I love Halloween but not because of the candy. Just driving around town watching ghosts hanging from trees spinning and swinging in the wind makes me giddy. The flow of a vampire’s cape, the flop of big clown feet and the sheer beauty of a green faced witch makes me want to jump and shout! There is no better time to explore costumes, props and make-up with children then during the Halloween season. Since we all learn from our experiences, Halloween can be a great jumping off point because most kids will be experiencing some form of dress-up and your job as a teacher is to take their budding experience and run with it!
Materials are endless, and examples are everywhere. Creating a mood or feeling can always be accentuated with the addition of props, costumes and make-up. Young kids love this and they are never too young to explore these elements. Focusing the Halloween energy on the art of dance is a great way to harness Halloween hyperness! And you might see your students demonstrate new ways of moving and creating as well.
Bring in some old sheets, or buy some inexpensive fabric at your local fabric store. Leave it in the center of the room and when the students come in see what they discover about the material. Let this be a child directed activity so instead of you telling them what to do see what they discover.
Some questions to prompt them:
- How can you make the fabric move?
- Is it heavy or light?
- How many children can make the material move? Can it move with just one child? Can the entire class work together to make it move?
- Is it easier to make it move fast or slow?
- Can you make it move around the room?
- What else can you do with the fabric?
- How can it cover you? Can you stick different body parts out of the fabric?
- Can you move the material with different body parts?
If you have the availability of a video camera take some video of them so they can watch the fabric “come to life” and have a dance of its own. (If not, pictures would be great.)
This time of year, kid’s make-up is readily available. It comes in sticks (almost like crayons) or in little plastic containers with a brush (very similar to a paint brush.) When doing make-up on students make sure you get the permission of the parents beforehand and that the students are not wearing their favorite outfits! Cold cream, tissues, and water are a must. And a mirror for the kids to see the final results! Maybe you will find that a parent is a talented face painter and will help out with the transformations. You do not need to be an artist to create masterpieces on the children – just a few well placed whiskers or wrinkles will do the trick! You might want to keep to a theme like animals or have the children pick what they want. Then have them create a dance based on the movements of their characters.
Before the dance ask the students:
What is your character?
- How does your character get around? Walk, crawl, fly, slither, leap, etc.
- Do they move quickly or slowly?
- Do they take up a lot of space or a little space?
- Do they like to be near other animals or creatures?
- What is there mood? Happy, sad, scared, angry?
Pick out different pieces of music and have the class vote on which music they want to dance to. Maybe all similar creatures should dance together or it might be interesting to have opposites dance together!
Pull out that video camera or camera again. You will be amazed at how the children’s movements will change when they are creating a character and are not being themselves. It definitely helps for children who are inhibited.
These activities might take more than one class to complete. There is no rule that each lesson should take one class period. You might do the make-up one day (taking pictures of each child at the end) and the next week explore the movements with the pictures as a reminder of the wonderful characters that were developed. You might see that the class wants more than one day to explore that fabric or that they want to revisit the lesson after seeing the video of themselves. Lessons can be repeated and should be because kids learn from repetition.
Halloween time is exciting for children and with a little focus and extra preparation it can open up creative possibilities. It can a starting off point for your students to let their imaginations fly like a magic broomstick soaring around the moon!
What kinds of activities do you do with your classes on Halloween?
What are other ways you can encourage acting and character exploration?
What are some other kinds of Halloween props that you’ve used or would like to try?
Stacey Pepper Schwartz is the Founder and Director of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs. The focus of Leaping Legs is to help people regardless of age, experience or ability, become educated about their movement potential, develop kinesthetic awareness, and become more physically fit and healthy together as a family, and community. Leaping Legs promotes its goal through its original Up Down & All Around DVD, teacher training, and school and community workshops. The Up Down & All Around DVD received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products 2009 Award and 10 Best Active Products 2009 Award. The DVD has also been featured in many magazines including Dance Teacher and Dance Retailer News. In its August 2009 issue, Dance Teacher called the DVD “an essential tool for teaching the fundamentals of movement with daily adult-child interactions.” Come visit www.leapinglegs.com to learn more about Stacey and her programs.