Step 1: Reading the story
Read the story aloud to the class. Then read it a second time and ask the students to pay close attention to the main characters. Talk about the characters after reading the second time. (What makes a character in the story? Who are the characters? Are there characters who do more in the story than others?) Read the story a third time, asking students to pay close attention to the movements of all the characters. After the third reading, ask the students to show you a movement in the story you noticed. When was it used and why? How did the movement help tell the story or show emotion of the character?
Step 2: Retell the story using dance
There are many options for how to retell the story through movement:
Option One: Focus on Descriptive movements
While you read the story, students will move at important parts of the story. All students make the same descriptive movements at the same time, when signaled. Or you split the class into 2 or 3 groups and have groups make different movements at the same time, or when signaled. This requires the student to look and listen closely to the text and describe what they are hearing to the audience. Using the text as a guide.
Option Two: Focus on Interpretative movements
Students study the movements of the characters and decide upon a series of movements that the students will make throughout the story. For example, if the story book has an ant for the main character, the teacher can show various images of ants, videos of ants moving in slow and fast motion, audio clips of how ants sound when they move, etc. Together the class could decide on one or two movements that describe the way an ant moves and perform those movements whenever the ant character is in motion. This requires the student to explore and then create movements that they feel best describes or represents an ant, using their new knowledge of the ant as a guide.
Step 3: Decide roles and movements
Clear, simple directions will help students practice their focus and control while rehearsing the various movements for the performance. Provide all students with a role and movement to do. Be clear on where they should stand and how far they should (not) stray from their spot on stage.
Mark the floor with a piece of tape indicating where each student will stand when they tell the story. The tape may have a special letter or shape on it so each student remembers their spot.
Consider simple props, especially if you assign groups of students to different roles. For example, tying a yellow sash of fabric around the waist of each student moving as a “giraffe” will help identify the group and provide them with basic character development.
Remind students of how shapes help create characters and tell detailed stories. Which characters should use big or very small movements? Why? Which character should be loud or soft? Tall or narrow? Short or low to the ground? Be sure to practice facial expressions and talk about how faces also help describe stories.
Use music in the story. Remind students how movement and emotion changes when the music is fast or slow, quiet or loud. Practice matching their movements with the sound of the music.
Have students practice moving on a “stage” and facing an audience.
Don’t forget to use the “Freeze” command during rehearsals. Warm ups and cool downs continue to be important during rehearsal classes. Keeping the class structure consistent week after week will help students stay focused and feeling confident in your expectations.
You may consider projecting the book pages for the students to see while they dance and also as part of the final performance.