Washington OSPI OER Project, Janet Hayakawa, Shannon Barnes, Pacific Northwest Ballet Community Education
Arts and Humanities, Performing Arts
Material Type:
Lesson, Lesson Plan
Lower Primary
  • Health
  • PE
  • Physical Education
  • Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • wa-arts
  • wa-hpe
  • wa-sel
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Text/HTML, Video

    Education Standards

    PNB Dance in PE: Dance Concept - Space

    PNB Dance in PE: Dance Concept - Space


    This lesson, developed by Pacific Northwest Ballet Community Education Programs, is designed to help K-2 students explore concepts about self and general space that are a part of all dance styles as well as creating their own movements. The lesson addresses fitness and health academic content, motor skill development, and social emotional learning.


    Big Idea

    We are dancers. Dancers use self space and general space.

    Student Learning Targets

    • I can move in self space.
    • I can move in general space.

    Learning Areas



    Fitness and Health Academic Content

    • Identify movement concepts.
    • Create ABA choreography phrase as a whole class.

    Intentional Fitness Related Activities

    • Participate in fitness exercises ranging from intensity levels 2-4.
    • Perform selected steps using formation(s).

    Motor Skill Development

    • Move and improvise in self and general space with locomotor and non-locomotor skills.

    Social, Emotional, Safety

    • Maintain control and safety of body while dancing alone and with others.

    Washington State Learning Standards

    Health and Physical Education:

    • PE1.1.Ka: Demonstrate emerging pattern in locomotor skills while maintaining balance (jog, run, gallop, slide, skip, jump, and hop).
    • PE1.2.K: Demonstrate emerging pattern in non-locomotor skills while maintaining balance (rock, sway, push, pull, bend, stretch, twist, turn, and swing).
    • PE2.1.K: Demonstrate safe movement in personal and general space at a slow to moderate speed.
    • PE4.2.Kb: Demonstrate how to follow directions.


    • DA:Cr1.1.Kb: Explore different ways to do basic locomotor and non-locomotor movements by changing at least one of the elements of dance.
    • DA:Cr3.1.Ka: Apply suggestions for changing movement through guided improvisational experiences.
    • DA:Pr5.1.Kb: Move safely in general space and start and stop on cue during activities, group formations, and creative explorations while maintaining personal space.

    Social Emotional Learning

    • Benchmark 1A: Demonstrates awareness and understanding of one’s own emotions and emotions' influence on behavior.
    • Benchmark 2B: Demonstrates responsible decision-making and problem-solving skills.
    • Benchmark 6C: Contributes productively to one’s school, workplace, and community.


    Community Education Video Learning Series - Freeze Dance | Pacific Northwest Ballet


    Self space, general space, locomotor, non-locomotor, improvisation


    Teacher Observation
    Formative: observe students in freeze dance demonstrating each space (dancing in one spot for self space; traveling in general space)


    • music
    • whiteboard or flipchart
    • markers
    • 12 polyspots
    • pre-written poster of big idea and space words
    • pre-written blank t-chart for “self space” and “general space”
    • student generated movement word list
    • large dance concept posters


    Open space without large objects/furniture; define boundaries of dancing space “the only thing we can touch is the air and the floor”; spacing between lines for across the floor


    *all instrumental (no words) recommended

    • Music A: Gravity, Jesse Cook; Jammin in the Park, Eric Chappelle or similar
    • Music B: Potpourri, Potpourri II, III, IV, or V, Eric Chappelle, or similar
    • Music C: Mama Mia, Willie & Lobo; Last Man Standing, Cities of Foam
    • Music D: Main Title Theme: The Last Emperor, David Byrne, The Winner Is, DeVotchka ​​​​​​​



    Variations to increase/decrease challenge for K-2:

    • Vary the complexity of non-locomotor and locomotor skills within activities (freeze dance, across the floor)
    • Vary opportunity for dancer’s choice (more or less opportunities; limited or open choices)
    • Decrease challenge by making group choices, increase challenge by making individual choices in create section.




    circle diagram


    Introduction to unit:

    • Dancers use bodies, not voice to communicate
    • Dancers use whole body (not just feet) to dance
    • There are different styles of dance, but all share some general concepts

    Q: I’m looking for 3 people to share one thing they know about dance with the class. What do you need to dance? What are a dancer’s tools?

