March 29, 2017

International Dance Showcase Unit Teacher Pack

Last week, I published the first post in a new (very long) series called Teacher Packs (which is really just an extension of The Great Unpacking)

Teacher Packs are long-form blog posts that provide you with everything you need to run a standards-based unit at your school. In them, I’ll walk you through each step I take to plan a standards-based unit. From outcomes selection to outcome unpacking, determining the evidence of learning to creating assessment tools needed to collect it, and selecting learning activities to how I run them in my lessons… teachers are saying that Teacher Pack posts are like full workshops in a blog format.

Each post is linked to a premium Teacher Pack resource that contains all of the assessment tools you would need to collect evidence of your students learning and growth in an ongoing fashion (which will help you make informed decisions as you move through the unit). I decided to make Teacher Packs a paid resource because of the amount of work I pour into the posts in this series. My hope is that I’m providing you with enough value for free in each Teacher Pack post that you will consider purchasing Teacher Packs and supporting the work I do through

Last week’s Chasing & Fleeing Games Unit Teacher Pack post was well received and I’m really excited to be sharing another Teacher Pack post with you today!

Let me show you my International Dance Showcase Unit!

Backwards Designing A Dance Unit

Each year, as determined in my annual curriculum map, I run a creative unit with my grade six class.

When looking through SHAPE America’s National Standards & Grade Level Outcomes, there were three outcomes that I felt could be easily combined:

With my outcomes selected, it was time to get unpacking. Here’s a quick video that will provide you with an example of how I unpacked these outcomes

I repeated that process with all three outcomes to reveal all of the content hidden with them. Just a quick note though, I modified outcome S1.M1.6. Instead of having it read “Demonstrates correct rhythm and pattern for one of the following dance forms: folk, social, creative, line, or world dance.“, I changed it to “Demonstrates correct rhythm and pattern for one of the following dance forms: hop-hop, contemporary, or jive”. I did this to make the outcome more aligned with my students preferences. Doing so ensured that the unit would focus on content that was tailored to their taste, which would likely increase engagement (it did). Besides, I knew that my students had already seen social and line dancing in earlier years of the program.

One more thing: I found these outcomes to be difficult to unpack. That happens: sometimes outcomes are clear cut and how to unpack them is obvious, other times you have to use a lot of imagination when working with them. Over time, you get better at it (although never perfect). That said, it’s important to remember that the way I unpack outcomes might be very different than the you would unpack them. The way a teacher unpacks an outcome is dependent on a huge amount of variables (e.g. personal experience, content knowledge, physical education curriculum, understanding of students, etc.) The important thing is that you do your best to break the outcomes down to their smallest parts. Pro tip: when I get stuck with an outcome, I’ll take a look at that same outcome in the years the precede/follow it. Usually this look at the overall scope and sequence of the outcome gives me all of the information I need to better understand how to unpack it.

Here is all of the content I unpacked from the three outcomes (including the modified one). You can click on the image to view it in full size if you’d like to zoom in anywhere (it’s also part of the International Dance Showcase Teacher Pack):

Looking over the unpacked content, it was evident that dance would be the best activity to help my students master this content and the selected outcomes. More on that later!

Determining Evidence Of Learning

Having a clear idea of what you are trying to get your students to achieve does wonders in terms of avoiding any confusion or lost time throughout the unit.

This step of the unpacking process (which I, once again, need to give credit to my friend Terri Drain for teaching me how to do this) is an important although seemingly redundant one. That said, and I can tell you this from experience, it is essential to ensure that your unit/lessons run smoothly.

