Fun Thanksgiving Dance Games!

Author Jessica Clayton,

Gobble Gobble Turkey

Introduce Gobble Gobble Turkey Games! These games are best for younger kids preschool to kindergarten aged, however older children can still participate.

Game 1: In the style of Simon Says

Spread the dancers across the dance floor. Have them listen for “Gobble Gobble Turkey Says!” before doing any dance moves.

This is a great game to test your students’ understanding of terminology. Some suggestions:
Ballet Terms:

Jazz Terms:
Ball change

Hip Hop:
Wiggle your hips
Coffee Grind

Or you can make it more Thanksgiving themed:
Hug a friend
Share your prop
Move like a Turkey

No matter what dance move you shout, be sure that “Gobble Gobble Turkey Says” to do the dance move!

Game 2: In the style of Mother May I
Line all the kids up in a straight line behind a jump rope. They must ask “Gobble Gobble Turkey May I” if they can do a dance move to advance forward.

For example:
“Gobble Gobble Turkey may I do three hops forwards?”

Gobble Gobble Turkey says yes or no. If no they must give the dancer a better option:
“No you may not, but you may do 3 frog hops forwards!”

Before the dancer can do their dance move they must repeat “Gobble Gobble Turkey May I?”
If they don’t, they cannot do their dance move til the next round.
The student who makes it to Gobble Gobble Turkey first should win a prize!

Game 3:
Thanksgiving Dance

Sit the children down on the floor in front of an imaginary table. At the table you can place real treats or imaginary food. Have them all share food with each other. Then when the music plays get up and dance around the table. When the music stops they must come back to the table and share food with someone new. Repeat until everyone has shared with someone new. Don’t want to serve food?, you can also give each child different props (maybe turkey stuffed animals etc) and they must share their props with someone new.

Game 4:
What are you thankful for?

Tell the kids what you are thankful for. Be sure the description is with action verbs for example
“I am thankful for the ability to jump real high!” And then jump around.

Go around the room and ask the kids what they are thankful for.
Help them come up with answers that can be danced to. For example:
“I am thankful for my sister because she hugs me” and then have all the kids hug each other.

Everyone at Dance Exploration wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Inspiring “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum : For Elementary Aged Students

In continuation of our blog “Inspiring ‘Dance to Learn!’ Curriculum: For Preschoolers” this blog explores creating a dance syllabus that benefits elementary aged dance students’ as a whole.

Recipe for Success

Classes are made up of the following Ingredients to ensure that children receive the most out of their dance classes. The Recipe for Success ensures that our Mission “Dance to Learn” is fulfilled by including not only dance principles but also concepts that will help a child with their development and schooling.

3/4 Moving and Shaking

Warm Ups
Across the floor
Center Work

1/3 Development Skills

Cognitive Skills
Motor Skills
Language Skills
Social Skills

1/3 School Subjects

Foreign Language

1/3 Life Lessons

Problem Solving
Critical Thinking
Peer Relations
Team Work

1 Dose Healthy Living

+ A Ton of Fun=

“Success in School and in Life!”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Incorporating School Subjects in Dance Classes
For elementary kids, we incorporate school subjects in every class under the premise that dance can be taught as a tool to help kids in school!

For example a common Dance Activity performed in our Hip Hop classes include a stomping game. Stomping is rhythmic form of hip hop where body parts are used as instruments to make rythms and communicate. Hip hop teachers will break students up into groups and have them create a mathematical dancing language through their stomps.

For example kids could determine that one clap stands for the word “Hello!”
Two claps stand for “Goodbye!”

One stomp stands for “Friend”
Two stomps stand for “Enemy”

One knee slap stands for “Stay”
Three knee salp stands for “Go”


By moving their bodies they can create an entire language of dance. The above exercise could also be used to tell mathematical equations.

One clap= 1
Two claps=2
Three claps=3 etc

One stomp= add
Two stomps= subtract
Three stomps= multiply etc.

So One clap one stomp and four claps would equal=
1 + 4

The other group would have to solve the equation.

This exercise could be changed for all types of styles of dance!

