Here are some cool tips and links for dancing in the classroom every day.
But first, let’s talk shop. Here’s a free poster of my Dance Rules for the Classroom:
Discuss the rules with your children. After joining in the dance, rule number 2 is: Stay in your own space or spot. Why? So you don’t bump or hurt the next guy while you’re dancing. It might seem obvious, but kids have to say it and think about it.
Don’t talk, twirl, touch others, or thump your feet. Why are these rules important? Because they help you stay safe, and they make it possible to hear and enjoy the music.
Above all, be respectful! Be kind, caring, helpful, considerate, and thoughtful. That’s the mother of all rules.
From experience, I’ve learned that it’s best to practice without music. With the kids sitting at the meeting area, have them stretch their arms upward, hold, and then stretch down with their elbows lowermost, and repeat. Stretch again, but this time, twist the wrists. Then, twist and snake the arms.
Next, show the kids two dance steps. The first is a simple march. You or a child can demonstrate marching softly, so you’ll be able to hear the music when it plays. For now, you’re still practicing without sounds.
The second move is: Step to the right, and bring your left foot next to it, step to the left, and bring your right foot next to it; step-together, step-together…
Add Music and Stir
Remind the kids that when we add music the rules are the same: no talking, no turning, and no touching. Just move in your own, personal space.
At last, crank it up! Play an MP3 using an iPod with speakers, or a Smartboard, or even a good old boom box with a CD—not too loud at the beginning, so the kids will stay on task.
Put a finger to your lips and motion for the class to stand, march softly, and stretch slowly up and down. This sets the tone that dancing is fun and also safe.
As the kids show they’re responsible, you can give them more freedom. Let them free-dance within their space at the meeting area, while still following the rules. If a child needs extra space, let him dance a bit off to the side. You can also have kids dance in spots around the room, or in a line that circles or snakes around the classroom. Eventually, if they can do it safely, allow kids to free-dance and even move around the room as they please. That’s a glorious thing to behold.
Dance in the Content Areas
Would you like to integrate dance with academics? For reading, you can play music that goes with your story’s mood, setting, or cultural background. If you read Come On, Rain, you can play the blues. For Rainbow Fish, play “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Social Studies offers plenty of dance opportunities. You can play patriotic songs or indigenous tribal music. Kids can bring in music from their original homeland, and describe their culture and dance steps. For added punch, Google photos of these places, or native dances, on your SMART Board.
Play jazz in February for Black History Month, and women composers or singers in March for Women’s History Month. Play pop music or classical to open up a range of cultural experience.
There are tons of science MP3s, like the retro and quirky The Balance of Nature, from Nature Songs by Marais and Miranda.
Any Song Will Do
It’s fun to learn while you dance, but the truth is, the dance is the thing, and any music will do. Whether it’s in the class, or in the gym, or in the schoolyard with a boom box, dance is not only fun, it’s essential.
Nothing beats the shared memories of dancing with your kids. It gets the wiggles out and lets life in.
Please, share with us your favorite tips and links for dancing in the classroom—we can never get enough!
Renee Dawn has been a New York City public school teacher for over 20 years. Her approach is creative, combining the common core, music, dance, meditation, conversation, and a big dollop of laughs. Please stop by her TeachersPayTeachers store, Pinterest, and her blog, Teacher Ink, for more tools to teach, calm and inspire kids!