Development Series, RA Dance Blog, Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips: Dance Based Games

Dance can be tailored for many different ages groups and abilities, by using more accessible music and easier to learn steps. But sometimes groups can get bored of the week in week out monotony of learning steps and routine, or in some cases never really seem that interested in choreography. This is especially true of groups linked to schools as an after-school club, after a day at school many primary school children simply want to do other things that they believe are more ‘fun’. So through my experience of groups like this, this is a list of games/activities that seem to work well.

Traditional dance-based games work very well, games like musical statues and musical chairs. However, they can feel like they’re in the wrong place for a dance lesson as children aren’t really learning much and can get a little over excited when trying to find that last chair. A game that I’ve found that children love also feels a bit out of place in a dance lesson, but the children always asked to play it, so I’ve been slowly editing it to have more educational content. That game is Splat! traditionally a drama game to help with alertness and confidence. The children stand in a circle with one player in the middle, the one in the middle is the splater. He/She turns around in the circle and splats a player on the outside, that player then needs to duck. The two players next to the one that ducked, also need to turn to each other and splat each other. Whichever of the three are the slowest are the one that is out. Additionally any player who splats or ducks out of turn is out. This game is very easy to be adapted for classes like tap, as when they splat they can also be made to do a simple little step, flaps, tap step, stomp, and stamps work very well for this. Once there are two players left, the splat-off begins, they start back to back and on the word splat, they’re to turn around and splat each other. For every word they hear that isn’t splat they need to take a step forwards, so away from each other. Again this can be down with dance steps, where they have to show the step as they move.

To help with directions game’s like 4 corners can work very well. As with four corners the corners and side can be labelled, stage left, stage right, upstage and downstage. The corners can either be numbered or referred to by their stage directions, depending on the children’s age/ability or syllabus they’re learning. The caller turns around and closes their eyes and all other players run to an area in the room. The caller then shouts out an area and all players in that area are out, when they turn around. This is a short a snappy game that will help everyone learn their stage directions. To make it a little more challenging each round can change the direction of the audience, so where ever the caller stands becomes the audience, this means the players and the caller have to work out where all the labels go every single time.


Partner Games

Zoo animals is a game that requires the children to have partners. In partners, one partner is the performer and the other is the audience. They take turns to be the performer and when they are a performer they act out being an animal. The audience member then tries to guess the animal the performer is acting out. Once it’s been guessed they then switch over.

Another partner game, the DVD dance game, is a little more engaging for both persons involved. One partner is the DVD recording the other is the remote control. The controller calls out certain commands and the recording moves accordingly. So commands can be; Rewind (the recording has to move backwards), Play (move around at normal speed), Fast-Forward (speed up their actions), Record (mover pulls a funny face), Slow Motion (move in a slower speed), Stop (immediately stands still), Pause (jump on the stop) and Eject (the controller switches to become the recording).


Group Movement/Imagination Games

A traditional game that can be easily adapted for dance is Simon Says. This can be filled with lots of dance movements, for older ones you can even add in the real terminology for each step. Another game that works well is the floor is lava children move around the space only able to be on little coloured spot on the floor. When the music stops you can get them to balance in the position they are to help improve their balance skills. As well as games like limbo that can help improve their flexibility and balance.

More imaginative games can involve the children becoming flowers, they start as the seeds and then you come round and water them. Afterwards the children then grow out of their seeds, blooming into a big flower.


Music and Terminology Games

Sing Song Steps is a name I give to an activity involving changing the words to recognisable songs that can work really well at helping them learn the names of steps. Songs like Daisy, Daisy and Frère Jacques, can work for this, simply change the words of the song to be steps that the children should know the name of. Once they get the hang of this they can make up their own terms and moves to go with them, for example actions like sparkle or shine. To make this even harder they can be put into little teams and given a nursery song. They then have to make up a dance routine that goes with the tune of the song, the other teams then need to try and guess the nursery rhyme.

To help children learn rhythm counting you can play crazy 8’s. For 8 counts the children clap along to the song, then for the next 8 they dance around. This is then repeated. To make this harder the dancing could be in a set theme, or the clapped rhythm can become a lot harder. The dance can also be changed to be a run to the corner and to pull a funny face.


I hope these ideas help, if you’ve got any more that you’d be happy to share I (and some of my classes) would love to try them out.

Remember there are multiple ways to get in touch with me, so don’t be afraid to ask for help;

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