February 07, 2019

Laura Frese

Simple Ways to Shake Up Learning with Creative Movement

Topics: Learning at Home, Learning Through Play


Shake up those winter blues by incorporating some creative movement into your life! Children may be feeling a little stir-crazy in these chilly months, but you can try some simple ways to get them moving their bodies and their minds. Try these mini-dance lessons in the classroom or at home!


1. Use body poses to make shapes, letters, and more!

Help your kinesthetic learners by giving them a physical way to experience their studies! By making shapes with their bodies, students may understand them better than just seeing or drawing them. Little ones struggling with fine motor control could also do better performing these exercises that use bigger muscle groups.


Try this with toddlers, preschoolers: Ask kids if they can think of any shapes to make with their bodies. This can include making a circle with their arms, tracing an imaginary square with their finger or toe, or finding a shape within their body - like a triangle between their legs and the floor. Children starting to learn their letters can trace the letters in the sky with their toe, or try making the shapes with their bodies. Arms out to the side for a T, toe touching knee for a P, toe touching ankle for a D, and so on! Small groups of students could also form letters or shapes by lying on the floor.


Try this with older elementary or middle school students: Toe-tracing can also be used with cursive letters! Students can also try making simple machines with body positions. Ask them to work together to build a Rube Goldberg-style machine with movements.

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2. Get in touch with your emotions

Advanced studies in dance and choreography (making up dances) depend on an emotional connection with movements, story, and emotions. There are four major emotions - happy, sad, angry, and scared.

Try this with preschoolers: “Try on” the 4 major emotions. Give the children space to wander around the space in a neutral position (no emotion). Call out an emotion and a level (for example, happy level 1) and raise the level up to 5, or 10, incrementally as time allows. Then reset and try a different emotion. For extra fun, try playing these emotions as animals! Happy as a dog, sad as an elephant, angry as a bear, and scared as a mouse work well, but any favorite animal will do!

Try this with elementary students: Read a story and encourage students to explore the feelings of the characters. Read it again, with students acting out the story with the emotional background in mind. 

Try this with upper elementary or middle school students: Do the “elementary students” exercise, and then work as a small group to figure out the best parts of each students’ independent work. Pull together everyone’s work into one piece, encouraging collaboration, teamwork, and good listening skills.


3. Anatomy 101

Use dance to “show off” different features of human anatomy. Think of all the things the body can do!

Try this with toddlers and preschoolers: Practice balance on one foot (with or without holding on to a wall or chair!). Call out different body parts to touch with the lifted foot, or with a finger - such as, put your toe to your knee! Touch your toe to your ankle! Put your finger on your nose! Put your hand on your hip! Make sure to try balancing on each foot.


Try this with elementary students: Repeat this exercise with some trickier body parts - bicep, thigh, calf - or try poses that require two hands.


4. The “30-second dance party”

You can change the length of time, the 30-seconds is not key. Point being, it doesn’t have to be long. One to three minutes would be enough to get a little bit of wiggles out, share a little silly fun, then calm down and get back to work.


Try this with toddler, preschool, elementary students: Be sure to listen to your music ahead of time. Most songs with true curse words will be labelled as such, but there’s no function to screen for songs with other kinds of objectionable lyrics (ie drinking, drugs, violence, racism, sexism) or songs with near curses (for example, “Moves Like Jagger” includes “shhhhh” in place of a certain bad word, which is too close for comfort in my opinion). You don’t have to be a good dancer to facilitate a dance party! Kids of this age appreciate your participation even if you don’t have any super sweet moves - enthusiasm makes up for skill.

Try this with middle, high school, or beyond: Depending on your teaching style, you may be ok trying to find a popular song that’s appropriate to play in your class. You could also share a favorite classic/throwback tune or ask the students to help you make a playlist at the beginning of the year, semester or month (give each one an index card for suggestions, then listen to them and add the good, safe ones to your playlist).


Here’s hoping you can try one or two of these ideas and bring a little excitement into your day!  Stay healthy and active, spring will be here soon!!!


Picture5Laura Frese “retired” early after two years of teaching high school chemistry, but has found many other ways to educate - on a wide variety of subject matter! She currently works as a dance and fitness instructor for Greenleaf Fitness in her small town of Cheverly, Maryland (a suburb of Washington DC). Laura is also a Forest School facilitator and runs a camp for young children. She lives with her husband, Bradford, two human children, and three canine children - Linus Pauling, Rosalind Franklin, and Joseph Priestley.


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