Community Brainstorm – 3 Favorite Preschool Songs

The Community Brainstorm Project is exploring the idea of bringing together dance teachers in this community and sharing a snapshot of thoughts on a specific topic. My hope is that we learn new & useful ideas, it sparks new conversations, or perhaps pushes us to investigate a topic that we have never thought about in our own teaching. I’m really excited about hearing from every single one of you. After all, the best way to learn is from each other! – Maria


From Susan Siegel: 

Animal Theme Ideas:
Ballet/Creative Dance Ages 3-4

1) “Little Mousies” by Al Gilbert

Children start up stage. Explain that they are mice hiding in the wall and they are very hungry. There is a mean cat guarding the cheese. Can they slowly and quietly sneak past the cat?

Combination: Prance slowly down stage, pretend to pick up the cheese and nibble on it, bouree turn and curtsey because they are so happy. THEN, the cats wakes up so they need to scurry (fast) back to their hole in the wall and sit down.

The students love this combination and we get to work on a variety of things. Steps worked on:  prancing, bouree turns and curtsies. Lesson helps work on the concept of slow and fast, and moving together as a group. 

2) “Chasse Chipmunk”  A Fantasy Garden Ballet Class

Explain to the students that they are chipmunks hiding in the grass and that you the teacher are the farmer that is looking for them. (Teacher should stand with hand over eyes “looking for the chipmunks” when the students squat down.)

Combination: starting stage left all dancers squat down. All together: chasse to stage right 8 counts squat down for 6 counts then jump up and clap on count 7. Repeat to stage left. Have the children crawl around 8 counts then go back to stage left and clap 1-2-3. Repeat entire combination ending with curtsies.

Another class favorite! Steps worked on: chasses, how to squat and curtsies. Lesson helps work on listening and counting with music, working side to side as a group and following directions.

3) “Going to the Zoo” A-Z Songs, Stories & Nursery Rhymes

Holding hands standing in the circle, bounce and sing “Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, we can stay all day” gallop to the right still holding hands. Stop and act like an elephant. Then gallop to the left. Act like a monkey, then gallop to the right. Act like a bear, then gallop to the left. Act like a seal, gallop to the right. Getting sleepy, lay down and go to sleep, NO Snoring!haha! Jump up holding hands while you bounce singing “Mommy taking us… then gallop to the left.

Fun song to do near the end of class. Steps worked on: Gallop right and left. Lesson helps with making and moving in circles, acting out animal movements and changing tempos.


From Rebekah Chappell

As a Creative Movement Teacher, I often struggle with how to develop music sensitivity in my classroom. There are many different philosophies amongst my colleagues and I about the use of music in early childhood dance classes.   I have developed three activities that I use regularly in class to place an emphasis on musicality.  I try to incorporate at least one of these activities in every class.

Adagio and Allegro:

Any adagio or allegro song selection would work.  I have found that ballet class CDs offers a variety of choices and I especially like “Positio: Music for Beginning Ballet” by Tatyana Featherman. I use these terms for every age group, and students aged four and above are able to remember and use the terms themselves in class.  I believe that contrast throughout class is so important to keep young children engaged, and by alternating music that is adagio and allegro, I am able to encourage students to move in a variety of ways.  I introduce the terms towards the beginning of the school year, and we discuss different types of movement that are naturally slow and fast.   We then put our words into action, and enjoy a free dance together.  As the semester progresses, I will ask if a song is allegro or adagio, or if the students would prefer to dance to a song that is allegro or adagio.  This keeps the terminology fresh, and draws attention to the music we are dancing to.  The next layer is trying movements that naturally lend themselves to allegro as an adagio and vice versa.  “How can you shake your head slowly?”  “How can you jump in slow motion?”  Students enjoy the challenge and it naturally lends itself to a conversation about energy and dynamics.

8 counts:

You can use any piece of music that has a clear beat.  My students and I love “Carribean Leaps” in “Music for Creative Dance” by Eric Chappelle.  All of his CDs provide lovely contrast and have variety of themes to explore in class.  This activity will work for any age group.  The younger the children, the less options I make available, and the more specific I am with my counting and cuing. Coming back to this idea of contrast, we alternate moving different ways every 8 counts.  This emphasizes the beat of music, and finding the beginning of measures.  I will count the music with the children, sometimes just saying the “7, 8, 1” This is an excellent locomotor exercise, and I often alternate 8 counts of traveling with 8 counts of freezing in a shape.  Other options could include 8 counts of locomotor, 8 counts of nonlocomotor, 8 counts dancing solo, 8 counts dancing with a friend, the options are limitless.  Students in preschool and kindergarten often learn about ABA patterns in school.  I will introduce that concept as well, and we will often vote on what movements should be A and what should be B.  I try to allow students the opportunity to choose the movement we are doing in class as often as possible.

