Level 2: Dance (Party!) Unit

Congratulations—you made it to the end of your Learn + Live Lessons! This is our last week of activities for the year, and we are so ready to celebrate your child and all that you both have accomplished! So, let’s get ready to get up and dance. (Want to track your last week of activities? Get our printable tracking document here.)

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Dance is one of the best ways to express ourselves with our bodies. Today, we’ll learn more about how our bodies move—and how everyone can dance in their own way! Let’s start by reading the book I Will Dance. This book tells the story of a little girl with cerebral palsy who finds a special place to dance. If your child has questions about this condition, you may find this awesome video for kids helpful in showing what life is like for a child with cerebral palsy.

Activity 1: How do our muscles help us to move? Let’s learn more about it in this video. There are about 600 muscles in the human muscular system. You can show your child a picture of all of them here. Finally, let’s bring it all to life with this muscular system hand craft.

Activity 2: Next, let’s make these simple human form crafts that can really move!

Activity 3: Finally, let’s dance down a number line for a little math practice. Start by printing and building this dance move die. Next, create a number line on the ground with chalk (if you’re able to play outside) or masking tape (if you’re playing inside). Mark and number 20 dashes along the line and have your child start on the number that corresponds with their age. Next, roll both your printed die and a regular die. The regular die tells you the number of steps to take—practice having your child alternate adding and subtracting the number you roll from wherever your child is standing. Use the dance move die to tell your child how to move from one spot to the other.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll look at some of the history of dance, including some of the oldest known records of dancing and its purposes. The earliest historical records showing the origins of dance are cave paintings in India dating to about 8000 BCE. While Hindu dancing in India has a rich performance history going back millennia, in the late 1700s, dance was restricted by British colonists, who considered the dances immoral. Once India gained its freedom from Great Britain, the country revived its classical dance traditions. (source) Let’s learn about a form of Indian dance in the book Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps by Srividhya Venkat (or listen to this read aloud by professional Bharatanatyam dancer Chintan Patel).

Activity 1: Want to try dancing bharantanatyam yourself? Try following along with this tutorial video! You can also see Chintan Patel performing in this video.

Activity 2: Another ancient civilization Chinese dance dates back at least 3,000 years, with ceremonial dances and folk dances adapted for performance at court. To this day, celebrations still include traditional dances such as the dragon dance and lion dance. You can see some kids doing a Chinese dragon dance in this video. Now, let’s make our own dragon puppet to do our own dance! Start by printing this dragon head on cardstock and cutting out the head and the flame. Next, make 5-6 handprint cut-outs by tracing your child’s hand on different colors of cardstock, like this:

Now, let’s build our puppet! Attach each hand to each other with fasteners, like this:

Glue or tape the flames onto the dragon head and attach onto the first hand, like this:

Finally, attach popsicle sticks to the head and the tail of the dragon. Now you can make it “dance” around the room!

Activity 3: Much of the dance created by choreographers and composers and performed as professional entertainment today has its roots in ballet, which, in turn, dates back to the Renaissance. Ballet dance became an art in the eighteenth century, when ballet companies sprang up around the world, telling entire stories through the emotional movements of the ballet dancers. (source) Want to try a little ballet? You can learn some basics in this online lesson.

Activity 4: One of the most awe-inspiring moves in ballet is the grand jeté, a broad, high leap with one leg stretched forward and the other back like a “split” in the air (source). You can watch one in this brief video. Let’s see how far we can jeté! Make a mark on the floor with chalk or tape—this is the jumping point. Next, mark where your child lands with another chalk mark or piece of tape. Have your child use a tape measure to measure their leap. See how far they can go!

Lesson 3:

In many cases, dance has been used as a way to fight against oppression or injustice. Let’s read an empowering story of a world famous dancer who overcame prejudice and other challenges in the book Knockin’ on Wood: Starring Peg Leg Bates by Lynn Barasch (or read it here on OpenLibrary).

Activity 1: Want to try tap dancing? First, make a pair of DIY tap shoes with this tutorial.

Activity 2: Next, try this free online tap dance class.

Activity 3: Now, let’s use our new tap skills to practice reading some CVC words! Start by printing and cutting out these CVC word cards. (You may also want to laminate, if possible.) Tape the cards on the floor in front of their child. First, have them toe tap on the dot below each letter with their toe as they name its sound. Next, have them slide their toe along the line under the word as they blend the sounds together. After practicing with the provided words, use the blank cards to write your own words to practice reading.

Lesson 4:

Of course, it’s not only our feet that can dance! Let’s read another book about a real person who “danced” with her hands—and went on to accomplish some incredible things as a musician—in the book Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margartina Engle (or listen to this read aloud). If your child wants to hear Teresa Carreño play, you can also play this video for them.

Activity 1: When we are playing or reading music like Teresa, it is important to understand the rhythm and the beat of the piece we are playing. What is the difference between rhythm and beat?

