Friday, December 4, 2009

1st Grade Fairy Tales

As a teaching artist for New York City Ballet I visit public elementary schools around New York City and introduce them to ballet. It's a great program, just this week all the schools in the program went to Lincoln Center and got the opportunity to see the Nutcracker! In the program the students write their own Fairy Tales and my job is to collaborate with them to come up with ballet and creative movement to tell the story. Yesterday, I visited 1st graders in Queens and they had characters and settings for us to explore together. I thought I would share with you how we infused ballet and made the story.

Look at this dark and scary forest! What comes to mind?
In one of the classes the setting was a dark and scary forest! I mean just think of all the movement images that you can think of when you hear those words. The kids had so many ideas- 1) growing slowly into releve 2) making a trees shape with arms and legs as branches 3) wind- swaying back and forth 4) storm-turning 5) breaking branches to fall to the ground
* Helpful Hint- I used my drum to help them make a mini-dance out of it, the sounds really help them remember the order

We then thought of animals that we would find in the dark and scary forest. They thought of a hungry fox, hungry wolf, bats (this one is super fun, we flew around and then we slept upside down) rabbits, snakes, owls and many more. I made sure we exhausted many of the movement these animals portray. They learned so much about the animals. Some of the students were naming animals that lived in the Jungle. That was a great opportunity for us to talk about animals that live in the forest vs. animals that live in the jungle! (Science lesson in a Ballet lesson, wow!)

Now look at these vegetables! What shapes do you see?

Another one of the classes wrote a story about a vegetable garden! (this is a new one for me, but so incredibly creative!) We made shapes of all the vegetables, even cilantro! There was a bird in their story, so we became a bluebird, peacock, crow, and a dove. It is a challenge to make them all look different when they are all the same animal. Next week we will put the vegetable shapes in rows to make it look like a garden. I can't wait to see what else this story brings.

After we were done exploring the movement and shapes in both classes, I split them up into two groups. This way, 1) I can teach them how to be a good audience 2) they can watch their classmates and see what the dance actually looks like. I told them to watch for any ballet movements they might see. They saw a lot of ballet and thought that the movement looked exactly like what their story was about!

Can you tell I love this? Leave a comment and tell me one activity you did this week that really worked and that you loved! I would love to hear!

In the meantime movecreateeducate...


  1. I just had my Kinder-Tree show with my Kindergarteners. They are learning about trees and how plants grow in their classroom. I created a powerpoint story with images of a seed all the way to leaves falling. I used Garage Band to create different sounds to match the images as well as songs about trees. The students helped make the movements that match the story from beginning to end and also the music/sounds helped to carry the story. I edited the sound clips to make on long song.
    I also had the kids label and draw a section of the dance where they were dancing: seed shape, roots, branches, tree shape, rain, green leaves etc...
    At recess outside the kids would point out the changing leaves and practice making shapes with there bodies or pratice falling like a leaf.
    It has been such a great and creative experience and the kids talk about it non stop. So awesome!
    Thanks for creating a web space to let us share so we can all grow as a community of dance educators and intern educate our kids and support our very special and amazing discipline.

  2. Wow Liz! This sounds like so much fun! Thank you for sharing your ideas, I love to hear all of the creative ideas you are doing! I haven't used Garage Band yet, but it sounds like a great addition to the story. Thanks for that idea! It sounds like your kids are getting a lot out of dance class! They are very lucky to have you!