Creating With Kids – Susan Pope

This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria


Introducing Susan Pope…

Susan is an elementary school dance educator and she introduces her students to the fascinating world of dance! Susan lives in Orange, NJ and has been teaching in Newark, NJ for 12 years. She also taught in NYC for 13 years. She teaches ages 4-14 (grades pre k- 8).

Susan has a BA in dance performance from University of Maryland College Park, MA in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She also attended the Jacobs Pillow Teacher Program.

Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day?

Susan: I start my day dancing my prayers at home. Once at work, I plan out my day. I generally teach 5 classes a day. I start with my upper grades, then autistic classes and I end with the lower grades.

Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.

Susan: I believe in teaching the whole child. If the spiritual self is not satisfied, the physical self has no reason to celebrate. Every child learns differently. It is our responsibility as teachers to find out how that child learns and reach them in that way.

Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?

Susan: I am a very nurturing teacher. I do not yell much (mainly because I didn’t like getting yelled at in school). I truly care about my students. I look for the positive in each child and encourage my students to do the same.

Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.

Susan: I love learning! Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. I also love seeing my students transform into dancers. I HATE GRADING! I know its necessary but I hate doing it!

Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?

Susan: The absence of fear in some children to flip and spin and try things they have seen. I once had a kindergarten student literally run towards the wall, run up the wall flip, land and run back across the room. I stopped him because I was afraid he would hurt himself.

Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?

Susan: Always work to spark creativity. That is so much more important in young children than turn-out, extensions and pointed feet. Build confidence and discipline and you will be able to teach anything.


Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.

Susan: OMG, there are so many. I have to do 2! : )

I choreographed a piece about homelessness years ago with my 6-8th graders. The dance sparked out of a conversation I had with an 8th graders about his apprehension of leaving middle school and whether or not I would still be there for him as he grew older. A couple of years later, I set the dance on a group of high school students who were not used to working with creative movement. They were technically trained and seemed to be taken back while working with my style of choreography. After the performance, one of the dancers came off stage crying and she said “she touched me!” The dancer had to reach out to the audience in a section of the dance and an audience member got up and took her hand.

My young students love my letter shapes with their bodies. Once while making shapes, one of my 1st graders who did not yet recognize letters, was helped by another student who can be disruptive at times. To see the interaction between the 2 was amazing.

Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails?

Susan: The achievement chart works wonders. I put the students names into a chart, listed with skills, on the smart board. As I witness students achieve a certain skill, I or they can check it off on the chart. The students love seeing their achievements.

Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?

Susan: I want to become more familiar with songs for pre k. This is my first teaching experience working with pre k in 25 years of teaching.

Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style! 




Beginning Dance

Unit – What is Dance?







1.1.2.A.2 – The Creative Process

Instructional Objective


After reading the book DANCE! By Bill T. Jones, TLWBAT: make 3 (PreK & K) or 5 (1st & 2nd) different shapes with their body by articulating body parts and using action words. 

Instructional Procedure

  • Sitting in a circle listen to the story DANCE! By Bill T. Jones
  • Copy some of the shapes demonstrated by Bill T. Jones
  • Play the freeze game using action words (when the music stops, freeze your shape like a statue)
  • Show your shapes to the teacher (What does your shape look like?)
  • Take turns watching your classmates make their shapes. Describe what you saw
  • Identify which shapes are curved, straight, angular, twisted, symmetrical, asymmetrical
  • Connect your shapes to choreograph a dance
  • Perform your Good bye dance for your class



Differentiation/ Modification/


Help students understand the picturesHelp students verbalize their thoughtsRepeat sequence of shapes to help students remember  


Students should be able to demonstrate 3-5 different shapes and remember them.Performance rubric 


Share your good bye dance with a family memberPractice your shapes 

Teacher Notes (Teacher Aide)


Help keep students on taskEncourage those who are reluctantHelp tie shoes, sneakersAid in removal of and putting on shoes and sneakers       

you can connect with Susan on her website. Thank you Susan for being a part of the project! “Always work to spark creativity.” Love that and thank you for reminding us to do so! 🙂

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