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Get Them Dancing!



When I started at my school, one of my tasks would be to lead an all school square dancing night. This night is a big fundraiser for our school. The PTA puts together food that families can purchase. Some years it has been a chili feed, other years, hot dogs, and we have a book fair the same night. Each grade level learns a dance to perform on stage as the live entertainment while parents/families eat. After they are done dancing, they can head over to the book fair to find some great new books.

This was a bit daunting to me at first because I really didn't know a lot about folk dancing, but luckily they always do a folk dancing special topics during the Kodaly Certification program and two years ago they added a community Folk Dancing Night to KMEA, so I have been able to pick up some new dances that way.

Two years ago Peter and Mary Alice Amidon led the folk dancing night for KMEA and I purchased several of their resources while I was there.

Usually I have favorites that I use again and again, like Alabama Gal "Come Thru' Na Hurry," "Down in the Valley," and "Jump Jim Joe," but I am branching out and trying some new ones with my kids now that I feel more comfortable with the calls.

While I usually have my fifth graders present a traditional square dance, I don't restrict myself to that with all the grade levels because I think that children should get to experience dancing in ALL KINDS of formations and because square dancing limits you to multiples of eight and it often leaves students sitting out.

Comment ├ža va?  is one of the new ones I am trying. It is a circle dance from Sashay the Donut. It is a fancy version of Bastringue. I really like it because it introduces "corners" in addition to partners. Students will quickly have to go from Allemande corners, to Dosido partners, back to Allemande corners, and then to Promenade.

These dances are PERFECT to do right after a long break to get kids moving and listening!

As we learn the dances, I teach the students the calls and what the steps of the dances are called. I put up a Movement/Folk Dancing specific word wall to reinforce this vocabulary. Having the vocabulary and having students recall the steps using the vocabulary has been a really powerful tool in my room to help them learn the dances.



What are your favorite folk dances?

If you are looking for more folk dancing inspiration, head to my Folk Dancing Pinterest Board:



9 comments:

  1. Hi Lindsay!
    Folk dancing night sounds like a really fun time for the students and families of your school community! What a great way to bring everyone together! One of my favorite dances to teach is called, "Lucky Seven" - it has a grand right-left in it and my kids LOVE the challenge. I think it's in another one of the Amidon's books - "Chimes of Dunkirk." Almost positive it's that one. I also love to teach "The Sweets of May." Your new blog design is beautiful! Sincerely, Tina Jones

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    1. Thank you so much! I think I have done the Lucky Seven one, but I have never taught it. I will have to look at that one and The Sweets of May. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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  2. Folk dancing does sound fun, but I tried it for the first time this year and it was a disaster!! Kids not listening, kids doing their own thing, kids too embarrassed to hold hands...DISASTER. :) I would LOVE it if you might post a follow-up post on your procedures for folk dancing and the things you've learned along the way to make your experiences successful. :)

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    1. Hi Katie, You definitely have to be proactive about those things and create the kind of folk dancing culture in your school that you want to see. I was lucky when I came to my school that the kids were used to dancing. They still weren't all that excited about holding hands though. We ALWAYS spend a bit of time before each dance talking about respectful hand holding etc. We go through all of the bad ways to hold hands "The pinky hold, the air hold, the sleeve hold" etc. and talk about how those things are disrespectful and communicate to your partner that you think they are gross or that you don't want to hold their hand or that you don't like them. I say that in my music room, everyone is a friend and everyone deserves respect. Then we practice "grab hands, drop hands"- go fast and make it a game! That usually cuts out any of the disrespectful things kids will try while dancing. If I see something like swinging too hard or bridges falling down, we will talk about it afterwards. I hardly EVER stop a dance to discipline. If a student is having a hard time after all of that with dancing respectfully, I will take their partner, and they can sit out and watch how everyone else does it respectfully and when they think they've got it, they can have their place back. Now for the most part, my kids really love folk dancing, even my fifth grade boys. They love being up, moving, and I have gotten the comment "That was more of a workout than PE!" lol

      Please let me know if you want more ideas on this! I'd be happy to do a whole post about it!

      Lindsay

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    2. Thank you for these tips! YES, I would LOVE more ideas. I have a rough group of fifth grade kiddos, so I will take all the help I can get. :)

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  3. I love the Amidon's stuff. They've been to our school twice and have just been phenomenal to watch with our kids!! There is such great music learning along with community building and learning along with folk dance. Love love love!

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    1. Oh that is so cool! How did you get them to come to your school???

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  4. Lindsay, I just love the idea of an all school dance night- I've been thinking how I can pull that off in my large school ever since you mentioned it! Getting the parents involved would be fun, too!

    I've focused on folk dancing with my older students this week and last week. I taught Black Joke from Chimes of Dunkirk for the first time with 6th graders and it went much smoother than I thought it would. It's a sicilian circle dance, with pairs of partners facing pairs (I call them "quartets") grouped and forming a large circle. I was concerned about them getting confused when they progressed to a new "quartet" but they figured it out and they were excited by the challenge. (And believe me when I say that my 6th graders can be a curmudgeonly bunch!)

    Katie, I think you may see success (and enjoyment!) with the 5th graders if you start with something simple; maybe a scattered mixer like Sasha. (You can find Sasha on the Amidon's Sashay the Donut or in Sanna Longden's materials.

    I often teach most of the steps when kids are in their regular music class spots (they have assigned spots on a giant floor staff that I made with velcro.) Then after they know the basic steps and the order of the steps in the dance, we'll move into the dance formation. (It took me a while to learn that most students will not listen to directions very well when they are in a long-ways set, for example!) It's easy for students to practice a right-hand turn by sticking out their right hand (as if to shake hands with an imaginary partner,) and then walking a circle around their right hand.

    Also, if we are re-visiting a dance we learned last class period, I play the music and we mentally rehearse and "finger-dance" through the steps a few times before everyone gets up and into dance formation. Today, one of my 6th grade girls said to me: "This is so much fun! I'm going to have to teach my family this!" YES! :)

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    1. Love all your ideas Tanya! Thanks for sharing! :) Especially love the finger dancing!

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