What teaching methods can I use to teach primary school dance?

When we speak to primary school teachers around the country, one of the pain points that we hear a lot are is “I don't have enough experience to teach dance, I'm not a dance specialist!”.  So I have four lovely teaching methods for you to use. 

It’s very natural if you’ve not been taught dance or come from a dance background to be fearful of teaching dance.  It's so easy to get carried away and feel you have to be a dance professional with all the correct technique.

But it doesn't, it's about the children expressing themselves and allowing them to do that.  Once teachers understand that, it's a really fun experience for the children and for you, it may even become one of the most enjoyable lessons you teach in your week.

So, we've provided you with 4 different teaching methods you can use in your lessons:

So, let Gaye and Imogen take you through each teaching method, so you can build your confidence delivery an amazing dance lesson with no specialist experience.       

Scroll down to find a short video and supporting text to help you begin to find ideas for your primary school dance lesson.  

Watch the short video to find out everything you need to know about 4 brilliant teaching methods you can use to teach an amazing dance lesson with your primary school class confidently and enjoyably as a non-specialist.  

Scroll down to read the transcript of the video. 

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Transcript from the video...

What teaching methods can I use to teach primary school dance?

When we’re working with teachers, one of the pain points that we hear a lot are is “I don't have enough experience to teach dance, I'm not a dance specialist!”.  So I have four lovely teaching methods for you to use. 

It’s very natural if you’ve not been taught dance or come from a dance background to be fearful of teaching dance.  It's so easy to get carried away and feel you have to be a dance professional with all the correct technique.

But it doesn't, it's about the children expressing themselves and allowing them to do that.  Once teachers understand that, it's a really fun experience for the children and for you, it may even become one of the most enjoyable lessons you teach your week.

My name's Imogen, founder of imoves, and I’m Gaye, lead presenter, and we have a combined 50 years of experience teaching dance in schools across the country. 

So, let’s have a look at some different teaching methods you can use in your lessons which we've broken down into 4 themes:

Adding on

The first method is called ‘adding on’ and is a really good one to use, particularly for the little ones where you need a little bit more control, or you might use it for the older ones if you're teaching them something that's a set piece of choreography.

You start with a basic movement, then you need to teach them one little bit, then add another bit on and go back to the beginning, and add another little bit want and go back to begin.

Exactly the same as any other class you teach, when you always start with the basics and add a little bit on and then review it, it's just the same concept in dance.

Creative freestyle

The next teaching method we're going to have a look at is creative free style.  

This is where the children create all the moves themselves.  You give them the brief, the characters that you want them to be, and let them go.

A variation of the creative free style is a circuit approach.  I've used this with the really little ones and just give some more structure to the lesson, where I've had my room set out with stations, where I had a strongman in one corner, a show horse in another, a clown, and finally the tightrope walker.  So maybe four or even six stations depending on their age range and how much they can cope with in a lesson.

Each station is focused on their character and they'd be coming up with ideas within their group, around their character, and they may spend 2- or 3-minutes on each station before moving them in a clockwise direction.  It’s a really nice way just to keep them moving, so once you've done all four or six circuit cards and they've got loads of ideas, they then come into the centre and we pull our ideas together as a group.

Once we've done all of that, we might pick out four or six of the best movements that we would collectively agree on and then put them all together in the order that they agree on.

So far, we've just looked at topic-based teaching methods, where the children are creating lots of moves themselves.  This is not so good when you need to look at dance styles where there's technique involved.

The next teaching methods we're going to look at is all about teaching styles; things like Bollywood, Charleston, or Disco, where you've actually got set moves.

Structured moves

The next method we're going to look at is structured moves followed by a creative task, which is three or four moves depending on the time you have.

They led these structured set moves, and then they go off in a creative little bubble and create their choreography so they can put those moves in any order they like. They can do them for as long as they like, and they can even start to put them in some kind of formation, can't they?

Let's have a look at an example of disco we're just going to show you a little movie clip of our interactive movie showing the kids for disco moves, and then we'll show how we could use a brief for them to put together. 

