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Social Emotional Learning in the Dance Classroom - Part 1

Children of all different ethnicities smiling and hugging in a circle looking down onto a camera. Green tree braches are seen inthe background.

In today's fast-paced and technology-driven world, it's easy for children to become disconnected from their emotions and the world around them. Often times this results in big emotions that look like misbehavior within the classroom. By developing social emotional learning (SEL) skills, children learn how to understand and manage their emotions, build healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions. Utilizing SEL skills in the dance classroom is especially important because it helps students develop empathy, self-awareness, and social awareness.

But how do you get started? Over the next few blog entries, I will share some tools that have helped me build social emotional awareness in my classroom. Over time these tools will help your students manage their social emotion learning more efficiently, resulting in a learning environment with reduced conflict and increased engagement.

As many begin a new school year, I want to first highlight the importance of building a strong classroom community. As a dance teacher, I believe creating a supportive environment is crucial for my students. A close-knit community allows students to safely explore emotions, build relationships, and develop social skills. The following activities help promote SEL and community-building in the dance classroom. Hopefully, these activities will spark new ideas for you to try. For even more ideas, check out our week-long unit on Creating Dance & Community Building.

  1. SEL Playlist: Have students work together to create a playlist of songs that evoke different emotions.

  2. Collaborative Art: Have students work together to create a piece of art or choreography. This activity fosters communication, compromise, and teamwork.

  3. Friendship Web: Sit in a circle and hold a ball of yarn. Each student shares something positive about another student while holding the end of the yarn, creating a web of interconnection.

  4. Collaborative Storytelling: Have students sit in a circle and take turns adding to a story. Encourage them to listen to each other and build upon each other's ideas.

  5. Emotion Charades: Play a game of charades where students act out different emotions without using words. This activity encourages emotional expression and empathy for others' feelings.

  6. Group Juggle: Form a circle with students and give them a ball. The goal is to pass the ball around the circle without dropping it. Gradually introduce more balls to increase the challenge. This activity promotes communication, coordination, and support.

  7. Minefield: Set up an "obstacle course" with objects placed randomly on the floor. Blindfold one member of each team and have their teammates guide them through the minefield without touching any obstacles. This challenge enhances communication, trust, and active listening.

  8. Human Shapes: Divide students into groups and give each group a card with a shape (e.g., square, triangle, circle). The challenge is for the group to form the shape using their bodies without speaking. This activity promotes creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving.

  9. Blind Drawing Challenge: Pair students up and have one person blindfolded while the other holds a picture. The sighted partner must describe the image without revealing what it is, and the blindfolded partner tries to draw it based on the description. This challenge enhances communication, active listening, and empathy. (Great way to incorporate dance vocabulary)

  10. Emotion Walk: Play different music selections with varying emotions and have students walk around the room, expressing the emotions through their movements. This activity encourages emotional awareness, expression, and self-regulation.

  11. Find the Common Ground: Divide students into pairs and have them find three things they have in common with each other. This activity fosters connection, empathy, and understanding.

  12. Feelings Pose Jenga: Write different emotions on Jenga blocks and play the game. When someone pulls a block, they must express that emotion with their body. Other classmates can guess the emotion or mirror the pose until the next block is chosen.

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