Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Listen, Draw, Move

The third lesson of the week is from Lauren Warnecke of Art Intercepts! Thanks Lauren for sharing this creative lesson!

Lauren says she has tried this lesson on ages 3- adult and has had success!

This lesson plan is a great way to develop sensitivity for musicality and characteristics in movement and music such as accent and tempo. First I have the kids lay in a circle with their heads into the circle. I turn off the lights and play them a piece of music that has a specific quality I want them to grasp. They practice active listening with their eyes closed. While they are listening, I set out a big piece of butcher paper and colored markers or crayons. We then open our eyes and listen to the music again—this time I ask them to “draw what the music looks like” paying attention to what colors they use, what their lines look like (strong and jagged or soft and curved), and taking into account that all of the dancers are making a collaborative piece of art. Once the music ends I hang their art as a back drop and play the song one more time and this time they get to free dance to the music trying to incorporate the qualities we listened to and drew in our artwork.

For contrast, I’ll repeat the entire activity with a totally different song that exhibits opposite qualities from the one we just did. This lesson takes about 30 minutes to complete and is always really fun!

(photo via Menomonee Club)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pancake Cafe

Props: large tubes with cardboard circles for table tops, coasters, scarves and cushions with parts of plastic tea sets.

The story is that the dancers are visiting the Cafe on a bad day when the toast was burnt and had filled the Cafe with smoke. They had to enter single file holding onto a scarf held by the dancer in front of them. They then had to use the scarf to blow away the imaginary smoke. The pancakes (coasters) were ready to be served but they were very hot so fingers got burnt and pancakes delivered to the wrong tables so there was much changing over from table to table and dropping and picking up of pancakes. Next dance was a slow one where the pancakes were weighed in each hand as there had been some complaints from patrons about not getting the same quality pancake. Other parts of the body became involved in the weighing process. Finally the pancakes were thrown away on the ground and the "sparrows" flew around pecking at the crumbs. After this we tried to be good "waiters" but kept falling over before giving up work and just dancing!

Roz Avent Dance is located in Victoria, Australia. Thank you Roz for this wonderful lesson! Check out Roz's blog for more amazing creative ideas here!

(photos via Roz)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lesson Sharing Week!

So, here begins my week of sharing creative lessons! If you haven't submitted one yet I would love to here from you! Just e-mail me at and I will post it here to share! I am still looking for 3 more to fill the week! (p.s. it's good promotion for your blog, if you have one or your place of work!)


(picture via Dab Rhythm)

Dora and Diego

This is a lesson shared by Christina Ratatori, a K-5 dance teacher at Elm Creative Arts Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Christina uses this lesson for her 4 and 5 year old dancers.

To teach pas de chat, I use floor dots (called "dancing dots" with my dancers). We pas de chat over the dots. Before this occurs...

All the girls in the room are referred to as Doras; the boys Diegos. We yell out 'backpack' like in the show (put on our imaginary backpacks) and yell "map" as well. When we take our our maps, I tell the story of how there is a treasure to be found. Uh oh. But there is a hill in the way. We try jumping over the hill. Then marching over the hill. And tip toe over the hill. Nothing works. (This is a great review of our locomotor skills.) The only movement that will work is the special pas de chat. All the Doras pas de chat... then the Diegos... then everyone. The dancers love this! And the lesson ends with a celebration dance using creative movement.

Thank you Christina for sharing this wonderful lesson!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dance Teacher Wardrobe

Do you ever feel like you don't know what to wear when you teach? Sometimes, I do. I teach in so many different areas in a day I strive to wear something that's comfy and flattering, but I find it such a challenge! I can't wear a leotard in a preschool or public school, but I like to wear one when I teach in a studio. What to do? My two year olds have a solution! They always say "Miss Maria where is your tutu?" haha! Wouldn't that be a site!

Anyway, I would love to know what is in your dance teacher wardrobe. Do you wear leotards to teach littles, middles, adults? Or just yoga pants and a snazy shirt? (they always love it when I wear my wrap with flowers on it! see above!)

So, what do you wear? What is your favorite? Feel free to share your wardrobe!

p.s. Don't forget to send me a creative lesson! I will post it here next week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I love the way...

Recently, I have tried to use the phrase- I love the way... Instead of saying great job, or beautiful or any negative words. This phrase has a great affect on the way the class moves along. If I say "I love the way Ella is turning using her arms and pointing her feet", most of the class will look at Ella and try to use their arms and point their feet(it doesn't work all the time, but most times!). While I am trying to put a positive spin on my classes I try to only use positive reinforcement- omit- don't, can't, won't, and shouldn't. You should try it, I think you will really love the way you sound!

What type of praise do you use in your classes? I would love to hear!

