Performing Arts in the Early Childhood Classroom
Dance in the Classroom
"Before a child talks, they sing. Before they write, they draw. As soon as they stand, they dance. Art is fundamental to human expression."
- Phylicia Rashad
Movement in the classroom supports the academic, physical, social, and intellectual development of children in the elementary classroom. Some of the reasons educators integrate movement into their instructional activities are listed below.
- Support physical development and a healthy lifestyle.
- Promote social-emotional health and maturity.
- Integrate kinesthetic learning with conceptual understanding.
- Provide children with multiple perspectives.
- Nurture cognitive development and academic engagement.
- Help children develop literacy.
- Encourage social interaction and cooperation.
- Foster critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.
Movement vs. Dance
Dance is a rigorous academic, artistic, and social discipline with years of study, research, and influence on our society today. However, many educators and students carry preconceived ideas about what dance is, what dance looks like, and what dance means. These ideas are often narrow and limiting when it comes to the potential for movement to support learning in the classroom. Some educators choose to focus on the terminology "movement in the classroom" as opposed to "dance" to help themselves or their students feel more comfortable with physical expression in the classroom.
The most prominent images of what dance is and what dance looks like are presented in the forms of codified dance--ballet, modern dance, tap, and folk dances--that have a specific vocabulary and pattern for sequencing steps or movement. However, dance is used as a form of individual expression across the globe beyond these dance forms that dominate our Western society. Dance is a natural part of the human experience and can be used to express many ideas in the classroom.
Elements of Dance
An understanding of the elements and concepts of dance is essential for a classroom teacher to design movement-integrated instructional events. The elements of dance are used to describe, guide, instruct, connect, and evaluate movement. The elements of dance are organized in many different frameworks. The "Dance is B.E.S.T" framework developed by Marilyn Berrett is described in the chart below.
Dance activities for the classroom
Participants move through the eight fundamental movement patterns of Breath, Tactile, Core-Distal, Head-Tail, Upper-Lower, Body-Side, Cross-Lateral, and Vestibular. These patterns are introduced and integrated into the lesson as dance concepts (level, direction, size, pathway, focus, balance, and energy). Though usually performed standing, the Brain Dance can sometimes be done seated in a chair.
Group Mirror Warm-up
Teachers lead participants through balancing, stretching, and isolating body parts. Students reflect the movements of the teacher as if looking into a mirror. Be sure to change levels and travel through space but move slowly enough to have students stay in sync with the leader at all times.
Playing Simon Says moves various body parts in different ways and develops listening skills. ("Simon says to stretch your arms up way high." "Simon says to bounce in place." "Simon says to shake your hand.") When students make mistakes, teachers encourage continued participation in the warm-up.
Isolated Parts Warm-up
Warm-up with a body part dance. Teachers use a drum to create rhythm, naming a body part every time he or she starts drumming. Instruct students to dance with only that body part, keeping the other parts still. Ask questions: How many ways can you move that part? What are some new ways this part can move?
Begin by choosing a movement. Make it travel from your head to your toes and back again. Start with shaking: shake the head, then move the shaking from the head to the shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips, knees, legs, feet, and back up through the body to the head. Try other movements like floating, stretching, pulling, twisting, and bending. Encourage suggestions. Use a drum or other movements (clapping, tapping, stamping) to accompany students' explorations.
Carousel Dance Warm-up
Display five to eight prompts at various locations around the room. Divide the class into groups and assign each a beginning station. Set a timer and give students one to two minutes to explore the movement prompt before signaling the transition to the next station. Repeat until students have completed the entire cycle. Coach them on the side to explore multiple solutions to each movement prompt.
Integrating Dance with Core Subjects
Check out the following dance-integrated lesson plans designed by elementary classroom teachers and dance teaching artists for the BYU ARTS Partnership. These lesson plans represent excellent examples of using movement and dance to explore all subjects in the classroom.
- "From Head to Toe by Eric Carle" - Dance and English Language Arts for Grades K-1
- "Every Dancer Counts!" - Dance and Mathematics (Place Value) for Grades K-2
- "Heredity" - Dance, Science, and Social Studies for Grades 1-3
- "Plants Can't Sit Still" - Dance and Science for K-3
- "My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess" - Dance and English Language Arts for Grades K-3
Find more lesson plans at www.education.byu.edu/arts/lessons.
Drama in the Classroom
"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." -Oscar Wilde
Guided classroom drama activities support the academic, physical, social, and intellectual development of children in the elementary classroom. Reasons educators integrate drama activities into their instructional activities are listed below.
- Provides a natural way for children to learn and explore.
- Encourages dispositions for teamwork and collaboration.
- Brings attention to the whole person, including physical, emotional, social, and intellectual aspects.
- Develops imagination, creativity, and critical thinking.
- Enhances the ability to express through movement and voice.
- Boosts confidence and builds 21st century skills.
