9 Tips for Creating Inclusive Movement Activities

By Connie Bergstein Dow, author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

9 Tips for Creating Inclusive Movement ActivitiesThe basic tenet of creative movement/creative dance (the terms are interchangeable) is that the most important part of the activity is the process itself. Kinesthetic learning, or learning by doing, happens as a result of the movement explorations that are at the heart of all creative dance sessions. There are no predetermined expectations or outcomes. This allows creative movement to be inclusive of all children, even for those whose ability to move or participate is limited. Here are nine tips for modifying movement activities to include all children.

1. Guidelines for an activity should be thoroughly explained beforehand, including how the activity will begin and end, and the transitions that will happen as the activity progresses.

2. Clearly mark and explain the spatial boundaries of the activity. Is the movement to be done in one spot, in a line, in a circle, confined to a small space, in a space with obstacles, or in a large, open space? Explain, show, and if possible, mark the boundaries before you begin the activity.

3. Use movement games and prompts at the beginning of the session to reinforce the boundaries of the dancing space. Here are three examples:

  • Play On Your Spot: Ask children to move within the boundaries of their own personal bubble of space, maybe a carpet square or an arms’ reach.
  • To help children understand the concept of personal versus shared space, follow up On Your Spot with prompts that take the children off of their spot, but only to the point where someone else’s bubble starts: “Walk a small circle around your spot. Now walk a larger circle.  Do this until you come close to, but not touching, another person. That is the outer edge of your bubble.”
  • To define the outlines of a large space, such as a gym floor, you could have the children, either one by one or in a line, perform different motor activities along the perimeter of the space: Can you march to the first corner of the gym? Can you take baby steps to the next corner? Can you sidestep to the third corner? Can you take giant steps back to our starting point? Now let’s do it again, moving the other direction. Repeat with other large motor skills: Moving at a low or high level, moving in slow motion, skipping, walking on tiptoes (balls of the feet), moving like a robot, moving like a rag doll, moving like different animals.

4. Open-ended prompts allow students to explore movement within their own range and ability. Examples: Can you move like a cloud changing shapes as it floats through the sky? How many different curvy shapes can you make with your body? Can you move like a dinosaur?

5. Any part of an activity can be modified to accommodate differing needs. Marching across the room can be changed to marching in place. Jumps can be changed to jiggles so that the movement can be performed in a sitting position. Move your legs can be changed to move your arms or move your fingers.

6. Use many different types of cues throughout the movement session: Auditory: your voice, a clap or clapping rhythm, a drumbeat, a short song or verse, or a tap on a tambourine; Visual: flicking the lights off and on, pictures, signs, written instructions, sign language, hand signals

7. A partner can be assigned to help another child with special needs.

8. For children who are very limited in their movement options, encourage them to respond to the movement prompts and music on their own while sitting or lying down.

9. If a child is unable to participate in the movement activity, offer an alternative so that they are still included. Examples: playing a small percussion instrument, holding visual cues/signs for the activity, helping to pass out props, calling out instructions for/with you, and reading or turning the pages of the story during interactive story time. You can also give them a task such as, Do you see someone moving at a low level near the floor? Do you see someone balancing on one leg? Do you see someone who is marching to the beat?

Connie BergsteinConnie Bergstein Dow took her first dance class when she was four years old and has been dancing ever since. After attending Denison University and earning an MFA from the University of Michigan, she danced professionally in the United States, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Connie has had a long career as a dance educator and has written two books for teachers about integrating movement into the early childhood classroom, articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights. She shares her passion for dance by writing, teaching, volunteering, visiting schools and libraries, and offering movement workshops to early childhood professionals. Visit Connie at www.movingislearning.com.

From A to Z with EnergyConnie is the author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

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