How to teach dance phrases in elementary dance
Dance phrases (or movement phrases) are frequently mentioned in elementary dance curriculum. But what are they and how do you use them effectively?
What is a dance phrase?
Dance phrases are “sentences” in dance form – it is a series of movements that communicates a complete thought or idea. It could be performed by a single dancer or by a group. Usually, the individual movements fit together with a beginning, middle and end. They can also be organized in a pattern, such as ABA or ABBA.
Why use dance phrases in elementary dance?
Dance phrases are useful in elementary lesson plans because they are short and do not take a great deal of time to prepare. By using movement phrases instead of long performance pieces, you shorten the feedback loop and provide many more opportunities for students to experiment and stretch their skills (making them much more useful as a teaching strategy than the big group dance assignments that some teachers use.
Tips for using movement phrases in your lesson plans
Choose a specific element of dance to focus on, and then create a structure for a phrase that will showcase that skill. For example, your assignment could focus on using specific parts of the body, levels, or actions.
Use worksheets to help students plan their phrases with specific expectations to align with your curriculum. Because movement phrases are short, you can assign, create and assess a short phrase in just one or two work periods.
Charts or tables help students’ to break down the phrases into small sections (for example, beginning middle and end) to plan them in more detail and demonstrate more specific skills.
I made these “Roll-A-Dance” worksheets that use rolling a dice as a prompt for creating dance phrases. Students roll a dice to choose a theme, or a specific movement that their performance will contain.
By providing a choice of prompts students can all work on a movement phrase with the same structure, but still have some variety in their presentations. It also means you can use the worksheets more than once, because their dances will be different every time.
Dance Phrase Activity Plans
These Roll-A-Dance activities provide an easy way to provide a quick, structured dance activity that meets curriculum expectations for grades 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. They work for both in person or remote learning.