Beat refers to the steady pulse that determines how “fast” a piece of music feels. This is what you tap your foot or bob your head to. How close together the beats are is what determines the tempo (speed) of the music. Generally speaking, beat is always the same throughout the song. It does not start or stop.

Rhythm is the pattern of individual short and long sounds in the melody or accompaniment of a piece of music—the words, melody or accompaniment. Rhythm frequently forms patterns that repeat, which can confuse students into thinking it’s beat, since it’s repeating. But the beat does not have short and long as rhythm does.

We have learned about beat and rhythm notes in other units, but let’s bring it all together with the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Print these sheets to guide the activity and follow the instructions on each page.

Activity 2: Rhythm can also be described as the syllables of the music. Another place where we use syllables is in reading. With this activity, we’ll help your child to recognize these syllables, which is a skill that is extremely useful in sounding out new words. You may already know that 1 vowel sound = 1 syllable. If a word has 3 vowel sounds, for example, then it has 3 syllables. Take note that we aren’t talking about actual vowels, rather vowel sounds. (source)

For your knowledge as an educator, there are six syllable types:

  1. closed syllable ends in a consonant. The vowel has a short vowel sound, as in the word bat.
  2. An open syllable ends in a vowel. The vowel has a long vowel sound, as in the first syllable of apron.
  3. vowel-consonant-e syllable is typically found at the end of a word. The final e is silent and makes the next vowel before it long, as in the word name or cup-cake
  4. vowel team syllable has two vowels next to each other that together say a new sound, as in the word south or south-ern
  5. consonant+l-e syllable is found in words like han-dlepuz-zle, and mid-dle.
  6. An r-controlled syllable contains a vowel followed by the letter r. The r controls the vowel and changes the way it is pronounced, as in the word car. (source)

You don’t need to explain all of these to your child yet, but as they learn to read and are sounding out words breaking up words by syllable is an invaluable skill. It is helpful to know and be able to explain the rules of language as you continue to facilitate their reading and language skills.

For now, though, we’ll focus on helping your child identify the syllables of a word. Start by explaining that words have syllables just like music rhythm. For example, the word “dance” is one syllable. (Demonstrate by clapping ones as you say “dance.”) The word “dancing,” though, is two syllables. (Demonstrate with two claps for “dan-cing.”

Practice clapping out the syllables for a few more words. Here are some examples you could use:

  • spin (one vowel, one syllable)
  • hopping (hop-ping)
  • twirl (one vowel, one syllable)
  • leaping (leap-ing)
  • ballet (bal-let)
  • piano (pi-a-no)
  • musician (mu-si-cian)
  • dancer (dan-cer)

Next, let’s do this syllable sorting activity. Write 12-20 words (all 1, 2, or 3 syllables) on sticky notes and place them around the room for your child to find. Next, put three paper plates in the middle of the room labeled “1,” “2,” and “3.” Have your child find the notes and practice clapping out the syllables of each word before sorting it onto the correct plate.

Activity 3: Finally, let’s practice dividing words by syllables to decode and read. Note: This activity should be done if your child is comfortable reading CVC words and two syllable words. If they aren’t at this level in their reading skills, skip this activity.

Prepare index card with words for your child to divide into syllables. Use words from this list. This list compiles words according to each syllable division rule so that it’s easier for you to introduce the rules and practice patterns.

Present the words from only one list at a time and only one word at a time so as not to confuse and/or overwhelm your child. This is an activity that you can continue to use as they progress as readers.

Now, let’s play! Give your child a word written on an index card. Ask your child to circle the vowel sounds in a red marker. Label their circles with a small letter ‘v’ under the sound. Next ask your child to underline the consonants with blue marker. Label their underlines with a small letter ‘c’ under the sound. Clap out the syllables to determine which sound is in each syllable. Lastly, cut or draw a line to divide the words. For example, with the word “hopping,” you would circle the ‘o’ and the ‘i’, underline the ‘p’ and the ‘p’ separately. Break it down as “hop-ping.” (The rule that applies is: If you have two consonant sounds between two vowel sounds, divide the word between the consonant sounds.)

For more help in teaching this lesson, read this blog post.

Lesson 5:

It’s our last day of lessons! We hope you are SO proud of all you and your child have accomplished this year—we couldn’t be more proud of you! Today’s activities will put the “party” in our Dance (Party!) Unit, so get ready for some fun!

Activity 1: It’s not a party without some balloons! Let’s use science to blow up a few with this experiment.

Activity 2: Ready for a sweet treat? Let’s create one last chemical reaction by making some ice cream without a freezer using this tutorial! (We highly recommend having some toppings on hand to complete your sundae!)

Activity 3: Finally, it’s time to end the year! Print and present your child with this end-of-year certificate to acknowledge all they have accomplished through the year. We’ve also included a “last day of school” sign—if you post a photo, please tag us @learnandliveletter so we can see it!

You did it! Have an amazing summer!!

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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