Dance lesson plans for elementary students who don’t want to dance

Dance lesson plans for elementary students that work – even if your kids hate dancing

In many elementary classes, dance can unfortunately become one of those “throw away” subjects. Teachers are so bogged down with literacy & numeracy, board initiatives and other things that when it comes to the arts we are unfortunately often left thinking “oh shoot, I haven’t assessed dance this term”.

So when short on time, our go-to ends up being to put students in groups and have them create a dance. There are a few drawbacks to this – one of which, obviously, being that it has limited instructional value.

But if you also have a class that also doesn’t enjoy dancing, you’ve got a whole new set of problems. Students who don’t want to dance will produce low-quality routines, may have difficulty working together, and will continue to view dance as an undesirable activity.

dance lesson plans for elementary students

What students think dance is…

How do you teach dance to a class that hates dancing?

Dance lesson plans for elementary students who don’t want to dance require a specific approach. When you have a class that is resistant to dancing, it’s important to understand where this dislike of dance comes from. In most cases, a dislike of dance is typically one of or a combination of a few things:

  1. Ignorance about dance as an art form (stereotypes)
  2. A lack of confidence in their physical abilities
  3. Distrust in each other as a group, making risk-taking uncomfortable

Many students with no dance experience have preconceived ideas about what dance is based on negative stereotypes. They may feel that dancing is only for girls (or worse, for “sissies”), or that it is only something for serious dancers who take dance classes privately.

Many students who have no dance experience or knowledge think only of ballet when they think of dance, and have a perception that it is nerdy or stuffy.

A class that does not get along well may have a harder time buying in to dance lessons if they do not feel comfortable taking risks in front of each other. Students may simply feel so uncoordinated that they feel they may embarrass themselves.

Meet them where they are.

When you have a class that is resistant to dancing, you need to start by addressing these barriers. Starting with dance activities that are easy for students to buy into and don’t require risk-taking are easiest to start with. Then, as their knowledge of dance increases and stereotypes are broken down, they will be more willing to try new things.

Your own attitude matters

Many teachers secretly (or not so secretly) dislike teaching dance because they don’t feel confident in their own abilities. Unfortunately, your students can pick up on this and will perceive the subject as being less important. When you as the teacher can find your own joy in dance, this will come through in your lesson plans and help your students to feel comfortable.

Whether students’ resistance is coming from a lack of experience or understanding or just a lack of confidence, I like to start with an analysis based dance unit.

dance lesson plans for elementary students
Dance lesson plans for elementary students that focus on analysis build skills without the stress of performance

Teach the elements of dance with a dance unit based on analysis

By starting with dance analysis, students can learn more about the basics of dance without feeling the stress of having to physically dance themselves. It lowers the barriers to entry and makes dance much more accessible for all students.

While completing an analysis unit, you as the teacher also have the opportunity to address any stereotypes that may pop up.

For an analysis unit, focus on finding high-quality examples of different styles or elements of dance, and provide a method for students to reflect on what they see.

Stay away from “Judging”

I highly recommend avoiding evaluative reflections in which students are passing judgement on the dance performances they are watching, for two reasons:

Firstly, students should not be evaluating the performances of others until they themselves understand the technique and significance of what they are watching. (Holding back judgement on things we don’t fully understand – this is a life lesson stretching far beyond the dance class!)

Secondly, particularly if the class is reluctant to dance themselves, this promotes a judgey atmosphere that is not conducive to encouraging students to take risks.

Once students have more of a base knowledge of dance, they will be much more open to taking some risks in physically dancing themselves.

Low-Prep Dance Lesson Plans for Elementary Students

Short on time? These dance analysis lesson plans for elementary are ready to go and include complete teaching instructions as well as worksheets, and video links. Complete your dance curriculum requirements and assess students quickly and easily with these elementary dance units.


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