Teaching Elementary Children Life Lessons Through Dance
Dance at this age should absolutely be a tool to motivate children to do well in school. Dance Exploration, LLC’s “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum in combination with our “Yes” Environment all come together to ensure that children are learning the important skills that dance fosters.

Dance benefits a child in so many ways:
* Through combinations it teaches memorization.
* The weekly review of steps and technique teach determination and a slight perfectionism to perform the steps correctly.
* Dance teaches spatial awareness and a body can move through space and within space.
* Dance is an incredible form of self expression which can certainly help youth who feel “unheard.”
* Mastering steps, choreography, and space is extremely fulfilling and can boost even the lowest of self esteems.

To ensure that these important life lessons are taught, is the responsibility of the teacher. This is why we believe in a seperate training session for our Dance Educators on creating a positive environment for our students.

In order for children to master moves, thereby increasing self esteem and memorization, as well as feeling most comfortable expressing themselves through movement, all comes from feeling safe and comfortable in their class and among their peers.

The best way to teach these important life skills is by providing teachers to these children who can nourish them to perform at their best, encourage positive behavior and attitudes, and someone who can be a real mentor for these kids!

Inspiring “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum- For Preschoolers

Author: Jessica Clayton

I am often times asked why I started Dance Exploration. The answer I always give is,

“Although there are several great mobile companies, there is a general lack of educational aspects in their curriculum. The mobile companies, especially in Colorado, focus more so on the recreational aspect of dance. This is fine, great actually! I believe every one and every company who brings dance to children is doing a wonderful service. I just wanted to offer these children more in regards to dance. I wanted to teach children how dance can be used as a tool to foster their learning.”

Growing up as an active dancer, I always used dance to motivate myself to get through school. Without dance, I probably would not have been the great student that I was. My father made it very clear that if grades dropped, there would be no more dance! So I wanted to be sure when creating my “Dance to Learn!” curriculum that students were taught how dance can be used as a motivator, not merely just a fun activity. Dance involves memorization of steps, focus on performing steps correctly, and determination in continued growth. All of these qualities can be certainly be included in dance curriculum every where!

Our Recipe for Success was developed to incorporate these important life lessons as well as what the children are learning in school.

Recipe for Success

Classes are made up of the following Ingredients to ensure that children receive the most out of their dance classes. The Recipe for Success ensures that our Mission “Dance to Learn” is fulfilled by including not only dance principles but also concepts that will help a child with their development and schooling.

3/4 Moving and Shaking

Warm Ups
Across the floor
Center Work

1/3 Development Skills

Cognitive Skills
Motor Skills
Language Skills
Social Skills

1/3 School Subjects

Foreign Language

1/3 Life Lessons

Problem Solving
Critical Thinking
Peer Relations
Team Work

1 Dose Healthy Living

+ A Ton of Fun=

“Success in School and in Life!”


The Dance Exploration, LLC “Dance to Learn!” curriculum incorporates not only basic dance principles, but also focuses on important learning aspects.

For Preschoolers

Our “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum for preschoolers focuses on the student’s development as a whole not just motor development. We incorporate motor, cognitive, social and language exercises. Let’s take a closer look at our “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum!

Motor Development
Every Dance Exploration, LLC class focuses on locomotor and non-loco motor development as well as fine motor skills.

Locomotor Skills Taught:
Walking, Running, Crawling, Skipping, Marching, Galloping, etc

Non-Locomotor Skills Taught:
Twisting, Shaking, Stretching, Pulling, Pushing, Turning, Swaying, Bending, etc

Fine Motor Skills Taught:
Grasping Objects, Writing with props, Holding Hands, etc

Cognitive Develpment
Let’s look at how Dance Exploration’s “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum helps children in preschool focus on their cognitive learning!

Cognitive thinking at this age involves simple colors, shapes, numbers, letters, directions, and so much more.

To incorporate these aspects into our classes, we are sure to include a weekly Dance Activity that incorporates one of these important aspects. Weekly classes are always themed to ensure that children are taught new concepts each week (Animals, Shapes, Colors, Outside, Working Together, Directions, etc).

