The Ultimate Guide for Drama Teachers: Creative Movement? Are you kidding me?

Grace as Urula in Bye bye Birdie
Ursule in Bye Bye Birdie  Presser Performing Arts Center July, 2014


I have thousands of students to teach, inspire and motivate each year.  Well, it feels that way sometimes.  Since I have taught theater for over thirty years, there are many subjects within the subject of theater that I can teach.  This year’s challenge:  Creative Movement.

Now before you think you must have a lifetime of ballet lessons and toured with the Alvin Ailey Dancers, I want you to think again.  If you have taken several dance classes, many acting classes and yes, movement classes you are probably equipped to teach youngsters about creative movement. Remember, when you are a teacher, generally you know more than the students about the particular subject, especially if they are elementary grade level.

Why Teach a Creative Movement Class?

Last year, the idea for this class came to me when I observed my Intro. to M. Theater students struggling with dance steps. I thought, “Jeez, they can’t even keep straight their left foot from their right. Poor kids. Maybe I need to teach about movement first before we jump into dance steps. No jazz squares for them.”

So, when my principal asked me what other classes I would like to teach (because our students take classes once a week, in an enrichment program for home school students and we create new classes every few years) I threw out creative movement as a possible subject.  Trust me, I hadn’t really thought it through AT ALL!  I never expected my principal to jump on the idea, but she did and here I am to share about my experiences.


Last summer I began my research.  First, there are not many useful creative movement lesson plans on the internet.  Usually, I look at what someone else has used and go from there, tweaking it for my needs. But when I couldn’t find much to use as a stepping off point, I got smart and looked on Amazon and found several books that looked like they would be helpful.  Boy, was I lucky and right!

The two books I have used religiously this year are  Creative Dance for All Ages by Anne Green Gilbert and Lesson Plans for Creative Dance by Sally Carline. Laugh all you want, but I love the straight forward and no nonsense titles of these books which is perhaps the reason I noticed them first.  I used Anne Gilbert’s book for the first semester and Sally Carline’s for the second semester.

If you are looking into teaching creative movement with your students, I highly recommend these two gold mines.  I had taken some dance classes in college (my mother wouldn’t let me take them when I was a child because she thought they were silly), acting classes and a wonderful movement class while studying for my Masters.  NONE of these compared to these two books. No kidding here.  These are tremendous.

Creative Dance for All Ages is divided up by theory and method.  She explains the importance of creative dance, the elements of dance, the various expected outcomes, various materials you’ll need to teach the class effectively (a CD player, scarves, ribbon wands, a drum or wood block, etc.) I purchased Body Sox, too because I think they are terrific help especially for shy students (see blog #7 for moreinfo about them).  Gilbert shares about planning the length of the class depending on the age of the child or adult, for that matter. Within each chapter, she advises the reader on lots and lots of exercises to do with the students. Gosh, I could go on and on about this book.  You just really need to purchase one.  It’s ISBN number is:  0-889314-532-4.  I think it cost about $23.00 and is worth its weight in gold.

Lesson Plans for Creative Dance is equally great.  This book is divided up into grade levels and includes diagramsof dance steps, music suggestions to aid in the lesson plan, little stories to share with the students so that they can better visualize the movement requirements and a host of other cool items.  My students and I have enjoyed the enormous array of music suggestions.  Because of this book, I have a lot of music downloaded on my Ipad now and it’s comforting to know that it is right at my fingertips at any moment.  Many times, the students have asked the title of the music piece as they are creating. Most of my classes are mixed grade levels, so I have learned to vary the lessons week to week hoping to satisfy everyone’s intellect.

Next week, we’ll have an open house for the parents to see what all we have learned.  We’ll start out by demonstrating various elements of dance (pathways, self and general space, speed, weight, effort, etc), then we’ll share three dances based on threes stories with music and maybe even create a new piece spontaneously.


I have seen such growth in my Creative Movement students this year.  They began the class quite inhibited, awkward and quickly tiring from these exercises.  Now they embrace every lesson, naturally integrate the movement and include various elements from other lessons. Success! Whew….

What experience have you enjoyed with creative movement? Do you have anything to share?

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2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide for Drama Teachers: Creative Movement? Are you kidding me?

  1. Very helpful information here for any beginning movement teacher! When I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, I took movement classes designed to teach actors and singers to move well. This type of dance class helped me understand how to think about translating the instructors words into actual movement of the body.

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