divided into teams of four to six and find a space in the room.  The teacher then calls out a letter of the alphabet and the students must make that shape together while joined.  The teacher judges the most creative shape and scores throughout the game. 

Keep this moving fast and make judgements about scores decisively.  You can also make it more difficult for older students by asking them to form the shape of items like a house or a tree.   

Here are some more ideas for Warm ups and Icebreakers.

Levels in Dance

Dance Mindfulness relaxation

These activities are great for the end of a dance session so that the students are calm and ready to either continue with another class or go to a lunch break.  Nobody wants a gang of dance hyped children running into the playground…particularly if you’re on duty!  These movement activities can also be used for a brain break.

When children are relaxed, they can think.

They can really focus on what is being said to them.

They become more observant.

They can absorb information for effectively.


Tracing hands

In this activity the children close their eyes and with their right forefinger trace the left hand with the palm side up.  As each finger is traced breath in on the up movement and out as the finger goes down.  Repeat on the other side.

Sleepy Bodies

Pick a body part and while seated, have the children use that body part as if it were playing.  You might suggest that it’s playing at the beach or in a tree.  Then the body part gets very sleepy and relaxed and goes to sleep.  Repeat with other body parts and scenarios or have the children suggest ideas.

Breath in breath out

With the children lying on the floor, with their eyes closed, start a breath cycle, slowly breathing in and out. With the inward breath you are going to describe a difficult emotion and with the outward breath you describe a pleasant feeling, and the children must change the expression on their face. 

For example, breath in/ distressed, breath out/warm and cuddly, breath in/nervous, breath out/relieved, breath in/angry, breath out/joyous.  Try not to do too many breath cycles as it can be quite tiring.  Ensure that they are breathing slowly, and deeply as short, shallow breaths will cause them to hyperventilate!  Have a discussion afterwards about how they felt in their body for each emotion; tense or relaxed.  

dance activities

Bring dance into your classroom

 These dance activities are a starting point for using dance in the Primary/Elementary classroom. Each can be used in isolation or as a part of a themed dance lesson. 

For complete dance activity ideas to use with these dance games become a Premium Member of DTI.

You’ll receive new lesson plans/dance units/dance games each month that can be divided into a series of dance activities as a part of a dance project, dance unit, or done as discrete lessons.

They contain,

  • Guiding Questions
  • A warmup
  • Dance Exploration
  • Reflection

Top Tips: Ideas on how to run the activity and focus the learning.  There are also music suggestions and video links.

The Dance Discussion: Ideas for teachers for possible discussion starters including written activities and reflection sheets.


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