icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Moving Is Learning!


Connie has been blogging since 2011. Her posts range from tips for teachers, the benefits of dance, playful class plans, to how to choose a creative dance class for your child, and much, much more! All of her posts are below, starting with the most recently-published ones.



Dance Story about the new book Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep, by Leslie Helakoski

This delightful book is the inspiration for an original dance story!


I had the delightful experience of attending a Highlights picture book workshop a year ago, led by authors Leslie Helakoski, Darcy Pattison, and Kelly Bennett. All three have written wonderful and playful picture books for young children.

At the time of the workshop, Leslie was looking forward to the Spring, 2017 release of her most recent book, Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep. It was released this past March, and has received fantastic reviews. 


I have created a dance story to accompany this lovely book.The entire movement activity is below. It is also available on the author's website, along with many other enriching activities, such as a song, owl and geese fact sheets, and a teacher guide: Leslie Helakoski Books


Bringing stories to life with music and dance can nurture early literacy and language skills, such as:  


·       Sequencing

·       Making predictions

·       Identifying with different characters

·       Exploring the setting and background

·       Vocabulary acquisition

·       Listening skills


A dance story can be a very short activity (10 minutes or so), or can be expanded into a much longer one. It can also be used as a fun presentation for parents and friends. Children enjoy revisiting the book, and through a parent or teacher's movement prompts, and the children's own kinesthetic responses and ideas, the explorations that result can be energetic, creative, and enriching movement studies.This book inspires many opportunities for playful movement.




Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep 

Dance Story


Prepare for the Dance Story:


           *Music (optional):  

              1.  Classical or New Age musical selection 

              2.  A livelier instrumental piece, such as Bluegrass, for the free dance at the end of the activity       



           *You will need a space large enough for children to move freely




How to Present the Dance Story


First read the book to your audience of children. Using any or all of the following prompts, guide the children through the movement ideas to retell the story. Allow plenty of time between each prompt for the children to respond and follow where their imaginations lead them. If you have music, play the first selection softly in the background.


Movement Prompts:


Sway like the grasses in the picture on the first page. What else moves when the wind blows? Can you flap like a kite? Can you swish like blowing leaves? Can you bend like the trees in the story? Can you fly like a bird on a breeze?  


A storm is coming! Clap your hands to make thunder. Can you make zigzag lightening shapes with your body? What would it feel like to be a cloud that fills up with water? You get so full that the water turns into rain and it begins to fall!


Imagine that you are a drop of water coming from the cloud. First you are a light raindrop. You are carried along by the wind, whirling and tossing up and down, and side to side. Now you are a big heavy drop, falling quickly to the ground with a big plop. Imagine that you make a big splash. 


Imagine you are one of the little eggs from the story. The wind blows hard. You roll and tumble out of your nest into the soft grass.


Now that the storm is over, the mother owl and goose look for their lost eggs. Can you crawl through the tall grass and see if you can find it? Imagine you are the goose. Swim and waddle. Now fly and swoop like an owl. Look all around for your lost egg! 


Imagine you are a tiny bird inside an egg. You have to wait until you are ready to hatch. When you are ready, take your little beak and begin to peck to get out. It is hard work! You have to peck until one wing can poke out.  Now peck some more, and try to push your other wing out. Now push your little feet to finally break free from the egg. Try walking around on your brand new legs. Try flapping your little wings! Open and close your beak!  What sound would a baby bird make? Now walk, flap, and chirp!


Why is it hard for Hoot to sleep at night? He is wide-awake when mama goose and the goslings are sleeping. What does he do?  He can't close his eyes, and he listens to the night sounds. Open your eyes wide, be very still and quiet, and listen for sounds. 


How do you feel when you are not sleepy? Do you feel fidgety? Let's fidget as much as we can. Fidget your face. Fidget your shoulders. Fidget your arms and hands. Fidget your legs, and your feet. Now fidget everything all at the same time!  


Imagine that you are Hoot, with lots of energy when night comes. Hoot goes exploring. Walk through the woods in the moonlight, through the fields, and up and down a hill. Suddenly, you see some other baby owls who are also awake! Go to them and look at them carefully. Then you look up, and see your owl mother! Give her a big owl hug. What would it feel like to go to sleep with the other baby owls, and be snuggled together safely in the nest?


Honk is in an owl nest!  What do owls eat?  Do you think a gosling would like to eat a mouse? What do you think baby geese would like to eat?


When the baby owls are wide-awake at night, Honk wants to sleep!  He gets up in the morning when the owls are sleeping. He goes exploring in the bright sunshine. Let's walk through the woods, through the fields, and up and down a hill. Look, there is a pond!  What does Honk do?  He sees some other goslings. Can you jump into the water, and use your little webbed feet to paddle around the pond? Swim to the other goslings. Dunk yourself upside down in the water – with your tail in the air! Swim around the pond, and dunk your head with your tail in the air a few more times.


This time, bring your head up, and see mama goose looking at you! Follow her home and cuddle up with her and the other babies. You are safe and snug in the nest.


Finish the Dance Story with a free dance to allow the children to further explore any parts of the story they wish. Play the livelier musical selection, and ask them to dance about their favorite parts of the story. Finish the dance by asking the children to freeze in the shape of an owl flying, or a gosling upside down in the pond.





