For me, one of the best things about being a dance teacher of preschool and kindergarten age students is this -- for 30 or 45 minutes at a time, I get to PLAY and PRETEND, right there with them!
I like to use a broad range of themes and ideas to dance about because, honestly, changing it up (beyond princesses and unicorns) is WAY more fun for me, as well as for them.
ANIMALS are a sure-fire theme that gets my students excited, and there are many different ways to explore this broad category.
Want to try out some animal ideas in your dance classes? Click the picture below to get a FREE copy of my top 4 animal themes, with more than 10 ideas to jumpstart your own animal lesson plan!
Teaching this age group also allows me to bring two of my favorite things together - DANCE & READING! When possible, I like to read a short book to my students to help them conceptualize and connect with our dance class theme.
Click the picture below for a list of 5 wonderful books about animals that dance & move, with links of where to purchase them or find them at your local library.
I have more ANIMAL themed resources for you too!
My Animal Theme Hooray for Dance Notebook has done-for-you preschool ballet and jazz combos, with song lists, detailed combos, short video clips, and visual aids for your class. Little Wild Ones has class exercises for parent-tot dance & young preschoolers. Check out the Animal Feet Tap Lesson Plan for ages 3-5! In it, the students will dance their way through the book Dancing Feet, as they make tap sounds like the animals in the book. The Giraffes That Dance Tap Lesson Plan for ages 5-7 will capture the attention of your tap students, as they find their own musical voice just like Gerald the giraffe. Animal Rhythms is a tap skill game for elementary age tap classes, and Animal Actions is a great game to build strength and work on motor tools for preschool & elementary age students. Mixed Up Menagerie is a choreography & warm-up game that asks the students to create their own wacky and wild animal moves. Musical Mud Puddles & Piggy & Friends Freeze Dance are perfect for class, a dance camp, or even a dance birthday party, and are a big hit for kids who love Peppa Pig!
ddh_animal_roll-a-step_warm-up.pdfHere my 3 favorite ways to explore ANIMALS and the WAY THEY MOVE, in my dance classes for all ages!
ANIMAL WARM-UP - JAZZ & CREATIVE MOVEMENT COLLABORATION
Together with your students, make a quick list of the first 5 animals they can think of, and write them on your white board, or tape a paper to your mirror. Brainstorm the movements that each animal does, or a characteristic of that animal, and collaborate with your students to create a fun warm-up!
Kangaroos jump, box, and have long tails! Our Kangaroo warm-up could include sways or hip isolations side to side (moving our long tails!), and then progress into kangaroo jumps in place 4X, with alternating air-punches RLRL. Then repeat!
Or, use this Animal Roll-A-Step sheet for some done-for-you animal warm-up activities! Just click the picture for your free printable download!
BALLET ANIMALS TRIVIA
For your older students, you could challenge their ballet terminology and dance history knowledge. Ask them to list as many steps as they can think of that relate directly to animals, or use this as an opportunity to introduce a new step to the class.
Here is a quick list of 5 ballet steps named after animals, pulled from this article on dance-teacher.com.
Or, you could also ask them to list any famous ballets that use animals as the characters -- here are some out-of-the-box ideas, with clips to watch, from pointemagazine.com!
ANIMAL EXPLORATION & IMPROVISATION
Our imaginations can take us on a wild ride through the jungle, out for a day on the farm, or even under the sea -- and music can be the catalyst for animal-inspired movement!
For your older students, you could play a guessing game, using the music from The Carnival of the Animals by composer Camille Saint-Saens. Play a clip from each movement, and see if they can guess which animal each section is representing, based on how the music sounds and feels. Then, ask them to create their own animal inspired movement sequence!
For preschool & early elementary age students, teach them how music can tell a story and give us cues on how to move by using the follow-along action song, Butterfly, Elephant, or Mouse? by Andrew Holdsworth.
Do you love to use animal-inspired movement too? Let me know your tried-and-true ideas, in the comments!
I have more ANIMAL themed resources for you too!
My Animal Theme Hooray for Dance Notebook has done-for-you preschool ballet, tap, and jazz combos, with song lists, detailed combos, short video clips, and visual aids for your class. Little Wild Ones has class exercises for parent-tot dance & young preschoolers. Check out the Animal Feet Tap Lesson Plan for ages 3-5! In it, the students will dance their way through the book Dancing Feet, as they make tap sounds like the animals in the book. The Giraffes That Dance Tap Lesson Plan for ages 5-7 will capture the attention of your tap students, as they find their own musical voice just like Gerald the giraffe. Animal Rhythms is a tap skill game for elementary age tap classes, and Animal Actions is a great game to build strength and work on motor tools for preschool & elementary age students. Mixed Up Menagerie is a choreography & warm-up game that asks the students to create their own wacky and wild animal moves. Musical Mud Puddles & Piggy & Friends Freeze Dance are perfect for class, a dance camp, or even a dance birthday party, and are a big hit for kids who love Peppa Pig!