The children can be spilt into little creative bubbles where they can decide upon the structured moves and practice those before then going on to the creative part of the task.

Start by thinking about formations, how can we make this look interesting for the audience.  So, when the audience is watching, the formation and patterns are changing and it looks really interesting. 

One thing to consider for the children is to get them to understand where the audience is going to be in the room.  So, if that's facing the way you're teaching, then to have a circle formation is not going to work because someone will inevitably have their back to the audience. Semi circles work nicely, diamonds, triangles, or one behind the other, or maybe a diagonal line formation. Give them some ideas on where to start, this is going to be their starting position or your starting formation.

They can perform their moves in any order as well.  It doesn't have to be the order they learned them in, they can mix them around and perform one move at the beginning and do it again at the end if it's a particular move they like, they can even adapt them they can make them into a cannon.  This is where one child goes, then another child goes, then the next child goes, a bit like a Mexican wave.

They also need to think about balancing the routine equally so it doesn't all travel one way and they all end up in a pile in one corner. They're using the space effectively, moving forward and backward or side to side.

that if they're moving forward, they need to move back. They're moving, right, then they need to move left or back to centre.   I sometimes use a coloured spot on the floor for the entire group, so they know where they're working and they're not going to crash into all the groups in the room.

Pose and transition

A final teaching method is something called ‘Pose and transition’.   I love this because it's so simple to use.

Start by getting the children to make a pose which they hold for 8 counts, they then transition for 8 beats to another pose, which they also hold for another 8 beats, before transitioning to another, or the 1st pose, for a count of 8 beats. 

You could use a set of flashcards or the children could develop their poses as an individual group.  It's totally up to you how you do this, but I use flashcards because it inspires the children.

You might have a section of a lesson for poses, so they develop and create their poses using the flashcards and practice standing, balancing in their pose, making sure they don’t fall over but are being expressive.  And then before moving on to the second or third pose and fourth, so have your poses almost in the bag.

The transition part is next where the children think about how they could move between each pose, remember the six principles of dance as different movements they could use to transition.  

So, we have pose one will be eight beats and then you transition for eight beats, your pose two will be another eight beats and that will be a transition into pose three, or this could be back to the original pose.

Holding those poses and then transitions can be repeated and repeated until they absolutely nail it. And you'll be surprised at how the boys get involved in this. It's actually really amazing and I’ve often seen the boys outperform the girls.  They're only performing things that they can do, not something that you're asking them to do.

Let the kids develop their poses first and then be put in your transitions with a little bit of a brief around them. And are they turning, are they jumping or they leaping, whatever you want them to do, you put the transitions in. And once they've learned the poses and I think that's the best way to do it.

And indeed, depending on the style that you're using, this is Bollywood, but it could be anything from an Egyptian or the Romans or anything you like, really. It's just a really nice teaching method to use and really effective as you just say.

So, the teaching methods that we've discussed today are ‘adding on’, which is structured movements in a particular order that might be just wanting to have a performance piece, or it might just be because you want to keep the kids in a bit more order or control.

You've got your ‘free style’, which is your creative free style and your free style circuits.

You've got your ‘structured movements’ with creative tasks, which we’ve just done in disco.

Finally, you've got pose and transition, which we've just shown you for Bollywood as well.

So those four teaching methods are so useful to have in your toolkit, and they're great for four to 11 years, the best thing about those is that any teacher can teach any of those.

You can get one that you feel really confident with, whether it's, you know, you joining in or just showing a movie or just showing a card, whatever your skill levels, there's something there for you.

If you weren't very confident and you wanted to just use the flashcards and use a pose and transition, that’s somewhere to start and you’ll feel much more confident after you taught a few sessions like that.

Or if you want to teach a new style. Now, you can use a use a movie clip or flashcards to help you demonstrate the technical bit, and then just use your planning to help you structure that lesson.

And so just take a deep dive into that and look at how we can really engage those difficult cats. And banish any ideas that dance is just for ballerinas and tutus.

Like this and want even more?

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