Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School: Reading Camp Movement Fun! Dancing to Stories

August 22, 2012

 Back to School: Reading Camp Movement Fun! Dancing to Stories 

Photo of Bookstore Story/Movement Time!
Bookstore Story/Movement Time!
Photo of Bookstore Story/Movement Time
More Movement Fun and Games!

Hello EC Community,

I am temporarily interrupting my DANCING THROUGHOUT THE DAY series (which will return next month with Part 6:  A Movement Exploration That Addresses Social Studies)  to bring you some ideas for dancing to three favorite children's books.  I helped to develop a curriculum for a six-week reading day camp this summer.  The camp's mission is to help bring children up to the 3rd Grade reading level.  Thirty books were studied, one each day, and my part in the lessons was to get the children up and moving, while reinforcing the learning.  Right up my alley, of course!  On the list of books were a few that I had already developed for movement activities, but most were ones that I have not used before.  The books are a little more advanced than the early childhood levels, but I have found that the preschool set loves to dance to stories such as these.  

Moving and dancing to the stories can help the children, through kinesthetic learning, with sequencing, identifying with characters, exploring and learning about the setting and background, vocabulary acquisition, and many other valuable pre-literacy and early language skills.  

So, I decided to share in this month's blog entry three of the activities that I developed, in order to pass them along to you and your students.  School is starting soon -- I hope you can incorporate some of these lively and fun ideas into your children's day!  Photos on this page are from recent visits to bookstores where I presented workshops about dancing to books and stories.

Photo of Children Dancing to Stories
Children Dancing to Stories

1.  Imogene's Antlers, by David Small

This is one of my favorite children's books.  A creative, imaginative story told with fun and grace, your students will love this dramatic play and dancing activity after you have read the story aloud.

Music:  One lively, upbeat instrumental musical selection
Space:  The children can move all together in the shared space, or you can divide them up into two or three groups, one group dancing while the others watch.  Give the audience group a task, such as, What do you think it would feel like to have enormous antlers on your head?

As you give a movement prompt, allow time for the children to develop each idea in movement.  Say to the children:

Imagine waking up in the morning.  Stretch, yawn, and suddenly you notice something unusual coming out of your head. You have antlers!  Feel all around your head. Reach as high as you can -- they are very tall antlers! Let me see your surprised face, your happy face, your scared face, your silly face.  

Now jump out of bed and run to the mirror.  Let me see your surprised face again! Try to get dressed.  Can you pull your shirt over your head?  Get your shirt stuck in your antlers like Imogene did.  How about trying to comb your hair?  What else do you need to do to get ready this morning?

Now try going through the door.  Imagine you are bumping your antlers.  Let’s try it three times, 1, 2, 3  . . . but you can't do it!  Figure out that you have to turn sideways and scoot very carefully through the door. 
Now let’s slide down the bannister, here we go!  Uh-oh, your antlers are stuck in the chandelier!  Twirl around as you hang from the chandelier! 

Imagine you are Imogene’s mother when she first sees the antlers.  Gently fall to the floor as if you were fainting.  Now imagine you are the person carrying her all the way upstairs.  It is hard to carry someone up the stairs, isn’t it? 

Hang some towels to dry on your antlers!  What else can you hang on them?  Put some donuts on the antlers.  Go outside and imagine all the birds coming to eat food off of your antlers. 

Imagine you are a bird -- fly through the sky! Come in for a landing.  What an exciting day!  Now stretch, yawn and get ready for bed. Lie down and pretend you are sleeping. It's difficult to find a way to put your head on the pillow!  You have had quite a big day, dealing with those huge antlers.

Now it is the next morning.  Wake up, yawn and stretch.  Suddenly you remember about your amazing adventure yesterday with your antlers.   Reach up to touch your antlers.  Surprise -- they are gone!  But now, another surprise -- peacock feathers! Imagine you are a strutting peacock, showing off your tail. Now take a bow with your enormous tail to end our story.

  Play the music and ask the children to do a free dance about all of the movement ideas they just explored. Finish once again with a big bow and a flourish of the imaginary peacock tail.

