Sweet Dance Moves! My Introduction to Health Class


NOTE: This post has a lot of explanation that gives my Sweet Dance Moves activity context, and then a video demonstrating the dance moves that I described in the post. 

The first day of class with new students always gets me AMPED UP. While I know I’ll miss the students from previous classes, having a fresh start and multiple first days of school during the year at the start of every trimester is a unique opportunity to get back into those routines that always seem to fall by the wayside once the full force of the school year hits you.

One of the first things I do with my students is get them UP AND MOVING by having them DANCE. I have a specific dance routine I use with each grade level, and these are dances I took from various people. I’ll mention them as you see each dance move in the video below.

I decided to start off each class by teaching them a dance move after one of my summers being a facilitator at the New England Student Leadership Conference, which I’ve done every summer since 2012. There’s a lot of dancing that goes on there and one of the other facilitators, Deb Holt, mentioned that it’s important for students to turn in their “Cool Cards” (which grant them access to the theoretical world of Coolness and all associated benefits of that world) once they become a student leader. One way to do this is getting them out of their comfort zone in a safe environment. And as those of you who work with middle schoolers know…they’re WICKED cool. Like, ICE COLD cool. But you’re never too cool to dance around a little bit!

Quick Story About Being Cool: When I was in the sixth grade my teacher, Mr. Bedrosian, showed us a short clip of the TV show Thomas The Tank Engine. We were confused. Then he let us know that the narrator was Ringo Starr. Mr. B mentioned that if we ever thought we were too cool to do something (especially doing the right thing), that we should remember that a kids show about a toy train was narrated by the drummer from arguably the most influential band ever. And if RINGO STARR could do THAT…well there you have it. I was a huge Beatles fan back then, so I still remember this. I guess this is my version of doing that for my students.

I start playing the music and go into a little speech about having fun, making sure our bums don’t become numb so we don’t develop Numb Bum Syndrome (thanks, Andy!) during the school day because we sit down so much, and how we need to move our bodies more. I introduce what we’re going to be doing. Then I explain the importance of moving your body…then I model the dance move…then they practice the dance moves…

Well now my Skills Based Health Education people are all like…. “HEY! That sounds familiar!! It sounds like the skill development model for skills based health education!!” Read on, friends! Yes, teaching students to dance can help them understand how a skills based health education classroom works.

In summary, here’s what I tell students about getting out of their comfort zone after we’ve gone through the Sweet Dance Moves. I do a “chalk talk” where I write the big ideas about these things down. This isn’t verbatim, but more or less what I say (the bold words are what I tend to write on the board):

“In our skills-based health classroom, we focus on learning different skills that are based on the National Health Education Standards. Our focus is less on what you know and more on what you do. Part of this process is having me, the teacher, model the skill for you, just like I modeled our Sweet Dance Moves today. Then, we’ll break them down, step by step, and put them together. You’ll practice working on those skills, just like you practiced the different steps of each dance move today. For some of you, it will take repeated practice and more time than your classmates to get it, but that’s okay. When learning, you might make mistakes, but it’s okay to not get everything right away or all at once. Today some of you weren’t able to get the dance moves right away, or at all, and I didn’t get mad at you. Some of you went all out and really got down, and others only kind of did the movements. Everyone is coming from a different comfort zone, but I want you to know that this is a safe learning environment, and you can be your authentic self. I might have to figure out a different way to teach you, or to assess your learning. For some dance moves I gave you options that made things a little easier for you. That’s another way of using a big word called differentiation, but what it really means is that I’m doing my best to figure out the way you learn best, and that I’ll find different ways to figure out what you know and can do if the way everyone else does it isn’t working. In our classroom, you’ll get feedback on your skill performance so I can help you be the best that you can be. I didn’t give you too much individualized feedback during our dance session today, but I made some general comments to the class. We also danced so we could get out of our comfort zone, because the best learning sometimes happens when we’re there. This was also a risk for me! I don’t know many of you, you don’t know me, and there I was having fun busting a move.” 

As those of you in the skills based #healthed world know, there are numerous connections to how our classrooms run. It’s a great introduction for the students! 

I initially filmed these dance moves and showed them to my fiance. She asked my why I wasn’t smiling and why I looked so serious (she also commented on my lack of range of motion in my shoulders during “Wipeout” because she’s a PT). So I refilmed and added some commentary. Despite having very good time to keep a beat (my percussion days will never leave me) that doesn’t mean I have the best dance moves, but that’s part of the fun.

