Full disclosure: Even though fall is my favorite season, I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween – I hate horror movies and all things that go bump in the night! But I do all know that my dance students eat it up, and over time, I’ve learned to lean into their love the holiday. I’ve even started spookify-ing my classes in October, in part by using fun Halloween dance games that keep students learning through play. Incorporating some Halloween dance games into your classes can be the perfect way to help students channel their Trick or Treat energy, and even fend off some of the burnout that can start to emerge later in the season.
If you follow my blog, you know I love a good seasonal dance activity! Improvisation, games, and creative exercises all provide fun ways to help students develop greater creativity, self-expression, collaboration skills, and performance quality, while also developing a deeper understanding of their dance technique. Tying these games and activities to the season add a celebratory nature to class, and helps students connect what they are doing in dance with what they are experiencing in their lives outside the studio. These 3 Halloween dance games can be easily adapted for students of all ages, skills levels, and most dance genres, but are designed with dancers ages 7 and up in mind. After all, students of all ages learn through play!. Moreover, play can be a great way to improve students’ social and emotional health, not only in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also as they start to feel distracted by tricks, treats, and all the spooky things.
Be sure to check out The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Fall Season, with 15 games celebrating all things FALL, including cozy scarves and pumpkins, ghosts and goblins, and Thanksgiving. You’ll find variations that make it easy to play these 3 games, and the 12 others, multiple times in class – because we all know kids can’t enough of their favorite activities. You’ll also find music suggestion, Covid-19 considerations, detailed instructions, discussion questions, and a description of the primary learning objective for each game! The Holistic Collection of Dance Games for the Fall Season is also available as part of the Fall Fix Bundle and the Dance Games Bundle – save over 20% on ready-to-use resources that will transform your teaching practice when you purchase a bundle!
Here are three of my favorite Halloween dance games to help you celebrate spooky season with your students:
Funny (And Functional) Bones
The primary objective of this activity is to help students explore and better understand the skeletal system, at an age-appropriate level. Use an inexpensive decorative skeleton to show what the bones of the skeletal system look like. Students should be encouraged to find these bones in their own bodies, by pointing or moving the area where each can be found. Direct the students to explore, through discussion and in movement, how bones connect at the joints. Point out that it is the joints, not the individual bones themselves, that allow our bodies to move. Teach the students about the different kinds of joints, how each one moves, and where they are found in the body. Use guided improvisation to help students discover the range of movement at each joint: the ball and socket joints of the shoulders and hips: the hinge joints of the elbows, knees, fingers, and toes; the pivot joint between C1 and C2; the condyloid joint of the wrist; the cartilaginous joints of the spine. Explore the role of the skeletal system in balance, and guide students in improvisation that shifts between balanced and off-balance movement.
- Do you think about how your bones and joints are moving and supporting you as you dance? Why or why not?
- Which joints were your favorite to move? Which ones were your least favorite? Why?
- Was it easy or difficult to recreate the skeleton’s shape? Did using the skeleton’s shape for your improvisation help you to make new and different movement choices? Why or why not?
The primary objectives of this activity are to help inspire students’ creativity, and to encourage them to use a range of movement qualities to bring their creative vision to life through performance. Direct the students to brainstorm words that can be used to describe monstrous creatures, and write each word on an index card. Encourage them to think of words that describe the creatures themselves, such as scary, cute, mean, or spooky, as well as words that describe how they might move, such as creeping, crawling, slithering, floating, or stomping. Have the students draw a card, either individually or in teams. Direct them to improvise in a way that expresses what is written on the card, or to create a short movement phrase inspired by it. Allow the other students to try to guess what the descriptive word is.
- Did you find it easy or difficult to embody the qualities of the monster in your dancing?
- What kinds of movements, facial expressions, body parts, and qualities (such as tempo, weight, and energy) did you use to demonstrate the characteristics of your monster with the audience?
- How can you use what you learned through this activity in the performance of choreography for recital or competition?
Bats and Pumpkins
The primary objectives of this activity are to help students develop greater spatial awareness, and to encourage creative expression through movement choices. This is a game in the style of “Sharks and Minnows,” as you might have played in gym class in elementary school. Students are divided into “Pumpkins” and “Bats.” The Pumpkins must move slowly and on the low level, as a real pumpkin might roll on the ground. The Bats must move quickly and on the high level, like bats darting and swooping through the sky at night. Choose 1-4 “Pumpkins” to start in the middle of the room. The other students, the “Bats,” must cross from one side of the room to the other, without being tagged by one of the Pumpkins. If a Bat is tagged, they become a Pumpkin. The last remaining Bat wins, and gets to start the next game as the Pumpkin. Be sure to encourage the dancers to keep moving as if they were the character, and to explore a range of dance movements that meet the criteria for their character. Otherwise, the game can quickly dissolve into tag!
- Which was your favorite character to portray as you played? Why was this your favorite? What kind of movements did you use to move like your character?
- How did you feel when you got tagged? How did you feel when you tagged someone else? What can you learn about handling frustration and disappointment from playing games like this?
Covid-19 Considerations: For in-person classes, you can consider playing in very small groups, with the “pumpkins” using a soft, washable prop such as a scarf to “tag” the “bats.” Be sure you have enough scarves that each dancer can have their own, and wash before another group uses them!
Whether you are the kind of person who goes all-out for Halloween or the type who would never be caught in a costume, using these holiday-themed activities in your class can help shake students out of their mid-semester funk and provide a fun way to explore movement concepts. Drop a comment when you try one of the games above and let me know how it goes!
Plan ahead for future holidays by checking out my other seasonal posts: Winter Activities, Valentine’s Day Activities, Spring Activities, and Summer Dance Games! Or try The Holistic Dance Teacher Dance Games Bundle, with 75 fun and educational dance games to last the entire year!
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