This doesn’t have to be boring or created by the teacher. You can build motifs as a class and get the pupils to select specific actions/dynamics/space. They can improvise and explore actions, dynamics and spce and then the teacher can select one idea to begin the class motif.

  • Older students they could create a motif in pairs, facing each other at 2 metres distance.
  • Once you’ve created a motif, perform it as a whole class in unison and perhaps focus on timing and accuracy.
  • Perform with half the class could sat down to watch the other half perform allowing opportunities to feedback to each other.
  • Pupils could choose music as inspiration or just exploration of action, space and dynamics.

Canon can be introduced as a game passing moves around the space from one pupil to another.

  • Pupils can be 2 metres apart and they could shout someone’s name to pass the move on to the next person, if it was difficult to get into a formation with a clear pathway.
  • Teachers could choose categories of actions or it could be an action to represent a feeling or and activity.
  • Another way to use canon would be to create a motif as a class that you perform in unison and then challenge the pupils to perform it in canon.
  • Older pupils could perhaps have specific counts to begin on or join in after two actions.
  • Canon could travel from one side of the room to the other, from the front to the back or from the centre out, depending on age and ability.
  • For younger pupils it could be 1 action at a time that is passed on; for older children it could be a whole motif that is passed on in canon.

This could be done in a really fun way – a little bit like the game ‘I went to the shop and bought a…….’

  • Instead, in dance you can go through actions, so for example

I went to the shop and bought a jump; I went to the shop and bought a jump and a balance; I went to the shop and bought a jump and a balance and a turn, etc.

  • Pupils could interpret these words however they want
  • The first pupil starts with I went to the shop and I bought a jump
  • Everybody could repeat I went to the shop and bought a jump and they could either copy the jump the pupil chose or interpret it in their own way.
  • Depending on age and ability this could go on and on, testing their memories!
Pathways and travelling

It is still safe to travel around the space (obviously reminding pupils to distance themselves from each other) and they can really focus on curved pathways and linear pathways and the difference between them.

  • Pupils could imagine what they are drawing on the floor as they’re travelling
  • They could draw shapes/letters or words as they travel.
  • Encourage pupils to think of ‘how’ they can travel on these pathways so that they really focus on dynamics – fast/slow, mechanical, jagged or fluid.
  • This is an opportunity to use adjectives and lots of descriptive vocabulary.
  • Try out all the different travelling actions – roll, slide, crawl, slither, gallop, creep, tiptoe, walk, and skip and consider the size of actions.
  • You could do a whole lesson just on travelling!
  • Whilst travelling on these pathways, to ensure you have control of children keeping space between them, you could get them to freeze and direct them into what kind of freeze you want – a balance, low shape, high shape etc.
  • We do a lot of this within our warmups, but it could just be extended more and more.
  • Younger pupils could also do a distanced ‘follow my leader’.

This can be really effective when danced as a whole group of pupils. It is easy to use contrast without having to come into contact.

  • You could contrast between fast and slow creating a short motif that is fast and a short motif that is slow.
  • Half the class can dance the fast motif and half the class can dance the slow motif and the same time to showcase the contrast of seeing fast and slow together.
  • Younger pupils could all dance a fast motif and then contrast it by all dancing a slow motif together.
  • The contrast could be between high and low actions, or perhaps feelings e.g. angry/frustrated contrasted with calm/peaceful.
  • Contrast can be shown in many different ways without needing to be physically close.
Motif Creation

It is feasible to create a motif as a class while remaining 2 metres away from each other. Choose whatever stimulus you like – a story, feeling, an image, colour, shape, words, or poems and create a motif with pupils improvising in their own space and then contributing their ideas to become part of the group motif.

  • You can still vary and develop motifs at a safe distance.
  • Often we do motif variation and development in pairs or small groups, they could still pair up as long as they are 2 metres away from their partner.
  • They could discuss how they are going to change it e.g. change the levels, add some actions in, change the order, or perhaps just adding a starting position and a finishing position for the younger pupils.
  • For the older pupils they may be happy varying and developing their motifs on their own.

This is a really calming, mindful and observational technique that uses mirroring and improvisation.

  • Pupils need to be in a diamond formation with four pupils as the points of the diamond being the leaders.
  • The pupils all face the same direction and the person that is the tip of that diamond leads the actions and all the pupils copy.
  • It can sometimes have a ‘tai chi’ feel to it and requires a calm atmosphere and concentration.
  • When a pupil has finished leading, they turn to another point of the diamond and then that person who is now in front becomes the lead.
  • It’s called ‘flocking’ because it’s like a flock of birds flying together, and how when they change direction the bird at the front then leads the pack. Here is a link to a video example of flocking
Listen and respond

This is a really great improvisational tool.

  • Ask pupils to sit down and close their eyes to do focused listening of a piece of music for approximately 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Whilst listening, ask them to think about how they feel, does it paint a picture in their head, and can they imagine the type of actions that they would dance to match the music?
  • I always say ‘can you make your dancing match the music’ so they really have to focus and listen to the music.
  • You can use as many different tracks of music as you like, e.g. calm, slow and soft music and then a really fast and percussive piece.
  • Perhaps get the pupils to choose from any of the 20 tracks of music on the Music page.
  • You could even get half the class to sit down and watch the other half and give feedback about who was really matching their moves to the music and why and how that worked well.
Dramatic commentary

This is a great technique for improvising and trying to bring a little bit of drama into movement!

