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Planning Creative Dance Lessons for Primary School

Creative dance in your primary/elementary classroom has probably already been student centred in approach.  However, in these times of great upheaval in education as a result of the pandemic, shifting the agency for learning towards the student has never been more important.

creative dance lesson plans


Remote learning has meant that students in many cases have become responsible in part for their own involvement in the education process


Teachers have had to reinvent how they teach and connected with their students.  This has resulted in teachers really personalizing their approaches in order to engage students in their own homes where the option to ‘switch off’ is a very real possibility.  Many of the dance teachers I have spoken to over this time have been pleasantly surprised at the continued involvement of their students in this mode of online teaching.  This is despite the difficulties of space and privacy in a home learning context.

However, despite this move towards more self-determined learning in the dance class, the teacher still ensures safety and provides information on how to learn.  The students settle on what, why, and how they learn during this process, driven by their inquisitiveness and curiosity.

Why self-determined learning could be essential when planning for creative dance.

Self-determined learning approaches involve students have more control over the learning environment.  In this approach the student co creates the learning tasks, conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and reflecting on their learning.

Self-determined learning empowers children to be actively engaged in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing, and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcome.       Katrin Saks & Äli Leijen

In the early years creativity is linked to the processes of play, and what is playful is determined by the individual.  In the later years we often move away from this concept of the importance of play to children’s creativity and learning.  By moving toward playful exploration of movement, children begin to make choices about how they learn.  In turn, they become more discerning, thoughtful and reflective about how they engage with the learning process.

Cognitive Benefits

 Designing a dance class that supports student autonomy, gives the learning added meaning as it is relevant to student’s lives.   This learning has an emotional connection, harnessing critical thinking skills that involve children finding focus and clarity when inquiring into ideas and new knowledge that they are exploring.

Confidence and self belief

By giving children agency, they develop leadership skills. It allows them to take chances and learn from their mistakes, building the self-belief to complete what they set out to do. They become better at time management as they are truly invested in the outcome of the project.

Creative dance lesson planning

The word ‘creative’ when put before dance may seem superfluous, however, to be truly creative children need opportunities to explore what is of interest to them. Therefore, dance lesson plans need to be flexible enough to support each individual child’s creative explorations, learning and discoveries.

creative dance lesson planning

Student-led approaches to creative dance classes are highly effective and flexibility in your dance classroom.  Some of the components of lesson plans using a self-determined learning approach include mindfulness practice, collaborative problem solving, and student-led formative assessment tasks.


Bookend dance lessons with meditation style activities at the beginning for focus and as reflection at the end.  This quietens the outside noise of their lives bringing them into their bodies, allowing time to wonder.

You can do this in your classroom or take them outdoors to begin.  If they need to move throughout these activities, they will still get the benefit from having time to reflect and refocus.  It is a very big ask to expect children to remain still for too long.

Instead try moving their position throughout the meditation.  They can move from lying, to sitting, to standing, to moving gently on the spot.  This may be done with the eyes open or closed.

Collaborative Problem-solving

Central to the creation of dance in a professional sense is the notion of solving movement problems as a group.  When designing a creative movement class, you could start with a thinking activity that raises a movement problem that the children must decide the processes they will go through to solve.

Try having them bring a photo of something they find interesting and they arrange the photos on the floor.  They can talk about why they chose them, similarities between the photos, questions that they would like answered about their or someone else’s photo.

Create a collaborative collage, decide if there is a central theme to explore or a journey from one part of the collage to another.  They may then design how they could represent the collage as a group dance.


creative dance in primary school

Will they create it as a whole class, in small groups, pairs or individually?

What choreographic devices could they use to bring it together?

Should the dance have music, sounds, spoken word, or silence?

Where could they perform the dance, or should they film it?

Who will be the audience? What space will they use for the performance?

What costumes will they wear?



Formative Assessment

This self-determined approach to the creative dance class is supported by student designed formative assessment. One of the core principals of formative assessment is that the learning is an active part of the process.  This includes setting of goals, planning for how they will achieve those goals and reflecting on their success.

There are three phases to self-determined formative assessment activities according to Zimmerman (2002).  These are,

The forethought phase – the task is interpreted, and the goals are formulated by the students.

The performance phase – the monitoring and evaluating of their learning.

The reflection phase – making judgements and evaluating learning after it has occurred.

The forethought phase

During the initial forethought phase, students need opportunities to demonstrate what they are most interested as a part of the creative dance exploration.  For example, it may be of no interest to young children living in a tropical climate to investigate Autumn through a ‘falling leaves’ lens if this is not a part of their lived experience.  They may be more interested in the seasonal changes of the ‘wet’ and the ‘dry’ and what they can observe in their own environment.

The goals made be determined through discussion as a whole class or as a result of something that has raised questions in other parts of the curriculum.

The performance phase

There are many ways that students can lead their own evaluating processes in the performance phase.

Here are some ideas.

Discuss ideas with a ’buddy’ about answers to questions that emerge from the creative dance task.  Then take these questions and answers to the class for a broader discussion.

Students can be discussion leaders as they ask questions of each other during whole class discussions.  This helps to show teachers the students thought processes, what they are interested in knowing and develops leadership skills.

Brainstorming solutions to movement problems in a group and then reporting to the whole class at the end.  This may also come in written form as a part of the process.

After these feedback style activities, the students can ask themselves the questions, “Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next?”            Hattie & Timperley, 2007



Hattie, J. (2013). Calibration and confidence: Where to next? Learning and Instruction, 24, 62-66.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

Zimmerman, B. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory Into Practive, 41(2), 64-70.  


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