A heartfelt thank you to my committee members:
Dr. Paula Lane, Chair
In an educational crisis where the arts and extracurricular activities are being eliminated from schools, the idea of incorporating dance into elementary education is one of controversy. Teachers are faced with the issues of time and financial restraints, critics question how it is possible to fit one more activity into any teachers daily schedule. Teachers and administrators lack funding and time to determine whether or not new movement based activities are affective and worthwhile. Advocates of dance integration believe that it is an answer to the problems regarding today’s financial limitations, time restraints, and the overwhelming pressures of state standardized testing. By integrating dance and movement into lesson plans teachers can continue to teach, reach, and even surpass state standards, as well as, save time and finances by integrating dance and movement into their lesson plans.
Defining Creative Movement
Creative Movement is the simplest and most affective form of dance to be integrated into curriculum. Creative Movement is a free form of dance that is focused on internal motives and improvisation rather than a technique based form of dance. Eva Powers is the chairperson of the Wayne State University Maggie Allesee Department of Dance in Detroit Michigan. Powers was quoted stating her clear and concise definition of creative dance. She states, “In creative dance nothing is wrong, you have every opportunity to be right, to explore, to invent, to be assertive about me and what my body can do and how I can solve a problem or how I can create something that is entirely mine. This lends a lot to self-esteem and helps [students] feel successful in school” (Schrieber,2001). As observed by Powers, Creative Movement is a form of dance that naturally lends itself to education.
Why Dance Integration is Important
Dance is the smallest of the art concentrations and the least represented in the American education system. Dance instruction is offered in only 20 percent of elementary schools in the United States. Whereas, 90 percent of schools provide music and 93 percent provide visual arts in the school (Robelen, 2010). Though it may be under represented, dance has many affordances that should be acknowledged.
In Detroit, Michigan, they have discovered the importance of dance in the classroom and now have the largest dance programs in their public high schools of any city in the United States. The district employs 36 full-time dance instructors that service nearly 200 schools. They also have an award winning dance program and academics within their elementary schools (Schreiber, 2001).
Today’s students are more diverse and using movement is one technique that reaches students who are not reached by more traditional forms of education. Elsie Fitzenhein, a curriculum integration consultant, states, “We have all the theories on brain-mind research and theories of multiple intelligences that support the need for students to learn kinesthetically; it supports the teaching of the whole child.” (Skoning, 2010). Dance education theorists Nygard and Shaw state that evidence shows a strong union between the mind and the body. We not only think with our minds, we also think with our bodies (Nygard & Shaw, 1997). Dance is a powerful way to reach students through a kinesthetic approach to learning.
Dance can help with focus, self-image, teamwork, and confidence. With focus and confidence in place, learning is going to be successful. When dance is integrated into the curriculum, students are able to not only see and hear what they are studying, they are given the opportunity to feel it within their bodies. This is a deeper and more active learning for students. (Linthicum, 2009). As Nygard and Shaw have quoted, “Physical encoding is ‘the learning process which uses the physical body to transfer information from the abstract or symbolic level to a more concrete level. Physical encoding may include techniques such as role playing, mime, simulation, and use of rhythms” (Nygard & Shaw, 1997). This deeper learning and different approach is what many students need to succeed in school.
Dance offers more than just a new academic medium to children, it also creates valuable learning and life skill opportunities. Creative movement supports learning for learning’s sake, learning to engage, learning to challenge one’s self and learning to feel proud of accomplishments after a challenge. These important life skills that can be taught through the commitment that dance requires (Why Teach Dance K-12, 2010). Creative dance allows children to explore their own unique views on the human condition, life issues and their own being (Donald, 1991). Creative dance also creates a new context and medium for children to engage and learn different ways to understand and negotiate in our world (Lorenzo-Lasa, Ideishi & Ideishi, 2007). Overall, the arts, and dance in particular, are of value to students as it not only aids in the development of academic performance, but it also, and debatably more important, aids in the development of well-round and critical thinking students.
What Movement Integrated Into the Classroom Looks Like
Creative movement integration can look many different ways and can be applied to many different core subject areas. The flexibility that dance provides makes each project unique and interesting. Students can study culture, writing, reading, science and math, all while using their bodies.
Some ideas of integration are short activities that any teacher can facilitate in his or her own classroom. Nygard’s article suggests a few different movement based activities to explore and engage in a deeper learning about the solar system. The activities range from Solar System Charades, to Backpacking Gravity, to a Solar System Play (Nygard, 1997). Math fractions can be taught with rhythmic changes and movement, poems can be explored and interpreted through movement and planets can be explored through simple choreography. (Donald, 1991). These are all examples of integration being used easily and effectively.
