This spring, I had the awesome task of working with three brilliant educators at Seaton Elementary in Washington, DC as part of my work in StoryTapestries’ VSA programs. My three classrooms were vastly different ages and needs: Pre-k students who were mostly non-verbal, k-2 students with a broad range of emotional and physical disabilities, and 3rd-5th graders who were on the higher-functional range of abilities. As in any situation, each child deserves to be treated with individual respect and attention; at Seaton, the teachers went above and beyond to meet this criteria every. single. moment. Working side-by-side to integrate dance into their curricula was ripe with learning opportunities for teachers, students, and myself. Together, our primary goals for the residency were:
- to create a more active classroom by using movement to support transitions between activities, stations, and spaces;
- to integrate dance into the core curriculum;
- and to empower the teachers with a broad skill set to continue movement-integrated lessons beyond the scope of the residency.
The pre-k classroom worked with the text, “Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes” by Eric Litwin. We created motions for key vocabulary words and made the reading of the text a whole body experience. There is a song to match the book that gave our reading and dancing an extra dimension of fun. We worked in 15-minute rotations with two students at at time, maximizing realistic expectations of attention, comprehension, and retention for students.
The k-2 classroom worked with “Always in Trouble” by Corrine Demas, illustrated by Norah Z. Jones. As
with the pre-k classroom, we worked in rotation, but in larger groups. At one station, key vocabulary words were highlighted with gestures, pictures, and matching activities. The other station abstracted key concepts from the story: days of the week, positive/negative consequences for behavior, parts of a story, etc. We put them into motion using locomotor movement across the floor, shaping in space and specific pathways, and tableaus.
The 3rd-5th graders explored a poetry unit, focused on Haiku and ABAB or AABB rhyming sequences and stanzas. The students did full-body tracings of themselves, completed a personal haiku to describe themselves and wrote their haiku on their body tracing. These tracings served as art for the walls as well as a meaningful visual reminder of the haiku form and they led to a fruitful discussion of each other’s similarities and differences. In groups, we wrote ABAB poems about a frog’s habitat – as their classroom is an imaginary frog pond. The students drew pictures to represent their poems and created movement to accompany the poems. Each group performed for the other, shared their art, and poetry. The frog habitat study culminated in a classroom book that was printed for each student to keep, inclusive of all of their work. Each day with this classroom included warm-up movement to “get the wiggles out” and transitional movement to keep the flow going from one activity to the next. The class explored all elements of a frog and it’s habitat physically, visually, orally, and in text. They even have plans to build a frog pond on campus to bring the study full circle!
When was the last time you hopped like a frog? I dare you to give it a try right now!