Community Brainstorm – Poetry In Dance

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 Becca Beck:

Poetry is such a wonderful addition to the creative movement class. Its playful, rhythmical and provides such fun imagery. It can be used with any age because there is poetry available for babies through adults. Often children’s poetry includes onomatopoeia which kids love to explore.

A Few Ways I Use Poetry in my creative movement and dance classes:

1) Building a dance around a poem.
Much how Maria develops dances out of storybooks, a poem can be wonderful inspiration. There are so many poems out there about animals, weather, seasons, really anything you want. Have your students pick out the moveable words and explore them. You can use some instrumental music for this. After exploration put it all together! Here is a fun poem about the caterpillar/butterfly transformation.

“Fuzzy Wuzzy, Creep Crawly”
By Lilian Schulz
Fuzzy wuzzy, creepy crawly
Caterpillar funny,
You will be a butterfly
When the days are sunny.

Winging, flinging, dancing, springing
Butterfly so yellow,
You were once a caterpillar,
Wiggly, wiggly fellow.

2) Acting and Exploring the poem in real-time
Some poems lend themselves more to in-the-moment exploring. For example, The Goldilocks Poem I shared on my blog last year, “True Story” by Shel Silverstien, or Kerry Aradhya’s “Let’s Dance.”

3) As a part of the warm-up
A lot of finger plays can be adapted to whole body movements. For example:

“This is the Way”

This is the way,
All the long day,
The boats go sailing by.

To and fro,
In a row,
Under the bridge so high.

You could say the first part in a seated butterfly position rocking side to side like a boat. Then with hands on the floor and feet on the floor you could make a bridge with your body. What is great about a bite-sized poem with set movements is that the kids learn it quickly. They take ownership of it and use it outside of your class. One of my favorite feelings is hearing one of my students reciting a poem we’ve used in class outside of class. Try a new one out each month!

4) For transitions
To Sitting:
Tall as a tree
Wide as a house
Thin as a pin
Small as a mouse.

To Standing:
Do you suppose a giant who is tall—tall—tall,
Could ever be an elf who is small—small—small?
But the elf who is tiny will try—try—try
To reach up to the giant who is high—high—high!


From Kerry Bevens:

I like to use a lot of nursery rhymes with my children. Today, children here a lot of pop music with a 4/4 beat, so this helps expose them to different rhythms. Nursery rhymes are a great start with poetry for young children because they are short and a lot of fun to dance out!

One book that I would like to suggest for teacher would be: Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young – the rhymes were selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by March Brown. I found a used copy on Amazon. A sample of a poem that can be done with very little prep work is called – Just Watch

Watch how high I am jumping
Watch how far I hop
Watch how I am skipping
Watch how fast I stop!
– Myra Cohn Livingston

I would first explore the movement words (jumping, hop, skipping, and stopping fast). You could even divide the class into groups of 3 and assign each group a movement. I also thought this poem could be done in a round – with one group starting and ending first (thing of row row row your boat!). I would perhaps try that with 5 year olds.

For music I would do with out or but on very light background, perhaps classical music…..

Another great resource for nursery rhymes is called – The Neighborhood Mother Goose – by Nina Crews – Great photos of real children in an urban setting! I also found a copy of this in Amazon.

A great poem that I used in a preschool last year found in this book was Once I saw a little Bird

Once I saw a little bird go hop, hop, hop (hop on 1 foot 3X)
And I cried ” Little Bird will you stop, stop, stop.” (hands to mouth, then hand out as telling someone to stop)
I was going to the window to say :How do You do? tippy toe run foward, arms out)
But he shook his little tail and away he flew. (shake an fly around room)

**For a greater challenge use poly spots and have children start on a color and switch to a different color during the flying part and repeat again.

I have found a recording of the rhyme of this on I-Tunes, but sometimes it is better just to read it.

One last idea is great for 3-4 year olds – Rock- a – Bye – Baby

Plie in second shifting weight as rocking a baby
little runs with arms for “when the wind blows”
Sharp breaking movements for “for when the bough breaks and then add swinging movements.

Little dancers like to sing this, but also experiment by using A version from Brent Lewis – Rhythm Basket

This is great for introducing movement qualities to small children. Have Fun!


Do you use poetry with your littles? Would you ever try it? I would love to hear! 


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