Use Games To Teach Your Youngest Ones

Teaching dance through familiar childhood games can be a great way to enliven the routine you have already established in your beginning ballet or creative movement class and can make learning fun for young students. Many games can be adapted for the studio. Here are some ideas to help you get started and some guidelines for safe and enjoyable ways to use games in the classroom.


Before introducing any activity, develop with your students a core of simple steps such as skipping, marching or a princess (or prince) walk on demi-pointe. Then, add basic arm movements such as swan arms, salutes or swimming through the air. Practice these at the start of each class to help students memorize them.


Follow the Leader

This is a great game for grabbing students’ attention at the beginning of class and teaching simple movements. You can begin by being the leader and having everyone line up behind you. Have students pay attention to who is in front of them, and tell them to stay behind that person. For very young students, this is as much of a challenge as following your lead!


Start with a simple step that uses just the feet or just the arms. Increase difficulty as students improve. For example, begin with a march and add a salute after they have marched for a little while. You can lead the group in a big circle or a snake, and vary the pattern to keep students on their toes.


Older dancers may take turns being the leader. You can give them direction by telling them which steps to do, or let them come up with their own combinations. Change leaders often so that everyone gets a turn.


Simon Says

Using Simon Says is a good way to work on complex steps or introduce new ones, because it allows you to break down larger movements into smaller ones. Adjust the rules of the game to make it age-appropriate. Avoid hurt feelings by starting over often, rather than playing until there is a winner.


Red Light, Green Light, One, Two, Three!

Listening for directions, students move toward you when you say “green light” and stop when you call out “red light.” Your younger students can work on balance and following instructions, while older children practice ballet movements. Tailor this game to the studio setting by asking students to do a dance movement, such as standing in arabesque, when you say “red light.” You can even teach a combination, and then use it in the game for practice. Red Light, Green Light can also be played in slow motion if things get too rowdy in the classroom. One of the rules can be, if you move after the teacher says “red light,” then you have to go back to the starting point.


Red Rover

Great for creating a friendly environment in the classroom, this game is also useful for teaching students each other’s names. Naturally, you do not want to use this game with the break-through element, which can be too dangerous for dance class, but rather as a means of calling students over one at a time (or in pairs if some have short attention spans).


To begin, ask the children to line up on one side of the room, while you stand on the other. Call out, “Red rover, red rover, let Sarah come over—doing the princess walk.” Once Sarah joins you, whisper in her ear whom to call next, so that you can call the next student together. Vary the movements by choosing from your repertory of basic steps, paying attention to students’ different abilities. Pretty soon there will be a chorus of voices calling out and the class will be having a great time.


Name That Tune

This game is an effective way to teach students about dance music in any type of class. Use selections that students may hear in the future, such as The Nutcracker, Singin’ in the Rain or I Got Rhythm, depending on the discipline you teach. Older students can try to recall the steps that go with the music.


How to Keep Control

There are a few things to keep in mind, such as noise level. Children who are having a great time are usually very loud. This is not appropriate in a studio and can make it difficult to maintain a good learning environment. Sometimes, a talk beforehand about listening carefully can be helpful. Also, stay aware of the energy level in the class at all times—you can usually sense when things are getting too wild. When this happens, shift to a slow or quiet activity to settle things down.


Another consideration when using games in the classroom is the rules. All of the students should know exactly what the rules are, and they should be explained every time a game is used (See “Memory Game” on the left to find more games and their rules). Children often forget things from week to week, so you’ll want to refresh their memories.


Use your imagination to come up with games of your own, or to totally revamp games that you want to use. You can change any rules to make a particular game suited for the dance classroom; the more creative, the better. For example, you can use games for a part of your class, as a type of reward or for the full session—it’s entirely up to you.


There are many fun activities to choose from. Perhaps you like the hokey pokey, hopscotch or remember another game that you really enjoyed when you were growing up. Children love to learn the chicken dance and they look adorable doing it!

Teaching dance through games is a fun way to get your students involved and keep their attention. They will look forward to playing their favorites and get excited about learning new ones. It is also a great way to stay fresh as an instructor.



Freelance writer Catherine L. Tully teaches dance at Trinity High School in River Forest, IL, and has more than 16 years of teaching experience.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.