Deirdre Moore | July 2017

How Do You Inspire Movement in Your Students?

For many teachers, integrating dance or movement can be intimidating and supporting students as they use movement can be challenging as well. My tip to you? Movement begets movement. If you want your students to move, let them watch something move and be inspired by that movement.

How to Inspire Movement

Let me give you an example. A group of second graders in my school was studying life cycles and the metamorphosis of butterflies and frogs. The teacher and I decided to integrate movement and the life cycle of a frog. So what did we have the students do first?

We had them watch videos of frogs in the various stages of the cycle and allowed them to move like those frogs. They explored different ways to show the same stage experimenting with a variety of ways to move their bodies. I added scarves to the mix and those students were off and running creating eggs and tails using the scarves to further clarify the stage of development and add an interesting element to their choreography.

A Lesson Example

When working with kindergartners who were studying sea life, we first watched videos of their chosen sea animal and identified the movements we wanted to include in our dance. We imitated those movements and talked about those movements in the language of dance.

  • Were the movements axial or locomotor movements?
  • Did the movement change levels?
  • What was the quality of the movement?
  • Was it sharp or smooth?

Once we could identify the the dance elements of those movements, the students were able to agree on the best way to show the movements creating contrast and variety in their choreography.

Scheduling Time for Movement

Which leads me to the fifth grade classes with whom I am currently working. It is difficult to schedule time with these busy fifth graders – it has to work with their schedules, my schedule and the schedule of the multi-purpose room (the only space big enough to have 30+ fifth grade bodies dancing). Therefore every moment is precious.

Twice now I had the students in the space and had my video all set to go so they could study the movement of the heart and the valves in its four chambers when something happened with the technology that neither the classroom teacher nor I knew how to fix. Only moments before the students entered the room the video had worked and suddenly, it didn’t. So, I had to improvise.

The students had seen the video in their own classrooms but they had not been watching with the eye of a choreographer. They did not internalize the important movements or the quality of that movement. In the end I told them what I observed and demonstrated for them rather than having them watch the movement and discover it for themselves. When they discover it for themselves, the learning is so much deeper and more authentic. Not to mention it is so much more fun for the students!

This experience with these fifth graders only emphasized for me just how important it is to have the students watch movement to help inspire their choreography when integrating movement with other content areas. It reinforces the other content area and it informs their movement suggesting new ways they can move or challenging them to find a way to show or demonstrate important aspects of the movement they observed. So the next time you want to have your students use movement to explore other content area, think about having them watch movement first and watch the inspiration manifest!

About the Author

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.