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Planning a Dance Curriculum

National Dance Association
By Fran Anthony Meyer, Editors


Planning a dance curriculum requires thoughtful decisions so the end result is an organized progression of focused units of learning experiences. The flow and sequencing of the units can be selected from the broad spectrum of the dance field and from specific content. Many factors affect planning for the dance curriculum and instruction in the school and outside-of-school settings. Among these factors are the age and experience of the students; staff availability and qualifications; space, equipment, and instructional time available; and the intent of the dance curriculum within the overall school curriculum. Will the dance curriculum be an isolated content area? Will dance be taught as an arts integrated, arts infusion, or arts magnet or performance approach? Will dance continue as part of the physical education curriculum? Community enrichment potential also is a factor in successful program planning.

Both long- and short-term planning are part of the decision-making process in constructing an effective dance curriculum. As implied, long-term planning focuses on the total span of the curriculum under development. A person knowledgeable about dance education and the school system ideally should lead the project. This will insure a sequential, developmentally appropriate program that is consistent across the school system. For purposes of discussion, this person will be called the dance coordinator. This dance coordinator should have a solid understanding of

  • curriculum development theory that includes current approaches to goal setting;
  • long- and short-term planning strategies;
  • relevance of progression;
  • use of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor taxonomies;
  • assessment tools;
  • effective instructional strategies;
  • integration of technology; and
  • strategies for integration and accommodation of students with special needs.

The dance coordinator and all teachers responsible for teaching dance should do this planning as a team so that the overall emphases of the dance curriculum are understood and supported. In a district curriculum, there will be overall planning about where the units will be introduced in the curriculum and the overarching goals and benchmarks for accomplishment within the units of instruction. Upon completion of this planning process, teachers can be confident their own instructional units are contributing significantlyto the total dance experience for every student.

The phrase short-term planning is applied to several parts of the preparation for teaching. The most obvious short-term planning is done for the daily and weekly lessons within the overall annual school and district curriculum. Before starting class instruction, identify clear goals and objectives for the unit and individual learning experiences. It makes no difference if the learning experiences are one day or five days. Sound goals and objectives help teachers plan sequential and developmentally appropriate learning experiences.

Goals and objectives selected for every instructional unit are content and achievement related. The National Dance Education Standards and the benchmarks provide a balanced framework for creating goals and objectives for the dance curriculum. The seven standards address the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor elements of learning. More specifically, the standards and benchmarks for dance education identify movement skills and elements of dance, choreographic principles, ways to create and communicate meaning, a direction for improving critical and creative thinking in dance, options for understanding various cultures and historical periods, ways to connect dance and healthful living, and opportunities for connecting dance and other disciplines (see chapter 1 for a brief discussion of each of the seven standards).

The goals and objectives of the dance education curriculum need to focus on more than building a repertoire of fundamental dance skills and performing dances. Knowing the skill level of students in the classroom is essential to selecting realistic goals and objectives and to planning units of dance instruction. When appropriate goals and objectives for achievement are selected, and the content is well taught, students are more likely to be successful and retain their motivation for future dance units. This should be an overarching goal for every teacher.


This is an excerpt from Implementing the National Dance Education Standards.




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