No Series: Body Movement and Space

Body Movement and Space

Lesson Objective: Learn about the elements of dance in primary grades
Grades 1-2 / Arts / Dance


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the first warm-up activity help to set expectations for learning about dance?
  2. What does Ms. Parnell do to increase students' movement vocabulary throughout the lesson?
  3. Notice the elements of each activity that prepare students to create their own dance.?


  • Private message to Paula Pleasant

Paula Pleasnt

This video gave me somethings to think about. I do use music, not so muxh concentrating on dance to teach.  I am going to intentionally think of ways to use movement actually in the planning of lessons. This has inspired me to want to try.  Wish me luck!!

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  • Private message to Rachael Cole

What a wonderful find this is for an emerging Performing Arts teacher such as myself. Thank you so much!

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  • Private message to Emily Caruso Parnell
Hi Kristen If you look at this unit: you'll see that there is a Black Line Master (BLM) for both locomotor and non-locomotor movements (they'll be on the left-hand side of your screen). You should be able to download them without a membership. Hope that helps!
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  • Private message to Kristen Snyder
My students very much enjoyed your dance sequence created using names and a movement to show how they are feeling! I would like to use your cinquain idea for composing a dance, but it would be helpful to know what the locomotor movements are from the cards. Or do I just choose any locomotor movements. How many locomotor movements and shapes are the children instructed to choose? How do they choose these? I looked on the CODE website link that you gave, but could not find unit plans that matched this. Are they open to everyone or only to members? Thank you!
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  • Private message to Emily Caruso Parnell
Thanks again for your kind comments. I've also been working on the resources for the Sharing Dance initiative. You can access them here:
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  • Transcript of
    Body Movement and Space
    Teacher: Emily Caruso Parnell

    Grade 1 and 2 the main focus is on the first

    Transcript of
    Body Movement and Space
    Teacher: Emily Caruso Parnell

    Grade 1 and 2 the main focus is on the first two elements of the dance: body and space. So, there are five dance elements: body, space, energy, time, and relationships. Body and space are sort of the two most basic. To move you’ve got to have a body and you’ve got to have space in which to move. So those are the two that we really focus on in the first two primary grades.

    Teacher: Good morning boys and girls, we’re going to have a lot of fun today: we’re going to do some dance and we’re going to do some movement. I have a little bell that I use. Do you remember what the little bell means? What do you think it means?

    Student: It means freeze.

    Teacher: Freeze! Like a statue. So let’s practice a couple of times just to make sure we have that, because that’s a really important thing for safety. When we’re moving around and doing lots of fun things you need to know when it’s time to stop so that no one gets hurt. So let’s go. Move your arms and your head, move your arms and your head, move your arms and your head. Nice statue, Tory. Try it one more time. Move your arms and your head, move your arms and your head, move your arms and your head. Good job …

    It’s important to work with the elements of dance because those are really the building blocks of how we make dances. And the focus in the elementary curriculum is on creation as opposed to being on imitation. The idea is not that I do something and the children have to copy it exactly and that that’s how they’re evaluated, based on how well they copy me. The idea is that I provide a framework within which they can be creative. And the ways that we build dances are with these elements.

    Teacher: So I would like you now to think about a movement you would like to do when you say your names. So think about a movement that maybe tells me about how you’re feeling this morning, so maybe if you’re feeling tired you might go [yawn], or maybe if you’re feeling excited you might go like this.

    So today we started with a warm up which was sort of a combination warm up/icebreaker/get to know you session where the children each said their name and then did their movement.
    Teacher: So this is my movement, I’m going to go like this: Emily. Can you all do it with me?

    Students: Emily

    Teacher: Everyone together.

    Student: Emily

    Teacher: Because I’m feeling excited this morning and that’s my excited movement. And your name is?

    Student: Cadence

    Teacher: Cadence? And so do you want this to be your movement, Cadence? With your arms behind your back? OK, so she leans forward like this. Cadence. Can we do it together?

    Students: Cadence

    Teacher: Now we’ll put them together: Emily, Cadence. Good. And next we have?

    Student: Aidan.

    Teacher: Do you want that to be your movement, Aidan, like that? Okay, do it together, Aidan. Okay now we have Emily, Cadence, Aidan. And next to Aidan is?

    Student: Evan.

    Teacher: So I like Evan’s movement. Let’s tuck our heads in, get our shoulders up.

    Student: He’s the shyest person in the class.

    Teacher: That’s fine, it’s OK to be shy. Here we go.

    So some of them did a very shy movement and some of them did a movement that was sort of, that they didn’t even realize was a movement until I pointed out that they were doing something. And then some of them had a very big movement, and it was interesting that the movements got larger and larger and bigger and bigger and more and more confident as we went around the circle. And then we strung them together to create a long movement phrase that had by the end of it 24, including myself, 24 names and 24 movements that all went together in a row.