Here is the evidence of learning I would be looking for throughout the unit:

  • Creates dance choreography that respects the selected style: a performance in which the student performs a creative dance that respects the selected style (along with proof that the performance was intentionally created to respect said style)
  • Synchronizes dance elements to rhythm of selected music: a performance in which the student clearly synchronizes dance elements to a style-specific rhythm, as observed by the teacher and their peers.
  • Demonstrates recognizable style elements throughout dance choreography: a performance in which the student demonstrates dance elements that respect the selected style, as observed by the teacher and their peers.
  • Identifies opportunities for self-expression in physical activity: a reflection on how the student enjoys expressing themselves through physical activity.
  • Identifies physical activities that encourage self-expression: a reflection on/list of physical activities that, according to the student, encourage self-expression.
  • Discusses relationship between self-expression and physical activity: a reflection on the relationship between self-expression and physical activity.
  • Recognizes individual challenges: A list of potential individual challenges prior to engaging in the activity as well as a reflection on unexpected challenges that may have appeared after having engaged in the activity.
  • Identifies positive coping strategies: A list of positive coping strategies that will help the student cope with the identified individual challenges in a positive way.
  • Implements positive coping strategies when challenged: A reflection on which positive coping strategies best served the student when faced with individual challenges.

Now that we are clear on what evidence we will be looking for, it’s time to design assessment tools that will collect it in a purposeful and meaningful way.

Designing Assessment Tools

Going over the evidence of learning, I draft ideas of tools that would help me collect evidence on my students’ progress towards mastery and that would help me communicate that evidence back to my students. Here the list along with images and quick descriptions of each tool (remember that you can access all of these assessment tools in the International Dance Showcase Unit Teacher Pack):

Learning Roadmap

The Learning Roadmap is the rubric I will share with my students and use throughout the unit to assess where each student is at in their learning. My Learning Roadmaps (which you can learn more about in this blog post) are always present in my lessons (and are often used with my Assessment Magnet system) and readily available when I am assessing a student’s written work prior to sorting it into that student’s portfolio.

Numbers Gradebook

To keep track of my students’ progress, I’ve created Numbers Gradebook. The Gradebook gives me a place to assess the evidence of my students’ learning and compare it to the standards I’ve set in my Learning Roadmap. Storing the results in this spreadsheet app allows me to create formulas that automatically calculate my students grade (which then gets used in my overall grading scheme).

Disclaimer:The Gradebook only works if you have access to Numbers (on macOS or iOS… the Form View you see above is only available on iOS). Also, I’ve modified this Gradebook to calculate results on a 4-point scale rather than the usual 5-point scale I use. I did this because many of you told me you use 4-point scales at your schools. You could always change this by modifying the “Results” column formula.

Express Yourself! Reflection Sheet

The Express Yourself! Reflection Sheet is the tool I will use to help my students reflect on the relationship between physical activity and self-expression. It will also serve as the tool that collects evidence of their understanding of this relationship.

If This, Then That Plan Sheet

The “If This, Then That” Plan Sheet is the tool I will use to collect evidence on my students’ ability to recognize/foresee individual challenges and plan ahead in terms of strategies to cope with those challenges in a positive way. It will also be used at the end of the unit as a reflection tool to get students to think about which challenges turned out to be the most difficult to deal with and which coping strategies had the biggest impact on their ability to overcome challenges in a positive way.

Choreography Creator Card

The Choreography Creator Card is the tool that groups will use to plan out their dance choreographies.Student groups use the card by assigning each square to an 8 count in their dance and building their dance up one 8 count at a time. In terms of assessment, it will serve as evidence that the students purposefully selected movements and elements that respected the dance style that they selected. Also, it will be used to keep a running tab on challenges that appeared during the creation process.

Judge’s Card

The Judge’s Card is the peer-assessment tool that students will use to peer-assess their classmates’ performances. This will help me compare what I think I observed with others’ impressions of each dance in order to see if the style was truly evidence and respected. Also, it will help me assess the students peer-assessing others in terms of seeing if they truly understand and can recognize the dance style they selected.

Designing Learning Visuals

On top of assessment tools, I also knew that I was going to need to create different learning visuals for this dance unit. The visuals you will find below are also all available in the International Dance Showcase Unit Teacher Pack.

