Teacher Tips: Transition Activities for Young Children

Transition activities are key to a successful dance class or early childhood program. Not only will they help you move from one activity to another seamlessly, transition activities can be your most powerful classroom management tool as they keep the momentum of the class moving forward and ensure that young children remain focused and engaged. Remember, idle time opens the door for distractions and off task behaviors.

Clean Up:

Clean up time can be very difficult for some young children. They may not want to give up the prop or toy they have been exploring which can cause distress. By establishing a positive routine, clean up time becomes a fun activity within itself.

During clean up time try to sing the song below until all props/toys have been put away. Some children can be very enthusiastic and want to clean up all the props leaving others without any which can lead to hurt feelings. Be sure to indicate how many of each item you want each child to clean up before singing the song. For example, “Can all my dancing friends pick up one hula-hoop from our obstacle course? That way we all get a turn!”  By giving the tots and kids control over the situation you are empowering them.

Giants and Elves: Dance Game for Preschoolers

Size is a favorite concept in our Intellidance Tots and Kids classes. I use various images to explore big and small movements with young dancers but one favorite dance game I come back to frequently is the Land of Giants and Elves. Using Eric Chappelle's song A Tale of Two Villages from Contrast and Contiuum: Music for Creative Dance Vol 1 (available on iTunes) I lead students through magical land where Giants and Elves dance together. When the soft, twinkley music plays we explore the small movement of elves. When the louder, heavy music plays we explore the big movement of giants. I provide cueing throughout to encourage the young dancer to try a variety of movements. 

This simple activity is a fun addition to early childhood creative dance or ballet classes. Teachers could easily be integrated into preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Parents could do this dance game at home as another way to stay active inside during the long winter months. 

Here is a video of me teaching this activity to an Intellidance Tots class at a Intellidance Instructor Certification

More Brain Play Variations for Preschoolers

Brain Play

Recently, I was privileged to speak on Brain Play™  at the All Hands on Deck conference for the Northern Alberta Preschool Teachers Association.  After sharing with them the benefits of Brain Play™ and moving through the eight developmental patterns with them, they all split into groups to come up with their own movement patterns. It was great fun learning new rhymes and ways to play. At the end of the session, I was asked to post each of the movement patterns everyone developed, so they would be able to reference it in the future. Here’s what they came up with. Enjoy!

Creating Cinquain Dances with Children: Integrating Movement and Language Arts

Cinquain Dances

Dance can be a powerful way for children to express spoken word. While some children are masters of expressive language, others can struggle to communicate ideas, feelings or understanding with words. Dance provides educators a "hands on" way to integrate movement into lanuage arts curriculum. Physicalization provides a powerful way to develop meaningful understanding of new concepts. It can also be used as an alternative assessment tool that recognizes children learn and express their learnings in different ways. 

One activity I enjoy doing at my studio with dancers ages 6-12 are Cinquain Dances. A Cinquain is a 5 line poem. There are a few different ways a cinquain can be created but I like to use the following structure:

Music for Children's Dance Classes

Music plays a key role in dance education. Young dancers need the opportunity to develop listening skills, rhythm awareness and musicality in order to dance with true expression and artistry. Often finding music that fits teaching goals and students taste can be a challenging and lengthy process for dance educators. Parents may also find it difficult to find music to play at home that is suitable for young ears. Here are some of our music suggestions for ballet, jazz and creative dance for young children. 

Contrast and Continuum: Music for Creative Dance

Name Dances: Creating with a Movement Alphabet

Providing children with a well-rounded dance education is more than just teaching steps. An important part of any dance education is learning how to create. Student choreography provides children ownership and self-expression over their work. When working with younger students providing a structure and simple choreographic devices can give them the support they need to successfully create their own piece while allowing them the freedom to make their work unique and reflective of their own movement personality. 

One activity my 6-7 year old Creative Jazz Ballet students at J'Adore Dance have been enjoying immensely is creating Name Dances using a movement alphabet. 

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