There are SO many great props that can be used in dance class, to enhance the learning process, engage the students, and promote creativity. Maybe you've used ribbons, sheer scarves, bean bags and hula hoops........
But have you ever used BALLOONS as a part of your lessons?
I use plain, old birthday party balloons that I just blow up myself or with a small hand pump. (I usually buy the mixed packs from Target, Walmart, or Party City).
Are you thinking, "Corey, there is NO way I can use balloons in my class! The kids would go wild and it would be a free-for-all!!"?
But I am here to tell you -- it CAN be done! (and it is super fun!)
I will admit -- as with some other super fun dance props -- you DO have to prep your students in advance about your expectations, so that fun and learning can be had by all. But, even my youngest 2.5 year old dancers are able to cooperate and dance nicely with their balloons, with the right amount of set-up.
Let's start with some great ways to use the balloons, and then we'll go over some ways that have worked for me, when setting up the balloon expectations.
WAYS TO USE BALLOONS IN PRESCHOOL & ELEMENTARY DANCE CLASSES
Self-control with something so enticing, like a balloon, is TOUGH for little kids! But it can be done -- they can handle it, with the proper set-up and with practice. In fact, you have probably practiced it with them, every time you pass out a scarf or hula hoop in class. Here's the gist of what I say to get them ready!
"Ok dancers! Do you see what I have here? Yes! Balloons! So that we can have fun with the balloons, we have to follow some rules. Uh-oh......if we can't all follow our balloon rules, we'll have to put them away and try again another day. That would be sad! I think you can do it, don't you?!"
#1 - Hold onto your balloon!! First we're going to dance with it MY WAY, and then I promise, you will get time to dance with it YOUR WAY!
#2 -- Can you be SO gentle with my balloons? Thank you! That way the dancers in other classes can use them too!
Then, I might ask the dancers to "stand like a statue" in a position of my choice, like 1st position, while I pass out the balloons. We then go through the exercise I want them to work on, while holding the balloons.
Then comes REWARD time! Depending on your group, and what you think they can handle, you could have them freestyle dance with their balloons, in any way they want, all at the same time OR you could have them wait at the side of the room, and dance across the floor, keeping the balloon in the air, 2-3 dancers at a time.
Here is the main BALLOON REWARD TIME EXPECTATIONS I like to set up, before we go into the freestyle balloon dancing:
I ask them this question -- "Dancers, what if I let go of my balloon, and somebody picks it up instead?? Should I get really mad? Should I start crying or fight over the balloon?". I do this with a silly, pouty face, and they always answer me right away with an enthusiastic, "NO! Just pick up a different balloon!!". Then, I say, "Oh yes, GOOD IDEA!!". Then, before I press play on the music, I put a few extra balloons on the ground, so there is always an extra one at the ready.
CLEAN UP TIME
I keep a few large mesh laundry bags at my studio, specifically for balloon days. I will tell my dancers that the freestyle dancing will end in 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! Then I say, "Can you please bring me your balloon? Let's see if they all fit in this bag!"
These methods may seem like A LOT, but talking to the kids about what is expected and what might possibly happen, really helps my classes to run smoothly, with our without props. It allows us to have fun with all different kinds of props or manipulatives.
I hope this works for you, and you give balloon fun a try!
Oh, wait -- here's one more BALLOON BONUS!
If you host dance birthday parties, then you'll want to keep reading. Balloons are my go-to icebreaker for dance birthday parties!
Dance birthday party guests are often not dance students. For them, walking into the dance studio can feel intimidating or scary. Balloons to the rescue!!! I like to begin each party with balloons scattered all over the floor of my space, with a fun kid-friendly pop playlist playing. As the guests arrive, they can play with the balloons, trying to keep them in the air or volleying them to each other. Once everyone is there, we begin the main part of the party. If the party guests are elementary age, I might do balloon relay races. If the party guests are preschool age, I like to do a balloon freeze dance, where they have to grab their balloon and freeze it when the music stops. I use the same set-up, expectations, and clean-up methods that I use in class.
Other resources that might interest you!
My Love & Friendship Themed Hooray For Dance Notebook has done-for-you preschool dance combos, and this particular pack has a section using BALLOONS!
Want some other dance birthday party resources to keep your party on track, to keep your guests having fun, and to make your birthday dancer feel special? Check out my Best Birthday Ever planner packs!