What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

Middle school students are on a wild ride as they work through puberty and take their first tentative steps into adulthood. Their bodies are changing rapidly. By eighth grade some girls will be fully physically developed. As in fifth grade, the dance classroom can also be a unique safe haven for addressing developmental changes. At this age students can also be passionate in their emotions. They are interested in making connections between their lives and the rest of the world. Gifted dance students may already be thinking about a possible career in dance, and all students are becoming aware of the role of social dance in their lives. This is a good time to introduce dance from other cultures of the world, and encourage students to explore movement and dance history on their own. Peer relationships are very important during these years, so group interaction should also be stressed. The following is a quick look at the behaviors you are likely to encounter.

Sixth graders

Sixth graders are energetic and sometimes have trouble making decisions. Therefore, they need clear instruction and positive reinforcement, as they are starting to become more conscious of the way they are perceived. A little humor can go a long way to soothe anxieties. Emotions become stronger at this age, so lessons focusing on dance’s powerful capacity to express feeling and meaning can be quite effective.

Seventh graders

Seventh graders benefit from mentoring as they push boundaries and challenge perceived authority. They might be withdrawn at times. At other times, they might play the class clown. The challenge with students this age is keeping them on task. At this age students also want to communicate sincerely with adults, so opening up a dialogue can be useful. Around the beginning of this grade many students start to become interested in current events and social justice, which can be incorporated into both their own choreographic ideas and the study of dance’s populist history.

Eighth graders

Eighth graders need focused tasks to help them understand larger concepts, but they are also willing to take risks and make mistakes. At this grade level, they are less worried about making mistakes than they were even a year earlier. As they develop into adults, their physical abilities increase quickly. This is a great age to focus on building technique.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 6 Students Can… Grade 8 Students Can…

memorize and demonstrate a dance timed to music

memorize and demonstrate a complex dance set to varying time signatures


create a dance inspired by a poem or or other text

create, present, and discuss a dance expressing something of personal importance


understand and discuss how costumes, lighting, music, etc. can affect a dance’s meaning

incorporate various elements of presentation (lights, costumes) into an original dance work


learn and perform an authentic folk or ceremonial dance from another culture

use library resources (videos, Internet) to research a dance form from another culture or time period


draw on material from other subject areas (Language Arts, Social Studies, etc.) to create dance

integrate music, theater, and visual arts into dance creation