Other examples of integration are more involved and intense for both the teachers and the students. These examples require space, time and commitment on part of the students, teachers and administration. Students at Cesar Chaves Elementary School in Norwalk, California have the opportunity to explore Native American culture through culture specific choreography. Students also form groups and create and explore geometric shapes with their bodies. In groups, students make larger shapes and measure the sides of the shapes and create math equations that correlate (Elliot, 1998). Students in Detroit are being taught to use and draw maps by counting steps in between different students as a visual tool to better grasp the concept of space. When the students return to their desks, they write about their journey and how they got to point “A” and how they returned (Schreiber, 2001). These teachers strongly believe that dance and movement are one of the best teaching tools to reach all different types of learners.
Students at 'Dance with Laney' create rainbows visually and kinesthetically
Challenges to Movement Integration
Though there are many affordances that come with movement integration, there are also many challenges. There are concerns about who teaches dance and who is qualified to teach dance classes. As dance integration theorist Anne Dunkin expresses, "The average elementary school teacher is already overwhelmed by the content that is required by state standards and curriculums that asking them to take on the role of teaching creative dance on top of that is just not practical... "(Dunkin, 2004).The idea that we would be asking non-dance educators to teach dance does not make sense. We would expect teachers to become music or reading specialists. This sends a poor message about the content we deliver as dance specialists who train for years to teach if anyone can deliver the same rich material (Dunkin, 2004).
These are valuable concerns that need to be addressed. Some teachers feel that taking on the role of dance teacher is too much. Teachers are asked to wear many different hats to become singers, musicians, and poets to name a few. Dance integration does not need to be an overwhelming experience for teachers and administrators. Advocates of dance integration are not asking teachers to become prima ballerinas, rather that they introduce the concept of movement to their students. Dance can be an enriching and simple tool for teachers to incorporate into their curriculum.
There are also the questions concerning how students will react to the creative movement approach. Not all children are going to enjoy dance. It is said, that as long as you don’t give up on struggling children and you try and try again, every child can find something that they love about movement (Why Teach Dance K-12, 2010). Students also have to learn that dance class isn’t a time for socializing but rather a time to engage and learn (Linthicum, 2009). Some students are not going to know how to handle the freedom and decision making that comes with creative movement. For many children, this will be a welcomed addition to their curriculum and for others, who are not ready, it will be a challenge (Why Teach Dance K-12, 2010). Not all students are going to transition into this non-traditional academic setting quickly; as it is a new way of thinking and learning. For most students, the more exposure that they have to a new style of learning, the easier the transition becomes and the more comfortable the students feel. Most importantly, critics’ stress the importance that dance integration needs to be used properly to be effective. Some critics say that the dance activities within the school are not as rich in substance as they should and could be (Bresler, 1992). Dance is more than learning how to perform a cultural dance to learn about that specific culture. That is not true integration (Robelen, 2010). Critics are correct; dance integration needs to be rich and full of intention within the teachers and students for it to be effective.
Examples of Dance Integrated Throughout the Schools
The following two examples are of schools that take integration one step further and are focused around the arts and dance. Each of these schools are teaching to the standards and surpassing expectations. The arts, dance in particular, are being used as the main teaching tool to enhance the curriculum and education for their students.
Gabriella Charter School:
Gabriella Charter School in Los Angeles, California invites their students to use their body’s to write the letters of the alphabet and teachers teach multiplication with tap. Gabriella Charter School is California’s only elementary school where dance is a focus. Student’s find themselves at this school for their outstanding academics rather than their dance emphasis. Dance is integrated into their everyday curriculum.
The focus of the school is not to make dancers with perfect technique, but rather to make great learners and students. The school prides itself on appealing to multiple intelligences and using movement to engage and communicate ideas to students. Gabriella Charter School’s demographic consists of 90 percent of students on Free or Reduced Meal Program, two-thirds of the students are ESL and most children have immigrated from Central America or South Korea. Even with these demographics, the school is defying statistics, as the students at Gabriella Charter School are excelling on the California standardized tests. (Linthicum, 2009). Gabriella Charter School is a unique school that is a wonderful example of how dance is successfully incorporated into education.
Robinson Elementary School:
Like Gabriella Elementary School, Robinson Elementary School is also defying social odds and excelling in education. Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro, Vermont is an award winning, nationally recognized school for their collaboration and integration of the arts within their curriculum. Robinson Elementary School is in a rural area of Vermont where the students were struggling socially and academically. The school found that using art integration children were given the medium to become talented and intelligent learners (Raymond & Broderick, 2007). Robinson Elementary School has severe financial restraints due to its small population and low tax base. As any other school in the United States, Robinson Elementary is expected to meet the state standards. The Principal Dan Noel stated “While the intent of our Arts Program is to go deeper into the curriculum, to provide richer content, and to help the children understand how this applies in different settings, we never overlook accountability” (Raymond & Broderick, 2007). The elementary school is not only integrating the arts into their curriculum and working against many social challenges, but they are doing it well by reaching the state standards and receiving national merit while doing so.