Let’s say our Theme this week is Outdoors:

Example “Dance to Learn!” Dance Activity:
Using Dancing with Miss Melodee’s Song: “Flowers in the Garden.”

Dancers learn how they can move their bodies like flowers while also learning the parts of flowers (seeds, stems, leaves, petals).

Dancers practice swaying and blowing in the wind, grow leaves and petals.

This song also incorporates ballet words such as plie, develope, and twirl!

Social Development
Each week Dance Exploration, LLC “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum also focuses on a child’s social development skills.

For preschoolers, they are just learning about friendships and how to interact with others. Every class involves a social exercise with a focus on patience, waiting turns, sharing, manners, or working together.

Continuing with our outdoor theme here is an example “Outdoor Activity!” that fosters Social Skills:
Activity: Going on a Picnic!
Song: Any Song

For the first picnic you will be on the beach.
What kind of foods can we eat at our beach picnic?
Answers can include:
Coconuts, bananas, strawberries, fish, etc.
Have the kids share their food with their friends.

“What kind of dances we can do at our beach picnic?”
The hula, the limbo, etc.
Teach the kids the different types of dances with a partner.

Continue this exercise having a picnic in the woods, in the mountains, in the jungle etc.

Language Development
For language development read a fun book, or pull out flashcards and have the students dance like the pictures on the flashcards, or play a question and answer game for example:

“I am big, and furry and sleep all winter what am I?”

The answer is a bear! Have all the kids dance like a bear.

Some fun outdoor books that continue with our theme of outdoors could be:
“Little Red Riding Hood!”
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears!”
“Blueberry Shoe!”
“What does the Sky Say?”
“We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!”
“Like a Windy Day!”
“Mouse’s First Fall!”

Just to name a few! For other great Dance Books check out the following blog:

For flash cards:
Animals, bugs, seasons, plants etc could all be used for outdoor related language activities.

If playing a game with words just be sure it’s outdoor related (or goes with whatever theme you decide to pick that day!)
“I lose all my leaves this time of year?”
Answer= Fall
Kids dance like falling leaves.

“I am a tropical location and take sand away?”
Answer= Tide/Ocean
Kids dance like the ocean.

For more on Dance Exploration, LLC’s “Dance to Learn!” Curriculum or classes visit our Website:

A Lesson in Motivation

Author: Jessica Clayton

November is child safety and protection month. We at Dance Exploration believe in teaching all classes in a positive “Yes” Environment where children are encouraged, motivated and nurtured to make the right decisions. We teach all ages and are aware that each age group requires a different nudge in behavior.

I teach a very small Teen Jazz class on Tuesdays. The girls have been enrolled in dance by their parents to “keep them out of trouble”. However, with that being said, they are a great group of kids and really enjoy dance and want to learn as much as they can and improve at it.

Often I give my students a chance to let me know what they want to work on and this week Marcie decided,

“Miss Jessica, I want to work on turns across the floor!”

Great Idea!!!

One of the tools I use for teaching consecutive turns across the floor to beginners is a scarf. I have the dancers tie the scarf in a knot and stick it between their inner thighs. This prevents the “penguin walk” effect of chainee turns. The goal of this is to have the dancers use their muscles to hold the scarf in place while half turning across the floor. Usually my students find this a ton of fun and laugh the whole way.

My Tuesday night girls reacted a little differently. These girls are at that age where self image and being “cool” and accepted is so important. As soon as they saw what they had to do they decided,

“I can’t do this!”

All the way across the floor they kept stopping, taking the scarves out and just wanting to give up.

Keep in mind, I have never had students react to this exercise in this way, they usually love it. So I knew I had to come up with a quick way to movitvate these girls to come back across the floor on the left without any problems. So I decided to use the trick of “dangling the carrot in front of their noses.”

“Ok, I tell you what. If you can make it all the way across the floor without dropping your arms, touching your scarves, or saying you “can’t” do this…then next week when we repeat this exercise you won’t have to use the scarves.”

Play music, 5-6-7-8

Those girls turned all the way across the floor: perfect posture, great arms, and not one dropped their scarf or claimed they couldn’t do it.