    This is an activity that could be done throughout the day in a more informal way as opposed to being in a circle. You could certainly have children do this at their desks with a movement involving just their arms and their upper bodies and their heads.

    Teacher: Excellent job! Hand up, give yourself a pat on the back, you did a great job, very good.

    It serves a bunch of purposes: it got me familiar with their names, because they weren’t students that I spend every day with and it also gives me something to hang the names on: that movement, that sense of how they’re feeling, and it also helps me to see. It gives me the chance to observe what their movement vocabulary is like as we go through our warm-up because, I sort of see, OK this kid is very prone to taking wild risks. They want to stand on their head. So I need to be watchful as we go forward, keeping them in the corner of my eye to make sure that they’re not trying to do some crazy martial arts thing that they’re going to get hurt. It also gives them their first taste of the fact that this will be dance but it’s not going to be dance as I like to call it. No one’s going to ask them to point their feet, no one’s going to ask them to assume positions that they are completely unfamiliar with. That the little shoulder shrug that they do when they’re nervous, that that can be dance too.

    Teacher: When I say go, I would like you to find a spot in the room that’s all to yourself. Where you’re not too close to anyone and you’re not too close to anything and I know that’s going to be a bit challenging in this space, but you can do it. Are you going to be under a table?

    Students: No!

    Teacher: Are you going to be leaning on a wall?

    Students: Noooo!

    Teacher: Go!

    So next we’re going to do a more formal warm-up.

    Teacher: All right. So we’re going to start at the tops of our heads, and we’re just going to give our heads a little pat down. Can you just give a little pat down, just like a gentle ….Imagine you’re petting a cat, maybe. But it’s your own head, instead of petting a cat. And then you’re going to pet your face, give yourself a little pat, just gentle, gentle, gentle. Good, then can you pat your shoulders?

    They went through opening and closing movements, which they really, really like. Opening and closing. Then we move top half, bottom half, right half, left half of our body.

    Teacher: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Good, you can count with me. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

    And it allows the children to sort of begin to get comfortable in their bodies and the idea of moving their bodies, that that’s the medium we’re going to use today is our bodies. They get out of their heads and into their bodies. So it gives them that transition time between what we often do in schools, which is sort of educate ourselves from the neck up, and then we get to go back into our bodies and get educated again from the head down.

    Teacher: Can you make a chainsaw sound? Now we’re going to glue the left side of our body, and you’re only going to move the right side. Very nice, and then glue the right side.

    And then they do criss-cross movements which, the theory goes, is supposed to help the right side of the brain connect through the corpus collosum to the left side of the brain, and be more helpful in getting the kids’ brains active than let’s say jumping jacks, which is just on one plane, whereas crossing over is on a different one.

    Teacher: Alright, so now we’re going to choose from our list a couple of body parts, maybe just one, we’ll see how we do, and we’re going to write a little poem. This poem, it’s this kind of poem, it’s called a… sinquain. What little word do you see in there? Do you see a little word? Not a little word in English, it’s actually a little word in French that you might know. “Sinc” What does Sinc mean in French? What does it mean?

    Student: Five.

    Teacher: Five. Right. Sinc. So sincuain is a poem with ….five lines. Five lines. It’s a very short little poem.

    And then we picked one body part and they picked the back, which I thought was an interesting selection, a bit of a hard one to write about really, and so we wrote a sincuain that described the back, some adjectives to describe it, some moving words, some verbs to describe it, a short sentence and then one last sort of summative piece and they used that poem to then create a little short movement phrase. One of the big challenges that generalist teachers have is how do I assess this, and how do I evaluate this? Because they feel like they’re not qualified to know what is good and what is bad. One of the things that helps a lot is to set up these success criteria that I set up in the lessons ahead of time, so that children can refer to them as they’re working. So they’re self-assessing, essentially. They’re using it as a checklist, and saying OK do I have all three levels, have I got a solo, do I have a frozen ending, am I using a pathway? They have all those things, whatever it happens to be that you set up, and certainly using the curriculum and looking at what elements are focused on in each grade can really guide your success criteria.

    Teacher: I would like your dance to show the poem. So when someone listens to the poem they might get pictures in their head and you’re going to use those pictures that you get in your head when you hear our poem to create your dance. You’re going to use different levels. When we were moving in the space, were we always on our feet?

    Students: No.

    Teacher: No, sometimes we were on our knees, sometimes we were on our bums, sometimes we were lying on the floor, and that’s using different levels. Using high level movements, middle level movements, and low level movements. Right, so that you’re not always standing? Understand?

    Students: Yeah.

    Teacher: You’re going to find a spot in the room where you want to work.

