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Large group activities for teaching rhythmic activities and dance

This is an excerpt from Rhythmic Activities and Dance - 2E by John Bennett & Pamela Riemer.

by John Price Bennett, EdD and Pamela Coughenour Riemer, MA

Chapter 3 of Rhythmic Activities and Dance is intended to introduce rhythms and dance movements to students of all abilities in a no-fault, nonthreatening atmosphere. This chapter contains enough warm-up activities to take any program through years of success.

Many opportunities are provided to reinforce and improve the basic skills needed for rhythmic activities and dance. The activities will assist your dance program, while stimulating students to develop at their own pace. Dance skills can be enhanced when students do not recognize that they are working on dance skills. The activities in this chapter will motivate your students to work on dance skills without any risk of embarrassment.

As you begin using these activities, you will notice opportunities to integrate subjects like math, social studies, science, and language arts with your physical education classes. Take advantage of these connections and help your students see them as well.

Counting, adding, and subtracting occur in Eight, Four, Two; in the circuits; and in Countdown. Games like Happy Heart and Veins and Arteries provide teachers with an opening to examine some basics of the physiology of exercise with their students. Fitness in America could lead to a lesson in social studies. Parts of Speech and Partner Over and Under allow language arts to be integrated with our teaching in the physical education classroom. These activities are the obvious places to integrate material. The only limitations for integration are those we place on ourselves.

You will recognize familiar activities as well as a variety of new ones to expand your students' dance skills. All are designed to promote the development of dance skills and fitness. The familiar activities have been reshaped into dance-related fitness activities. This new look to old activities makes them appealing for all age groups. Give your students an opportunity to add new ways to integrate. The feeling of ownership makes students feel important.

From old to new

Although you will recognize many of these activities immediately, look closely because they may not be what you think they are. Each one has been modified with a focus on the elements of dance. Each one reinforces dance skills and fitness simultaneously. Whether the changes appear small or large, you will be able to focus on new directions through some old organizational patterns.

This chapter is arranged into four categories of activities: large-group, small-group, circuits, and games. Large-group activities may lead to high-quality movement, as do the small-group activities, depending on how they are used. The circuits provide opportunities to practice dance skills in nonthreatening environments, and the games move to a higher level application of a rhythmic dance activity.

Within these four categories are many activities that will be appropriate for your program. You can enliven your classes by applying basic dance skills and using new and challenging conditions. Use these activities and modify them to your needs. With slight changes, you could move one to a different category.

The activities are listed in their respective groups. Individual descriptions follow. Try them as openings and closings to your lessons. They may fit as the middle of your lessons, depending on your focus. When you are working with students who are just starting out, the focus will be on the locomotor basics of walking, running, leaping, jumping, and hopping in a rhythmic manner. When these have been mastered, you will move to combination moves like skipping, sliding, galloping, doing the polka, and so on. When you are teaching students with intermediate abilities, your focus will be first on the combination movements, then shift to the selected dance steps suggested in chapter 1. With advanced students, the focus shifts to mastery of the selected dance steps found in the first chapter. As you select activities from this chapter for your program, be aware of this progression.


Students experience large-group participation and develop a variety of dance skills.


Students are spread out in the room with everyone facing front.


After a designated dance movement is performed eight times, everyone makes a quarter-turn to the right and repeats the movement eight times (see figure 3.4). Repeat with a quarter-turn right (students are now facing the back of class), and have students do it again. When the students make one more quarter-turn to face the front, repeat all movements four times, and follow the preceding sequence. Then repeat the movements two times through the entire sequence: thus the name Eight, Four, Two.

Teaching Tips

  • Use any number of movements—from one to several.
  • Let students contribute suggestions for the activity.
  • Always use music.
  • Post moves for the day on the third wall that the group faces so that they can continue without stopping.

Suggested Moves

Begin with basic locomotor movements, then combinations, then the selected dance steps from the first chapter. This should be the progression to follow when organizing your program.

Basic Locomotor Movements

  • Walk
  • Jump
  • Run
  • Hop
  • Leap


  • Slide and lunge
  • Skip and jump
  • Gallop and leap
  • Polka and turn

Selected Dance Steps

  • Step touches
  • Schottische steps
  • Vines
  • Lunges
  • Pivots
  • Cha-cha
  • Push-ups
  • Lindy steps
  • Knee lifts
  • Jazz circles
  • Sit-ups or curl-ups
  • Jazz walk
  • Bleking steps

This is an excerpt from Rhythmic Activities and Dance.

More Excerpts From Rhythmic Activities and Dance 2E