The affordances of dance integration in the classroom are clear. When used as a tool, creative movement is an affective teaching strategy. Dance integration is not without its challenges, but schools throughout the United States remain excited about this new and inventive tool that allows teachers to reach all different types of learners. Teachers can integrate movement into any subject that they desire. From life science, math or history, creative movement is an exciting addition to any curriculum. Creative movement and academics is the perfect marriage of complimenting traits, and when the two work together children reach their full potential.
DESCRIPTION OF COGNATE PROJECT
The power of using dance as an educational tool is a practice that I truly believe in. I believe that learning should be multi-faceted and their is no one way to teach. Using dance as an educational tool provides an environment to have fun with education and engage students in a unique way. Using the knowledge and research from my previous semesters at Sonoma State, along with the classes I am currently taking in Child Development I intend to create 2 easy to use dance projects for children. I plan to develop these activities for parents and educators to use as an academic tool for grades K and 1st. These activities would address California State Standards for that grade level in dance and the specific subjects such as, language arts for Kindergarten and Science for 1st grade. My goal is to have 1 complete project for each grade level.
As an assignment, in my Special Studies Child Development class this semester, I was to research the Emilia Reggio Approach. I became excited and interested in this educational approach and decided to dig deeper into how dance can be used in this setting. I found a wonderful article “Read My Dance- Promoting Early Writing Through Dance” written by Mary Ellin Logue, Melissa Robbie, Margo Brown, and Katelyn Waite. The Read My Dance Project was created by a group of teachers who took their students to a dance studio for a field trip after the class showed interest in dance. During their field trip the students were so inspired by the movement and choreography that one said “Maybe we could write it down and you can read it and tell us what to do” (Logue, Robbie, Brown & Waite, 2009). The teachers took this interest in movement and reading by developing a set of symbols for each dance movement and the students began writing their own dances. The teachers saw many affordances through this project including: supporting literacy, developing fluency, and supporting social growth (Logue, Robbie, Brown & Waite, 2009).
After researching this project and brainstorming about how it would fit into different educational settings such as, home, school and my dance studio, I have decided to use inspiration from the Read My Dance Project and create a language arts assignment for my final cognate project for Kindergarten. With the collaboration of my committee members I will develop the Read Through Dance assignment. I plan to implement it in my studio in my Pre-K and Kindergarten classes. This will give me the opportunity to see what works about the project and what will need more development before it is published online as part of my final cognate project.
During the Spring 2012 semester I developed a weather assignment for 1st grade. I worked with two of my committee members, Kristen Daley and Kelley Lannon, to create this assignment. When I finished the task I felt that it was a complete lesson plan. I intend to revisit this assignment, collaborate again and continue improve on it in anyway that it needs.
Goals of the Cognate Project
I currently own a dance studio in Healdsburg, California called ‘Dance with Laney’. My mission statement is “Quality Education in a Creative Environment”. I would like to have this mission statement grounded in literature. My end cognate project would be these 2 projects for the specific grade levels published on this website and available for my students and their families to use and better understand my philosophy and educational practices. My goal is to finish this cognate project by the end of May 2014.
Bresler, L. (1992). Dance Education In Elementary Schools. Design for Arts in Education, 93(5), 13-20.
Donald, C. (1991). Creative dance in elementary schools: A theoretical and practical justification. Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne De L'éducation, 16(4), 434-441.
Dunkin, A. (2004). Gliding glissade Not Grand Jete: Elementary Classroom Teachers Teaching Dance. Arts Education Policy Review, 105(3), 23-29.
Elliot, I. (1998). Music, Dance, Drama and Learning. Teaching Pre K-8, 28(6), 36-39.
Grade one visual and performing arts Dance content standards (2012, April 17).Retrieved from ss/dagrade1.asp
Linthicum, K. (2009). When Movement Spells Success. Dance Magazine, 83(3), 54-55.
Logue, M. , Robie, M. , Brown, M. , & Waite, K. (2009). Read my dance: Promoting early writing through dance. Childhood Education, 85(4), 216-222.
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Robelen, E. (2010). Schools Integrate Dance Into Lessons. Education Week, 30(12), 1-15. Schreiber, L. (2001). Learning by Leaps. Teacher Magazine, 12(4), 21-23.
Shaw, D. , & Science content standards for california public schools kindergarten through grade twelve. (2009, June 11).
Skoning, S. (2010). Dancing The Curriculum. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 46(4), 170-174. Why Teach Dance in k- 12. (2010). Dance Magazine, 84(4), 14-15.