This fall, I taught a Dance Elective course for students in grades 7 and 8. We explored the concept of "story" in many ways, and one project involved children's picture books. Our goal was to have the students choreograph 3 different dances, and then perform the dances for younger students. I teach at a K-8 school.
The middle school students loved this project. We started with a stack of about 20 books. We looked at all of them - looking for "movement inspiration and possibilities." I brought in most of the stack, and a few students brought in some book options from home. Allowing the students to select their "top choices" helped to support the initial "buying into the project."
In the end, the students selected:
- Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, with illustrations by Marla Frazee
- Fortunately by Remy Charlip
- Like a Windy Day by Frank Asch and Devin Asch
Over the course of several weeks, the students worked hard on the choreography. We played with imagery, choosing whether to recite the text within the dances or not, music, and costumes.
When teaching middle school students, and working towards culminating performances, it is always important to consider the set up for the students. How can they do their best work? How can you support them to perform, feel comfortable, and take a chance? Performing for younger students still gave them the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, and it was a safe venue to perform.
The project culminated in several mini performances for kindergarten and first grade students in our dance studio on campus. Prior to the performance, the classroom teachers read the three books to their students.
It was fun, joyful, and engaging for both the teenage dancers and our young audience members.
During our Fall Dance Concert, which included all dances from the course, the students performed these dances for their parents as well. In the end, the dances "stood on their own," and the families enjoyed seeing this project.