Lesson Plan: Feelings and Movement

Last updated: January 24, 2013

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An illustration of a puppy doing a back flip

Technology Level: Class based.

Audience: Ages 4-8 (Grades 7-8)

Duration: 1 hour


Students will respond to visual stimuli of pets expressing different emotions. They will explore the ways in which these animals express emotions with their bodies and then work in groups to develop a sequence of feeling movements for a cat or a dog. By reflecting on the fact that animals have feelings too, it is hoped that students will begin to develop kindness and empathy.

Prior knowledge

While it is understood that students in grades two and three are typically achieving level two outcomes in other subject areas, many have not yet been exposed to the dance syllabus. This lesson, therefore, explores level one core content as outlined below (definitions from the glossary on The Arts: Years 1 to 10 Curriculum Materials CD-ROM):

Components and definitions
Components Defenitions
Space- Where we move and the shape of the movement
  • Direction – forwards, backwards, sideways
  • Levels – moving through low, medium and high
  • Shape – of body parts e.g. circular, angular, long, short, big, small
Time- How long it takes to complete a movement or movement phrase
  • Fast and slow
Energy- Potential for force and the capacity for action
  • Move with different amounts of energy – low level to high level
  • Locomotor – everyday movements that travel e.g. run, crawl, jump, slide, roll
  • Non-locomotor movements – movements that stay on the spot e.g. sit, lie, curl up, gesture
Form- Shape a group of movements to communicate an idea or feeling
  • Literal interpretation – join movements together to literally interpret or replicate an experience, emotion, object, creature or sensory impression
  • Repetition – repeat single movements to communicate an idea or feeling
  • Exploration
  • Identification of personal responses to dance – think about and discuss the movements used, and likes and dislikes about ways of moving.


  • A clear space at the back of the classroom


  1. Lesson Plan
  2. Pictures of cats and dogs


Lesson Procedure
Topic Notes
1. Introduction (10 mins)  
1.1 Cats and Dogs(10 mins)

1.1 Today we are going to be talking about cats and dogs.

  • Who has a cat or a dog for a pet?
  • Do you think your pet has feelings like you do?
  • How can you tell when your pet is feeling a certain way?

I am going to show you some pictures of cats and dogs and I would like you to tell me how you think the animals are feeling in each of the pictures. View the pictures provided and record the students’ responses under five headings:

  1. Feeling
  2. Movement Word(s) (How does the animal move when it feels this way? What shape does it make with its body?)
    Small, round, droopy
  3. Locomotor/Non-locomotor (Moving or on the spot?) Non-locomotor
  4. Level (Low, medium or high?)
  5. Speed (Slow or fast?)

Read back over the list and add any other emotions that the students can identify and describe in their own cats and dogs.

2. Body(30 mins)  
2.1 Warm-up and Exploration(10 mins)

2.1 The students participate in a warm-up exploring the feelings and movements discussed in the above activity.

Begin with simple stretching and bending as well as small, gentle movements, and then progress to higher energy locomotor and non-locomotor movements.

For example:

  • Create a small, round, droopy shape low down on the ground that looks like a frightened dog. Slowly stretch out and look around to see if it is safe. Repeat.
  • Arch your back up high like a scared cat and then stretch out on your favourite cushion. Repeat.
  • Unroll slowly to a standing position wagging your tail gently like a happy dog.
  • Stretch one paw up into the air like a cat trying to reach a bug. Stretch up the other paw. Repeat.
  • Move through the space without bumping into anyone, imagining you are a dog out for a walk. Try moving through a range of levels – low, medium and high.
  • Move using different timings like a cat playing with a toy mouse -make a creeping movement, take a long time, then a short time; stay frozen, then quickly pounce.
  • Create your own movements for the other words that I read out (read out any words from the list that have not yet been used).

Discuss with the students their favourite ways of moving and identify the movements that they thought were the most effective both visually and in terms of conveying emotion.

2.2 Choreographing(10 mins)

2.2 Divide students into small groups of four or five and ask each group to decide whether or not they are going to focus on a cat or a dog for their movement sequence. Using the pictures and the lists created above, the groups must then select three feelings for their pet, ensuring they choose feelings that will use a range of movements i.e. locomotor and non-locomotor, at more than one level, slow and fast.

The groups begin their task by creating three freezeframes with their bodies to show the feelings that they have chosen.

Freezeframes – Students create a frozen picture with their bodies as if the pause button had been pressed at a particular moment during the story. Freezeframes are also called tableaux, still images or frozen pictures.

Drawing on the explorations made during the previous warm-up activity, the groups then make each freezeframe into a movement. Students need to make certain that they continue to use the levels, speeds and types of movement specified on the above lists.

Each group decides on the order in which their movements will be performed and how many times they will repeat each movement. They then practise their sequences, ensuring that they are also using facial expression to convey meaning.

2.3 Performing(5 mins) 2.3 The groups perform their movement sequences for the rest of the class.
3. Conclusion (10 mins)  
3.1 Appreciating(10 mins)

3.1 The students participate in a cool-down reflecting on their personal responses to the movement sequences:

  • Ask students to choose one of their favourite movements from the other groups’ sequences. As they repeat their chosen movement, they are to make it bigger and bigger.
  • Choose another favourite movement and this time, make it small and smaller.
  • Once you are as small as you can be, imagine that you are a cat or a dog tired after a long day of playing and exploring, and that you are about to curl up in front of the fire. Feel your body melting into the carpet starting from your feet.

Ask the students to sit up slowly in their places and then reflect on the content of the lesson. Suggested key questions:

  • What have you learnt today about animals?
  • What do you think animals and people have in common? How are they different?

Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links for this lesson
Key Learning area Curriculum link
The Arts


4.1 Students use improvisation to create new movement for a specific purpose.

4.2 Students perform movement sequences with improvised sections.


Developing Concepts and Skills for Physical Activity
4.1 Students create and perform movement sequences in games, sports or other physical activities, implementing ways to enhance their own and others’ performances.

Enhancing Personal Development
4.4 Students demonstrate skills and actions that support the rights and feeling of others, while adopting different roles and responsibilities in social, team or group activities.

Suggested Extension Activities

  1. Practise the movement sequences and perform them for another class. A number of the sequences could even be joined together to make a longer dance about feelings.
  2. Write captions for each of the animal pictures provided, explaining how the animal is feeling and suggesting why the animal might be feeling that way.
  3. Use the captions as starting points for a whole-class story or individual stories about cats and dogs.
  4. Create a poster comparing the ways in which animals and people show their feelings: use the animal pictures provided as a starting point and then either draw pictures of people showing similar emotions or take photographs of the students showing the different emotions with their faces and bodies.

Suggested Homework Activities

  1. Ask students to draw a picture of their favourite feeling movement or shape.

Suggestions for Adapting this Lesson for Lower or Higher Year Levels

This lesson could be adapted for lower year levels by running the group task as a wholeclass activity and by cutting down on the number of dance components being considered.

Higher year levels could be extended by exploring the components of dance in greater depth and at a higher level. The group movement sequences could incorporate more than three feelings, and a sequence could be created in binary (AB) or ternary (ABA) form to compare the ways in which animals and people show their feelings. Refer to The Arts: Years 1 to 10 Syllabus and The Arts: Years 1 to 10 Sourcebook Guidelines for more detail.


  • Queensland School Curriculum Council (2002) Creeping Creatures, Brisbane: The State of Queensland.
  • Queensland School Curriculum Council (2002) Movement of Life, Brisbane: The State of Queensland.

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