What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

Who hasn’t watched a child break into spontaneous dance? Young children love to move. In fact, sometimes they can barely sit still. In a dance class you can give them opportunities to experience that joyful celebration of movement while helping them develop motor skills, expressive potential, and the ability to work productively in a group. For most very young students, being in a dance class is a brand new experience. They are likely to be excited or nervous about both the unfamiliar activities and the alternative classroom configuration. As a result they may be wound up and physically boisterous. This is normal behavior for children at this level. You can use it to their advantage by focusing their natural energy and enthusiasm on simple, highly structured activities that involve movement and games, while guiding them to respect others and interact cooperatively.


Pre-kindergartners need simple, hands-on learning experiences that allow them to create and explore. They are bursting with energy but can be physically clumsy. Establish clear physical rules for the class (for example, "stay within this space" and "no roughhousing") and build in warm-up and cool-down time as well as natural stopping places for the students when they appear tired or over-excited.


Kindergartners exhibit a bit more physical control in terms of their large motor skills. They are cooperative and respond well to rules and routines. Kids this age can also be very literal minded and eager to please, so it’s good to give them explicit guidelines: "Wiggle your arms up, down, and sideways." "Make a dance with only one leg." Demonstrate each step of the lesson so that they have a clear model.

First graders

First graders move fast! They are competitive, noisy, and enthusiastic. They are developing a capacity for more abstract thinking but they still benefit from structure and hands-on experiences. They have increasing physical competence with large motor skills. While first graders can often be physically fearless, it’s not uncommon for some to become more withdrawn and sensitive. Others may place a lot of emphasis on the result of their work, wanting to make sure they get it "right." Regular feedback and reassurance are important. They learn best through discovery.

Second graders

Second graders begin to show some finesse with fine motor skills and small group games and activities. Like first graders they learn best through discovery. They are curious about how things work – including human anatomy – and enjoy projects that entail memorization and repetition. Older children may also deal better with change; they are learning to be resilient and bounce back from mistakes.

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.
Pre-K Students Can… Grade 2 Students Can…

identify and demonstrate basic locomotor skills such as walking, running, skipping, and jumping

create a short dance phrase combining locomotor and axial movements (bend, twist, turn, tilt)


clap and move to the rhythm

demonstrate simple phrases exploring rhythm, meter, and accent


make up a dance based on simple dichotomies such as "fast and slow" or "stop and go"

create and perform four measures of simple movement in 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4 time


express emotions and states of being through movement (happy, sad, cold, strong)

improvise a movement phrase that connects states of emotion to qualities of movement (happy = jumping; sad = rolling)


use their imaginations to create a dance based on a familiar nursery rhyme

create a simple ceremonial dance after studying a a ritual or ceremonial dance from another culture