After discussing what they know about dance, including different types of dancing and the reasons why people dance, children learn about choreography. They discuss how the movement of objects in space (Sun, planets, stars) can be represented through dance. Children then watch the video excerpt Space Dance | PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC™ from an episode called Space Dancing. In the video, Pinkalicious, Peter, and their friends create a "space dance," representing the planets, the Sun, astronauts, and shooting stars. Students discuss how Pinkalicious describes and demonstrates the sequence of dance steps and its finale. They learn the dance that is shown in the video and then work together to create their own Space Dance. Students then decorate the room and perform the dance for others.
See Get Smart with the Arts! for more information about how dance and the arts can enhance children's cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and academic skills.
Two or more class periods
- Students will learn about how dance steps and movements are created and arranged (choreography).
- Students will learn how to use dance to represent objects in the sky.
- Students will present their own dance creation.
Prep for Teachers
Dance is a great way for children to creatively express their feelings and moods, represent or imitate what they observe in the world around them, communicate ideas, and tell stories. Dance also involves recognizing and repeating patterns, an important cognitive skill. Creating art together is a wonderful way for children to listen to each other, exchange ideas, and work collaboratively. Performing a dance for others helps children develop self-confidence, space awareness, and a positive body image, and overcome shyness and anxiety. For those who aren't comfortable with performing, there are other roles that they can play, such as displaying decorations, creating sounds, or playing simple instruments as music to accompany the dancers.
This lesson is geared towards children who already have some knowledge about the Sun, Earth, stars, planets, and what an astronaut does. If younger children don't yet have this knowledge, simplify the lesson as needed.
You may want to extend this lesson throughout the week, giving children frequent opportunities to practice their dance moves.
- Books about dance and dancers to display (see Recommended Reading List)
- Books, pictures, and diagrams of the solar system and astronauts
- Use the introductory activities in the Dance Creation Lesson Plan to help begin this lesson. After you have developed a class definition of dance, you may want to introduce the words choreography and choreographer with their definitions: Choreography is the art of arranging a series of steps that make up a dance. A choreographer is a person who creates those dance steps.
- Talk about the word finale and what it means: the last part of a performance, usually one that is especially exciting or dramatic. A finale can be part of a play, a musical composition, or a dance. Often in the finale, all of the players, musicians, or dancers come on stage. You may want to give some examples of finales that students have seen, such as at a school or sports event. Students may already know the word final or the word in their home language. Encourage them to share what they know.
- Access children’s prior knowledge about the sky and the objects in it. Write their ideas on the board or create a class bulletin board or word wall and add to it as students’ knowledge grows throughout the week. You might include, for example, the comparative size of the planets or how the Sun seems to move across the sky. Picture books such as Franklyn Branley’s The Planets in Our Solar System, Gail Gibbons’s The Planets, or Connie and Peter Roop’s Our Solar System may be helpful to correct any errors and provide new information as needed. (You may want to download and print out this image of the Planets of the Solar System.)
- Return to the discussion of dance. Ask students to volunteer their ideas on how they can use their bodies to represent the movements of the Sun, stars, planets, and astronauts. Prompt them with questions such as:
- An astronaut floats in space. How can we pretend to be floating?
- The Sun seems to move across the sky from morning to night. How can we move our arms and legs to show that?
Jot down what they say on a chart or have children demonstrate their movements.
1. Before watching the video excerpt
- Tell children that they are going to watch a video from a PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC™ episode called Space Dancing. Explain that Pinkalicious is a girl who loves to use her imagination to do all kinds of art activities, including dance. Her brother, Peter, often adds his own ideas and joins in the fun. In this excerpt, Pinkalicious and her friend Jasmine have been watching Peter, who is wearing a helmet, run around like an astronaut. Along with their friends Kendra and Rafael, they decide to create a “space dance,” imitating planets, the Sun, astronauts, and shooting stars.
2. While watching the video excerpt
- Ask students to pay particular attention to how Pinkalicious explains the steps for the dance and the finale.
- Have students notice the movements that the characters do to represent the Sun, the planets Earth and Saturn, an astronaut, and a star.
3. After watching the video excerpt
- Talk about the video excerpt. Check for understanding by asking students to describe what happened. Correct any misunderstandings.
