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Name of Activity:

Celebrate with an All-School Multicultural Maypole Dance (May 2010)

Purpose of Activity:

To learn the history of the May Day celebration and information about the flags of countries chosen. (Brazil, Germany, and Africa are included with this lesson plan.)

Suggested Grade Level:


Materials Needed:

May Pole as described in the May 2008 Dance Idea of the Month

Recommended music:

There are 200 folk dance songs on iTunes; simply type in “folk dance music” in the search box. Here are some specific suggestions for the countries listed below: Brazil – “Everyone Likes Calypso” from Children’s Folk Dances CD by Georgiana Stewart, or “Magalenha” from iTunes. Germany - Karl’s Bad Schottische from iTunes. Africa - “Miwoe Nenyo,” African songs and rhythms for children from “Smithsonian Folkways Children’s Music Collection”. This is also available from iTunes. These songs are just suggestions. Take some time to search and listen as there are many beautiful songs available. Variations of the traditional May Pole Dance can be taught to any folk music that has an easy to follow beat.

Beginning dance formation:

Each child will be arranged around the May Pole with a ribbon in his/her hand. For the traditional Maypole dance, students will need to be assigned numbers. Ask even #s to face clockwise and odd #s to face counter clockwise. All even # students should have the same color ribbon and all odd # dancers should have a different color ribbon. All students will hold their ribbons with their inside hand. Even #s will hold their ribbons above their heads and odd #s will hold the ribbon down at their hip level. For some of the dances the students will all face the same direction.

Description of Idea

K-1 Brazilian Dance: All students will hold the ribbon in the R hand with the R shoulder towards the Maypole. Be sure to have students hold the ribbon securely with it fully stretched tightly from the Maypole.

Step #1 - 1-8 – Walk 4 steps straight ahead RLRL, Step R touch L, Step L touch R (Repeat 4x)
Step #2 - 1-8 – March 8 steps turning ½ around to place ribbon in L hand with the L shoulder towards the Maypole.
Repeat Step #1 4x times moving in the opposite direction.
Repeat Step #2 – End facing into the Maypole.
Step #3 - 1-8 – While raising ribbon above the head, step to the R, close L foot next to R, step to the R, touch L foot next to R. Reverse this step moving to the L and lowering the ribbon as the movement is being done. Repeat this R and L movement and raising and lowering of the ribbon 4x.
Repeat step #2 ending with the ribbon in the R hand and the R shoulder towards the Maypole.
Begin the dance again.

Grades 2-3 German Dance: All students will begin with ribbon in the L hand and L shoulder into the center of the circle.

Step #1 – 1-8 Schottische step to the R and L. (A Schottische step is like a grapevine with a hop at the end.) Repeat.
Step #2 – 1-8 Moving forward: Step R hop R, step L hop L, step R hop R, step L hop L. Repeat.
Step #3 – 1-8 Jump out-in, out-in. Place R heel in front, step R. Place L heel in front step L. Repeat.
Step #4 – 1-8 March RLRLRLRL turning ½ turn, placing ribbon in R hand and R shoulder is now into the center of the circle.
Repeat the dance again with the ribbon in the R hand.

Grades 4-5 African Dance: Students will begin in a squat position close to the Maypole. Depending on the music that is chosen, students will rise slowly and sway with the music. When the chanting begins the dance steps begin:

Step #1 – 1-8 Beginning with R back up stepping RLRLRLRL.
Step #2 – 1-8 Students will sway R (1) and lift L leg slightly off ground (2), sway L (3) and left R leg slightly off ground (4). Repeat both movements.
Repeat steps 1 and 2. On the repeat of step #2 end with the ribbon in the R hand and the R shoulder toward the Maypole. Again ribbons should be held securely and fully stretched from the Maypole.
Step #3 – 1-8 Chasse R (step R (1), close and step LR (&2), chasse L (step L (3), close and step RL (&4). Repeat on the R and L side. (Repeat step #3 for a total of 16 counts.)
Step #4 – 1-8 Step R kick L. Step L kick R. Step R kick L. Step L kick R. (While doing this step complete a ½ turn transferring ribbon to L hand.)
Repeat step #3 going in the opposite direction.
Repeat step #4 ending facing into the Maypole.
Repeat step #2.
Repeat step #1 moving into the Maypole. Take 8 counts to squat back down and release the ribbons.


These dances steps can be put to any song with a good beat. Many different countries could be represented. The patterns may also be repeated any number of times or done in different orders. Use your imagination and creativity to create a true multicultural celebration!

Assessment Ideas:

Older students can be asked to create steps to add to their combination. Younger students can be asked to learn facts about the flag and the country they are representing. Use this lesson idea to foster not only multicultural learning, but interdisciplinary cooperation between faculty members.

Teaching Suggestions:

Anticipatory Set: On the first day of May, people in the villages of England would wake up and roam the country side gathering flowers and branches. They would decorate their houses and then participate in a Maypole Dance. A very tall pole, usually the trunk of a tall birch tree, would be decorated with bright field flowers, and the village would dance around the beautiful “Maypole.”

History of May Day Celebration: The celebration of May Day dates back to ancient times even before the birth of Christ. It was a very popular feast time for the Romans who dedicated the celebration to Flora, the goddess of flowers.

The May Day celebration has not been as popular in the United States as it has been in Great Britain. Some of the early settlers of the colonies, especially the Puritans, frowned on celebrating a day they thought to be associated with a Pagan tradition.

Preparing for an all school celebration: Listed are several dances that could be used for a May Day celebration, multicultural celebration or end of the year program. Each grade level will present their own Maypole dance variation complete with music unique to the country that they are representing. It is visually appealing if several Maypole ribbon caps can be made representing the colors of each flag. The children can be asked to wear t-shirts that match the color of their ribbons.

Another good idea is to make simple vests for each child to wear, which should duplicate the colors of the flags and the ribbons. At a local elementary school where these dances were performed, mothers volunteered to construct the vests for each classroom. Brazil vests and ribbons were green and yellow, Germany’s vests were red and black, and Africa’s vests were red and blue. Maypoles were constructed for each class and the celebration was held in a large field next to the school’s playground. At the end of all of the dances, the children took off their vests and put on red, white and blue bandanas. At this time they did the traditional Maypole dance, as described in the May 2008 Dance Idea of the Month, to a patriotic march. All the Maypole ribbons ended up wound intricately around each pole.


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Celebrate with an All-School Multicultural Maypole Dance (May 2010)

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thanks for sharing

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