Just a quick note: as you’re about to find out in the learning visuals below and the activity descriptions that follow them, this is a pretty tech-heavy unit. iPads, big screens, QR Codes and Internet connections were used in almost every lesson throughout the unit. Although I’ll be describing my uses of tech throughout the International Dance Showcase in the activity description section, you might want to check out the following blog posts to learn more about how I use technology in my teaching (they’ll get you up-to-speed if technology in physical education isn’t your forte):

Dance Style Information Posters

Since students are going to be required to select a dance style to build their choreography around, I decided to create a series of posters that would provide them with information on and examples of each of the styles we will explore in this unit: hip hop, contemporary and jive.

Each poster has the following elements:

  • An overall description of the dance style.
  • Main points that make the style easily recognizable.
  • A QR code that links to additional information on the style and sparks the students online research into it.
  • Two QR codes that link to style-specific performances on YouTube that will help inspire the students (*you’ll need to be able to access YouTube to use these codes).
  • A space at the bottom to indicate possible songs to choose from if dancing to that style.

Just a quick note on song selection: when I first ran this unit, I let the students select whatever school-friendly song they wanted to dance to. This resulted in students taking four classes to select their song, or arguing about the song selection throughout the unit. I then decided to have three songs per style that the students could choose from. This resulted in the same result as before, but to a lesser degree. Now, I assign one song per style and it works great. That said, your students might be very different than mine, and nobody knows your students better than you. It’s up to you to decide what works best for them!

What/Why/How Template

At the beginning of each of my lessons, the class and I go through the “What/Why/How” of that lesson: “what are we learning today?”, “why are we learning it?”, “how will I know I have learned it?”

Although I’ve blogged about these What/Why/How discussions before, and offer the graphics as a free download, I also like to have a pre-made template that I can use with the Paper app on my iPad.

Dance Comparison Template

This is another template I prepared for use with the Paper app on my iPad. I’ll use this template when comparing dances/dancers during our class discussions on the relationship between self-expression and physical activity. It will also play a role in helping students understand that you don’t need to be an elite dancer to enjoy dancing.

Designing Learning Activities

Ok, so the type of learning activities for this unit are going to be different than the ones you saw in the Chasing and Fleeing Games Unit post. Rather than breaking this unit down into games, I’m going to break it down into steps. I teach each of my grades for 60-75 minutes twice a week and it took me seven lessons to complete this unit (but it got stretched out due to the winter break and absences… it should have only been six lessons). I’m going to leave it up to you to decide how many lessons/which parts you would want to include in your version of this unit in order to make it fit into your teaching reality. That said, I’ll add a line break to separate the steps I included in each lesson so you can have an idea of how I grouped them. Before I do so, let me introduce the unit’s challenge to you:

Introducing The International Dance Showcase Challenge!

The idea for this unit is that students would get to work in groups to create a short (90s) dance choreography that respects one of the three possible dance styles: hip hop, contemporary, or jive.

Using iPads/tablets as tools for learning, groups would have an opportunity to research the dance style they selected, find inspiration from the Internet, and then use their tablet as a recording device to have access to video feedback as they finalize their choreography. Once they have recorded the final version of their choreography, they will share the video with their teacher.

The kicker here is that the teacher would then share the dance videos created at their schools with partner schools from around the world. At the end of the unit, classes would not only get to view/peer-assess their classmate’s choreographies, but also those created by students from around the world!

Throughout the creation process, students would have opportunities to reflect on the relationship between self-expression and physical activity. Also, since dance provides different physical, social and emotional challenges that are unique to each student, students would have opportunities to reflect on how to cope with such individual challenges in a positive way.
Ok, so that was the plan for this unit and it was (in many ways) a great success. That said, I’d like to share some details on how this actually turned out:

To make this an international dance showcase, I had to connect with some schools from different countries. I reached out to some teachers I had been wanting to work with for a while and gave them all of the information you are now finding in this blog post (although in slightly less detail) and invited them to run this unit at their schools. Everybody was on board, which got my students really excited about the unit’s challenge, but we encountered some difficulties along the way.

