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TPL    THE PERFORMANCE LAB Interactive Residencies    LESSON PLANS DEV'T & FEEDBACK  ›  II/IIA COLORS OF CONTRACTION Moderators: RAH, Di, Di Aldis, dale schmid, gloria mclean, Administrators (DANA)
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II/IIA COLORS OF CONTRACTION  This thread currently has 2716 views. Print
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April 30, 2007, 2:53pm Report to Moderator
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II: The Colors of Contraction

     The act of contracting a specific muscle, groups of muscles or the body in general has often been a difficult and frustrating concept for new dancers. Often we find dance teachers attempting the guide students into “feeling the sensation,” a “sensation” which if the dancer does not have significant experience with dance movement can be confusing, misleading and frustrating. The lesson strives to help students to foster a better picture of what a contraction “feels” like by utilizing several other artistic disciplines. Furthermore, the idea of a “contraction” and what kinesthetic experiences surround a contraction can be helpful therapy into an investigation of a students’ social, cultural and/or emotional understanding of an issue that he or she may be facing.

Disciplines Addressed
     Dance, Visual Art, Creative Writing and Music

Targeted Grade Levels

Necessary Prior Knowledge For Learner
     General Understanding of Dance, Music, Visual Art and Poetic Elements with a focus in the following preferred:
-     Visual Art—Color (i.e. mixing, complementary/primary, analysis of how color is applied, landscape painting, abstract vs. real)
-     Music—Modes (i.e. major versus minor, doctrine of Musical Affections)
-     Poetic—Metaphor, Simile, Imagery (i.e. basic “imagery-driven” poetic concepts, how to write a poem)
-     Dance—Shapes, Simple Phrasing, Expression (i.e. can create a movement phrase with structured suggestion that utilizes basic dance elements)

Lesson Objectives
The student will express a personal or communal problem by composing a small movement phrase that demonstrates the correct efforts and technique of a contraction.
The student will investigate the “feeling” in a contraction by creating a series of artistic snapshots including a painting of the sky, a small musical composition and a short poem to gain a better understanding of contraction.

Future Objectives
     The student will be able to express and work through difficult social, emotional and physical situations by utilizing the arts to help gain self-understanding and reflection.

National Standards Addressed:
     Strengths: Several standards addressed from a variety of disciplines. Each discipline, Visual Art, Music, Dance (and what should be a discipline Creative Writing) address the creative standards, an often missed component.  
     Possible Standards Concerns: Although you can not address (nor should you) all standards in the lesson, this lesson has potential to be too focused on creativity and relies on one-to-one teachable moments to address technical concerns for each student. If given more time, the lesson could be broken down further to give more time for exploration of each given technique.

State Standards Addressed: (see NYS standards)

Intelligences Foci: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal (Both individual and group work utilized) Linguistic (Writing), Kinesthetic (Dancing), Visual (Visual Art), Musical (Music), Natural (Sky & Weather)  

Assessment Evidence:
     By performing a self-constructed movement phrase utilizing the proper-technique of a contraction; assessment can be fostered. A copy of the complete assessment scale is attached. As shown on the attached sheet, careful consideration has been taken to allow multiple ways for students to gain credit and contribute.

Advance Organizer:

     Materials and Resources
          High-pound Paper (at least 3 per student), Acrylic Paints, Brushes, Palettes, and Paint Cleaning supplies, Pencils, Waterproof Black Markers (Size 1-2), Several Small Hand Instruments (can be homemade), A piano or keyboard (if possible).

     Teacher Preparation
          Requesting or Signing out an open space such as a gymnasium, dance studio or ballroom is strongly recommended. Be sure to have a solid grasp on information mentioned in the “Prior Knowledge” section above as well as the techniques and movement information needed to perform a contraction.

     Vocabulary Listing
          Contraction – to be drawn into together, to make smaller
          Release – to free from anything that restrains

     Safety Considerations
          Review guidelines for proper-dance etiquette and behavior when working in a studio. Also, very IMPORTANT…. Because this lesson strives to help students discuss and communicate difficult issues, it is important to discuss with students how each of us has different challenges and problems and that we are all equally undergoing issues. In other words, explain that we are to be encouraging and kind to one another. Furthermore, collaboration with school counselors or the school psychologist would be a welcoming consideration. (Most school psychologists would generally welcome the opportunity).

Details of Instructional Activity

     Sometimes when I’m not very happy and things just are not going my way, my stomach turns into knots and it feels like the whole world is collapsing in on me, like someone has just sucked all the air and umph right out of me; Have any of you ever felt like that before? [Wait for Response] So I’m not alone in that feeling huh? Well in dance sometimes we perform a “contraction” which feels very similar to that same feeling. And today we’re going to explore those feelings.

