Programmable Dancing


[Image: Children Dancing. ]

Programmable Dancing

Art form: Dancing, Year 3

The following unit is adapted from a video Getting Loopy where dance is used with programming (, 2018). Students are encouraged to program dance moves for other students in their classroom.

Arts Activities

Lesson 1 (50 minutes)

The teacher plays games with students to get them moving around the room (e.g. walk as slowly as you can, walk like you are wading through mud). He plays a couple of laid-back songs and get them to express how they might move to the music. He plays a happy song (Happy by Pharrell), and then a sad song (Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven). He stops the class to observe the movements by different students around the room, and together they discuss why they moved the way they did, and talk about how the movements made them feel and whether they felt they conveyed the emotion.

Get students to work in groups of 3-4 students. Get them to draw their movements to the music that they did before using pencil and paper, as if they were going to communicate them to someone else. The students need to make sure the moves are simple, and use indicators like arrows to indicate the movements of their arms and legs.


  • How did you convey happiness/sadness?
  • How does your body move when you convey happy or sadness?
  • Do you think the other groups conveyed those emotions?

Lesson 2 (50 minutes)

[Video: (Tankard, 1995)]

The teacher introduces a dance with arms only, using drawings on the whiteboard to convey the movement of each step. Together the class names each of the dance moves. He talks to them about the idea of ‘choreography’ and how they could consider it to be a type of programming. He reminds them of the idea of algorithmic thinking (CSUnplugged, n.d.b), that they had previously learned and how they might arrange the series of dance moves into a bodily program. With the students, the teacher will re-order the sequence to change the nature of the dance steps.

Working in groups of 3, the students are then going to create their own dance moves, similar to the ones the teacher had used. Creating a ‘dance program’, using no more than 8 moves. The drawings of the moves created will then be put on the board for the entire class, who will learn each new dance and discuss each dance, how easy or difficult it was, how it made them feel, and how could it be improved.


  • How precisely can I draw the dance move?
  • How can I convey particular body movements?
  • Can we name each move?
  • How hard was this dance to do?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How could it be improved?

Lesson 3+4 (100 minutes)

Students are going to create a new language of dance, and then use it to program other groups. Each group will consist of 3 students from the previous lesson, and will be given a particular ‘emotion’ of dance they are going to try to convey (e.g. excited, sad, bored) using their whole bodies. They will be required to program 30 seconds of dance using as many moves as they deem necessary and draw icons appropriate for the other groups, so they can program each other.

Groups will select their own music for their dance, approved by the teacher before they begin planning their dance. They will select the appropriate 30 seconds necessary. If they cannot select appropriate music, the teacher will have suitable songs prepared ahead of time.

Students will then swap the ‘code’ that they have created with other groups, and students will be required to dance the code that has been choreographed for them. They will be able to liaise with the other groups and amend any code that seemed inadequate or incomplete.

Once everyone has danced the program they have been given, the class will try to ascertain the emotions each group were trying to convey in the dances they created. The class will discuss what the found interesting the dance they were given, what bodily movements they thought contributed to the feelings conveyed in the song and what changes they made to the program to improve it.


  • What emotion do you think the programmers of this program were trying to convey?
  • What movements contributed to this emotion?
  • How did the song and the dance work together?

Pedagogical approaches and teaching strategies to teach the content, key knowledge and skills identified

The unit above utilised teacher-led guided inquiry (Chen & Tytler, 2017) where students have the opportunity to explore how their body conveys emotion. The teacher challenges them to transform their dance moves into visual representations and students have the opportunity to express their ideas about how to bodily express particular emotions and use their own music.

This unit will focus on teaching dance, requiring students to improvise ideas for sequences of dance (ACARA, 2014g, ACADAM005) and use their expressive skills to communicate their ideas about emotions (ACARA, 2014h, ACADAM007). They will be encouraged to perform and experience dance as the artist, but also as part of the audience, and how the individual elements of the dance influence the dance they make and what they express (ACARA, 2014i, ACADAR008). They will be challenged with a simple problem, and will use algorithmic thinking to create a sequence of steps to solve it (ACARA, 2014j, ACTDIP010).

Differentiation strategies

Students that have physical disabilities will be given the opportunity to participate in whatever manner they feel comfortable. Students who are unable to participate for cultural reasons (e.g. not allowed to dance) can convey the emotion without the use of music.


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