    A: Dancers use their whole body (but not voices). There are many styles of dance. Often dance uses music, but not always. Sometimes there are special clothes and shoes, but not always. We are going to learn some concepts that are a part of all dance styles, you will also get to create your own movements.


    circle diagram


    Dance Warm-up [music A] MUSIC = ________________________

    • Model movements for students/follow the leader; count with music beat
    • Posture (tall backs), breath, tactile, vestibular stimulation
    • Flexibility stretches

    We are standing in a circle, fingertip to fingertip. Make sure you have enough space on either side of you to not touch a neighbor. We are going to prepare our bodies and our brains to dance and focus. Follow my movements with your body:

    • Show me a lazy, slumped back. Show me a tall dancer back.
    • Take a deep, silent, breath—bringing oxygen to our brains and muscles.
    • Wake up all our body parts we use to dance-brush; squeeze; tap our hands, arms, head, spine, ribs, hips, knees, legs, feet. Feel your hard bones that give your body shape. Feel your muscles and skin, which may feel more squishy.
    • Let’s squat down and make our bodies small. Dancers love the number 8. Let’s grow big smoothly for 8 counts (count 12345678); and shrink for 8 counts (repeat)
    • Change to faster bursting big and small (jump into x-shape, and in).
    • Let’s stand with tall backs and bend and straighten our knees. Bend and straight….
    • Now rise to your tiptoes keeping your legs straight. Rise and down….
    • Let’s circle some body parts—only moving one part at a time. Head…shoulders…elbows…arms…hips…knees…one foot….other foot…
    • Let’s finish with some stretches. Reach up to the ceiling, down to the floor. Sit with your legs out front. Check that your dancer back is still tall and straight. Point and flex feet. Reach towards your toes. Bring your feet together for butterfly.

    Face word wall

    rows of students facing vocab wall


    Introduce concept:

    • Self space/non-locomotor/stay in one spot, general space/locomotor/travel.
    • Demonstrate self and general space when introducing words.
    • Have students repeat words; read big idea out loud.

    Let’s turn our eyes to the Big Idea. The big idea is the most important thing I want you to remember from class today. Let’s read it together: We are dancers. Dancers use self space (stay in one spot) and general space (travel).

    Count down from 5: find a space where you are only touching air and floor, then stay in your spot.

    scattered students


    Demonstrate and have students explore self space “bubble”:

    • Define boundaries of self space (space above, below, to the sides, in front/behind)
    • Lead students through self space actions… “Let’s try…”

    Self space is like dancing in a bubble that is stuck in one spot—you can move with space in front (all try), behind (all try), above (try), below (try), and to the sides of you (try) but you do not travel. Let’s try jumping in self space… turning… kicking… melting… twisting… marching keeping your self space bubble stuck in one spot.


    scattered students

    Demonstrate and have students walk through general space:

    • Define boundaries of dancing space (away from walls, furniture); touching only floor and air.
    • Practice walking through general space.

    When moving in general space, we travel around the dancing space with locomotor movements. Let’s define where our dancing space is. Take your finger and draw the boundary around the room—away from furniture, equipment, et cetera. We need to move around and between other dancers, into empty spaces to stay safe. (demonstrate with students watching) In general space, your job is to move around and between other dancers, moving into the empty space. If you are heading towards another dancer, change direction and find an empty space to move into.


    scattered students

    Freeze Dance

    • [music B] MUSIC = ____________________
    • Call out a space and action for each section of music.

    In a freeze dance, when the music plays, you dance safely and in control. When the music stops, you freeze. Remember that dancers use their bodies to communicate, not voices, so make sure you sound like dancers.

