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Learn the importance of teaching children how to use their bodies as instruments of expression and communication

by Theresa Purcell Cone and Stephen L. Cone

Dance is an essential element of a high-quality, comprehensive physical education or arts education program. Dance provides the necessary balance in a curriculum that is focused primarily on functional movement. Children need to have the opportunity to develop their abilities to use movement for both functional and expressive purposes. They should participate in a full range of experiences to learn the many possibilities for movement. As the New Jersey Literacy in the Arts Task Force Report (1989) states,

 

Since the dawn of time, dance has been used to express joy and sorrow. In no other activity do human beings, in a very fundamental way, become their own creations. The experience of self-creation is one that must benurtured in all our children, and it can be achieved most powerfully, perhaps, through the language we call dance. (p. 20)

 

Dance addresses the needs of children to express and communicate their ideas, to understand and know themselves and their world, and to expand their own movement abilities. Using movement to express ideas is already familiar to children. Along with their language development they use locomotor (traveling) and nonlocomotor (body gestures in place) movements to support and emphasize what they wanted to “say.” This natural use of movement for expressionand communication becomes a foundation for learning dance. Also, children’s life experiences, culture, physical and intellectual abilities, and understanding of themselves influence how theyperceive and integrate dance into their lives.

 

Children Need to Express and Communicate Their Ideas, Feelings, and Understandings

Dance addresses children’s need for expression and communication in the following ways:

  • Allows children to use their natural creative instincts to make a statement about their world
  • Encourages children to reach beyond the conventional response to a movement task and discover new ways to move, feel, perceive, and understand themselves and others in their environment
  • Teaches children another avenue of expression and communication in addition to writing, speaking, the visual arts, music, and theater (literacy in all these areas is important to provide options for increasing the quality of interaction with others)
  • Develops imagination, creativity, and the ability to make decisions through creating new dance movements
  • Provides opportunities for children to share in the experience of creating and learning together
  • Increases opportunities for children to create, perform, observe, and discuss movement

Children Need to Know and Understand Themselves and Their World

Dance enables children to gain an understanding of themselves and the world around them as follows:

  • Reinforces learning about the basic dance elements of space, time, force, flow, and relationships, which are common to all movement activities in the physical education and arts education curriculum
  • Recognizes the contributions of all cultures to the fabric of the American society through learning traditional folk and ethnic dances and creating new dances
  • Increases understanding of how dance represents the history, traditions, beliefs, and values of a culture
  • Enhances the skills of perception, observation, and concentration
  • Defines and clarifies one’s ideas, thoughts,understandings, or feelings
  • Plays a signifi cant role in total education by integrating cognitive, motor, affective, and aesthetic development within each learning experience
  • Increases knowledge about the different ways to move
  • Develops self-concept, self-esteem, and self- and group identity
  • Helps children recognize similarities and differences among people
  • Changes the way children perceive their world

Children Need to Develop Their Own Movement Abilities

Dance helps children develop their movement abilities by accomplishing the following:

  • Expanding their basic vocabulary of motor skills
  • Developing strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance, and balance
  • Increasing experiences that provide learning about the infi nite ways the body is capable of moving
  • Enhancing motor learning through repetition and practice of dance movements

Children who participate in a variety of dance experiences have the opportunity to discover how to use their bodies as instruments of expression and communication. They will find the joy of moving to a rhythm, running across aspace and leaping into the air, spinning around and collapsing to the floor, and freezing in a shape. All children have a right to experience the benefits of dancing—it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that they have the opportunity.

Dance is an essential element of a high-quality, comprehensive physical education or arts education program. Dance provides the necessary balance in a curriculum that is focused primarily on functional movement. Children need to have the opportunity to develop their abilities to use movement for both functional and expressive purposes. They should participate in a full range of experiences to learn the many possibilities

for movement. As the New Jersey Literacy in the Arts Task Force Report (1989) states,

Since the dawn of time, dance has been used to express joy and sorrow. In no other activity do human beings, in a very fundamental way, become their own creations. The experience of self-creation is one that must benurtured in all our children, and it can be achieved most powerfully, perhaps, through the language we call dance. (p. 20)

Dance addresses the needs of children to express and communicate their ideas, to understand and know themselves and their world, and to expand their own movement abilities. Using movement to express ideas is already familiar to children. Along with their language development they use locomotor (traveling) and nonlocomotor (body gestures in place) movements to support and emphasize what they wanted to “say.” This natural use of movement for expressionand communication becomes a foundation for learning dance. Also, children’s life experiences, culture, physical and intellectual abilities, and understanding of themselves influence how theyperceive and integrate dance into their lives.
Children Need to Express and Communicate Their Ideas, Feelings, and Understandings

Dance addresses children’s need for expression and communication in the following ways:

    * Allows children to use their natural creative instincts to make a statement about their world
    * Encourages children to reach beyond the conventional response to a movement task and discover new ways to move, feel, perceive, and understand themselves and others in their environment
    * Teaches children another avenue of expression and communication in addition to writing, speaking, the visual arts, music, and theater (literacy in all these areas is important to provide options for increasing the quality of interaction with others)
    * Develops imagination, creativity, and the ability to make decisions through creating new dance movements
    * Provides opportunities for children to share in the experience of creating and learning together
    * Increases opportunities for children to create, perform, observe, and discuss movement

Children Need to Know and Understand Themselves and Their World

Dance enables children to gain an understanding of themselves and the world around them as follows:

Reinforces learning about the basic dance

elements of space, time, force, fl ow, and

relationships, which are common to all

movement activities in the physical education

and arts education curriculum

Recognizes the contributions of all cultures

to the fabric of the American society

through learning traditional folk and

ethnic dances and creating new dances

Increases understanding of how dance

represents the history, traditions, beliefs,

and values of a culture

Enhances the skills of perception, observation,

and concentration

10 Teaching Children Dance

Defi nes and clarifi es one’s ideas, thoughts,

understandings, or feelings

Plays a signifi cant role in total education

by integrating cognitive, motor, affective,

and aesthetic development within each

learning experience

Increases knowledge about the different

ways to move

Develops self-concept, self-esteem, and

self- and group identity

Helps children recognize similarities and

differences among people

Changes the way children perceive their

world

Children Need to Develop Their

Own Movement Abilities

Dance helps children develop their movement

abilities by accomplishing the following:

Expanding their basic vocabulary of motor

skills

Developing strength, fl exibility, cardiorespiratory

endurance, and balance

Increasing experiences that provide

learning about the infi nite ways the body

is capable of moving

Enhancing motor learning through repetition

and practice of dance movements

Children who participate in a variety of dance

experiences have the opportunity to discover

how to use their bodies as instruments of

expression and communication. They will fi nd

the joy of moving to a rhythm, running across a

space and leaping into the air, spinning around

and collapsing to the fl oor, and freezing in a

shape. All children have a right to experience

the benefi ts of dancing—it is the responsibility

of the teacher to ensure that they have the

opportunity.

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Dance, Second Edition.

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