(photo by degas)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I love the image of a seasaw, especially for dancers. I use this image to teach cause and effect. When one thing happens, it causes something else to happen. I put them in partners and we create an entire dance about when one person goes down the other goes up. We do it close together, far apart, backwards, it's so fun! It's also a quick, fun, warm-up, if you are looking for something new to incorporate!

Do you teach cause and effect to your students? What images do you use?

p.s. Don't forget to share your lesson plans to be featured next week!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Share your Favorite Lesson on Move. Create. Educate!

Do you have a favorite lesson? A lesson you love to teach? A lesson that always works? If so, I would love to hear from you! Submit a lesson or idea that Move. Create. Educate readers could take and use in their own dance rooms and I will feature your idea right here! Sound like a good idea? I thought so!

Write me at with a lesson plan of your choice. It doesn't have to be a "formal" lesson plan, it can just be a description of your idea and how you would teach it to the kids. It can be any type of dance for any age group, just as long as it is creative! If you would like, you can send along a picture too!

I would like to start posting these next week, so if possible send me your ideas before Monday, March 29th. I look forward to reading your ideas!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Bird Watching"

Last night I went to see Keigwin + Company at the Joyce in NYC! It was awesome and refreshing! I wouldn't be so inclined to write about it if there wasn't so much that related to creating dance! The company did a world premiere of Bird Watching. I was completely intrigued. In the program it was broken up into 4 different sections of the piece, labeled in 4 different words. Flocking, Flapping, Fluttering, Flying. It was so great to see the words and then see the movement motif that was used to describe the word. All I could think about sitting in the audience, is how I do this everyday with children. I take the word and deconstruct it into movement (with the help of their imaginations of course). I thought it was creative thinking how the words were in the program to give the audience a reference point. Very clever. Now I'm wondering, how would you move to the word flutter?

If you haven't checked out Keigwin + Company, check out their website! I highly recommend this clever and exciting choreography!

p.s. On the subway ride home, I had the realization that we can create a dance about anything. Anything at all. Isn't that amazing?

Friday, March 19, 2010

What do you eat for lunch?

I am curious, what do you eat for lunch? I have been having issues lately with what to bring for lunch, since 1) I have such long days and 2) I have to cary it around in my bag. I can't get the right combination to not feel hungry but to have just enough not to get tired. Every day of the week is different for me, so I can never eat at the same time either. eeek!

So what do all of you dance teachers carry around in your bag, drive around in your car, or eat at home? I am taking ideas to try out next week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fireworks! Fire Trucks!

This week I seemed to have posted a lot of ideas I use in my classes with the wee ones. I thought I would finish out the week sharing a few more ideas with you! Why not? This week I tried 2 new dances and they were a big hit--- (I put in two because they both begin with F! Oh, and I have another idea for tomorrow. That's the real reason!)

I hand out different colored wrist ribbons (not the wand ones, in fear of loosing someone's eye!) and ask them about fireworks. Do they all look the same? Do they go up slow and come down fast or the other way around? So we practice "exploding" on the count of 3 and then fizzling out as we move back down to the ground as slow as we can! It's so fun! We try it one at a time, and then we try it all together, like the finale! Now all we need is a holiday and we are all set!

Fire Trucks!
Drive, climb the ladder, get your hose, drive back home! I have this one little boy at the preschool who is OBSESSED with Firemen! I mean the kid wears a fireman uniform every day, every day! So I brought in this song about a fire truck and of course I add in the creative part at the beginning. He was tickled, and really they all just want to do it over, and over, and over again!

What about you? Have you done any new dances this week that were a big hit?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jack in the Box

The 2 year olds at the preschool love the jack in the box dance. They start inside their box, and then when it's time.....SURPRISE! They love it, it never gets old to surprise Miss Maria. Teacher hint: I use it as a transition from sitting to standing. It works really well!

Do you have a favorite transition that your students never get tired of?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Skipping Square Dance Style

Today before creative movement I was thinking about skipping. It is my goal that 4 year olds be able to skip by the end of the year. For some kids this is really difficult, and for some it seems so natural. I get bored fairly easily if I do the same movements the same way every single week. And you certainly know what that means, if I am bored, 4 year olds are bored!

I came up with an idea on the spot. I usually have the kids sit while their classmates go across the floor. But today, I lined them up like setting them up for a square dance, in two lines. (See picture!) Two dancers move to the top to skip down the middle and the side lines move down a dot until everyone gets to the top to go down the middle. We practiced chasse too, just to get used to moving down a dot. I loved it because EVERYONE needs to pay attention, and everyone is participating. I love to present ideas that includes and manages the entire class at once.

I am sure this idea has been done before, a billion times probably. I was just so happy it worked out like I had hoped. I am pretty sure they liked it too!

