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        Math + Arts | Chinese Music & Dance: More or Less

        Students learn about Chinese culture and the concept of greater than and less than. After watching a student performance of a Chinese song and dance students are taught the difference between locomotor and non-locomotor motions. Students are asked to pay close attention to the number of musicians and dancers and apply the concepts of greater than and less than.

        Lesson Summary

        There are three options for this lesson, depending on class needs and time available.

        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss): teacher will show a video of a student percussion ensemble performing Chinese music and lead a discussion.

        2. Short hands-on activity: activities related to greater than and less than

        3. Project (view and discuss): integrating math, music, and dance

        Time Allotment

        1. Frame, Focus and Reflection: 30 minutes

        2. Short hands-on activity: 15 minutes

        3. Project: 1-2 class periods

        Learning Objectives

        I can write numerals up to 20.
        I can represent a number of objects with a written numeral.
        I can compare and record two digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits.
        I know what each symbol <, >, and = represents.
        I can use >, <, and = to record the results of comparisons.

        Arts and Humanities
        I can begin to recognize that music and dance are performed in different cultures for different purposes
        I can begin to recognize the difference between locomotor and non-locomotor movement
        I can begin to play a steady beat;
        I can begin to copy locomotor and non-locomotor movements in a dance.

        Prep for Teachers

        Locomotor movement is defined as movement that causes a dancer to move from place to place on a surface.

        Locomotor movement can be used as a way to add more performers on stage.

        Different cultures use dance in various ways, but experts have categorized three main purposes for dance in all cultures around the world: recreational (social), ceremonial (ritual), and artistic (expressive).


        8-10 foil pie plates
        Wrapping ribbon cut into about 20 foot-long sections (2 ribbons per student dancer)
        Class Model Posters <, >, =
        2 dice

        Media Resources

        Beauty of Jasmine Chinese Music and Dance Concert performance of "Golden Snake Wild Dance"

        DanceSense: Understanding Dance (watch from 0:56 to 3:32)

        DanceSense: Elements of Dance (watch from 1:08 - 4:56)

        Introductory Activity

        Students should have heard about the three purposes of dance (recreational, ceremonial, and artistic). If they have not, either lead a short discussion about them or show the last part of the DanceSense: Understanding Dance video, from 8:50 to the endabout 4 minutes.

        Students should know the term “locomotor movement” and be able to think of several examples, such as walking, running, jumping, etc.

        Learning Activities

        Frame, Focus, and Reflection

        Ask students what they know about China. What language do people speak in China? (Mandarin and Cantonese are the primary languages). On what continent is China located? (Asia). Can you name an instrument used in Chinese music? (Pipa, erha, guzheng, dizi, etc.). What’s your favorite Chinese food?

        Tell students that they are going to watch a video of some kids from Garth Elementary School in Kentucky, who worked with a Chinese teaching artist to learn a traditional Chinese song and dance to perform at a Big Chinese music, art, and dance performance. Explain that this song and dance are traditionally part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration. What do they think might be the purpose of this song and dance? Because it is part of a celebration, the song and dance are considered ceremonial. Ask if students can think of music they might have heard that is part of a ceremony (e.g., Mendelssohn's Wedding March, which is traditionally played at many weddings).

        Play the video. Ask them to describe what they saw and heard. What instruments did they observe? Explain that all the instruments are in the “percussion family.” Percussion instruments are played by being struck, scraped or shaken.

        Tell the students that now, you’re going to play the video again and ask them to focus on the question, “How Many?” Pass out the “How Many” handout. Tell the students to only focus on the top section of the paper, which asks “how many”. Play the video.

        Check the students’ work by asking a few to share their answers. Be sure all the students end up understanding that there are 8 drums onstage at the beginning, 16 percussionists total, and six dancers.

        Ask, which group used more space onstage: the kids who played music or the kids who danced? It should seem like the dancers used more space. The reason dancers need more space is that they’re using locomotor movements, while the musicians are standing in place and using their hands to play instruments. Ask the students which would use up more space: walking forward ten steps or clapping ten times while standing still. Have them get up and try it.

        Ask the students to describe the locomotor movements the dancers were doing in the video. Tell them that, even though you didn’t ask them to watch for that specifically, you want to hear what they can remember about it. Help them differentiate between non-locomotor movements (swinging hands, beating a drum, etc.) and locomotor movements (walking, skipping, etc.).

        Watch the video again, and point out the locomotor movements used in the performance, including the musicians walking onstage at the beginning.


        Refer to the “How Many” handout. Ask students to help you remember the numbers of drums, musicians, and dancers in the performance.

        Write on the board: Drums = 8     Musicians = 16     Dancers = 6

        Ask, “which group has the most people: drummers, musicians, or dancers?” Explain that we can say that there are MORE musicians than dancers in the group. The number of musicians is greater than the number of dancers.

        Ask, “which group has the least in it: drums, musicians, or dancers?” We can also say that there are FEWER dancers than musicians in the group. The number of dancers is less than the number of musicians. Ask students to write an answer to Item 1 under “Greater Than, Less Than” on the handout. Check their answers (16>6 or 6<16)

        Ask students to complete the other two items on the worksheet. Check their answers. Item 2 should be either 16>8 or 8<16. Item 3 should be 8>6 or 6<8.