    This is an easy way to do dance composition. These blue words, these are the loco motor movements. We say loco motor and that’s our dance word for traveling. So there are eight basic traveling movements and those are on the cards and then there are these four basic shape types which are also on the card. So it makes it an easy way for the kids to compose a dance. They decide how they jump, they decide what the roll looks like, it could be a long roll, it could be them doing a forward roll, it could be them rolling on their knees, it’s entirely up to them what the movement winds up looking like and how it winds up feeling. But the sequence is established by these cards. So it just gives them some parameters, it’s not so open ended. Sometimes dance composition is very hard for children because we say go and make up a dance and it’s too broad and they can’t anchor their creative ideas onto anything. This allows them to have a bit of an anchor for their creativity.

    Teacher: Boys, you can do lots of movements from sports, right? You can do maybe swimming movements? That’s a great back movement, isn’t it?

    Teacher: Slow music, happy music, sad music, soft music, loud music, what kind of music do you think you’d like? And this is Mr. Broughton over here, want to tell him what you think you’d like your music to be?

    Student: Loud music.

    Teacher: Loud music. OK thank you, very nice.

    So that helps the children to self-assess. It also helps them to refer back to get feedback and it also helps you as you’re going around to give feedback and say are you sure you have this? I think you’re missing some things here, I think you should check back. Then the next level of it is a more formal evaluation. So you can turn the success criteria into what is essentially a checklist. If they have everything on the checklist I would say you would give that a level three. If they meet those expectations plus, it’s extremely creative. They’ve approached the problem you’ve given them from a different angle, they’ve perhaps used some interesting shapes that you’ve never thought of, they’ve got some interesting groupings, they do some pair work for instance. Well then that would take it above three into a four and the other levels would be for if they’ve missed some things, right? Maybe they weren’t self-assessing and maybe they did miss some things, or maybe they really didn’t meet the expectations at all.

    Teacher: Now wherever you are in the room, I want you to do eight more swings. Not sitting on your bum, ready? One and a two and three and a four and a five and a six and a seven and a eight! Little runs, slow, not so fast!

    You may have some students observe while other students are moving, you may have some students create music using rhythm instruments while other students are moving, and then have them switch so that one group watches the other group for awhile and then they switch so that you’re using the same space but you’re reducing the number of people moving in the space. Kids, after they’ve moved their desks a few times, they’ve very good at it and they’ll do it very quickly. There are classrooms where it’s very challenging, where there are fixed desks, for instance science labs that have been converted into regular classrooms and that is I grant you very challenging. You can do things in narrow corridors, you can do things in spaces in between, just choose the activities that you’re going to do in the classroom and save the activities that are not that suited to a small space for the bigger space. You may also choose your groupings so that some kids are frozen while other kids are moving so that there’s not as many kids moving in a small space at once which reduces the number of collisions that are possible.

    Teacher: Now show me a straight shape, what’s your ending?

    My personal hope would be that teachers would be hard pressed to find places where they couldn’t use movement to teach the curriculum. There are lots of places where you can use movement to teach other subject areas: science. There’s tons of movement in science. Molecules move, atoms move, structures move, plants move, animals move. There are tons of places. Now, is that all formally dance? Well, there is some internal debate about that. Dance and movement can be integrated into all your curriculum areas, and it can also be taught as its own art form, it’s not a choice that you have to make.

    Teacher: I would like to hear a high/low, which means that I would like to hear about the part that you liked the most today, and if there was a part that you didn’t like so much, I can hear about that too. Christopher?

    Student: I liked everything!

    Teacher: You liked everything? That’s great. Mikaela?

    Student: There was one little part that I didn’t like.

    Teacher: That’s OK, tell me.

    Student: That we used a little too much ___ and my legs started to hurt.

    Teacher: Your legs started to hurt, you got tired by the end? It was a long day of dancing, you’re right, it was a long day of dancing. John?

    I think there are lots of great opportunities to integrate, and I think there are lots of places where dance is really very easy to integrate, and my sincere hope is that teachers, that they take themselves in hand and they really try this and don’t just try it once, try it several times because, it might take you more than once to get good at it. You don’t need specialized dance training, you don’t need to have spent hours and hours in pink tights and shoes to know how to do this.

    Teacher: I would like you all to give yourselves a big, big round of applause. Here we go! Yay!

    It’s very much natural movement that we’re just expanding, movements that you already know how to do, movements that the kids already know how to do, that we’re expanding and building upon and making into art and just reframing our perspective on it. So seeing it as dance, choosing to see it as dance as opposed to just choosing to see it as regular human movement. It’s a little noisy, it’s sometimes a little chaotic and we have to get our heads around that sometimes that’s what education looks like. Sometimes education is noisy, sometimes education is a bit of controlled chaos, but the kids are learning and the kids are doing and the kids are communicating and the kids are writing and the kids are reading – and all that is happening concurrently with this dance activity. So, be brave. Go for it.

    ? end of transcript


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