Typhani Harris | November 2014

Standard 4: Lessons & Assessments

This month we will be explore  Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

Anchor standard 4 focuses on the artistic process of performing with the component of expression.  The enduring understanding is how the basic elements of dance (space, time, and energy) are used to communicate artistic expression.  Although the anchor standard does not change as the grade level progresses the expectation continues to advance.

In unpacking this standard we need to analyze what our students need to know, understand, and be able to do.  There are quite a few concepts presented in this standard, so…

Let’s begin with defining the language:

Space The area in and through which dance moves
Time The rate of speed and rhythm used from beginning to the end of a dance
Spatial design The design of the space, often referred to as pathways through space
Tempi The tempo or rhythm of the movement
Energy The amount and kind of force applied to movement
Dynamics The ability to manipulate phrases to produce multiple layers of movement
Movement phrases A sequence of dance movements making up part of a choreographic pattern

Lesson Plan

Grade: 9-12
Title: BEST foot forward

Established Goals:

  1. Develop partner and ensemble skills that enable contrasting level changes through lifts, balances, or other means while maintaining a sense of spatial design and relationship. Use space intentionally during phrases and through transitions between phrases. Establish and break relationships with others as appropriate to the choreography.
  2. Use syncopation and accent movements related to different tempi. Take rhythmic cues from different aspects of accompaniment. Integrate breath phrasing with metric and kinesthetic phrasing.
  3. Connect energy and dynamics to movements by applying them in and through all parts of the body. Develop total body awareness so that movement phrases demonstrate variances of energy and dynamics.

Enduring Understanding: Space, time, and energy are basic elements of dance.

Essential Question: How do dancers work with space, time and energy to communicate artistic expression?

Objectives: students will perform movement phrases that explore all elements of dance

Learning Activities:

There are a vast amount of approaches to exploring the elements of dance, here are just two of my favorites:


  1. Present the formula V(BEST)+P
  2. Have students build a chart
Verb Body Energy Space Time
  1. Randomly fill in the chart: B= Body: axial, locomotor, E=Energy: sharp, smooth, light, heavy, bound, loose etc., S=Space: levels, size, relationships, T=Time: fast, slow, suspended, frozen
  2. Have students draw a pathway for their movement
  3. Perform the movement phrases with the implied dynamics

T/V & M/D (Theme & Variation, Motif & Manipulation)

  1. Give students a simple movement theme (theme: a sequence of movements) for example, walk 3 steps, step out, lean, turn. A simple phrase that can be interpreted however students wish.
  2. Next have students draw a variation (variations give life or color to the theme) some potential variations are: sneaky thief, sophisticated duchess, rushed businessman, carefree child, running water, falling leaves, growing trees.
  3. Students then use the variation to create life in the simple theme of 3 walks, step out, lean and turn.
  4. Next introduce motifs. A motif is a simple movement that describes the essence of a piece. It could be as simple as placing a hand over your mouth, or raising your hand in the air.
  5. Based on the variation students have chosen, have students create a motif that is the essence of the variation.
  6. Introduce various was to manipulate the motif
Repetition Repeat the motif exactly the same
Retrograde Perform the movement backward, in rewind
Inversion Invert the movement upside down
Size Condense or expand the movements
Tempo Change the time of the movement: fast/slow/frozen
Rhythm Give the movement a “beat” or a rhythm, but don’t change the tempo
Quality Vary the movement quality, make it quiver, drift, erratic
Instrumentation Perform the motif with a different part of the body
Force Alter the amount of force you use to complete the motif, make it very strong or very weak
Planes/Levels Change the plane or level in which the motif is completed
Additive Execute the motif while simultaneously adding a jump, turn, or locomotor pattern
Fragmentation Use only part of the motif
Combination Combine any of the above to manipulate the motif
  1. Have students draw 4 different manipulations
  2. Help students compose their pieces based on the theme variation, and motif: walk 3 steps, motif, step out, motif, lean, motif, turn, motif.
  3. Using the manipulations drawn, have students manipulate the motif each time it is presented in the piece.
  4. Perform the pieces.

These are just a couple ways to integrate the basic elements of dance as expected through Standard 4.

Be sure to have observers journal comments regarding the presented phrases. Have them make an opinion based reflection, try to figure our the original motif, or guess the variation. Make sure they are an active audience.

Next Week: Teacher Talk      

Grades: Policy vs Ethics
Grading will always be a topic of debate, but what happens when the grading policy is in opposition of your ethical beliefs?

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.