Warmups and Icebreaker Activities for the Primary Dance Classroom

Fast and fun dance education activities are always good to have on hand for those moments when energy is lagging or to get the energy going in the dance classroom after the holidays.  Warmup activities also help introduce dance curriculum vocabulary and allow teachers to check for students’ understanding.   These are a few that are appropriate for different age groups in Primary or Elementary school dance classrooms.

Snowball attack is a fun dance activity for the older Primary students.  It leads them into making dance in a fun and supported way. On a small piece of paper have them write down a movement description of 8 counts.  This can be as simple as “move your arms above your head” or more complex; “moving sideways wiggle your body and your arms”.  Then screw up the paper into a ball and throw them at each other across the room.  Repeat several times to really mix up the paper.

At the end of this each person has a piece of paper with movement instructions, which they must do, and be able to perform to music.  As they work out their movements they try and guess whose movement instructions they have.

An extension activity is then to teach your movement to a partner and join the phrases together.   Adapt further by adding a body connection, with at least two body parts, with your partner, at some point through the phrase.  The teacher can choose music for the exploration and showing phase of this activity.

Art gallery and sculpture garden is a pairs activity that is great for any age group.  In pairs, one student ‘shapes’ their partners body into a sculptural shape, that may be viewed from any direction.  Once the ‘artist’ has finished the class gets to visit the art gallery and discuss the ‘sculptures’. They then reverse roles and repeat the process.

This is a great opportunity to talk about curved and angular shapes, symmetry and asymmetry, positive and negative space, levels and use of body parts.  The teacher can also give the ‘artist’ some parameters for their creations by asking that it be a low level, curved shape that is asymmetrical.  This is a chance for the teacher to check for student understand about these dance terms.

Meet me in the middle can be as simple or as complex as your class can handle. Form two lines on either side of the room, meet a partner in the middle and return to a different place in the line on the other side. The teacher gives instructions for how you will move when you meet in the middle.  For example, “Join two body parts that aren’t your hands or your feet and move in a curved pathway to the end of the line”.  

Use the elements of dance to bring in vocabulary for the lesson and make it more involved or faster as the game goes on.  You can even instruct students on how to move into the middle by describing the pathways, levels and dynamics that they will use with their locomotor movement.  Adding music helps them get even more creative but start by just doing it in silence.

Red Light Green Light is a simple, high energy, dance activity for younger students and older ones as well.  The music tells you what to do if you want to keep it simple but if you have older students you might want to use the elements of dance. To give students some scaffolding, describe the kinds of shapes you want on the ‘red light’ movement.  For example, ‘low level angular shapes’ or ‘wide, high level shapes’.  This is the link to the music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mwcLVZGlw8

Pass the parcel takes a bit of preparation but is a great way to engage the class particularly at the start of the year.  Each layer of the parcel contains movements which they unwrap when the music stops.  These movement may be done solo or with a partner.  Music that is current and up tempo is best to bring up the energy in the room.

It is good to have the students in a circle or, if this is too confronting, spread them around the room and have the parcel go in curved pathways from one child to the next.  You can change between curved and angular pathways to keep them alert and add in some dance vocabulary.  Make sure the movements you put in the parcel include language you may want to use in the body of the dance lesson.

These activities are not original and are often reminiscent of party games we used to play as children.  By putting a small twist on each one you can shape them introduce the language of dance elements, check for understanding and cover the curriculum requirements for dance.

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