- Review who played what part in the dance: Peter was the Spaceman, Kendra was Earth, Jasmine was Saturn (a planet that has a ring around it), Rafael was the Sun, and Pinkalicious was a star that “shoots” or moves quickly across the sky.
- Ask: What movements did each dancer do to represent his or her object?
- Play the video again and pause as Pinkalicious describes each step that Spaceman does. Point out how Pinkalicious uses action and directional words for the movements:
- Spaceman zooms
- [walks] around Earth
- space walks right past Saturn
- [walks] around the Sun
- just misses the Shooting Star
- Pinkalicious then shows the steps of the finale. In this part of the excerpt, she uses dance and descriptive terms such as twist, giant steps, tippy toes, turn, and leap:
- start with a twist
- take three giant steps on our tippy toes with our knees up to our chest
- turn and leap
- Peter then adds: “And then we end with a big bow, right?”
- Talk with students about how each part of the dance relies on a series of steps or movements. Pinkalicious is the choreographer, putting the steps together in a particular order.
4. Activity: Space Dancing
- Watch the video excerpt again, if necessary. Explain that the class is going to do the same dance as Pinkalicious and her friends!
- Remind students that in order to do the dance, they will have to work together to plan and then practice it. Refer to other projects that students may have done that required planning and cooperation.
- Select students or groups of students to play each part. (Simplify the parts or steps as needed.) Have children practice their part a few times. Children can perform the dance for each other to observe the ideas they’re trying to represent. For example, after watching the children who are representing the shooting stars, the class could give feedback to identify how the dance is communicating the ideas they are trying to represent: “I saw you going really fast and it made me think of the shooting star!” Revising and watching their own dance helps them reflect on their learning and their ability to communicate their ideas through dance.
- Have everyone put their parts together to make the dance.
- Give students an opportunity to repeat the dance several times.
- Encourage students to try out their stage bows (you can recall Peter’s “big bow.”)
5. Activity: Our Space Dance
- Gather the class together to review the dance they did. What did students like about it? What was challenging? What improvements, if any, could be made?
- Together, have students adapt the PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC™ space dance. Ask for ideas and invite students to show what their step(s) will look like. The dance can be changed in a variety of ways. For instance, the class can:
- Choreograph new steps or rearrange the objects. Perhaps the Sun is the first thing the astronaut goes around instead of the last. The shooting star might become a twinkling star, and so on.
- Keep the same dance but create a different finale.
- Older children may know the characteristics of different planets. You can change the number of planets or feature different ones. This will probably require new movements to imitate those planets. You also might want to create simple costumes to indicate the planets (for example, red for Mars, orange and white for Jupiter, pale blue for Neptune).
- Choose music or a song to go along with the dance. (You might want to talk about the quality of movement in regard to music. How would our dance change if we did it to fast music? Slow music? Percussive music?)
- Devise a new name for the dance.
- You may find that students who aren’t usually talkative in class may be able to express themselves more comfortably through movement. Help students collaborate and decide on the new routine.
- Give the class plenty of opportunities to practice their new dance. Discuss what the phrase “practice makes perfect” means. (You may want to remind them that in the video, Pinkalicious says, “Pinkapractice makes pinkaperfect.”) Although their dance doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to be well rehearsed.
- Note that in the video excerpt, the fence in the yard is decorated with hand-drawn pictures of moons, stars, and the Sun. Students may want to create similar decorations for their classroom.
Invite the school principal, another class, and/or families to come and watch the class perform their dance. You may want to ask the music teacher, a local musician, or a staff member who plays an instrument to accompany the dance with music. Decorate the performance space with the drawings that students have already made. If possible, serve “space snacks” as Mr. Pinkerton does in the video.
- After the performance, gather students together to brainstorm other nature settings that might inspire dance creation, such as the desert, a rainforest, a chicken coop, or a garden. Make a list for future dance projects.
- Organize a grade-wide dance-a-thon. Have each class plan their own Space Dance and perform for one another.
- If there is a science museum nearby, you may want to arrange a class visit to see exhibits about the solar system or ask if a scientist can come to your class to talk about the space-related work he or she does.
- Send home the essay Get Smart with the Arts! so that families can support what children are learning. If you have a class website or newsletter, you may want to share with families what you’ve been doing and talking about in class. Encourage them to continue the conversation at home.
- Distribute the Step-by-Step Dance handout to students to take home. Encourage them to create dances with their family.