Dance ED Tip #64: Poetry and Dance

April 16, 2019 - Michele Stevens

In celebration of April being National Poetry Month, Dance ED Tips has decided to do a throwback blog! The author of this blog, Michele Stevens, was my former cooperating teacher and an incredible mentor for me. I hope you enjoy and appreciate her wisdom and this interdisciplinary lesson using dance and poetry as much as I do!

Incorporating poetry into your dance class is a wonderful opportunity for interdisciplinary work. I highly recommend the poetry of Shel Silverstein for your classroom. Many of his poems invite movement, creativity, and most of all kids just adore them!
 
 
Learning Objectives:
 
  • Students will be able to use a poem as inspiration for large group improvisation.
  • Students will be able to use a poem as inspiration for small group choreography.  
 
Activities:
 
  1. Start out by doing a few guided improvisations with his poems, where students get to embody the poetry. As you read the poem, you can also use a drum as accompaniment.  
  2. After the students have had a chance to embody the poetry, it’s time for choreography! Have the children form small cooperative groups of 2-3. This will be another moment of collaborative learning.
  3.  
  4. I copy several of Shel Silverstein’s poems in a variety of reading levels so that the students can choose ones that they feel comfortable reading and exploring. Most of all, they should have the chance to choose a poem that they really connect with.  
  5.  
  6. A few poems that I have had great success with are: "Hug O' War" (fantastic for ELL learners and early readers, great for social justice themes too), "Spaghetti", "Boa Constrictor", "Play Ball" (fun for the start of baseball season), "8 Balloons", "Homework Machine", "Bear In There", and "Fancy Dive".  
  7. Then, groups begin choreographing using the poem as inspiration for their movement. While the dancers are working, I circulate to offer guidance and informally assess how the group is progressing. I usually give the groups 15 minutes to choreograph.  
  8.  
  9. Then, it is sharing time! I usually read the poems while the students present their work.  
  10. At the end of class, we sit together and share observations and connections.  
 
They are so proud of their choreography and I am impressed year after year! Try Shel Silverstein, you will love it! Every year, after working with his poems, many of my students come back to me and tell me that they have taken his books out from the library. In my mind, this is a major win!  

Michele Stevens earned her Ed.M. in Creative Arts Education from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She has served on the faculty at Rutgers as well. For the past 28 years, she has taught Dance in the Franklin Township public schools to grades Pre-K to 5. She has mentored many student teachers over the years. Last year, she was awarded the 2018 New Jersey Distinguished Cooperating Teacher Award from the New Jersey Department of Education. Her passion is in Interdisciplinary work and children's choreography.