Movement and Learning Are Related, and Dance Is the Ideal Activity

Movement and learning are related, and dance in school is the ideal activity for learning because it combines music with a steady beat and coordination skills.

Music and dance can hardly be separated. The importance of a steady beat and physical activity to learning is well established at this site, and dance is a combination of both.

The electricity which “fires” brain impulses comes from static electricity generated by the flow of the blood through the vessels of the body so there is no question that dancing can and does help children learn.

When done after a period of learning, memory tracks are extended and children remember more of what they have learned. There is a lot of positive emotion and laughter, which releases chemicals in the brain which may improve brain function.

Dancing lowers stress, too, and can be an important tool for stress management,

The brain remembers beginnings and endings so breaking up class time into short instructional segments is a good idea. Stopping to dance is a natural way of achieving this goal of having lots of starts and stops so that the brain can remember the beginnings and endings of those segments.

Square Dancing

Since directions are called to the dancers, this is a good opportunity to make a word wall of these words.

Examples: swing, circle, left, right, center, join, hands, partner

When using dance to combine movement and learning, always look for opportunities to have children clap in time with the music, and encourage children to "Swing Your Partner" often as spinning after learning may actually improve memory.

Line Dancing

There are line dances for every genre of music. Whether they are danced to country or pop music, the results are the same - extended memory tracks when performed after learning.

"Cupid Shuffle" and "The Electric Slide" are line dances almost everybody knows. The music may easily be downloaded from Itunes.

Other favorites are "The Cha-Cha Slide" and various country line dances, including the "Boot Scoot Boogie."

Kids love to come up with their own "moves" so give them an opportunity to create their own line dances in small groups and allow them to teach them to the rest of the class. You'll be surprised at the quality you will get!

Hand Jive

This dance deserves a category of its own because it is so useful, particularly where space is limited. It is appropriate for any age level and may be done at three different speeds – slow, medium, and fast. The brain must process the changes in speed so that is an added benefit, and children must listen for the words “slow,” “medium,” and “fast,” all of which would be good additions to the wall.

All movements are executed twice and the Jive is done individually, not with a partner:

Lap – Pat lap twice

Clap – Clap twice

Right – Right hand over left hand in sideways motion two times

Left – Left hand over right hand in sideways motion two times

Right fist – Right fist on top, taps left fist two times

Left fist – Left fist on top, taps right fist two times

Right thumb – Toward right shoulder in “jabbing” motion twice

Left thumb – Toward left shoulder in “jabbing” motion twice


Return to Brain Exercises and Coordination from Movement and Learning

Go to Use of Music from Movement and Learning

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Physical Coordination and Learning
Brain exercises and physical coordination are benefits of physical education because mind and body are connected. Certain physical coordination and occupational therapy activities support learning, especially reading fluency and comprehension.

Use of Music in the Classroom
Music education in schools can support reading comprehension and really does not need to be confined to the music room. Links have been established between music and learning as well as music and memory.

Just Dance!


Students are given a set of cards from which they must create a dance to teach the others. Movements may be done in random order or for variety the facilitator might require that they be done in the order in which the cards are given.

Example card set 1: step, jump, kick, slide

Example card set 2: clap, turn, circle, reach

Example card set 3: hop, stomp, clap, bend

Never pass up the chance to teach kids sight words!

60-Second Dance Party

One of the most fun energizers of all, the ideal music for this minute of “freestyle” expression (which must be school-appropriate, of course!) are the Sight Word Oldies for teaching sight words.

Older students may enjoy bringing music for your review, but of course you know that music must always be screened by the teacher for appropriateness in a school setting!