So You Think You Can’t Dance?
Every year, at least half of my students are kinesthetic learners and yet I get frustrated when they continue to not know the layers of the ocean after going over it again and again on the board. Since I grew up dancing and playing music, I decided to bring dance into my classroom to bring a more hands-on approach to learning. It’s great when working with vocabulary or difficult concepts. The students also break out of their shyness and have more fun learning. It’s also great for fluency and comprehension since students have to reread and dissect the lyrics.
The most important thing to know is that you don’t need any dancing skills to dance in class. As a teacher, you always have the “cooler than you” card in the kids’ eyes so you don’t have to worry about what you look like. In fact, being silly is what will get your shy or grouchy kids to dance. (This year, I happened to be dressed in a onezie with fox feet for spirit day when I introduced dance to my kids. The kids had no excuse.)
Depending on the song and your class, the following steps might need to be modified.
STEP 1: Dance Terms
You can choose what you want to focus on but these are the dance terms that I will teach, demonstrate, and then have them demonstrate.
- Neutral Position (feet slightly apart, hands down by sides, shoulders down, eyes forward)
- High/Medium/Low levels
- Big/Small movement
- Sharp/Smooth movement
STEP 2: Text Breakdown
Split students in groups of 4-5. The class will listen to the song and follow along with the new lyrics. Assign a verse to each group and students will restate the verse in their own words to the group.
STEP 3: Model it
With the whole class, you will take the chorus and choreograph each line at a time with the music (be sure you have choreographed it ahead of time). Show how you are thinking about the dance terms and the rhythm of the music.
Students will learn each choreographed line with you.
STEP 4: Choreography time
Groups will go to work on their verses and practice. This is your time to make quiet assessments and give support to the groups.
STEP 5: Learn Choreography
Groups are paired up and take turns teaching the other group their verse and choreography.
STEP 6: Perform
Give groups 30 seconds to come up with a frozen position when it is not their turn. Without music, each group will perform their choreography in order from beginning to end, including the chorus. Put it to music!
After the first day, you can take 5 minutes at the beginning of class for groups to review, practice, and run it with the music. Before you know it, vocabulary is memorized, concepts are visualized, and all information is retained.
Below are a couple of songs I’ve written and you’re more than welcome to try it out with your students.
TIP: It’s really important to have some sort of visual at the front of the class to support the content.