Monday, October 22, 2012

FALLING LEAVES -- DANCING THROUGHOUT THE DAY Part 7: A Movement Exploration That Addresses Science

Hello EC Community,

Happy Autumn!  The activity below is filled with ideas that can be used as a stand-alone exploration, or a supplement to any fall-themed or science lesson.  It is a celebration of the autumn season.  The children will dance about living things and explore the cycles of the seasons through movement.  In addition, the motor skill of galloping is introduced.  This 45-minute fall-themed lesson is adapted from my first book, Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn!  Enriching Movement Activities for Preschoolers (Redleaf Press, 2006).

        Falling Leaves
                               ©2006 by Connie Bergstein Dow. Published by Redleaf Press, 

What You Need: 

Musical selections:

• Upbeat music, such as Bluegrass or a lively classical piece
• Calm, soothing music, such as environmental or New Age

 Pictures of nature in different seasons, and particularly pictures of fall colors
• Colorful leaves you have gathered, or pictures or cut-outs of leaves
For the Quicksand game, masking tape or string if there are no lines or delineated areas in the classroom
• Drum

               What You Do:

Begin the lesson with the Quicksand game:

1. Prepare the Space: For this game, you will need areas in the classroom that are “safe” and areas that are “quicksand.” If there are any lines on the class- room floor, these can be incorporated into the game. Several parallel lines along the length of the floor work well, and they can be marked with masking tape or thick string to make three or four long lines.

2. The Object of the Game: The children try to walk along the lines as if they are walking on tightropes, trying not to fall off. If they do fall off, they must crawl through the quicksand to another safe line. If the lines are close enough, the children can jump from one line to another. You can make up your own rules about passing if two children are on the same line and need to go by each other. For example, one or the other can back up, or one of the children must jump to another line.

3. Play the Game: Once the children understand the premise of the game, ask them to spread out along the lines to begin. Play a lively musical selection to start the game. The game will evolve based on the type of space you have, so be prepared for the children to be creative about the rules of this game!
Greeting Circle
4.  Conclude the Game:  Bring the children together into a circle and tell them that they are going to dance about autumn. Ask, What are some of your favorite activities during the fall season?

Movement Exploration: Falling Leaves
Continue with a Large Motor Skills Practice:

Line the children up along one side of the room, and prompt them to practice the following large motor skills to the other side of the room, using autumn as a theme:

1. Walk: Let’s think about being outside on a warm fall day. What do you see as you are walking?

2. Tiptoe Walk: Can you try to tiptoe through crisp leaves and not make any noise?

3. Run: Imagine that you are running through a pile of leaves on the ground! Remember that these are “hurry up and be quiet” runs! Put on your brakes when you get close to the other side of the room.

4. Gallop: Introduce gallops. Begin by beating the rhythm with a drum or tambourine: LOUD-quiet, LOUD-quiet, LOUD-quiet, GAL-lop, GAL-lop, GAL-lop. Ask the children to clap the rhythm, and then ask them to gallop across the floor while you are beating that rhythm, demonstrating if needed. The same foot leads throughout the gallop. Practicing the rhythm and repetition of the step is the best way for children to master gallops. Once the children have learned this motor skill, they should work toward galloping swiftly, in a controlled way, and quietly. Gallop like a horse through the field on a beautiful fall day!


The next activity will be a movement improvisation, based on a story you will tell about a tree in the changing seasons. The children will respond to the images and suggestions through movement. Allow each idea to unfold and give the children time to explore each movement prompt.

1. Introduce the Activity: Have the children join you in a circle. Show the pictures and the leaves you have brought and talk about the changing seasons to prepare the children for the dance story. Ask them to spread out and each find a spot in the room. Play a calm, soothing musical selection quietly as background music.

2. Begin the Story: Imagine that you are a small seed, but you are the seed of a very large tree. You are deep in the rich soil under the ground in winter. Curl up like you are a seed.
Slowly grow to be a strong, tall tree. Stand up now and reach toward the sky!
3. Spring:  The weather begins to get warm, and that is your signal to start to grow. Feel the sunlight and the rain, and stretch your roots deeply into the rich soil all around you. Slowly grow to be a strong, tall tree. Stand up now and reach toward the sky. You are beginning to sprout leaves! Look how you are changing!

4. Summer:  Now it is summer! The sun is hot, and there are strong thunderstorms, with wind, lightning, and lots of hard rain. What does it feel like to have the warm sun, and then the cool rain, on your outstretched branches and waving leaves? What does it feel like when the wind whips through your leaves and branches, and moves you back and forth, up and down? See how the force of the wind can move your strong branches!

5. Fall:  What happens in the fall? Imagine your leaves are turning red, orange, yellow, and brown. The leaves will begin to fall off of you, and when they do, they will swirl through the air. Now, let’s pretend to be leaves! You are way up high and you are about to fall off the branches. Let go, and blow through the air, as you slowly fall to the ground. (Play an upbeat musical selection during this part of the story, and elaborate on swirling, gliding, turning, and falling movements—this section can go on for a couple of minutes, so prompt the children to change the speed, level, and energy of their movements).

6. Conclude the Activity: Let’s each grab a rake, and rake up all of these leaves! We’ll make a huge pile in the center of the room. Then we can line up and take turns jumping in the pile! Have the children line up and, one at a time, take a running jump into the imaginary pile of leaves at the center of the room.

7.  Bring the Lesson to a Quiet Finish:  Gather the children together again, and say: Let’s make a pretend campfire. We will gather some wood, and make a small fire. Because autumn nights are cold, let’s warm our hands by the campfire. Have the children sit down in a circle around the pretend campfire. Now, let’s curl up into our sleeping bags! 

Keep on Dancin',




  1. What wonderful games! Thank you so much for sharing! Many groups could use these games, not just classrooms. How nice!

  2. What wonderful games! Thank you so much for sharing! Many groups could use these games, not just classrooms. How nice!

  3. I love the leaf movement idea for my little ones dance class. It is the perfect season for it too. Thank you for sharing.


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