For one, I tried running this unit in December. Not a great idea. Between stolen gym availability, increased student absences, and an overall lack of focus at school, getting the unit done in the time I allotted for it was challenging for all of the teachers involved.

Also, not sure if you remember, by the Pacific Northwest got hit by some gnarly snow storms earlier this year. That meant that a lot of the schools I connected with were dealing with large amounts of unexpected snow days and weren’t able to complete the challenge.

If I were to change anything about this unit, the only thing I would change is that I wouldn’t run it in December.

I also recognize that I’m in a unique position in terms of having a large network of teachers that I can tap into when trying to set up collaborations like this. For some of you, this may not be the case. That’s why I’ve created an “International #PhysEd Collaboration Document” spreadsheet to help you find schools/teachers you can try to set units like this one up with. It’s a public document, so feel free to add your contact info/collaboration goals to it and use it to connect with other schools from around the world!

That being said, let’s go through this unit’s activities, step-by-step:

Step One: Self-Expression in Dance

This was the original What/Why/How I used in my lesson.

After introducing the “What, Why, How” of the lesson (see above), the teacher will have the students observe two dance performances: “Mollee Gray Solo” & “Alicia Keys ‘No One’ Dance” (see below).

The class will have a discussion after each video and try to decipher what they can tell about each performer based on that dancer’s use of self-expression in their performance. The whole point is to have students realize that, through dance, each performer was able to express themselves without needing an introduction or bio. Also, the class will break down what elements were similar in each performance (i.e. rhythm, confidence, fun).

Step Two: Pop-See-Ko & Just Dance

Students will now dance the “Pop See Ko” Dance: a fun, simple dance that makes it easy to express yourself and show your own flair through dance.

After following the video, the class will dance it again but this time they will use only the song instrumentals (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music). The teacher will call out each students name and have them share their “Pop See Ko”. The point here is to give each student an opportunity to express themselves through a fun, silly dance.

Once the “Pop See Ko” activity is done, the class will now dance along to different “Just Dance” videos (although you can find a lot of these on YouTube it’s always best to buy the actual game). The point here is to have kids being active while dancing, all while having discussions on how, even though we are all doing the same dance, we all add our own “flair” (self-expression) in our dancing.

Students will get to analyze the “Just Dance Rasputin Side by Side” video in which they will have to pay attention how each dancer is unique within the choreography (i.e. they bring their own style to the dance even though all three are very in sync). Side note: Rasputin is 100% my favourite Just Dance song to dance to. Just sayin’

Step Three: Reflecting on Self-Expression and Physical Activity

Students will fill out the “Express Yourself!” assessment sheet to share what they know about the relationship between self-expression and physical activity. The teacher will refer to the Learning Roadmap rubric to help students understand what mastering the S5.M5.6 outcome could look like. Both of these assessment tools are available as part of the International Dance Showcase Unit Teacher Pack.

Step Four: Analyzing a Choreography

The class will watch this choreography from The Company (which is amazing):

Afterwards, the class will have a discussion on how such a performance is created. Also, we will touch on how, even though every dancer is following the same choreography, each dancer still brings their own self-expression to their dancing. Finally, the teacher will introduce the unit’s main event: to create a dance choreography that will be submitted to an International Dance Showcase event that will involve dance performances from grade 6 students from around the world!

Step Five: Breaking Down a Choreography

The class will attempt to follow along to the Just Dance “Uptown Funk” choreography.