Dance Moves Summary (Video Below):

  • Sixth Grade: Wipeout! I stole this from a presenter at SHAPE Eastern in 2017, and it’s also a GoNoodle Brain Boost under the Zumba category. BONUS TIP: Check out the “Surf Rock” channel on Pandora if you want to get in that nostalgic summer mindset.
  • Seventh Grade: Uptown Funk. This dance comes from James Orrigo, another co-facilitator of mine at the New England Student Leadership Conference. He taught it to us and 200 high school students, and I guess I’m spreading it now. BONUS TIP: if you watch the music video for this jam you’ll see I kind of almost sort of can mimic Bruno Mars!! Julio, get the stretch!!
  • Eighth Grade: The Wobble. Another NESLC Dance; I think one of the college facilitators, Nick, taught us this one. BONUS TIP: This is the easiest one (I think) to differentiate. The footwork, etc. is easily modified.

Want to teach those same dance move to your own students? Check out the video below! I know my mom is probably reading this, and I want her to know that my classroom isn’t messy, it just has that lived in look to it. 🙂

I’m sure my #healthed PLN can think of other ways to tie this into a skills-based curriculum. Let me know in the comments! And, as always…dance away!!

Now, about that grading…


Self-Management/Health Enhancing Behaviors Activity

Our health education department has been revamping how we teach the content portion of our skills-based curriculum by working to develop activities that are student centered. In this post, I want to share an idea we took from the social studies department in our school, and provide links to templates you can use in your own health class. There’s also a link to a folder that we (health teachers from across the US) are trying to fill with skills-based health education activities at the end of this post.

I enjoy getting into other teacher’s classrooms whenever I can, even if it’s just to look around. Spending time seeing how other teachers do things, even from different subject areas and grade levels, can provide meaningful information on how we can improve as educators.

Earlier this year, I was asked to cover a geography class during one of my prep blocks. In our building, we can put in to be a (paid) “spot sub” when the school doesn’t have enough subs to cover all the classes needed for the day. I don’t always say yes, but I often do because teachers typically leave lesson plans that are easy to follow.

I ramble a little here, but I think it’s important in order to understand the assignment. During this particular geography class, a review activity was planned for the day. The geography teacher had placed different resources around the room in stations: physical map, political maps, climate maps, charts with economic data, etc. Students worked in pairs and were asked to pick a card from a pile in the front of the room. Each card was numbered as a different challenge and required different resources to complete the challenge.

After reading the challenge, students had to first determine the appropriate resource to use in order to correctly complete the challenge. When they thought they had correctly completed the challenge, students were to come up to me. Then I, armed with the answer key from their teacher, would simply point to one of three color cards on the desk: Green (Go Ahead!), Yellow (Go Back & Fix Something) or Red (STOP! Start Over). When pointing to a yellow or red card for the first time on any challenge, I was told NOT to give the students any clue as to what was incorrect so they could figure it out themselves. If they came back again and it was still yellow, then I could provide a hint (“Maybe you should use a different map,” or “I’d re-read the instructions because they’re very specific”). Students could only work on one challenge at a time, and the activity continued until all the challenges were completed.

Students were engaged during this lesson. They were accessing information and analyzing it, and they were communicating with their peers. It was a kinesthetic activity that required movement around the room. Naturally, I figured we could use this in health class, so I left that class and told my colleague, Danielle, what the lesson was and that we should use something similar in health class.

One thing you should know about the working relationship Danielle and I have is that we have two very different styles that work very well together. I am (overly) methodical, focused on planning, and typically won’t try something unless I’ve made sure it’s put together. Danielle excels at jumping in with two feet and just going for it full speed ahead, and is creative enough to roll with something on the fly. Danielle listened to my idea and whipped up a “Challenge Packet” for our eighth graders to complete during their health enhancing behaviors & sun safety unit. Instead of making separate cards for each challenge we just made one packet with separate boxes for each one. We then created a “Challenge Packet” for our sixth grade health enhancing behaviors/nutrition unit. These challenges go over content or have students review health skills from the national standards.

The sequence is the same as in the geography class. Students are given different challenges, and provided with resources to help them complete each challenge. 

This is an activity that could work with other National Health Education Standards, like accessing information. Students could examine information first, determine if the resource is valid and reliable, and then move on from there. So essentially you could use this as a skill practice. For us, we took what would normally be a teacher centered, more lecture style lesson, and made it student centered. Because we’re a 1:1 school, we have some information for students to look at on their Chromebooks, but have also printed things out to get them completely off-screen.

I’m going to throw a bunch of links at you below. The first two are templates we use in our middle school health class. If you think this is something you’d like to modify, simply make a copy to your Google Drive and you’ll be able to edit your own version. As always, we may adapt this activity and change it around a little, but for now, this is what we have.

As always, suggestions are always welcome! We are constantly adapting how we teach our health classes (sometimes even in the hallway between classes!) and would love to hear your ideas. Comment below or send me a tweet!

Now, about that grading…wait! There is no grading! It’s summer time!