Recently an instructor wrote to me asking how to create a curriculum for a creative movement class. Coincidentally, I am in the middle of writing my next book which is all about preschool ballet curriculum. In that book I talk about how to create a curriculum for preschool ballet and also include the complete curriculum I use in my Wish Upon a Ballet™ classes. In a sense, this article will be a condensed version of that book. Creating a class for any style or age starts out basically the same. You need specific goals for what you want your student to learn. Then you need to find fun and engaging activities to carry out your goals.
When I start planning a class the first thought I have is creating a theme. You could just take your favorite activities and put them together in a class, however I find that if each class or session has a theme it makes it so much easier to plan your activities.
Usually creative movement only classes are going to be for preschoolers. What would be a great theme for a preschool class? What do preschoolers like?
To choose a theme, look at what books, movies and tv shows are popular for preschoolers. You can’t go wrong with the classic fairy tales like Cinderella or The Little Mermaid. However, just make sure your theme is gender friendly. Not all boys want to play princess and not all girls want to be rescued 🙂 Also in fairy tales you can find several smaller themes to make your class interesting. For example, with The Little Mermaid not only can you pretend to be royalty or merpeople you can also pretend to be fish, dolphins or sharks.
The theme is actually the first subject I want my students to learn about. “Here is a story I love and I hope you like it too!” It’s about creating fun!
Here are some other great theme ideas –
Fairytales – Cinderella, The Snow Queen, The Sleeping Beauty
Outer Space Adventures
Pirates and Fairies
A Day at the Zoo
Under the Bigtop
A Bug’s Life
Once you have chosen your theme. Then you need to decide what you want your students to learn. We should teach basic steps, teach students how to take care of their bodies with warm-ups and stretches, demonstrate different qualities of movement and encourage exploration and creative thinking.
When we teach a ballet or tap class we know there are specific steps and dances that need to be taught during your session. With creative movement, we may teach specific steps however not necessarily. What else are we teaching in a creative movement class?
Your studio may want the creative movement class to progress to ballet, tap or jazz so you may want to include some of those elements in your class. If that is the case then make sure your activities contain a few steps here and there. My fairy tale game is one of my favorites to play in class. You can learn all about this game in my book, Creative Movement Games for Preschool Ballet: Incorporating Props, on Amazon. In this game we go through a story using props and ballet steps to achieve our goal.
Actually even if teaching specific dance steps is not a goal, there should always be skips, jumps, gallops etc. in your creative movement classes. I believe teaching basic movements that will help in dance, gymnastics, sports or to just help kids feel confident with their bodies should be included.
Next I think about how much time I would like to spend on warm-up activities. We should get loosened up with some isolations and stretches. How long you spend on the warm-up will depend on how long your class is. We want to teach our students that warm-ups are important, however we want to get to the other amazing activities we have planned.
Make sure your warm-up activities are creative. If we reach up to the sky can we pretend to pick apples off a tree? What if it was a candy tree? What else can we pick? If we stretch in straddle can we pretend to make a pizza or a giant cookie?
After I decide what steps and warm-ups I would like my class to learn I think about dynamics or different ways of moving. I think of this like dynamics in music. When we play a musical instrument or sing we need to learn how to play fast and slow, loud and quiet or staccato and legato. Dancers need to learn these elements as well. You could also teach the Laban movements. However, don’t worry about making things too complex. Preschoolers are just beginning to understand the basics of movement.
The final aspect I like to include in my classes is the creative exploration. This includes what can we do with our bodies but also what can we create in our minds. Let’s explore movement and creative play!
I think this is why I love teaching preschoolers so much. When we explore I see their eyes just light up. When we pretend to be dogs on a walk we chase butterflies and sticks. They absolutely love it!
There should be times when you lead the students and times when they get to lead. When they are following you in an activity they are exposed to things they have never done before and they can copy you. You as the instructor have more experience and will have many more ideas. Then when they are the leader they get to think on their own and expand their minds. We are teaching them to take charge and think of new things. Of course there are no wrong answers in creativity. If we make a pizza and one child adds cheese and another adds cookies, it’s all good!
I am a big believer in music. Choosing music is just as important as choosing activities and steps. After you choose a theme you should look for not only activities that go with that theme but music as well. Find some age appropriate music that is interesting to preschoolers. It is a good idea to use songs they know, that have a story, are easy to sing along with or are funny! I would stay away from typical preschool songs they might hear in preschool. Find music that is more complex to broaden their minds. Classical music is great for the imagination as well. I always use a classical piece in each of my preschool ballet classes. They are great to expose your students to and they can easily inspire creativity. Just be careful the music isn’t too dramatic. Sometimes if the music is too exciting it will make preschoolers nervous.
In my classes I make sure to include these elements: the theme or storytelling, conditioning or warm-ups, dance steps, quality of movement and creative thinking. Choose a theme and then find music that can accompany each of these categories and you should have a complete class! Below I will list some ideas. Feel free to contact me for more ideas. Look for my next book all about preschool ballet curriculum which will include many of my complete ballet themes!
Creative Movement Activity Ideas
Slow and Fast
Stop and Start
Follow the Leader
Pretend to be animals
Play in the snow, rain or falling leaves
Be the snow, rain or falling leaves
Ride in a carriage to the ball
Pretend to be dolls
Throw Ariel a Birthday Party
Rescue some stuffed animals from a sleeping potion (Fairy Tale Game)
Dance with Rapunzel in the town square
Use your ice powers to create an ice castle or a magic snowy friend
March like Toy Soldiers
Example of a creative adventure:
When I use Pirates and Fairies or a Tinker Bell theme I will use “The Little Bells” from Edward Elgar’s The Wand of Youth for a creative activity. We will pretend to be little fairies and go on an adventure. The music is wonderful because there are fast skittery sections and slow legato sections. It’s great for the preschoolers to hear the different types of music. We can pretend to fly quickly with the fast music and then soar around gracefully with the slow music. Or we can pretend to be fairies busy at work and then take a nap. There are many possibilities!