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Action word sentences for older children (Ages 8 to 12)

This is an excerpt from Lesson Plans for Creative Dance by Sally Carline.

An action word for older children can be more challenging, suited to both their physical and verbal understanding. For example, the action “release” (let go) demands a higher level of ability than “grow,” which is suited to younger children. Once the children have explored and developed their individual action sequences they can be used as a basis for work in small groups.

release skip hold (firm and fine contrast)

toss shrivel rise (sudden and sustained contrast)

whip explode lower (levels)

spread gallop settle (pathways)

wobble bounce collapse (body shape)

open flee perch (sudden and sustained contrast)

leap shrink lift (body parts leading the movement)

As you did for the younger children, you should decide on the main focus for the exploration and clarify it during the guided exploration. More difficult words can be introduced as appropriate.

After the initial guided exploration followed by the development of the individual sequence, the children have the basis for more exploration. This can take many forms; you can make the following suggestions to the children:

  • In a group of three, quickly review each other's sequences, then make a dance using your sequences where, for example, you start close together and finish far apart.
  • In a group of three, after watching each other's sequences, make a dance where one of you will start a sequence, another person waits until person 1 has finished the first word, then person 2 starts, and 3 starts after 2 has finished his first word:


  1. rise spin explode
  2. rise spin explode
  3. rise spin explode
  • Will you start close together or far apart? Where will you finish?
  • In a group of three, watch each other's sequences, then decide which word
    you would like to do twice as you develop your dance together. Here is an example:

rise spin explode rise

rise spin explode explode

If different action phrases are introduced, explored, and developed fairly regularly, the children become adept at making small but exciting group dances. The situation works well because each child in the group has a sequence developed, so each group member (rather than just the dominant characters) has a contribution to make. They have to work together with this material within whatever limitations you have set for the group dance. If the children work regularly in different groupings, they learn to cooperate and learn from each other.

So far, the process has been for sequences that you have chosen. Once the children have some experience, they can choose some words from a list that you select. Here is an example:

Traveling: rush creep gallop

Turning: spin whip

Expanding: reach release

Stopping: settle anchor

This list has been chosen so that children can explore a contrast between sudden and sustained movement as the main focus.


You guide the children through an exploration of some of the words (printed on a board) through a focus (in this example) of sudden and sustained movement. It is a good idea to link a couple of words occasionally to emphasize possible contrast:

rush (sudden)

creep (sustained)

anchor (a strong and sudden stopping action
using several body parts in contact with
the floor)

settle (a fine, gentle, sustained stopping action
that, with forward-and-backward and
side-to-side movements, takes the body
from a higher to a lower place)

Holding her shape after

Explore any new words or words that have not received recent attention in the context of sudden and sustained.

Then, from the list on the board, ask each child to choose three words, each from a different family, that could be used to make a sequence showing a clear contrast in time (sudden and sustained).

From this point, the process is similar to the ones previously described, but now the children have choices not only in how they make their sequences but also in the words and the order.

You may review and improve these individual sequences another day and use them as the basis for a partner or group situation. This is good for the children's movement memory, and it also teaches you how they think and remember. Sometimes a child will say, “I've forgotten one of my words, but I know what I did,” indicating a kinesthetic memory. Once the child shows the movement, you can help to supply the forgotten word.


Learn more about Lesson Plans for Creative Dance.

More Excerpts From Lesson Plans for Creative Dance