Encouraging our students to change their behavior can sometimes be the most difficult aspect of our job and it is not always easy. This turn of events last night reinforced my decision to ensure that all of my dance educators are trained in teaching in a “Yes” Environment, where our students are nurtured, encouraged to change behaviors for the better, and driven artistically and creatively.

To get the best results positive reinforcement is always better than negative! Take for example the story below:

In one of my preschool classes, I had two sisters who always seemed to want to display sibling rivalry right in the middle of class. Pushing, shoving, fighting, crying… you name it. Now these students are preschool aged, so much younger than my teen jazzers, but the same lesson in encouragement and motivation needed to be taught. To attempt to combat this behavior, I used a technique that I’ve heard about frequently throughout the years used by not only by dance teachers, but school teachers as well.

I wrote all the names of the dancers on a chalk board with three stars. I told them that at the start of each class, that each of them had already earned 3 stickers and to keep each sticker, they must follow the class rules (ie: no running, sharing, saying please/thank you…etc). If they didn’t follow the rules, a star would be erased and they would be down to 2 stickers.

This didn’t work as planned, the sisters still wanted to argue throughout class and my warnings,

“Please remember that you have three stars and they may be taken away if this continues!”

just upset them even more!

“No Miss Jessica! Please don’t take away my stars!”

I brainstormed and finally realized, taking things away isn’t positive at all! The reason behind this technique, which is trying to foster positive behavior, was positive, but the result is not. It causes more distress than good. It didn’t take me much time to realize this wasn’t working and quickly came up with the following solution:

“This week you all have one star! Which means you all have already earned one sticker! You will be able to earn more stickers throughout class. You can earn stickers by being nice to your friends, sharing and listening to Miss Jessica!”

This solution didn’t stop the sibling rivalry completely, however when the girls were asked if they thought that kind of behavior would earn them another sticker, not only did the behavior stop more quickly, but we avoided the tears that followed with the threat of having a sticker taken away.

If you are finding that your students are having a difficult time staying motivated, positive, and on focus, it is probably a lack of motivation to behave differently. Start asking yourself the following questions after each class:

Am I rewarding and congratulating my students for positive behavior?
What, if anything, are they receiving for following my direction/lead?
What other ways could I approach my teaching style to motivate my students to focus?
Is my approach more negative than positive?
Is my approach age appropriate?
Do I know my students and what they want to gain from my class?

After asking these questions, you may realize that you need a different approach to teaching your classes. Which is fine! You may in fact need to change your teaching styles a few times! But never give up on students! Always remember it is your job as their teacher to lead by example. If you are negative, they will respond in a negative way! If you never reward them or congratulate them, they will never show you results.

I hope if you are a teacher reading this that you will apply these techniques and let me know how your next class goes! Did you see a change in behavior? What are some positive reinforcements that you use in your classes to keep kids determined, motiviated and on track?

Name Games!

Author Jessica Clayton

As a dance teacher and program director I have been asked, more times than I can remember, by my dance educators what the most important skill is that they should posess as teachers. My answer usually shocks them as you would think the answer would be creating unique lesson plans or showing up 15 minutes early, or making parents happy. Although all these are important in their own right, I believe the most important asset a teacher could possess is learning the names of the students and calling them by name frequently throughout the class!

It is so simple really! Think about it, how impersonable does it feel when someone says

“I am so sorry, but I have forgotten your name!”

I’m sorry, I wasn’t that important to you to remember! Really, isn’t this how you usually feel?

Many people have different ways of remembering names whether it be sticking name tags on everyone in the class, or by some sort of word association with the name. All of these are great ways to remember names, but this is a dance class! So why not make a name game that involves movement? Here are a few examples that Dance Exploration Eductors use in day one of every class!

What’s in a Name?

Stand in a circle so everyone can see each other. Ask each child to take the first letter of their first name (Molly= M) they must associate their name with a movement or action word that can be danced out (Mouse Leaping Molly). Everyone will perform a Mouse Leap for Molly. Go around the circle associating a dance move for each child based on their first name.