The Hallmarks of Guided Classroom Drama
While theatre is audience-centric and focuses primarily on students developing higher-level performance, design, writing, and tech skills, guided classroom drama is designed to benefit students' own understanding of themselves, help them develop a deeper understanding of ideas and issues, and encourage empathy for others. Storytelling, dramatic play, choral speaking, puppetry, pantomime, narrative mime, theatre games, mantle of the expert, improvisation, and teacher-in-role are examples of drama-based activities.
Guided classroom drama is easily integrated into other core curricula, is student-centric, incorporates the teacher as facilitator, and includes a non-formal audience and performing space. It is an appropriate method of teaching and learning for all grade levels. The culminating outcomes of guided classroom drama might include demonstrating understanding of concepts in other content areas, following directions, demonstrating more confidence when taking creative risks, improved group collaboration, speaking clearly, or using flexible and unique thinking to solve problems. These outcomes can vary in effective drama classrooms and may or may not be intended to become a final performance for an invited audience.
1. Drama involves pretending, such as role-play and characterization.
Guided classroom drama is most often recognized as pretending. Guided classroom drama focuses on the use of an actor's tools: body, voice, and mind. Mind equals imagination and analysis, as well as creative problem solving. Pretending is fostered by open-ended questions with unlimited answers.
2. Drama emphasizes the importance of relationships.
Often using design, sound, and movement to convey ideas, drama emphasizes the importance of relationships, can be communicated through speech and movement (sometimes using a script), and is expressed through an actor's body, voice, and mind. Guided classroom drama is focused on communicating content, including specific curricular content or more abstract ideas like emotion and empathy. Participating individuals and audience members will see, hear, understand, and feel the meaning of what learners and/or performers are expressing. In dramatic performance, showing is more powerful than telling. Ideas can be expressed through scenery, costumes, music, dance, blocking, stage business, puppetry, light, color, texture, mood, and energy.
3. Drama is collaborative and encourages problem solving by highlighting conflict.
The facilitating teacher of a drama-based activity helps learners identify the main dramatic conflict, and then guides learners in finding ways to resolve the conflict. While tension may be uncomfortable, guided classroom drama capitalizes on conflict as an opportunity to practice resilience and problem solving in low stakes and lifelike situations.
A Scaffold for Drama Work
Systematic approaches to learning about and through drama are many and varied. The elements of this scaffold represent just one method of ordering the work for guided classroom drama, and incorporates the hallmarks described above. The story element, with its inherent dramatic conflict, strong structure, and memorable characters, runs throughout this particular approach. Using various 21 red-hot guided classroom drama tools while practicing the elements described in this scaffold can provide students with more in-depth drama explorations.
Music in the Classroom
"Music enhances the education of our children by helping them to make connections and broadening the depth with which they think and feel. If we are to hope for a society of culturally literate people, music must be a vital part of our children's education." - Yo-Yo Ma
Leveraging music activities in the classroom supports the academic, physical, social, and intellectual development of children in the elementary classroom. Reasons educators integrate music learning into their instructional activities are listed below.
- Impact student's academic achievement.
- Encourage social and emotional development.
- Strengthen memory and learning retention.
- Influence motor development and physical maturation.
- Enhance the connection between the body and mind.
- Boost confidence and acquire 21st century skills.
What Children Do With Music
- differentiate between singing voice and speaking voice
- explore range of high and low pitches
- sing on pitch and with good tone
- experience feeling and moving to a steady beat
- recognize the difference between strong and weak beats
- practice beat accuracy
- explore sound and silence in rhythmic patterns
- practice playing strong and weak beats in patterns of 2, 3, 4
- practice rhythmic patterns simultaneously with beat/rhythmic patterns of others
- build skill in playing rhythm patterns
- explore varying uses of tempo and dynamics
- perform with body percussion (clap, snap, pat, stomp)
- play on non-pitched and pitched instruments
- explore a variety of icons representing pitch, duration, and form
- understand the relationship between beat and rhythm
- use traditional and iconic notation as a means of reading and performing music
- use Curwen hand signs
- respond to patterns of same and different
- listen and identify how tempo (fast and slow), dynamics (loud and soft), and timbre (vocal, instrumental, environmental sounds) are used in a piece of music to express the composer's intent
- learn to listen carefully to others when participating in an ensemble
- recognize repeated or contrasting phrases
- identify the form of a piece of music
- analyze and identify the elements of music in a piece and how they are used to express the composer's intent
- connect music to personal, societal, and cultural context
- compose, improvise, and apply musical elements to create music
- create vocal characterizations as part of a story or song
- create new words and rhymes for favorite classroom songs
- create simple beat and rhythm patterns
- create simple iconic representation of beat, meter, rhythm, and pitch
- create simple rhythmic patterns to be played against a steady beat
- create variations in tempo, dynamics, and timbre for musical expression
Beat and Rhythm
Focusing on beat and rhythm skills in the classroom can help students develop skills in fluency, pacing, timing, synchronicity, agility, and coordination. Try the following activities to engage students in understanding beat and rhythm:
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