What do you like to do to make skipping, chasse, and traveling across the floor fun for the littles? I would love to hear!

(picture via Country Living)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

School Performances

Yesterday was jammed packed full of performances. First, I had a NYCB performance in the East Village. It was a great show and I was happy to see 2nd graders dancing about Robbers, Graveyards, Starwars, and an Evil Forest! Yes, that's what the dances were about!

After that show I traveled up to the Bronx to see my good friend Dena. She is a dance teacher at K-8 school. We met in graduate school and have been good friends ever since. Bonus: Dena went to undergrad in Erie, PA, which is where I am originally from! Awesome, I know!
Dena's show was themed around Women's History, featuring all the dances to music by Janet Jackson! It was truly amazing what she is teaching these kids about dance, performance, and history. I could tell they really love dance, and they really love her! I was so proud to watch her students and I know it's days like these that Dena feels like it's all worth it.

This is a picture of her amazing dance room. I was in awe!

Have you ever attended a dance performance in a public school? What was your experience? I was really happy that I went. Thank you Dena!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Muddy Water Puddle Place

The muddy water puddle place is so much fun! I use this place to teach borree and saute to my 3 year old ballerinas. We tip- toe through the puddles, we jump in the puddles and splash our friends, and we even roll in the puddles and get all muddy. I think this place really encompasses imagination, movement qualities, ballet vocabulary, and movement that is good for the brain and the body. I try to incorporate all of these into every part of the class. After we have rolled in the mud, we take a pretend shower to wash off all the mud. It is a great way to review body parts. "wash your elbows, wash your neck!"

Since doing this dance, I have found a few dancers not want to do this dance because they don't want to get all muddy! They want to stay clean! So soo cute!

Want to do a dance that will put a smile on your face? Do this dance today! Do you do any dances about rain or mud or puddles? I would love to hear!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Searching for Stories

This week I got an e-mail from Barnes and Noble with a coupon for children's books. (half off the second one!) So guess what I have been doing today? Looking up amazing stories to use with my preschool creative movement classes. So so fun, but I must say pretty time consuming and a little difficult since you can't see the whole book. Here are a few that caught my eye!

It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw- I kept going back to this book which means I think I need to purchase it! How fun would this be to go through all the pictures and make the shapes of the spilt milk? From the cover alone I can think of about 10 shapes and 5 dances to explore! I am thinking young dancers would love this! Great visuals and clear objectives. I can't wait to try it out!

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp, by: Carol Diggory Shields- A little over a week ago I wrote a post on a dinosaur dance I did with my preschoolers. While I was searching for books I remembered a few people recommending this book in the past. I am thinking the boys class will love it, and perhaps they can help me with all the tricky dinosaur names that I won't be able to pronounce! Hmmm... I probably won't get this by Tuesday. If it makes it, I will try it out next week and report back!

Do you search for books to use with your students? What are your favorites? I would love to exchange lists!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Young Artists

I like to think of the young dancers I teach as artists. Just like writers and painters, they are dancers that love to create. I am always so touched when one of them (or many of them) bring me a drawing they made just for me. I love to see that they are using their creative thinking and artistic license to create amazing pictures. I know that this dancer was thinking of me when she made this. Isn't it beautiful?

What about you? What have you received from your young artists?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Have you ever had a child in dance class completely surprise you? Today it happened to me and the result? A big grin on my face! One little boy in my preschool class has not participated in movement since the school year began in September, but today, TODAY! He participated! He danced a duet, he explored with a prop, and shared his ideas as we made a delicious pretend sandwich! It completely made my day! I hope now this breakthrough will carry on for the rest of the school year! Wouldn't that be just fabulous? I think so!

Have your students made any recent breakthroughs? I would love to hear!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Magic Number 8

What's the magic number? 8! 8! 8! They scream at me! :)

In my 5-6 year old creative movement classes I have started to prepare them to move on to pre-ballet. Part of this preparation, I believe is teaching them how to do steps in counts of 8. I began by doing chasse across the floor in 8's only. Then I added in two counts of 8. A sequence- Chasse for 4, turn in the hoop for 4, chasse for 4, hold a shape for 4. They loved to count with me and by the end of the across the floor portion, I could tell they were really getting it. I am also trying to teach them to count the music.

A second exercise I have started is putting them in a line (I have been lucky the past few weeks because exactly 8 students showed up! perfect!) and giving them each a number, 1-8. I then call out their numbers down the line. They have to listen for their number and when it's called jump up. I told them to think about Fireworks! It's a great image. I called their numbers a few times in a row, and then faster to see who was paying attention. I then called the numbers out of order! So fun!

What do you do with your students to teach them about counting the steps and the music? I would love to hear!