Then, class will go over how a dance choreography is broken down and constructed count by count. Pulling in on prior knowledge from both physical education and music class, the students will observe a dance and break it down into sections: Verse – Chorus – Bridge. Each section will be broken down by the teacher into small clips to help students learn each movement. The idea here is to help students understand how to break a song down into parts and create movements for the different parts in order to build up a choreography. You can use the following links to jump to the different sections of the dance:

Once the class has learned and rehearsed the dance, the teacher will record their performance once more. Then, we will compare the video from the start of class to the one from the end of class. The point here is to have students realized the benefit of breaking a dance down into sections, rehearsing each of the parts, and using video feedback in order to improve.

Step Six: Identifying Personal Challenges

Now that the students know the unit’s main event and have had some experience dancing, then will have an opportunity to reflect on individual challenges they might face along the way and plan for positive ways of coping with challenges that might occur.

Using the “If This, Then That Plan” sheet (see above), students will create a list of challenges they’ve identified and provide a strategy for dealing with each identified challenge. (PS: I had the kids do this as homework).

Step Seven: Creating Groups & Introducing The Technology

In the following lesson, it was time to get to business.

I let my students select their own groups of 3-5 students. Yes, this causes headaches at times as arguments arise over who gets to work with who. That being said, it’s important to me that students get to work with fellow classmates that are going to push them to be at their best. Dance can be a very intimidating activity for some students, so we might as well set them up for success. Having said that, here are some pro tips I have learned over time when it comes to creating the groups for this dance unit: get to know your students really well prior to the start of the unit and be flexible. I’ve had groups of two and I’ve had groups of seven. At the end of the day, all that matters is that they are dancing!

As for the technology, since we use a lot of it throughout the year, the students were already aware of routines/procedures/expectations around their use of technology in physical education. However, if you haven’t used a lot of tech in your teaching, here are some things you should consider prior to letting your students run wild with it:

  • Make sure that everything you need in terms of technology is properly set up before starting the unit. Are the apps you needs downloaded to the devices your using? Are the devices charged? Will your WiFi network be strong and consistent enough to support the work your students will be doing with technology?
  • Before you hand out tablets to the students, teach them the routines/procedures that will need to be respected to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Where do students get their tablets from? Where do they place the tablets when they are not using them? Where do tablets go at the end of the lesson? What happens if someone uses a tablet in an inappropriate way (e.g. not using the apps allowed for that lesson, acting in ways that are reckless with the tablet, etc.)?
  • Think about how you will teach the students how to use the apps you will be using in your lessons. Will you do it during the lesson? Could you create a video and share it with them so that they can watch it at home before the lesson? What systems could you set up so that, if a student becomes confused as to how to use an app, they can find the answers they need without breaking up the flow of the class?

Once you have set yourself up for success, you should still expect things to go wrong at times (such is the nature of educational technology). Apps get deleted, WiFi networks crash, websites become unavailable. Always have a plan B, C, and D when using technology in your teaching. Doing so will allow you to quickly respond to any issues that might occur and not allow them to negatively impact your lesson.

Once my students were clear about how they were going to be able to use the tablets throughout the unit (as research device, video recording, and feedback tool), we were ready for the next step.

Step Eight: Selecting a Style

With their iPads in hand, groups were then given time to learn more about each style prior to selecting the one they would build their dance choreography around.

Using the Dance Style Posters (see above), the students got to read descriptions of each style, learn about each style’s main visual points, see examples of choreographies that respected the styles and then perform some online research into each style before finally choosing which one they wanted to dance to.

Remember that I also wrote a song title on each Dance Style Poster that would be the song the students would have to dance to if they chose that style.

Step Nine: Dance Creation

Once a group had selected the dance style they would build their choreography around, it was time for them to start creating their dance!

Using the Choreography Creator Card (see above), students started drafting ideas for their dance.

As groups worked on their choreographies, I would go around and talk to each group to see how they were progressing and how they were striving to respect the style they had selected. At times, I would offer to record a group’s dance so that they could use the video to identify areas needing improvement prior to filming the final version of their dance. I would also take this time to talk to students who had struggled with the “Express Yoursefl!” or “If This, Then That Plan” assessments and help them go deeper into their understanding in those areas.