  • Using a piece of text that has a narrative is ideal
  • Maybe pupils imagine that they’re going on a journey somewhere
  • Use an extract from a book they’re studying.
  • The teacher reads a couple of sentences and then the pupils have to act or dance it out without words.
  • There are a couple of examples of dramatic commentaries within some of the schemes of work and I’ll highlight where some of those are.
Act and react

This is usually a contact improvisation technique; however, it can be done without contact and pupils can do this while staying 2 metres apart.

  • They pair up and face each other.
  • Partner one performs an action then ‘passes over’ to partner two (almost as if they’re sending their action’s energy towards them).
  • Partner two responds with another action as a reaction and then sends it back to partner one, and so on and so on.
  • It can look like a dance conversation and you could potentially use ‘conversations’ as a stimulus.

This is another excellent improvisation technique: it is a way of sharing movement vocabulary and learning new movement vocabulary whilst dancing in a socially distanced way.

  • Pupils can be 2 metres apart facing one another.
  • One pupil begins leading the movement and the other pupil follows.
  • They need to stay facing each other and they need to stay pretty much on the same spot.
  • They can change levels, size and dynamics of actions, and they can use different body parts.
  • A good challenge to set the pupils is to say you want to be able to look at them and not know who is leading and who is following.
  • This encourages them to focus on the accuracy of leading and mirroring, therefore, it is a really good mindful and observational task.
  • Having calm music and encouraging slow and steady dynamics is a really useful tip for this.
  • They could stay with one partner, mirror the teacher so it can be modelled, or they could travel, freeze, pair up (remaining two metres apart), mirror and then repeat so that they mirror with somebody else.
  • The more people they will mirror, the more they will pick up and share different movement vocabulary.

This is similar to mirroring but a bit trickier.

  • Partner one begins to move and partner two responds by copying partner one’s moves… but slightly behind as if it’s an echo of movement just like an echo of sound.
  • They can do this facing each other, or the echo could be behind the pupil that is leading.
  • This is a task more suited to KS2 pupils.



Maybe more suited to KS2 as an improvisational tool, but could be used in KS1 when teacher led.

  • Pupils pair up 2 metres apart.
  • Partner one begins improvising and partner two responds with an opposite action. For example, if partner one is dancing some movements with their arms up high, partner two would respond by dancing in opposition, perhaps down low. Or if partner one uses their left arm/leg, then partner two doesn’t mirror but does it the opposite way.
  • This could also be done with a motif the pupils have created.
  • Ask them to pair up opposite each other and develop the motif so that you have one person performing the original and the other person creating it into a version that has opposition.
  • For EYFS and KS1 you could create a very slow and calm motif and then a very fast energetic motif. Perform one, and then perform the opposite version.
Musical Statues

A fun game to play and any kind of music could be used. Take out the elimination aspect of the game and instead give suggestions for when the music stops. E.g.

  • “When the music stops create a small/large freeze”
  • “When the music stops create a balancing freeze”
  • “When the music stops create a high/low freeze”

You could also give suggestions for when the music is on e.g.

  • “Dance with jumping and turning actions”
  • “Use travelling actions”
  • “How fast/slow can you dance”
  • “make your dancing as big/small as you can”

The game of musical statues becomes an exploration of movement and stop start action. Pupils could be rewarded for their creativity rather than eliminated as in the traditional game.

Dancing Outside

As there will be an emphasis on children being outside, all of the above ideas (except Listen & Respond and Musical Statues) could easily be delivered outside with no music needed. Another idea for dancing outside is using chalks on the playground. Staff and or pupils could draw shapes, letters, numbers, words, straight lines, curvy lines in the playground with chalk specific to the year group to act as the stimulus.

  • Shapes – pupils or staff could draw shapes on the playground and then children could either create the shapes with their bodies or travel around the outline of the shapes using a variety of traveling actions exploring dynamics and space.
  • Numbers – when a child comes to a number you could instruct them to perform that number of a certain action e.g. ‘3 hops’ or ‘5 reaches’. They could choose their own actions to perform and count them out. You could even add and subtract actions or instruct pupils to find number bonds of actions.
  • Letters – Pupils could find letters and create shapes with their bodies to replicate the letter on the ground. Phonics sounds could be written out and pupils could choreograph actions for the different sounds.
  • Words – action words could be written on the playground and when a pupil arrives at a word they have to interpret it e.g. JUMP – a pupil could do a big/small jump, a travelling or turning jump, a jump from high to low, from one leg to another etc.  Words could be part of a story and they have to create a freeze frame to show a certain part of a narrative or an emotion/feeling/place
  • Straight and curved lines – traveling pathways, pupils or staff could draw the pathways in chalk and staff could suggest ways to travel or pupils could interpret it however they like. Consider dynamics, levels, directions and size of actions traveling along the pathways. Gaps in the pathways could indicate a freeze or a balance.

Finally think about your stimuli, what do you want it to be? Words, dance actions, a story, pictures, feelings/emotions, it can be anything you like. It could even be something from the existing schemes of work, or something completely brand new that perhaps even the pupils suggest. Whatever your stimulus is, you can use any of the above techniques knowing that you can deliver creative dance lessons in a socially distanced and safe way.