        Watch the dancing part of the video (about 2:25) and discuss the movements the dancers used. They entered with a jumping step to the side, then they danced a box-step, and, finally, used a skipping step in place, while swinging their arms. Challenge the students to stand beside their desks and dance along, especially with the final steps, sitting in their chairs at the end when the dancers sit onstage. Watch the dance section of the video again, dancing along. Practice a few more times if needed/desired.

        Watch the entire video, paying special attention to the drumming rhythms. Ask students to drum along quietly on their desks. See if any of the more musically-inclined students notice any patterns in the drum sequences, and have them share those with the class. The patterns are complex and can be difficult to learn. The purpose of this activity is not to become excellent at Chinese drumming patterns; rather it is to experience participation in Chinese music and to become more aware of the complex rhythmic patterns in it.

        Watch the video once more, asking students to simply play the steady beat (like a heartbeat) of the music by hitting their desks quietly with one hand.

        Divide students into three groups: drummers (who will drum on their desks), dancers (who will dance and wave the ribbon strips), and cymbal players (who will play the steady beat by using a pencil to strike a pie tin held in their hand). Ask students if they remember what instrument family drums and cymbals belong to (percussion). Arrange the dancers at the front of the room, and the musicians around the perimeter-or whatever works in your space. Watch the video again, with all students participating as designated. Switch parts and do it again as many times as you want!

        Formative Assessment
        What are the indicators of student progress toward or achievement of each learning target?

        Arts and Humanities
        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss)–Teacher will monitor discussion for grade appropriate understanding and use of music/dance terminology.
        2. Short hands-on activity
        3. Project – Teacher will monitor students playing a steady beat. Teacher might want to keep a checklist to see which students are successful and which struggle and could benefit from reinforcement of this skill. Many students struggle to find and keep a steady beat, and teachers can include steady beat activities throughout the day, such as marching to a beat on the way to the lunchroom.

        Math: Math Assessment Problems
        Distinguished-Students will identify all symbols <, >, = correctly using greater than, less than, and equal to. They will also be able to correctly write 5 greater than/less than/equal to equation when given 2 numbers.

        Proficient-Students will identify all symbols <, >, and = correctly using greater than, less than, and equal to. They will also be able to correctly write 4 greater than/less than/equal to equation when given 2 numbers.

        Apprentice- Students will identify some symbols <, >, and = correctly using greater than, less than, and equal to. They will also be able to correctly write 3 greater than/less than/equal to equation when given 2 numbers.

        Novice- Students will identify 1 or 2 symbols <, >, and = correctly using greater than, less than, and equal to. They will also be able to correctly write 2 or less using greater than/less than/equal to equation when given 2 numbers.

        Program Review
        Where does this fit in? How should you document it?

        This activity contributes to your school’s overall efforts in art programming in several areas, depending on whether you implement just the “frame, focus, and reflect” portion or you implement the entire project.

        Curriculum and Instruction: Aligned and Rigorous Curriculum

        a) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum encompasses creating, performing and responding and is fully aligned with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards?

        b) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum provides for the development of arts literacy in all four arts discipline and also utilizes the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts?

        c) To what extent does the school ensure that the school’s curriculum provides opportunities for integration as natural cross-curricular connections are made between the arts and other content areas?

        d) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum includes the study of representative and exemplary works of dance, music, theater and visual arts from a variety of artists, cultural traditions and historical periods?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Instructional Strategies

        a) To what extent do teachers systematically incorporate all three components of arts study: creating, performing and responding into the arts?

        b) what extent do teachers provide models of exemplary artistic performances and products to enhance students’ understanding of an arts discipline and to develop their performance/production skills?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Student Performance

        a) To what extent are students actively engaged in creating, performing, and responding to the arts?

        b) To what extent do students use written and verbal communication to objectively reflect on exemplary exhibits and live or technologically provided performances as classroom assignments?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Expectations for Student Learning

        To what extent do teachers utilize exemplar/models to encourage students to demonstrate characteristics of rigorous work in the appropriate art form in most instructional lessons/units?

        Culminating Activity

        Get the students up! Using the included <, >, = signs included in the documents. Teacher will roll 2 dice and have that many students pretend to dance, drum, etc. As a class, students will decide which is greater than, less than, or equal and choose one student to hold up the sign. Teacher should also model using the correct terminology ex. “ 16 dancers are greater than eight drummers.” Students should say the correct sentence after each round is completed.

        Write number sentences that describe your class, comparing the number of pie tin players, desk drummers, and dancers, using the posters <, >, and =. You can also do the same activity from the day before. Model the first roll and choose a student volunteer to roll and another student to hold up the posters. The rest of the students write the problems on a sheet of paper. Model how to write the greater than/less than/equal to equation using three blanks. Model where to write the numbers and the correct symbol. Teacher should also model how to correctly read the equation using the proper terminologygreater than, less than, or equal to.

        Lesson Creators: Yolantha Pace, Jennifer Rose, Amanda Varney, Melissa Roberts, and Judy Sizemore


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