Some fun social dances to try with your upper-elementary-level students.
- Communicatie through physical movement (pantomime).
- Synthesize key details from The Nutcracker originally by E. T. A. Hoffman.
- Describe how a story may be told through dance and pantomime.
- Examine how ballet is a means of expression and storytelling.
- Write an explanatory text conveying the meaning of pantomime movement.
The Nutcracker book, Kansas City Ballet: The Nutcracker, The Nutcracker Story, Act 1 Marche Scene, The Nutcracker Party Scene 1, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Music Clips from Tchaikovsky’s - The Nutcracker
Teachers should familiarize themselves with the story of The Nutcracker and information on creating characters. Review the following resources: American Ballet Theatre: Ballet Archives, Great Performances: PBS Arts: Dance, American Ballet Theatre: Ballet Dictionary.
Hayward, Linda. A Day in the Life of a Dancer. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.
Pytor Illych Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Complete Ballet ~ Valery Gergiev (Composer), Kirov Orchestra and Choir (Conductor)
Students should have some familiarity with the story of The Nutcracker or other stories told through dance.
Modify handouts and give preferential seating for visual presentations. Allow extra time for task completion.
- Stand in front of the class and tell them you are going to “speak” to them without using any words. Tell them you will point to someone who should tell the class what you are “saying” or feeling. Wave to the students with a smile on your face. Call on a student to infer the meaning. (The student should say “hello.”) Then, frown and pretend to cry. Call on a student. (The student should say “I’m sad.”) Finally, furrow your brow and fold your arms. Call on a student. (The student should say “I’m angry.”)
- Next, tell the class you are going to pretend to do something. They must guess what you are trying to communicate. Pantomime the process of getting into a car, starting it, and driving it. When you have finished, ask the students: What can you conclude about my actions?
- Explain to students you are doing something called “pantomime” - a way to communicate without using words. Instead, you use your face and your body to help show actions, thoughts, or feelings.
- Tell the students they will now do a pantomime. Have them get up and start moving by walking around the room. Tell them to pretend they are walking to school.
- Give students the following prompts: (Allow about a minute to adjust to each new scenario.)You are walking to school in the pouring rain. You are walking to school after a big snowstorm, and there is a foot of snow on the ground. You stayed up late, so you are very tired when you are walking to school. It is the last day of school, and you can’t wait to get there.
- When you have finished the exercise, ask the students to talk about the things they did to show the different situations. How did they change their body movements to show they were walking through the snow? To show they were tired?
- Read The Nutcracker. Ask students if they think it would be possible to tell an entire story without words. As you read, they should listen carefully and think about how they could tell it without words. Read the story of The Nutcracker aloud (Note: for more information on The Nutcracker, see Kansas City Ballet: The Nutcracker or The Nutcracker Story.
- Engage students in a class discussion about the story. Ask students to recount details and generate questions about the text.
- Tell the students you are going to retell part of the story through pantomime. Their job is to guess which scene you are miming.
- Recreate Clara’s character from Act 1, Marche Scene for the class. A good scene to use for this exercise starts when Clara is happily twirling and dancing in the parlor at the beginning of the ballet. She is holding one of her dolls. She looks at it lovingly and holds it to her chest. Tchaikovsky wrote the musical piece Marche to portray this moment. Pantomime the scene and ask the students to guess the character you portrayed (Clara).
- Ask the students what happened in the scene you pantomimed. (Clara woke up and went to find her doll.) Ask the class if you spoke any words (No). If not, how did they know what was happening and what you were feeling?
- Show the clip of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King battling with their armies behind them. Tchaikovsky wrote the musical piece The Battle to portray this. If time permits, the students may brainstorm other scenes in the story to re-enact through pantomime.
- Tell students the story of The Nutcracker has often been told without words, through a type of dance called ballet. Tell the students ballet is similar to pantomime because it tells a story without words; however, it is different because dancers perform special dance movements and steps to music.
- Explain to the students the music is also an integral part of the story and closely relates to the mood set for the pantomime. In many instances, you only have to hear the music and scenes pop into your mind. You can visualize what might be happening and the characters involved.
- Tell the class it is their turn to pantomime a scene from The Nutcracker Party Scene 1. Divide the students into groups of three to tell the story together. Choose a scene to be re-enacted through dance or pantomime:
Choose a student to play Clara, another to play her brother Fritz, and a third to play their godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer. Ask the class: What happened when Herr Drosselmeyer first came to the party? (Herr Drosselmeyer gave Clara and Fritz gifts.) Ask the chosen students to pantomime getting gifts from their godfather. Remind the children that no words may be spoken.
Now choose three other students to pantomime the same scene, adding another action: have Clara and Fritz now show each other the gifts they have received. Building upon the previous two presentations, ask the class: What do you think is happening in the story? (Fritz, being jealous of the Nutcracker doll Clara has received, takes the doll and breaks it.)
Choose three new students to play the parts, adding in the breaking of the Nutcracker doll.
- Assess students’ knowledge of telling a story through dance and pantomime by having them act out a scene. You might play students Music Clips from Tchaikovsky’s - The Nutcracker, or musical pieces from favorite movies or TV shows to encourage movement.
- After they perform, ask them to respond to the writing prompt: How do movements like dance and pantomime tell a story? How are dance and pantomime different?
Jen Westmoreland Bouchard
Stacy Elise Stevenson
February 6, 2020
Channel your students’ love of movement with these easy social dances.
How to incorporate dance into a traditional English classroom.
5 easy ways to use dance and movement in your classroom.
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