Dance in School Makes Kids Smarter

We know this already, but it’s always nice to have some science to back it up 🙂

How Learning Dance in School Can Produce Smarter Kids by Sheri Leblanc


“Using dance to teach standard subjects allows students to have fun with the material, but also helps them gain a deeper understanding of concepts by approaching them from new angles. “

“In dance class, Carter explains, students practice physical exercises that “‘stimulate mental alertness, modeling, sequencing, attention to detail, and memorization skills’… —thereby promoting the learning process.” “


Guidelines for Dance Improvisation

  • Relax – there is no ‘right way’ to move, you are expected to experiment, no judgements
  • Respond to instructions with your body, not your brain (don’t overthink)
  • Take chances, do things that might look silly or weird
  • Physically commit, do your chosen moves with enthusiasm

Use the images in your head to inspire your next movement

DIY Dance: Handshake Dance

A great way to inspire creative movement and begin group choreography.girls-shaking-hands

  • Have students work in pairs (make a group of three if there are an uneven number of students)
  • Instruct students to create a 4-part handshake with their partners
  • Students will choose four movements in which they make contact with their partner (high five, shake hands, touch elbows, etc)
  • Have students practice performing their handshake to the beat of a song, repeating it several times
  • Now ask students to make each of the four parts of their handshake into a larger, dancier movement
  • Have students practice their handshake dance to the beat, but at a slower pace to allow for the new, larger movements
  • Take it a step further by combining pairs into groups of 4-6, and have students re-work their movements to fit the larger group

DIY Dance: Dance Recipe Choreography

The teacher may create a recipe checklist for younger students, but older student may participate in choosing the elements to include in their dance. Here are some ideas of what to include:

  • Name of dance and choreographers
  • Music (and length)
  • Dance moves learned in class (you provide a number, students will list the ones they choose)
  • Dance moves created by students (you provide a number, students will list their choices)
  • Elements of dance to explore (see Elements of Dance Cheat Sheet)
  • Emotions and related gestures to include (based on the music or story narrative)
  • Entrance and exit strategies
  • Group movement conventions (see Elements of Dance cheat-sheet)
  • Costuming/Wardrobe ideas

Here’s a Soccer Dance Recipe Worksheet from a dance done with grades 6-8.

DIY Dance: Stick Together

Based on the ‘Step on the Beat’ video by Kate Kuper

  • Have students spread out in the space
  • The teacher (or a student) will call out two body parts (both elbows, or hand and hip)
  • The students will stick those parts together, and keep them together as they dance
  • The teacher may play music as the students dance in their ‘stuck’ position
  • Repeat with different combinations of body parts
  • Have students connect their body part with a partner or group of other students

DIY Dance: Alphabet Soup

Get students of all ages warmed up with this classic game.

  • Students stand in a circle, facing each other
  • Choose one student to lead. The leader will choose a letter and call it out
  • The other students will find a creative way to make that letter with their bodies
  • You can have students create the alphabet in sequence, in reverse, or try spelling short or long words
  • Try working in pairs or teams to create letters, numbers or shapes