Ideas to Spruce Up your PE Dance Unit

Looking for some ideas to spruce up your PE Dance Unit?
Let’s dance!

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When I was in college, I took many classes to prepare me to be a physical education teacher.  As part of the coursework, I took one dance class (ballroom/folk dance).  Even though I had a lot of fun in the class, I did not learn much about “how” to teach a dance PE unit. When I first started teaching, dance was certainly not one of my strengths. It is important to note that I loved to dance (always have) but I had no idea how to help my students develop an enjoyment for moving to music.   I knew that dance needed to be part of the curriculum because, in Virginia, there is a rhythms/dance standard for every grade level.  So, what did I do?  I taught a one day PE dance unit that focused on copying rhythms and patterns using lummi sticks.  I did this for several years always knowing that I needed to focus on dance more.

Things changed for me one summer when I was able to attend the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute.  I decided to focus on my glaring weakness as a physical education teacher and attend a few dance sessions.  During the sessions, the presenters were demonstrating real-world approaches and lessons that I could incorporate into my teaching.  After taking part in the conference and getting some fabulous new ideas, I decided that I was going to revamp my PE dance unit (which obviously needed lots of work!).  I continued using the lummi stick lesson and refining the vocabulary terms that I would teach the students.  Then I added several new components, changing levels and speeds based on different types of music, creating simple four-component dances, teaching basic square dance patterns, utilizing technology (Dance-Dance-Revolution).  Things were really starting to come together and my dance began to span over a 3-week period (6 lessons).  As I continued to gain confidence, I realized that I was really enjoying the unit and I wanted to continue to add to what I was sharing with my students.  We started adding basic line dances to the mix (Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, etc).  We received a grant for GeoMotion Equipment.  Things were really starting to “hop” at my school.  Then things got even better…

In 2010 while at the Virginia Summer Health and Physical Activity Institute, I attended a session title, “Rock This Party – Everyone Dance”.  The session was led by two gentlemen, JD Hughes and Chip Candy, and it was awesome!  It was over an hour long and full of amazing creative dances to a wide range of music.  I was hooked!  When I got back to school at the end of the summer, I met with my teaching partner and discussed different ways we could add more dance to our program.  She was on-board and we began teaching one dance a month to our students.  To start, we used some of the dances that I learned from the conference.  Later, we began picking popular music and creating our own dances.  In addition to teaching the dances, we also videotaped ourselves teaching the dance and then performing them.  We shared the videos with our classroom teachers and they began using them as Brain Breaks for their students.  The most amazing part of expanding our dance instruction was the change of the culture at the school.  The change did not occur over night but one year after sharing our monthly dances, it was clear that out students were more comfortable with their movements and really started to exhibit more confidence.  Our students started asking; “What’s the next dance?” “Can we dance to that song by ____?” and “Can we do another dance for warm-up today?”  It was AWESOME!

If dance is an area that is a challenge for you, don’t give up and let it continue to be a “hole” in your program.  There are many great resources out there (including dance sessions at almost every PE conference in the country).  You don’t have to know everything, just demonstrate a passion for something new and sell it to your students.  I guarantee your students and your program will benefit from the new addition.

All of the dances we taught are posted on YouTube.

Check out these great Dance Resources from Gopher!

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