What does the music sound like?

Any piece of music will work!  I believe in the importance of introducing famous composers and pieces of music to my students.  I love “25 Classical Dance Favorites” because it includes such a variety of important pieces. This activity works best for students ages four and up.  I will start by introducing the composer and/or the ballet.  I keep a dry erase board handy to write those names down so that the students can see the letters.  We sometimes spell the word out with our bodies.  I find that this helps the students remember the context of the music.   We then listen to the music for a few seconds.  The age of the student and their current attention span determines how long we listen for.   Afterwards, students get a chance to share what they heard.  This can include information about the speed of the music, how it made them feel, how they imagine dancing to the music, the musical instruments, and the quality of the music.  I will often go first to provide an example.  We then explore different ways of dancing to the music using the information the students provided.


From Deanna Peters

1) ALL AROUND THE KITCHEN recorded by Little Miss Ann.
This arrangement of an old favorite is perfect for the classroom. I use this song at the beginning of the year to introduce and practice being on a spot and off of a spot. For the verse, the students are on the their spots and do the actions that the verse suggests. On the chorus, they step the beat around their spots (usually making their best chicken imitations.) Later on, I used it in a circle formation—children stand in a circle and do motions on the verse; then walk in a circle stepping the beat and being chickens.

2) RHYTHM IN THE SCARVES recorded Johnette Downing
This is a fabulous scarf piece. The jazzy music is catchy and fun. It is a great piece for listening and following directions; yet it leaves a little room for the children to improvise and put their own creativity on the movement. This song is useful when the group needs a little focus or as a transition/review to creative movement or designing choreography.

3) The absolute favorite song to sing is SLIPPERY FISH by Charlotte Diamond. We sing this fun song while making motions for each fish. The octopus is the favorite because we recline on our backs and move our arms and legs gracefully – or not- in the air!) We also make a huge deal when a fish is eaten.


What are your favorite preschool songs? We would love to hear!


photo-21A mom told me last week that she was so happy to have me as her daughters dance teacher, especially because I am pregnant. Umm, what? You are happy to have a pregnant dance teacher? She said “you are such a strong role model for my daughter for her to see you continue teaching while having a baby.” I had to think about that for a while but then started to think that she really does have a point.

My students are little and probably do not put it all together, (It’s proof when I see them and they say “is that baby still in there?” every week!) Ha! But I do think it’s great to think about identity and how it effects our students, the families we work with and our lives.

You all left such wonderful comments on this post that I go back and read them every once in a while. I know I am certainly not the first dance teacher to have a baby and I won’t be the last. Knowing that is comforting! It is also comforting that so many of you have done both. Raised babies (more than 1) and teach dance every night and put on multiple shows a year and still really love what you do. I admire you! Before I was pregnant, I was convinced I couldn’t do both, but now I am determined! Funny how things switch around like that, huh?

Even though my identity is now the “pregnant dance teacher” for a while, I am happy to know that people see that as a happy and positive idea!

Do you feel like your identity change freaked you out? Or was it a welcome change? Did people tell you that you were a role model for their littles?  I would love to hear your thoughts on change of identity!

p.s. We found out it’s a………………………. BOY!!!!


Dance Teacher Magazine!

photo 1-8Do you get Dance Teacher Magazine? If so, you might see a familiar face this month! :)

Thank you to Dance Teacher Magazine for writing such a wonderful feature. I am so grateful for this honor! xo

Library As Incubator Project: Here Are My Hands

One of my favorite places is the library or the bookstore! So, when I was asked to write for The Library As Incubator Project I was so excited! This month I wrote about the book “Here Are My Hands.” It’s a very sweet book I have been using with my toddlers to teach them about their body parts.

You can read the post here!

And there are a ton of books in the project shared by talented movement specialist! Check them all out! 

Above is a song I found to go with the book, it’s super cute! :)

It’s My 5 Year Blogoversary!!

IMG_6162Today marks 5 years of writing this blog! Every year I write an blogoversary post, and this year is no different! In 5 years this blog has brought me opportunities I couldn’t have gotten otherwise; it has brought me jobs and friends, and so much happiness!