2.  The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco

This is a story about how a beautiful family quilt can be passed along from generation to generation.  The quilt is used in many different ways, which sparked the idea for this movement activity.

Music:  One lively, upbeat instrumental musical selection
Space:  Divide the class in half.  One group will be the first to dance.  The other group will be the first group to be the audience.   Give the audience group a task, such as, Do you see anyone imagining their fabric is a magic carpet?
Materials:  Bring scarves or fabric scraps about 12" square (the fabric squares should all be the same), enough for about half of the class.  

After you have read the story, show the class one of the squares of fabric.  Prompt the children to imagine the fabric square can be many different things.  Offer them some ideas, starting with ideas from the story:  a babushka to dance with, like Anna; a quilt; a tablecloth; a bedspread, a baby blanket.  Then ask them to imagine the fabric can be other things, such as a tail, wings, a superhero cape, a magic carpet, a bridal veil, etc.

Once the children have mentioned many ideas, pass out the fabric squares to the dancing group, one fabric square per child.  Play some lively music, and ask them to dance about all of the many different ideas that were mentioned.  At the end of the music, ask the children to take a bow, holding their square of fabric high in one hand and then bringing it across their body as they bend over for the bow.

Switch groups, and let the second group dance about all of the ideas.  Finish with a bow as above. Repeat the activity as long as the children are engaged.

3.  Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

This is a beautiful book with a simple, magical story, and different animals hidden on the pages.  It takes place in winter, so it can be incorporated into any lesson plan about that season.  Once you have read the book to the children, try this movement activity:

Music:  A soft, instrumental musical selection, such as a selection from Wyndham Hill
Space:  The children can move all together in the shared space, or you can divide them up into two or three groups, one group dancing while the others watch.  Give the audience group a task, such as, Watch the children dance and see if you can imagine what an owl looks like when he is flying through the forest at night.

Say to the children:

Now that we have read the story,  let’s imagine we are the owl from the book.  You have big owl eyes that can see in the dark, you can turn your head very far in both directions, and you have huge, feathery owl wingsI will play some music (lyrical, quiet music) and we will take off from our branch high up in the tree, and fly into the forest.  What does it feel like to be an owl?  What do you see far down below? (Allow time for the children to develop each prompt through movement, picking up on their ideas as well.  Then move on to the next one).  

Continue the activity:

What other animals might you see in the forest at night?  Did you see the bird, the deer, the fox, the raccoon, the field mouse, in the pages of the story?  Let’s dance about each of those animals now.

Now let’s imagine we are the little girl, trudging back home in the snow.  The snow is very deep!  Take big steps and lift your legs high to get through the snow.  Make shapes with your footprints:  circles, squares, what other shapes would you like to make in the snow?

Conclude the activity:

Look, there is your house in the distance!  We are almost home.  Imagine you go inside and are finally warm.  Walk up the stairs, lie down in your bed, pull the covers up, and think about the amazing owling adventure you had in the cold winter night.  What will you dream about?

Use these kinds of simple activities for other favorite stories.  You will be amazed how many movement ideas can be generated from books -- and children love to dance!

Have a great start to the school year, and 

Keep on dancin'!


Moving is learning!


  1. I love putting books and movement together! Did you know that Bruce O'Brien wrote a beautiful song from Owl Moon? Tom Pease made a very nice recording of it: Anna Stange also recorded on her "Miss Anna's Music Class Vol 2". It's a magical song to go with a magical book - and if you sign the song, it's a beautiful movement piece.
    "Miss Carole" Stephens

    1. What a great addition to the movement activity for Owl Moon. Thank you so much for letting me know about the song!

  2. These are fabulous ideas that I will definitely be using in my preschool classes. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas.

  3. the kids look like they are having a blast.

    Come check out my new blog/classroom. love to have new visitors :)

    Pre-Schooler Daze

  4. I love literature-based activities in general, and your ideas for dancing to stories are awesome! I pinned your post to the collaborative Get Kids Moving Board at Deb @

    1. Thank you for sharing these activities, Deb!


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