So let’s say you have a class of 20 kids, how can you remember that very first Mouse Leaping kiddo? Memorization of course! After each child takes a turn, go back to the very beginning and see if you can remember each of the kids Names and movements. Kids will be dancing and you will be learning their name in a fun way.

Try to remember the kids movement throughout the session so everytime you see Molly she can be “Mouse Leaping Molly!” They get a kick out of it!

Name Train

Have the kids sit down in a circle. Pick a train conductor (usually the teacher). The conductor goes around the circle and picks a student to hop on the Name train. Before they can hop on they must say their name and do a dance move. Be sure the dance matches the first letter in their name. Let’s say the first child is Charlie and he does a chug.

“Welcome aboard the Name Train Chugging Charlie!” The conductor yells!

The next child is Jennifer and she does a jump! The conductor welcomes aboard Jumping Jennifer. But Jennifer must also introduce herself to Charlie.

“Hello Chugging Charlie, I’m Jumping Jennifer!”

The kids shake hands. Continue the name train around the whole class room. Decide how your name train will move, maybe it chugs, or shuffles, or marches around the room. Whatever you pick, the class will be moving and learning!

Two Left Feet

Author: Jessica Clayton

We’ve all been there as teachers.

“I want you all to do shuffle stomps with your right foot!”

Step back and watch as all your little tappers gladly complete the movement but with their left foot. So how can we as dance teachers help our little ones with this super duper hard developmental break through of learning their right from their left?

The answer is in props!


Kids Love Stickers!!!

Make it a treat each week to place a new sticker on the dancers’ right shoe. Not only do they get super excited to see what new sticker they will get this week, but it will help them associate their right from their left! Here’s how:

“Let’s all do shuffle steps with our right foot! The right foot has the sticker on it, find your sticker!”

You’ll be amazed at how this little trick instantly helps them recognize their right foot. To shuffle with the left foot is so much easier now, since the left shoe is stickerless!

Jingle Bracelets

Another super fun prop to use are jingle bracelets.

Jingle bracelets have jingle bells attached. These can be placed on the kids wrists, ankles or both! You can make your own custom bracelet for each student, or they are extremely cheap to purchase at a craft store.

How it works:
Tie the bracelet to the child’s right wrist or ankle.

“Let’s make noise with our right side!”

Begin to wiggle your right body parts.

“Oh my gosh! So Noisy! Let’s make noise with our left side!”


“Uh oh…the left side is quiet! How come?”

The kids have so much fun wiggling and making noise with their right side and will get a kick out of being quite on the left especially when you act like a goof and have no idea why it’s happening.

Jingle bells are also super fun when dancing the Hokey Pokey.

Just always remember to use association. The kids won’t learn their left from their right if you never say that the sticker or bells are on their right hand. This technique is used in the hopes to accelerate this developmental learning ability.
Also always put the sticker or jingle bells on the same hand each time. Otherwise it may be more confusing than helpful.

Sarah’s Story

Sara has dreamed of nothing more than dancing ever since she watched the video of “Barbie of Swan Lake!”

“I want to be a ballerina like Barbie!” she exclaims! “She dances on her toes! I want to do that!”

Sara comes from a low income family. Nancy, Sara’s mom, is a stay at home mom. She takes care of Sara and her younger sister. Sara’s father, Thomas,  works for RTD.

“We just can’t afford to put Sara into a regular dance program. They are just so expensive!” Nancy says. “When I saw the flier at Sara’s school for dance classes, I just got so excited and hoped that I could afford the program!”

Nancy applied for the Dance Exploration, LLC Financial Aid Services. Low-Income families can receive a 30% discount towards their tuition when they qualify. Dance Exploration, LLC could not offer this option to families without support from the community with the Sponsor a Dancer Fund!

The Sponsor a Dancer Fund directly supports the Financial Aid Services which we offer to student’s like Sara, who have a dream to dance but who’s hard working families simply can’t afford it.

“Thank you Dance Exploration for allowing Sara to pursue her dream. We saw her dance as a Ballerina at her graduation performance, and we were thrilled!”

The Dance Exploration, LLC Financial Aid Program has assisted 6 children from low-income families pursue their dancing dreams.

Help other dancers like Sara today!