Why Warm Up?

We do it every session but why should we warm up? We discuss the importance of this activity and help you understand why a warm up is so important at the start of your dance lesson.

PE teachers do it, Pilates instructors do it, singers, actors, and yoga teachers do it. They all warm up. Why?

Every time we ask this question to a group of children they either do not know or come back with the same answer that has been used time and time again, ‘So our bodies get warm’. But what does that mean?

When dancers warm up, we warm up the body and mind. Bodies and brains, heads and hearts, as we use both in a dance class. That makes them stop, a thinking dancer? This is the realisation of how a warm up is the foundation to any dance session. Having a strong warm up effects your entire lesson.

Dance Educates delivers whole INSETs just focusing on the warm up, as we found many teachers did not know how to structure one, create with movement or understand how it links to the rest of the lesson.

Get the blood flowing

The most common understanding of a warm up is to get your heart to beat faster, so the blood can flow quickly around your body and help oxygenate your muscles, maximising performance.

This is a fascinating concept to children and also a wonderful way to introduce your dance and science cross-curricular work.

Drip-feed ideas

Warms ups can consist of games, phrases of movement and short exercises. Making these varied, engaging and fun is an excellent way of introducing or drip-feeding ideas to children.

The more they can experience in the warm up, the more their movement vocabulary will develop and therefore be able to create their own dances later on in the compositional element of the lesson.

Whilst they are busy creating their dances and being on task, you can sit back and leave them to it!

Children are brilliant at using their imagination and coming up with their own unique movements using their own bodies, but only if you give them the right tools (dance vocabulary in this case) to work with.

You wouldn’t expect children to speak another language without having learnt the words, so give them what they need!

Make it relevant

There is nothing more frustrating than watching a session where the warm up bears no relevance to the rest of the lesson. Apart from literally getting hotter the children have learnt nothing more than how to get slightly more puffed. Add in some loud inappropriate music and you have a car-crash start to your dance lesson.

The children will not be focused and are more likely to treat it like PE which is very different to a dance lesson (even though dance is labelled under PE.).

Using relevant movements, music and language from the beginning until the end of your class is fundamental in helping children understand the objectives you are delivering. They will have a greater chance of retaining the information if you are consistent in your approach, starting with the warm up and continue referring to the same vocabulary and key words that they can use as their tools to create their own dances.

For example, if you are looking at the science topic magnets and springs, create a short phrase in the warm up based around the science vocabulary such as the words below and create movement to show what they mean:

  • Attract (sticking together, moving towards each other)
  • Repel (spinning away from each other)
  • Oscillate (vibrating, bouncing, up and down)

With the children actually thinking the words, saying the words and doing the words they will remember the information and understand the concept. We call this embodied learning.

Snap! The job’s a game

Games are a great way to start a lesson and warm up the children’s minds and bodies or heads and hearts, whichever you prefer.

You can be as creative as you like with games from rolling dice and making it a chance-based warm up (also great for creative tasks) to pictures on the wall as points for the children to run to when called out.

Linking words to numbers (1=jump 2=hop 3=roll) is a great call and response starter and easy to develop by mixing up the numbers and actions. This, for example, is a simple way to introduce travelling later on in the lesson.

Try writing your name with different body parts, writing body parts with different body parts or writing someone else’s name with a body part, this is another game with endless possibilities!

Imagine how warmed up your mind and body would feel after that?

Music: Moby or Mozart?

Maybe both. Music can be a very powerful tool in dance. It can focus your children, help creativity, create atmosphere and completely change the interpretation of a piece of movement. As long as it is relevant. Many teachers we have spoken to say this is the most challenging resource to get right when teaching dance.

We have watched many teachers who haven’t planned music into their sessions, panicked and used a Coldplay CD discovered in their car on the way to work that morning. Actually some of Coldplay’s music works well but would it work in a cross-curricular lesson about the Romans?

Music is not always necessary and silence can be very powerful, but getting the right music can really help make the warm up a memorable and energetic start to the lesson, especially if the children have so far been sat down in maths all day.

Ask yourself; is my music choice:
  • Age appropriate?
  • Creating the right atmosphere?
  • Easy to follow and have clear counts? (If necessary)
  • Relevant to the topic of the session?

Chill out Miss

It is important to incorporate a cool down as part of your lesson. Cool downs are a great way to end the session, focus the children and recap on the outcomes of the lesson.

Key vocabulary can be repeated and reiterated at this point. We link this to the warm up as you can repeat sections of the warm up such as a small phrase but slowly and using the breath to focus and wrap up the session.

For further information on warm ups or any other area of your dance curriculum please email us at contact@danceeducates.co.uk