Even though I am preparing to have my first little one, I feel as if this blog was my very first baby! I am thankful for you all reading and being a part of this community! It wouldn’t be what it is without you! :)

Here’s to 5 years, and 5 more! xo

p.s. A look back at the last 4 years! : 1, 2, 3, and 4!

Like A Girl

I know this video has been surfing around on social media but I thought it was an important message to talk about here. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the watch.

“Like a girl” is a phrase I heard so much growing up. You too? I have never thought about this phrase, but after watching this it took on a whole new meaning.

Since the majority of us teach young girls (and even young boys too) it makes me wonder if you have ever experienced this phrase in any of your classes? Have you ever said it? Or had it said to you? Or heard your students use it?

Like we have talked so many times before, it’s our job to teach girls confidence and strength. But it really struck me that the young kids in this video seem to have a different perspective on the phrase then the older kids did.

I feel like with the right class of students, this could be a really great lesson. It’s just an idea, but I wonder if we showed a group of 10 year old students this video and then did the same compare and contrast they did in the video. Or I wonder if showing them the idea at all would put a negative idea of what “like a girl” means.

What is your take on the video? I would love to hear! xo

Flora and The Flamingo

9781452110066_flora-and-the-flamingo_large_1Have you seen this book? Flora The Flamingo by Molly Idle It is the cutest! I had heard about it and finally ordered it. In June I did a workshop for my 6 year olds where each week we explored different ways to create dances. One week we did pathway maps and one week we used this book. (I will write about what we did the other weeks soon!)

I thought it was important for them to have the tools to create dances, it doesn’t always have to be choreography, although that is important too. I just want them to think creatively and this is one tool they can use forever!

Here is how we used the book:

The book is wordless. No words at all! So I showed the students the book all the way through. We talked about the pictures, and laughed too! It’s a funny and sweet book! Then I told them we were going to make a story, narrative to go along with the book. Put words to it.

They started to call out words that described the pictures in the book and what was happening. I wrote them down, and once we got all the way through the book, we started to make up movement to the words. We still looked at the photos for inspiration but they made up the coolest dance ever inspired by the pictures!

We did it all together, but if you have a bigger class you could ask them to do it in partners or even 2 groups.  It’s also fun to video the dance and then watch it back. My students love to do that!

Would you ever try this with your students? Have you ever tried something like this? I would love to hear! :)

p.s. Kerry has a great post about this book too!

Camp Themes

IMG_5854How is your summer going, friends? Have you been starting up your camps and summer classes? I was doing dishes today, and was thinking that it might be fun to share here the camp themes you are using this year.

I don’t run camps, only classes so I’m not much help in the theme department. But, I would love to hear what you have been cooking up this summer. I am sure it’s the most creative and I can’t wait to hear! Secretly, I just want to know how many teachers are using Frozen. ;) haha!

Maybe you are still looking for ideas for one more week of camp, or maybe you will inspired   for next year! Please share your ideas, we would all love to hear! xo

p.s. Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on this post. What a community this is! :)

Big (Little) Announcement!


Dear Readers,

The day has come for me to announce that my husband and I are expecting a baby in November! We are over the moon excited! Above is the bump!

Now how many of you have taught dance pregnant? I feel overwhelmed by the idea of getting up and down off the floor a bajillion times a day, but that’s my job, so I will have to make it work. I think as time goes on, I will have to physically do less in class, which is really hard for me to do! Probably for most of you too. One thing I know for sure is dance teachers are hard workers!

Do you have advice for me? One reader told me that her friend had to stop wearing dance clothes to teach class to remind herself to slow down. Real people clothes? What are those? ;)

I have been getting really good at teaching in dresses and because of the timing, I think I can pull that off for most of the months!

I would love to know what worked for you, what you changed and how you changed it. Modifications? Tricks of the Trade? As of now, I plan to teach the whole way to November. What is/was your story of teaching dance pregnant? I would love to hear!

p.s. This article really helped me!

Do You Write A Blog?

IMG_6172Lately, a few readers have been sending me links to their blogs that they have recently started writing! I love to read them! It got me thinking, I bet a ton of my readers have blogs that I don’t even know about!

So, in the comments I’m inviting you to leave a link to your blog (if you have one) so we can all have a library of blogs to explore. I would love to have them all in one place. Once I have collected a bunch of them I will post them, so they are easier to find!

Do you write a blog about teaching dance or littles related? I really look forward to reading it! :)