Students worked very independently throughout this step and were fully engaged. Although I will always have the odd argument or off-task behaviour, for the most part the students are just really focused on creating the best dance possible.

I gave my students two and a half lessons to finalize their dances. Once they had a final product that they were proud of, they simply used AirDrop to share the video with me.

Step Ten: Dance Showcase Celebration

As I received my students’ dances, I uploaded them to a shared Google Drive folder which the teachers from the other schools had access to (and they would do the same). All of this was in preparation for our final lesson: The Dance Showcase Extravaganza!

On the final day of the unit, the students were each given a Judge’s Card (see above) that they would get to use as a peer-assessment piece. As a class, we went over the four levels of mastery for outcome S1.M1.6 (the dancing one) using our Learning Roadmap rubric. We then watched a mix of dances from our school (we watched all of the ones from our school) and the other schools that participated in the International Dance Showcase*. For each dance we observed the students would mark which level of mastery the group achieved through their choreography and then provided one piece of positive feedback (praise) and one piece of constructive feedback for the group.

At the end of the activity, I collected all of the Judge’s Cards and took notes on the feedback given to each group prior to scanning them and adding them to the student’s portfolios. I informally shared this feedback with the groups in our following lesson, which was just a big dance party!

Getting to see all of the groups’ dances and to reflect on the hard work, self-expression, creativity, and perseverance that went into each choreography was the perfect way to end this awesome unit!

*Since the schools I connected with were not able to complete the unit within the same time frame as us, we unfortunately did not get to watch/assess their videos along with our own. That said, my students did get to watch (but not assess) the videos that were shared with us during a future lesson when we were stuck in a classroom. My goal for next year is to be able to assess the other schools’ choreographies using the Judge’s Card, scan the cards, and then share them all with the teachers so that they can relay the information back to their students! You teach and you learn!

Download The Teacher Pack!

So that was my International Dance Showcase! It was a ton of fun and the students went all out!

If you’d like to run this unit at your school (all while supporting, be sure to buy the International Dance Showcase Unit Teacher Pack!

In this Teacher Pack, which is an extension of this blog post,  you will find the following resources:

  • Learning Roadmap (and a blank version if you choose to use your own language)
  • Numbers Gradebook File (only compatible with Numbers for iOS)
  • Express Yourself Self-Assessment Tool
  • If This Then That Self-Assessment Tool
  • Choreography Creator Card Tool
  • Judge’s Feedback Peer-Assessment Tool
  • What/Why/How Template (Paper for iOS App or any other drawing app required)
  • Dance Comparison Tool Template (Paper for iOS App or any other drawing app required)
  • Dance Style Sheets (one for each style: hip-hop, contemporary, and jive)
  • Unpacking Content Tree (to help you defend/explain the inclusion of this unit in your PE curriculum)

All of that, combined with this blog post, should give you everything you need to adapt this unit for your physical education program. Again, thank you for your support!

Final Thoughts

My grade 6 dance unit is one I have been proud to include in my curriculum for year’s now (I used to call it my “So You Think You Can Dance” unit and have talked about it on the #ScopeVlog before). I’ve never been a great dancer and dance was never a key part of my physical literacy journey. That said, I never want my personal experience (or lack of it) limit the experience I can provide my students with. With all of the amazing tools available to us now through modern technology, there’s no reason to think that something is seemingly impossible to teach (heck, I’ve even taught surfing principles in my gym before!)

The Internet is changing dance and dance education in incredibly wonderful ways. Here’s an (older but still) awesome TED talk on this phenomenon:

Dance is a perfect activity to help students develop their confidence in physical activity all while being uniquely themselves through it.

That being said, let’s let them dance!

Thanks so much for reading and for your support!

Happy Teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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