Introductory Activities for Ages 4 to 6
This is an excerpt from Lesson Plans for Creative Dance by Sally Carline.
The range in terms of development and previous experience at this age is evident. Some children can skip and gallop, others pick up quickly given the opportunity, and a few might not be developmentally ready to skip until partway through the year. All the children can still enjoy trying to go backward or meeting and parting with a partner. Given encouragement, time, and opportunity, the action will come once a child is developmentally ready.
- Skip (rhythmic, high knees, light feet)
- Gallop (sideways, legs meeting in the middle of each upward action)
Baby Beluga: Raffi
Pennywhistle Jig: James Galway and Henry Mancini
First focus on the quality of the action so that the children skip with energy, bringing the knees high in front of the body and always landing lightly on the feet. At the beginning of the year, some of the children might not have developed a skipping action. With opportunity for practice and a focus on lifting the knees high, each child will learn to skip as soon as he or she is developmentally ready.
From here, you may introduce several ideas over time:
- Add a relationship: leading and following.
- Add a change of direction: backward and forward.
- Add a relationship: changing direction with a partner.
- Add a relationship: meeting and parting.
- Add a pathway: corners.
Add a Relationship: Leading and Following
This is one of the earlier relationships that children should develop because the focus is on the action and the fact that each child is either being followed or following. It demands that the children start accommodating a partner because one child may cover more ground with each skip and lose the partner! Each child needs to experience being both leader and follower. At a later date, you may introduce changing from one role to the other without stopping. When the leader wants to become the follower, he turns around (180 degrees) and the following child responds by doing the same, thus becoming the leader. With practice, the children will learn to do this without interrupting the flow of their skipping.
Add a Change of Direction: Backward and Forward
Let the children skip forward to establish a rhythm and then try skipping backward. This is more difficult than it sounds because a young child has a high center of gravity and has difficulty with balance when moving backward. To compensate, emphasize pulling knees away from the floor and leading the action with the buttocks. Practice moving from forward into backward and backward into forward so that the children learn to make smooth transitions from one direction into another.
Add a Relationship: Changing Direction With a Partner
When the children appear to be ready, they can practice traveling backward and forward with a partner. Two children face each other fairly close together. One child starts to skip forward, causing the other to skip backward. They decide when to reverse the procedure. To avoid collisions, it helps to have all the pairs facing north and south for this at first.
Add a Relationship: Meeting and Parting
For this relationship, the partners start away from each other, skip forward to meet, then skip backward to part. An excellent piece of music for this is “Les Petites Marionettes” by Raffi.
Add a Floor Pattern: Corners
Skipping diagonally from one corner to another sounds so easy, but several factors get in the way. Young children are still developing their perception of space, and few young children skip in a straight line!
Start the children at one corner of the space, and point to the diagonally opposite corner. Skip to that corner with them, then up the side of the room, to arrive at a new corner (see figure 2.1).
Next, send two or three children off at a time, then eventually one at a time every few beats. Try from the new corner. When it appears that the children understand the concept and the movement, they can start in two groups, one at each corner (see figure 2.2).
Work at first on the quality of the action so that the children learn to travel with one side of the body leading and with their legs meeting in the middle of the action (rather than crossing). They should practice leading with each side of the body and stop fairly effectively by bending the knees.
Add a Relationship: Matching
This is easier than matching a skip (see the skill for children 6 to 8 years of age) because the children are facing each other and can see their partners. Two children face each other in a ready-to-gallop position, knowing which way they will travel by stretching the leading foot to that side. As they gallop, they try to match each other as their legs snap together in the middle of each galloping action. Later they can learn to gallop one way for 8 beats, freeze and clap for 8 beats, gallop the other way for 8 beats, and so on.
Add a Floor Pattern: Corners
The progression should follow that for skipping: First all the children gallop from one corner diagonally to the opposite corner (see figure 2.1). When they are ready, they can start in two groups, one on each corner (see figure 2.2).
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