Critical Learning

Guiding Questions

Various source material (images, poetry, quotes, newspaper clippings, etc) can be a source of inspiration for movement and choreography.

Movement conveys meaning when danced with intention and the use of a focused idea or theme.

How can environmental sources be used as a stimulus for choreography?
How can the message and meaning of choreography be enhanced by using the elements of dance and through the use of compositional tools and structures?

Curriculum Expectations

Learning Goals

Creating, Presenting and Performing

A1. The Creative Process:use the creative process, the elements of dance (body, space, time, energy, and relationship), and a variety of sources to develop movement vocabulary;

A1.1 use the elements of dance to create and perform a variety of movement phrases inspired by sources

A1.2 create and perform phrases that manipulate three or more elements of dance 

A2. Choreography and Composition:combine the elements of dance in a variety of ways in composing individual and ensemble dance creations; 

A2.1 use a variety of choreographic forms, structures, and techniques to connect a series of movement phrases 

A2.2 construct a dance composition inspired by a source 

A4. Performance: apply dance presentation skills in a variety of contexts and performances

A4.1 revise and refine movement to enhance dance performance and interpretation

Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing

B1. Critical Analysis Process: use the critical analysis process to reflect on and evaluate their own and others’ dance works and activities;

B1.2 analyse dance works in terms of both their content and their fluency, artistry, or expressiveness


C2. Contexts and Influences: demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural, and historical origins and development of dance forms, including their influence on each other and on society;

C2.2 identify and describe ways in which dance addresses social questions of local and/or global interest

Learning Goals
(Unpacked Expectations)

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • use a variety of source material as inspiration for choreography. 
  • collaborate with a group to create a dance.
  • communicate the importance and overall meaning of their choreography

Instructional Components


Students should have experience working in small groups to create choreography and should know the elements of dance. Review team work etiquette and discuss the importance of active listening.


Movement phrase
Movement vocabulary
Compositional structure


LCD Projector and Internet Availability
Use of Computer Lab/Library


BLM #4 Compositional Elements and Recipe
BLM #5 Rubric for Summative Assessment
BLM #6 Compositional Checklist
BLM #7 Self-Assessment


Approximately 30 minutes

Minds On

Pause and Ponder

Whole Group > Environmental Images

Watch Michael Jackson's Earth Song Video. (See hyperlinks).

Pairs > Reflection

Ask students to choose a partner. In pairs, ask students to reflect on the following questions:
Which image in the video stood out for you and why?
What are some ways that we can reverse the damage that we have done to Earth?
This video was release in 1995. What has changed with respect to climate justice since then?

Is there an image that you think was missing from the video?
If you had to change one thing about the video, what would it be and why?
Reflect on the statement "A picture is worth a thousand words". What does this statement mean to you?  Do you agree or disagree and why?

Assessment for Learning (AfL)

Journal Entry
Mind Map

Assessment as Learning (AaL)

Student Self-Assessment

Differentiation (Dl)

Have a collection of source material prepared if groups are having a difficult time finding sources that relate to their chosen issue. Students can choose an artifact that they have a personal connection to.

A demonstration or example may need to be shown for better understanding of how the source material would be incorporated into the piece and how the images can serve as inspiration for movement. 

Provide a handout of the Criteria for Composition.  (Refer to BLM #5 Rubric for Summative Assessment)

Quick Tip

Allow groups to decide where they would like their audience to observe their choreography from. Try different staging to see if it creates a different feeling to the performances.

A few books that will support the teaching of Dance Composition:

Dance Composition Basics
Pamela Anderson Sofras

Dance Composition
Fifth Edition
Jacqueline M. Smith-Artaud

The Art of Making Dances
Doris Humphrey

Link and Layer

Students will be expected to draw on their experiences from lesson one and two to complete lesson three.

Students may wish to connect to ongoing youth or Indigenous lead climate action projects.

Hyperlinks in the Lesson

Earth Song video

Additional information on the elements of composition from Arts Alive

Additional Information on form and structure in choreography

Approximately 210 minutes


Small Group > Leaf Graphic Organizer

Put students into small groups of four or five. These groups will stay the same for the culminating task in Lesson 5. Instruct students to brainstorm as many issues as they can.

Small Group > Environmental Issue Mind Map

Invite each group to identify one issue that they are most interested in exploring and that they would like to know more about. Ask them to consider:
What impact does this issue have on society as a whole?
How might this issue affect members of your group personally?
What words, images, phrases, questions come to mind when you think about this environmental problem?

Instruct small groups to create a Mind Map based on their issue.

Individual > Research


Ask students to each find one artifact or source material (from home, community or computer lab/library) related to their chosen environmental issue. Sources can include poetry, quotes, newspaper articles, art images, photographs, storybooks, magazines, found objects, etc.

Individual > Generating Movement Vocabulary  

Instruct students to create a short, individual movement phrase about their source so that movement vocabulary for the group piece is generated. 

Small Group > Linking phrases

Invite students in their small groups to share their phrases and begin to experiment with how they might compose their dance piece. 

Whole Group > Compositional Elements

Handout BLM #4 Compositional Elements and Recipe and go through the compositional forms. (See hyperlinks for additional resources). Explain to students that each group should include the following in their choreography:

Two minutes of movement
ONE (or more) of the sources (from their research) integrated into the piece 
Silence, soundscape or music
A clear compositional structure (AB, ABA, ABACAD, etc) 

Whole Group > Visual Component

Share with students that another component of the assignment is to creatively present the sources/artifacts found by group members in Lesson 3.  Students will share their visual components before the performance of their choreography. This will extend the work and allow the class to see what sources were used for inspiration. Invite students to consider how they might arrange these sources/artifacts. For example; collage, PowerPoint, brochure, Bristol board, advertisement, etc. Allow time (both in class and out) for students to develop this visual component.

Whole Group > Rubric Overview

Handout BLM #5. Go through the criteria and allow students to ask questions for clarification.

Small Group > Creating Piece and Compositional Checklists

Allow students at least one or two classes to work on their piece. After the work period(s), instruct students to complete a check list (BLM #6 Compositional Checklist) of criteria that has been completed. Continue to have students give feedback to one another as they make choices and build their work.

Approximately 40 minutes


Individual > Journal Response

Ask students to reflect on the following:
What have you found challenging and inspiring about this project?
Is there one source that you are using that you find particularly powerful?  Explain.
How has your group negotiated roles and responsibilities with respect to the creative process?
What were your personal contributions to the piece?

Individual > Self-Assessment 

Ask students to refer to BLM #7 Self-Assessment

Ask students to complete a self-assessment based on the following criteria:
Choreographic ideas
Engagement in the process
Involvement in the research
Overall leadership and participation