Incorporating props into a dance class can be a fun way of introducing new dance concepts, changing up the routine and getting students to think outside the box. It can be challenging to add a new element, but also very rewarding.
Let the children explore the prop on their own first. Ask them to show you what they have discovered about how the prop moves and how they like to move with it. How does the weight, size, material affect how it moves, what movement qualities would they give the object (direct, indirect, strong, light, bound, free, etc.)?
Can you move very big with the prop, can you move in different levels with the prop? Do you enjoy moving with it? Why or why not?
Here are some of my favorite props to explore with children…
1. Place the hula hoop on the floor and ask the children to explore all the various ways they can move in and out of the hoop (jump, crawl, hop, skip, roll, etc.) Now do the activity again and hold it upright. Now the children have to explore moving in and out in a different level.
2. Dance around the hoop on the floor. Jump in the hoop and perform the opposite of what you were doing. If you were dancing free and easy outside the hoop then when you jump in the hoop the movements will be bound and tight.
3. Hula Hoop in class. Use the hula as it was intended. You will work on transferring weight as well as rhythm.
These exercises work on spatial awareness, steps, movement qualities and transfer of weight. The benefit of a hula hoop is that it is inexpensive and easy to find. The down side is that it can be challenging to transport if you do not have a car or storage space where you work.
1. Have each child hold both edges of the scarf, one edge in each hand. Practice stretching up and down. Stretch big enough that the scarf flutters. Watch the scarf as it moves up and down.
2. Hold the scarf in one hand and make big circles right, left, overhead and on the floor. Switch hands and do it again.
3. Hold the scarf in front of your face and blow. See if you can get the scarf to move. Blow softly. Blow hard.
These exercises work on full body movements, eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, crossing the midline and beginning to understand breath. The benefit of scarves is they are easy transportable, easy to use and affordable to buy enough for an entire class.
1. Ask a child to hold the egg shaker or tambourine and dance really fast. Hear how quickly the egg shakes or the tambourine jingles. Now move slowly. Do you hear a difference. Do you see a difference?
2. March to a steady beat and have the children shake or tap the instruments. Speed up and slow down.
3. Have the children sit in a circle. One at a time invite a child in to the center to dance with the shaker of tambourine. The instrument signals that this is a special time for this individual child to dance.
Dance is rhythmic. Egg shakers and tambourines are wonderful tools to use to have kids explore beats and rhythm. Egg shakers and tambourines can be found in any music store. The shakers are inexpensive and easy to transport. Tambourines are reasonably priced and are a great investment to add a variety of sounds to your class. Technically the egg shakers and tambourines are instruments and not props. If you explore all the various ways you can shake it, tap it (with body parts, levels, with steps) then it can be both.
Props can be great for classroom management. The class can earn “playtime with a prop” or you can use a prop as signal for the beginning or end of class. (The scarves are taken out only in the beginning of class or the egg shakers are given out when the class is sitting quietly in a circle.)
I would love to hear what props you like to use!
Bio: Stacey is the Founder and Director of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs. The focus of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs is to help people regardless of age, experience or ability, become educated about their movement potential, develop kinesthetic awareness, and become more physically fit and healthy together as a family, and community.Leaping Legs promotes its goal through the original Up Down & All Around DVD. Utilizing the elements of movement, the video entertains as it motivates kids and their families to exercise together using movement games, silly exercises and challenges. The DVD received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products 2009 Award and 10 Best Active Products 2009 Award. The DVD has also been featured in many magazines. In its August 2009 issue, Dance Teacher called the DVD “an essential tool for teaching the fundamentals of movement.”
Stacey received her BFA in dance performance at Montclair State University and her MA in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught as an artist in residency and guest artist in public and private schools for over twelve years.