Dance: Discovering movement qualities with early years students

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  • Author :  admin
  • Date :  Jan 28, 2013
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This unit of work was designed around children's interests in butterflies after one child brought a dead butterfly in a jar to share with her teacher and friends. This generated much interest in the shape, features and movement qualities of the butterfly, and provided a starting point for planning a unit of work that would expand children's current knowledge. The unit progressed over four weeks.

In week 1, the teacher introduced the children to the butterfly in the jar. Children were given the opportunity to explore broad-ranging movement material such as:

  • tight, closed, egg shapes scattered in space
  • lifting and lowering light arm gestures
  • flying through space and landing lightly in different parts of the room
  • stillness
  • movement.

The teacher identified rich language that could support and expand children's vocabularies and direct children's body thinking and communication. Reflective drawing-telling was conducted at the end of the class to capture children's lived experience of the class content. The teacher asked the children 'to draw something you have remembered from the class today' (see lesson plans 1|2|3|4).

In week 2, the butterfly idea was further extended with visual stimuli presented at the outset of the class to identify a range of butterfly species. These included the Moonlight Jewel Butterfly, the Birdwing Butterfly, the Cruiser Butterfly and the Evening Brown Butterfly. The poetic names of these species were used to stimulate explorations of dynamic variations. The children discussed differences in colour among the butterflies and explored their associations with the names and colours of the butterflies. Sharing the visual imagery focused the children's thinking around the light qualities of butterfly flight, and children were given the opportunity to tell personal stories of their experience of seeing butterflies and of their knowledge of a butterfly's life cycle. Movements that represented undulating flight, opening and closing of wings, wrapping of arms and emerging from one shape into another were explored.  The teacher focused on The role of the teacher in supporting and extending children’s learning to allow for understandings to expand beyond current knowledge. the children's The process of spontaneously creating movement. with suggestions such as, 'Try to feel the air under your wings'; 'Imagine flying in the moonlight'; 'Try cruising through the space lifting and lowering your wings'.

In week 3, more specific detail about butterfly species was introduced to the children with information gathered from the internet. For example, the children were taught that 'all Nymph Butterflies are strong and rapid flyers. Most of them are seen flying actively on a sunny day ... they rest with wings folded over their back. However, we also find that most of them like to expand their wings facing the sun to warm up their body'. This information provided immediate access to movement material, with children exploring active flying and resting in stillness in different spaces in the room with wings folded over their backs. The life cycle of the butterfly was introduced as a movement sequence, with the dance beginning as a closed shape on the floor (the egg), followed by emergence of wriggling caterpillars, spinning the cocoon and emerging as a butterfly. Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar was also introduced and several Materials that can be used by children to extend their bodily explorations. and music were used as stimuli (see lesson plan 3).

In week 4, the inspirational focus was the Wanderer Butterfly, where the teacher helped the children to understand the definition of wandering by using pathways, curving, weaving and making lines in space to exemplify the journey of the Wanderer Butterfly. The life cycle sequence was revisited.  

This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.