The teacher has asked the children what story they think the music tells.
Child: They’re dancing.
Teacher: They’re dancing. And what else?
Child: Flowers are blooming.
Teacher: Flowers are blooming and dancing. Let’s try that first. Ready?
Teacher: Let’s be seeds in the ground.
Child: Let’s be seeds.
Teacher: All right? And we’re going to grow into flowers and be flowers that dance. Boys and girls, I’m going to ask you to be very quiet so you can hear the music tell the story.
Children curl into “seeds” on the floor.
Teacher: Here we go. (Music begins.)
Teacher: The flowers are going to grow. The seeds grow! Taller! And taller! And taller! Into tall stems. (Children are standing and reaching high above their heads.) And out come leaves. And out come blossoms! (She models hand and arm movements.) And the flowers are blowing in the wind, too. (She sways back and forth to model “blowing.”)
Teacher: Everyone must be up now. And now the flowers take their roots out of the soil—and begin dancing!
The teacher models movements of the legs and arms. Children follow suit, and some begin to try other movements. The clip ends as children continue to dance and improvise movements.
In this video, a teacher guides preschoolers in a creative movement activity. The teacher, Donna Warwick, is an artist in residence at a university-affiliated lab school in Illinois. She has been meeting once a week with 3- and 4-year-olds from the preschool classroom in another room in their school. Children can attend this class, called ArtsFusion™, as a “choice time” option. A teaching assistant from their classroom accompanies them during their time with Ms. Warwick.
The clip shows how the children respond to their teacher’s modeling and directions as she encourages them to move like “dancing flowers.” The teacher has told the children, who are seated on the floor, a story about flowers that could dance. She has just played a selection from a classical music CD and asked the children to talk about what the music makes them think of.
As the clip begins, one child responds, “They’re dancing,” and another says, “Flowers are blooming.” The teacher then invites the children to pretend to be flowers that grow and dance while music plays and she tells a story. The children bring some knowledge and understanding of flowers to this creative movement activity. They have studied seeds and plants in their classroom and have looked at prints of flowers by various artists. They know what seeds, stems, blossoms, and flowers are, and they have some ideas about how those things might move.
The clip shows the teacher modeling the kinds of motions the children could choose to make while the music plays. She also allows them to develop movements for themselves. In order to follow the teacher’s suggestions during this activity, the children call upon prior knowledge of changes that take place as plants grow from seeds to flowers. For example, first they move their bodies to form compact “seeds.” Most of them curl up with knees and elbows tucked under their bodies on the floor and their heads down. One child remains sitting cross-legged, but she curves her back and looks downward. As the seeds sprout, children move in a variety of ways to standing positions.
At one point, the teacher stops telling the story but allows the music to continue. The children continue to dance as they think flowers would. Most continue to move gracefully, turning and swaying, while some begin to jump and hop.
The video ends with the children still dancing. Shortly afterward, the teacher stopped the music, commented that the children were expressing “some good ideas,” and asked them to sit down to talk about other ways that they might respond to the music.
Creative movement is closely related to dance and storytelling. Teachers who are uncertain how a class will engage with creative movement might want to start with the kind of brief, teacher-directed activity shown in this video. The teacher’s storytelling and suggestions for movements provide structure while allowing individual interpretations.
Not all children are familiar with the idea that music can tell stories. If the teacher thinks that might be the case, she can expose the children to a range of music to find out what seems most likely to engage them. As she introduces a piece of music, she can ask, “What does this music make you think of?” or “What does this sound like to you?” or “What kind of story do you think this music tells?”
The children in this video already have some experience using their bodies to represent a variety of things, including flowers. If the children were new to creative dramatics, the teacher might begin by asking questions such as, “Can you show me what kind of dance you might do to this music?” or “If you wanted to move your body the way a flower moves in the wind, how would you do that?” Or she might demonstrate some movements, making sure that children understand that there is not just one “right” way to move. Depending on what she knows about the children’s interests, the teacher might invite them to imitate animals, vehicles, raindrops, or something else that may engage them. As they gain experience with expressing themselves to music, their movement repertoire is likely to expand.
Benchmarks & How They Were Met
1.A.ECa: Follow simple one-, two- and three-step directions.
- Children coordinated their movements with what the instructor said.
Physical Development and Health
19.B.ECa: Coordinate movements to perform complex tasks.
- Children bent, curled, straightened, stretched, and turned their torsos, arms, and legs to act out being flowers that dance.
Physical Development and Health
19.B.ECb: Demonstrate body awareness when moving in different spaces.
- Several children glanced at peers from time to time as they moved about and were able to perform movements without taking over others’ space.
25.A.ECa: Movement and Dance: Build awareness of, explore, and participate in dance and creative movement activities.
- Children paid attention to and copied the teacher’s rhythmic movements. Some children created movements related to the story and the music.
25.A.ECb: Drama: Begin to appreciate and participate in dramatic activities.
- Children pantomimed movements of seeds and plants as they pretended to be flowers that grew and danced.
About this Resource
Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
- Child Care Center
- Family Child Care
- Preschool Program
- Teachers / Service providers
Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
- Preschoolers (Age 3 Through Age 5)