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Teacher: Val Rossman who teaches at Coburn Elementary, Battle Creek Public Schools in Battle Creek, MI. Val Rossman can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: Family Dance Participation Night

Rationale/Purpose of Event: To promote positive interaction of school community: neighbors, teachers, parents, extended family, students.

Suggested Grade Level: K-5

Materials Needed: PA system, Simple Dances, Name tags, Markers

Family Dance Participation Night

Near the end of our dance unit I invite parents, grandparents & siblings to join our students for a family dance participation night. Several area schools have also invited me to lead one of these nights for the parents and students too.


Information slip (I send a 1/2 sheet home, put it in the newsletter and on morning announcements). Here’s a sample of mine. (cut and paste a graphic in too!)


Family Dance Participation Night
Thursday, December 1st, 6:30-7:30
Admission: Items for the Christmas Food Basket

Here’s your chance to get out for an hour’s worth of fun and exercise with your kids and neighbors. Join our Coburn family dance fun night. You don’t need to know how to do the dances as Miss Rossman and the students will help you learn. This is intended as a participation night and there will not be spectator seating available. Students must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Admission is free but we are asking for donations for the community Christmas basket.


•Practice dances in PE. All grade levels don’t practice the same dances—they practice the ones appropriate for their grade level. The night of the dance the little guys love to try to keep up with the older kids dances even if they’ve never tried them.

•Promote, pump and explain during Physical Education—tell your parents no spectators!! Let kids know which dances you’ll be choosing. (Reminder of the KISS method—don’t choose dances that cannot be taught quickly and easily—the idea is quick fun success for everyone—there will be everything from toddlers to grandparents showing up!)

•I tell the kids not to be late because we will lead off with the Cha Cha Slide (their favorite!)

•I also tell them if they cannot contribute to the community food basket that they should still come.

The Event:

•Have a couple of older students man a name tag table on the way in. Ask for participants to make a name tag with first and last names.

•We start simple to break the ice but never do anything much more complicated that the electric slide.

•Start with dances that require little instruction. Choose only other dance that require very little instruction and can be “walked through” quickly. The idea is not “precision” but good moving fun. Start with easy common non threatening dances. Here’s what I usually use and in the order I use: (adjust menu as time permits)

Cha-cha slide--needs no instruction and is extremely popular with kids and parents! Great starter.

Hokey Pokey--needs no instruction, we stand everyone around the gym perimeter.

Chicken Dance or Macarena Chicken--brief instruction on what to do with the “la la” music—we usually shake hands and greet neighbors; then give high fives and say you’re great; etc.

Swiss Mixer --or other simple mixer—this takes a brief explanation and run through but all my 3-5 graders know it.

Mexican Hat Dance--needs very little explanation.

Electric Slide--we do it to Aretha Franklins “Respect” good slower steady beat and ties into Character Ed. Walk through it quickly.

Sitting Square Dance -- this is an Artie Kamiya dance done to Cotton Eye Joe—we make several circles around the gym—all my kids 1-5 will have done it ahead of time so very short explanation.

Tony Chestnut-there is a CD by that name from several PE companies.
Conga--brief instruction and we have teachers (or older students) who know that lead the lines. Near the end they are to lead their lines out the door of the gym—we quickly shut off the gym lights, close the doors and say good bye otherwise you can end up having to “linger” a long time—we dance our way out to our coats!


•Do the dance near a holiday time and decorate with a theme: Christmas, valentine’s etc.

•Let students introduce and quickly teach & or demonstrate the dances.

•Do an era theme: 50’s & 60’s, Disco, Hoe Down (country and square dances)

Teaching Suggestions/Tips:

•Set the tone: “If you think everyone is watching you when you dance and you feel self conscious—get over it you are not Brittany Spears, everyone not watching you they are trying to figure it out for themselves & usually watching their feet. If anyone is getting watched, it’s the leader!” Our motto is “Is if you can’t figure it out just FAKE IT!” (the kids know this and usually finish the sentence for me.)

•Good sound system—150 bodies in a gym absorb a lot more sound than your 25 3rd graders in PE. Wireless headset is a great addition if you can get it.

•Make sure there is no place for anyone to “perch” I rope off the steps to the stage & hide the folding chairs—if you don’t you will end up with spectators instead of participators!

•Ask a teacher or parent to be your photographer. Submit a photo to your local paper or district newsletter.

•Other ideas: invite VIP’s or local press.

•Tell your PTA that it’s a great night to set up their table and sell memberships.

•Stand strong on NO SEATING and that kids must come with an adult (no drop-offs) otherwise you’ll find yourself dancing with just the kids.

•Ask other staff members who are willing to participate to help you encourage stragglers to get involved.

•Excellent resource for a number of simple and popular dances is Christy Lane’s Party Dance video (instruction for you) and accompanying CD. It contains lively music for chicken dance, bunny hop, conga, limbo, stroll, electric slide, hand jive stroll, YMCA & hokey pokey.

•Serve refreshments afterward if you like.

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities:

Because most of the dances are simple most anyone can participate in some manner. Visually impaired will respond to music and vocal cues. Hearing impaired will be able to follow others visually. Physically handicapped can perform many of the movements while seated or be wheeled by others. There will be plenty of helpers around to assist and guide those needing help. Even the toddlers manage to find a way to part of most of the dances.

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Posted on PEC: 12/14/2005 and has received 71 votes.

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