Saturday, June 20, 2015

Musical Road Trip: Folk Dancing

Hello everyone! Today, I am very excited to be participating in the Musical Road Trip with an amazing group of music teachers. This is the third stop on the road trip as we head to the midwest and stop in my home state of Indiana! 

For this blog hop, each blogger will discuss a musical topic.  The third stop on this road trip is right here in Indiana, where we will be discussing folk dancing! 

One of my favorite things to learn while in college and at conferences is folk dancing! I love attending folk dancing sessions at conferences, such as the National Conference for AOSA. It is such a blast to just learn and dance with hundreds of other music teachers up into the wee hours of the night. Not only do I enjoy participating in folk dancing, I love to share this experience with my students. 

Typically, I teach folk dances throughout the year in every grade...yes, even with the kinders. Even though we may learn simple circle dances in kindergarten, they are still learning the basics of building community through folk dancing.  I also teach a large folk dancing unit with my fifth graders.  In the spring time, the fifth graders are beginning to get very antsy as they are ready to move on to the middle school.  I am sure all of you know what I am talking about ?!?! By incorporating this unit during this time of year, they stay actively engaged and excited about music.  When I first mention folk dancing to them, they typically moan and groan, but by the end of the first day, they are all leaving with a smile on their face and eager to come back for more. 

So today, I am going to give you some tips and tricks for incorporating more folk dancing into your classroom.  You do not have to do an entire unit in your curriculum.  Instead, incorporate a dance or two throughout your units to reinforce musical concepts, such as form, rhythm, and melody. 

Tip #1: Find folk dancing resources that are worth the investment.  
There is an abundance of folk dancing resources available online and in book form.  Through the numerous resources I have purchased or perused through, I have discovered many resources that are worth the investment and are a great addition to your library!

Resource #1: 
Anything by the sweet and adorable Amidon's is a fantastic resource for your classroom.  Each book comes with a CD and very descriptive directions for each dance.  

Here you can find all of their folk dancing resources with books and CDs.  One of my favorite things about the Amidon resources is that they play and record all of the music.  If you ever have a chance to see them in person, DO IT!  Mary Alice usually plays the accordion, while Peter Amidon leads the dances.  It is a blast of fun and entertainment! 

Resource #2: 
Even though this resources is a pretty penny, the book, 120 Singing Games and Dances for Elementary Schools, is completely worth the investment.  Along with dances, it also includes directions and resources for a variety of singing games. 

This resources comes in a spiral bound, and it can be incorporated with all grade levels. 

Resource #3: 
My last resource I will be discussing is created by John M. Fiereabend, titled, The Book of Song Dances.  This book comes at a very reasonable price, and it is filled with a variety of dances.  I typically use my Fiereabend resources for my younger students. 

In this book, the dances are organized by type (circle, double circle, square dance, etc.). Each dance comes with clear and written instructions. 

Tip #2: Avoid the term "couple" or "partners"
Through my years of teaching, I have realized that the older students tend to have issues with being partnered up with students of the opposite gender.  The fear of cooties has finally set in! In the past, I would use the term couple or partner when teaching the dance steps.  However, it often ended up with giggles and/or moans and groans.  So, I have resorted to the use of "pair."  For example, I would now say a phrase like the following, "The top pair will sashay down the middle."  The students don't even react to it.  This term also works very lovely when you have same gender partners.  

Tip #3: Pick partners (pairs) in a fun way! 
I always try to randomly partner up my students so they aren't always partnered with their best friends or even the same students dance after dance.  I feel that this avoids students being left out as well.  Instead of the teachers just picking the students, try something new like dividing students up based off what they are wearing, their birthdays, height, picking sticks, name them off by fruits, etc.  Many TPT sellers also have partner picking manipulatives to make it easier and fair for your classroom.  There are an abundance of ways to partner, just be creative!

Tip #4:  Less talking, more doing! 
I can say I am guilty of this, especially during my first two years of teaching.  However, the less talking the teacher can do, the better!  I have made it a personal goal to talk less and to just do it! I have even challenged myself to teach an entire class period without any vocal commands, using only hand and facial gestures and movements.  It was very uplifting learning experience for myself and my students.  By just doing the dance with your students, instead of talking them through it and explaining the steps,  they will be able to visually see the dance and follow along. 

Tip #5: Don't let them count! 
I feel that a major part of folk dancing is being able to feel and react to the music.  If students are counting the steps, they aren't using their ears to listen to the musical changes, but are instead just focusing on the numbers they are counting.  First, if needed, model the steps for them with the music playing, then have them do it.  This way, they are actually using their ears to perform the dance.   If they are struggling with the steps, I find it helpful to add a sound cue, such as a triangle hit, to cue the next set of dance steps or different section of the music. 

Tip #6: Use visuals for formations.
In the beginning of my teaching career, I would often set the students up into the dance formation (double circle, square dance, longways sets, etc) by placing each pair of students in the correct place.  This would take a lot of time away from my lesson, and often students would begin to misbehave as they waited.  As a result, I created a set of formation posters that I have posted in my room at all times.  I literally just have to point to the correct poster, and my students make the formation on their own. Of course, the younger kiddos have a few more issues so I offer more guidance. 

Tip #7: Use hand stamps or scarves to differentiate left and right. 
 Still to this day, many of my 5th graders even struggle with differentiating their lefts from their rights.  I know many educators tie a scarf onto the left or right hand to differentiate between the two.  I often don't want to drag my scarves out and take time tieing, so I just place a stamp on one hand to differentiate between the two. This saves a lot of time and confusion. 

Tip #8: HAVE FUN!!!!!!
GET IN AND HAVE FUN WITH YOUR STUDENTS!  Enjoy this experience with your students. 

And there are my top tips and tricks for folk dancing in the classroom!!!

As part of my folk dancing post, I will be having a 25% off sale on my Folk Dance Formation Posters.  These have been a major time saver in my classroom, and they added some brightness to my room, too! These will be on sale for the next several days. If you are a blogger, feel free to link up your post below about folk dancing and/or folk dancing product on sale for 25% off. 

Our next stop is at Music a la Abbott in Colorado on June 24th! 

Here is the rest of the itinerary for the Music Road Trip!  Hope you follow along with us as we travel across the states in our musical adventure!

If you are a blogger and/or music seller and want to link up, here are the directions:
  • Link up with a blog post specifically about rhythm/ rhythmic concepts, AND/OR
  • Link up to a folk dancing product on sale for 25% off (you can leave it on sale until Wednesday, June 24.)
  • You can do either simply by clicking on the button below!

Link up here with your folk dancing blog post or a discounted folk dancing product! 


  1. Great post Jena!!! I love all the ideas you shared!!

  2. Thank you Amy! Can't wait to see what you have to share in a few days :)

  3. Thanks Jena, for a great post. I won't be linking up today since although I do folk dances, I don't have any to showcase yet. Good Job!

  4. This is such a great comprehensive post! I've been encouraging other music educators to include some folk dance in their teaching, and I'm sharing this post with them! Thanks!!

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