I had a very different idea for this week’s post but once again Susan Riley has been a source of inspiration to me; this time by writing about a connection between music and fractions. I have changed my blog topic to keep the momentum going on the math and music lesson seed planted on Friday, November 9th and Susan’s dance theme of the week. If you have not yet checked out that lesson seed, wait no longer! (https://educationcloset.com/2012/11/09/equal-rhythms-lesson/) Once you have read “Equal Rhythms Lesson” consider using movement as an extension to deepen your students’ understanding and have them embody the rhythms they created.
To start, have your students move to show each whole measure in quarter notes by moving 4 times in a 4 beat measure. The students can sit or stand to rock or sway showing the beat in their bodies, march in place, or walk around the room. Once they feel comfortable with the steady beat, introduce a rhythm for them to clap as they continue to show the beat in their rocking, swaying, marching or walking. What is interesting about this approach is you can “see” equal fractions by noting how many eighth note claps there are to every quarter note rock or walk. If you slowed the rock or walk to half-time (2 movements for a 4 beat measure) the students can see how many eighths and quarters are equal to one half. This exercise is not about choreographing dance but about feeling in the body the relationship between the steady beat and the rhythm being created.
To address dance standards of pulse and accents and using dance vocabulary to describe dance, facilitate student choreography that corresponds to the rhythms in the “question” and “answers.” As a warm-up, the whole class can collaborate on movements to be used for your “question” rhythm. For each note in the rhythm pattern a movement needs to be created. Encourage the students to keep the energy sharp so each beat is clearly articulated in the body. Students who know hip-hop will love this as those movements often show accent and correspond to the beats in the music. To represent a rest, have the students freeze in place.
Once there is common choreography for your “question,” have the students use their sentence strips containing their rhythmic “answers” to choreograph their “answers.” After they have choreographed their movements, each group of dancers can perform the common “question” choreography followed by the unique “answer” choreography as the audience members clap the teacher “question” and the “answer” written by the performing group to provide the accompaniment to the dance. The audience can then address how the performing group solved the choreographic problem using dance terms related to time, space, energy and movement choices. They can also assist the dancers in clarifying movements to better articulate the rhythm.
As the facilitator, you can give them further challenges like including a level change in the choreography or dictating the spatial relationship between the dancers (connected, shadow, mirror, etc.).
If you want to emphasize improvisation, do not break the students back up into their small groups to choreograph movement. Instead have half of the students dance to a set of “answers” being clapped by the audience repeating the same rhythm several times to really allow the students to play with different ways of showing the rhythm in movement. Allow for audience observations (using dance terms of course!) and switch the groups so all have an opportunity to be dancer and audience rhythm clapper!
Thanks again to Susan for writing such inspiring ideas! If you do end up trying this let me know; I would love to hear how it played out with your artists!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.