Freeze in the shape of a gosling upside down in the pond!











Be the first to comment

Tips for Choosing a Creative Movement Class for Your Child

Choosing a Creative Movement Class for your Child



What exactly IS creative movement?


How can it benefit my young child?


What should I look for in a creative movement class?




Over the years, many parents and teachers have asked me these and similar questions.

And they are important questions. There are so many activities available for young children. Parents must be choosy, given time constraints, expense, and overall benefits, when looking for classes for their young children. I would like to give my perspective from my long career of teaching dance to young children.


Creative movement serves many of the important developmental needs of children ages 3-6. Children love and need to move. Children's imaginations should be allowed to roam freely and not be constrained by too much structure at this age. A movement class may be one of the first times a child is in a class with peers, and many times it is their first experience without a parent with them in the classroom. The teacher must be aware of how to help ease little ones through this transition.


My definition of creative movement (or creative dance; the terms are interchangeable) starts with my definition of dance:



DANCE is an art form whose medium is the body in motion and stillness. Dance crosses many boundaries; it is a creative art as well as a performing art. It is also a visual art. It is an athletic endeavor as well as an artistic pursuit.


CREATIVE MOVEMENT embodies a little bit of all of these wonderful aspects of dance. It centers on the fact that dance is a creative art, and its medium is the body in motion.


Here are my Top 15 (I just couldn't keep it to 10!) reasons that I advocate for every child to have the opportunity to experience creative movement:


1. Nurturing the imagination


2. Working on basic locomotor skills, such as hopping, marching, galloping, tiptoeing, skipping, turning, crawling . . . while developing strength, flexibility, and body control


3. Learning to be aware of and control the speed at which they move; learning to slow down and stop


4. Awareness of direction and level in space


5. Learning to solve movement problems individually


6. Learning to solve movement problems as part of a group


7. Moving to rhythms, music, and sound


8. Learning the concept of personal versus shared space


9. Becoming aware of the idea of taking turns, and other classroom etiquette


10. Opportunities for dramatic play


11. Learning early literacy skills (dancing to stories, learning new vocabulary words, sequencing)


12. Learning early math skills (patterns, counting, number sense)


13. Developing the skill of listening to instructions


14. Following those instructions and responding through movement


15. Being part of an experience where the important thing is the process, not the finished product


I could go on for quite a while, but I think this gives a good glimpse into the many joys and benefits of a creative movement class.


So, how does one go about choosing a quality creative movement class for children ages 3-6?

Here are the Top 8 things to keep in mind when choosing a creative movement class:



1. Teacher Background


Does the teacher have a solid dance background (at least several years of training)?


Does the teacher have experience working with young children?


Does the teacher have a college degree in dance education or some other dance education certification? (For example, NDEO, the National Dance Education Organization, gives courses that lead toward dance teacher certification. They are a great resource)


At least two out of three of the above are highly recommended.


2. Space


Is the space for the class free of obstacles? Is it big enough for the children to move around freely?

3. Number of students


I have found that no more than 12 young children in a class is optimum. If there are more than 12, the teacher will often have an assistant or co-teacher. I have had more than 12 in my classes over the years, and many teachers do a good job with more, but I think it is best to have 12 or less per teacher.


4. Mix of ages


I have had experience with some older two-year-olds wanting to join the class for three-year-olds. Generally, this is not a good idea. At this age range, even a few months can make a big difference. I would look for a class that sticks to a minimum age requirement, so that a child is three years by the time the session for three-year-olds begins.


Three and four-year olds do well together in a creative dance class. As the children get older and approach age six, the mix of older fours, fives, and six-year-olds is usually fine. They learn from each other, share ideas, and interchange leadership roles throughout the weeks of classes.


5. Length of class


For children who have just turned three, a class that lasts 1/2 hour is plenty. As children get older and more comfortable with the class, four, five, and six year-olds can easily handle a 45-minute class.


6. Length of Session


There are many different settings for creative movement classes (private dance studios, recreation departments, YMCA's, summer dance camps, etc.) , and each will have different session lengths. In order for your child to really get a feel for the class, I would recommend at least a six-week session. I have had many students in my classes who are reluctant at first, and it takes several classes for them to feel comfortable participating. And often the ones who are most reluctant are the ones who are the most enthusiastic by the end of the session. So make sure to give the teacher, the class, and your child a chance to become familiar with each other!


7. Sample a Class


If this is an option, it is a great way to go. You can keep this checklist in mind as your child tries the class. However, remember what I said in #6 above. Your child may be reluctant at first. If you are happy with the general feel of the class, encourage your child to try a few more.


8. Parent Observation


Parents should be allowed to view the class, but it is better if they are not physically present in the classroom once the class gets underway. Doing so divides the child's attention and distracts him or her (as well as the other children) from the activities and learning that is happening in the classroom. The best possible situation is a window so that the parents can peek in from time to time.

Most teachers will invite parents to attend observation days scattered throughout the session, when parents and friends are invited to visit the class. The children are told ahead of time that they will be dancing for guests. This is a fun chance for children to get their first taste of performing!



I hope I have answered many of the questions and addressed some of the concerns parents have when looking for activities and lessons for their children.


And, I hope you will give creative movement a try!

Be the first to comment