Connecting literacy and dance in the classroom - an exploratory study

The purpose of this qualitative, exploratory study was to investigate how three 6th-grade classroom teachers planned and taught an interdisciplinary dance and literacy lesson. The teachers were provided with quality instructional materials including two haiku poems, a listening map, and an excerpt of Saint-Saëns Aquarium. In addition, an instructional DVD illustrating a guided improvisation of a creative dance was provided. Data sources included videotapes of three interdisciplinary dance and literacy lessons, audio recordings of post-lesson teacher interviews, and written lesson plan templets. Videotaped data was transcribed, and teacher learning tasks were identified and coded using a task presentation coding system. The students’ movement responses were coded using a scoring rubric and a qualitative content analysis was conducted on the transcribed post-lesson teacher interviews and lesson plan templets. Findings revealed five themes: (1) The instructional materials, particularly the DVD, contributed to teacher confidence in their understanding of structured improvisation in creative dance; (2) Each of the teachers identified similar dance concepts as viewed on the DVD, specifically changes in levels, use of smooth/fluid dynamics, and mirror and shadow partner relationships; (3) The classroom teachers used the teaching materials, particularly the music and haiku poems, to access their students’ prior knowledge; (4) The classroom teachers used scaffolded instructions, open-ended tasks, and task constraints as strategies to elicit diverse student movement responses. These strategies are identified in the research on creative dance instruction in schools; and (5) Student movement responses varied in the level of competency in four components: musicality, spatial awareness, movement clarity, and integration of poetry themes.