Tips for Preschool Teachers | Exploring Personal Space & Group Shapes

Photo courtesy Susan Bennett

by Susan Bennett

Modern dance allows preschoolers the freedom to explore and enjoy movement, personal space, and group shapes without the rigidity of technical steps or formations. The rewards of this freedom are coordination and confidence.

  • Explore levels. Say, “Without touching anyone, make your body as tall or high as you can.” Many students will reach up, standing on tiptoe. Allow them time to think and react. Then say, “Make your body low.” They may lie down or squat. Praise successes. Repeat the exercise with words such as “wide,” “narrow,” and “twisted.”
  • Explore making shapes, letters or numbers, or lines with the body. For example, say, “Can you make a triangle with your legs?” (Pause between each instruction.) “Can you make the letter O with your arms/whole body? Can you make a straight line that is long and low?” This allows kids to explore movement possibilities while having fun.

Preschoolers love to explore how the body can make unique shapes or forms, especially when they can safely interact with friends. Start by showing images of groups of dancers making creative shapes. (Calendars showing modern dance companies, such as Pilobolus, provide great visual aids.)

  • Say, “Dancers can make shapes with friends. Lightly touch a friend, and together make a shape with your bodies. Can one dancer make a high shape, and the other a low shape?” Repeat with other shapes, matching your choices and instructions to students’ skill levels.
  • Try inviting all of the students to move safely around the room, stopping on your cue to make group shapes. Encourage dancing, galloping, skipping, or walking. For example, say, “Stop! Now, being very careful, can you make a shape with friends—some low, some high, some medium—and balance on one foot?”

Prepare a list of movement ideas before you start to ensure that students are successful and engaged.


Creator of Magnificent Moving Kidz, Susan Bennett has a BSED in dance and an MFA in performing arts, and teaches at Missouri State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.