    In freeze dance, we are using improvisation—making the movements up on the spot without planning. I will call out what kind of space to dance in—self or general—and some movements to try.

    You need to listen for 2 things:

    1. the music that will tell you when to stop and go.
    2. my words that tell you how to move:   [music B]
    • jump in self space
    • march in general space
    • turn in self
    • gallop in general
    • twist in self
    • jump in general
    • kick in self
    • tiptoe in general
    • shake in self
    • dancer’s choice in self
    • dancer’s choice in general

    Face word wall


    rows of students facing vocab wall

    Create t-chart list of movement words:

    • Students contribute words they danced (either teacher called out words or students’ own ideas) and categorize into self, general, or both.

    Let’s create a list of some actions we did in our freeze dance. They can be movements you heard me call out, like march or jump, or they can be actions you did in dancers’ choice. Make up a name for a movement if you don’t know what to call it. Let us know if your word is a self space or general space movement

    Relay lines w/spots

    students arranged in line with two spots in front of them


    Across the floor: moving in general space in organized lines with locomotor skills.

    • Place 12 polyspots as beginning, middle, end markers (4 at start, 4 center, 4 at end)
    • [music C] MUSIC = _______________________________________________
    • 1st pass: Walk across floor, one group at a time (1s,2s,3s,4s,5s,6s) staying with beat.
    • 2nd pass: March across floor (same structure)
    • 3rd pass: Add challenge (insert self space in middle): march 8 counts, self space.
    • Jump on center dot 8, march 8 counts

    Across the Floor isn’t a race, the goal is to stay with beat of music and stay together. Dancers must work together (collaboration) to stay together.

    • Let’s try just walking across with your group. I’ll count 4 beats, then you will all start together. The music tells us how fast to go. First group ready…4321 go…. “Next 4—group 3—ready 2—go 1”…..(repeat all groups).
    • Let’s change our walking to a march. Still with your group, still with the beat of the music, but lifting our knees high and sharp…

    Let’s add a challenge: let’s keep marching through general space, but after 8 counts, when we get to the middle, pause to jump in self space for 8 counts, then continue your march to finish across the floor.

    Stay in formation

    students arranged in line with two spots in front of them

    Create ABA choreography phrase as a class:

    • General space/self space/general space pattern
    • Ask students to suggest actions (can look at word list) to put into pattern.
    • Organize (example, already did: march in general space for 8 counts to middle dot/jump in self space for 8 counts on middle polyspot /march for 8 counts in general space to end polyspot) Try different actions.
    • Demonstrate then do in groups across the floor.
    •    [music C or D] MUSIC = _____________________

    We are learning about how dancers use self and general space. When we marched across the floor, what kind of space were we using? (general) When dancers create dances, they put movements together in an order or pattern, like when writers put words into sentences. We are going to create a dance with a beginning, middle, and end that uses what we know about space in a pattern: general space/self space/general space. This is also called an ABA dance. It is like a sandwich—general space is the bread, and self space is the filling. You get to plan our dance and decide what actions we do. Who can share a movement we can all do in general space for the beginning of our dance? Who can share a movement we can all do in self space for the middle of our dance on the middle dots? We will then repeat the general space movement for the end of our dance. We have a plan with a beginning, middle, and end! (demonstrate then students try one group at a time)

    Count down from 5: come back to a sitting circle like for warm up.


    circle diagram


    Wrap-Up/Cool Down:

    • Reflect on concepts and vocabulary learned.
    • Tradition to end dance class by saying thank you with your body, not voice.
      • choose a way to close (bow, 1-2-3-clap, applause, sign language
        thank you)

    Attribution and License


    Curriculum by Pacific Northwest Ballet Community Education Programs, Seattle, Washington

    Cover photo copyright Pacific Nortwest Ballet. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


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    Except where otherwise noted, this work by the Pacific Northwest Ballet is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. All logos and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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