1)     Start by having the students stand up beside their desk. Perform a contraction of the core. Use the words, “as if everything was being pulled into your belly but all the air was sucked-out.”

2)     Have students perform it as a group several times. Offer general corrections to the group if necessary.

3)     Ask the students if they know how to contract any other part of their body. What would it look like? What kinds of shapes or feelings might be seen? Give a few moments for exploration. Ask a few children to demonstrate their contraction for the class.

4)     Have the children sit down. As you are passing out visual art materials ask the students what it felt like to go through the contraction. Be sure to encourage any student who might use imagery or metaphors to expand and share with the class their experience.

5)     Tell the children, “Remember when we were talking about Warm and Cool colors and how it sometimes made you feel certain ways?” [Wait for Response—Review material if necessary] “Well sometimes when I feel sad I like to look at the sky. I like to see all the colors and it helps me think things out. What colors do you think the sky would be if it were a contraction? Shhh… don’t tell me.

6)     Before we begin I want you to close your eyes and think about a time when you were going through a difficult time. Maybe you felt like your whole body was in a contraction. Maybe you still feel that way sometimes. Think about what makes you feel that way. What pictures come to your mind when you feel all contracted and twisted up? Do you smell anything? Taste anything? Hear anything? What is the weather like outside? What did your body or brain want to do? [Slowly bring students out of recalled experience exercise]

7)     Have students start by folding one piece of paper (creasing it along the width). Unfold the paper. On top of one side write the word, “contraction” and along the other the word, “release.”

8)     Tell the students, “Using your prior knowledge of mixing colors and landscape painting, paint a ‘sky of contraction.’ Remember, I’m looking for your creativity in colors and the shapes and layout you create in the sky. You can add things below the sky, but I’m only grading you on the sky itself. Later you’ll need to tell me why you choose your specific color and sky layout.”

9)     When the student is finished and while the painting is drying on their desk, have the students take out another sheet of paper and write a paragraph, story, and/or few sentences about why they choose the colors, designs and layout that they choose, be sure to say, “Points will be awarded to students who can connect their own personal thoughts about the times in their life when “life was tough” to their painting. Remember there is no right or wrong answer as long as you are clear in your explanation of the choices you made.[Encourage Poetic Elements… Use as bonus points]”

10)     Repeat steps 1-9 using the concept of a “release” of contraction.

11)     Tell the students to close their eyes and go back to their “places of contraction” This time have them focus on the sounds that they hear. Are they happy noises, sad sounds, soft whispers, loud gongs? Ask them what they think a contraction would sound like?

12)     Briefly review major and minor modes, time signatures, beat and rhythm. Perform a class “vote” on which “mode” a contraction would likely be and which one a release would be. Ask if there are any exceptions.

13)     Using the keyboard, piano, and other instruments, make several noises, chords or sounds and have the students vote on whether the sound would be a contraction sound or a release sound. Discuss.

14)     Have the students split up into groups. Pass out instruments. (each group should have several instrument choices). Instruct the group that they must create a musical composition that contains at least 2 contractions and 2 releases and can be no more than 16 counts long. They can use whatever instruments they like (including their voices, hands and feet) as they as they show at least 2 contractions and 2 releases. Remind the students that points will be awarded based on their clear representation of a contraction and release as well as creativity and teamwork.

15)     Give ample time to work through and practice. When each group is ready, take turns performing the new compositions for each other.

16)     Have students individually take out a sheet of paper and write a few sentences about how the music connected to their own life of contractions and releases. Be sure to encourage poetic elements and remind students that there is no right or wrong answer as long as they can show the relationship between a part or whole section of the music they created and their own lives.

17)     Collect the reflections and check to see if students are on track. Teachers should be looking for the students ability to create enough sensory material and reflection that he or she would be able to write a larger reflection paper that combines both reflections.

18)     Have the students write a reflection paper combining both of their old mini-reflections into one larger work. This paper must not only discuss the problems that the student is facing is his or her “contracted” state, but it must also give possible solutions as to how the student might overcome the problem. It is at this point that the school counselor could be meeting with each student as “writing-mentors” to not only coach proper grammatical skills but to help students with “facing and working through the contraction” Have the students turn in a completed rough draft at the end of the session.

19)     Be sure to allow for new ideas and student exploration. The purpose of the larger work is to help the student synthesize the mini-works into a larger more holistic picture of the problem they are facing.  


20)     Have the students circle the 3 most important images (usually supported by nouns) in their reflections. What strikes them as being critical points in their reflection stories. Re-write these 3 words on a separate sheet of paper. Put away the rough drafts.

21)     Head to the ballroom, studio or gymnasium. Revisit the concept of “shape-making” in dance. Ask students to represent each of the words in a shape. Remember to ask for variety and refresh their memory on levels and angular versus curved shapes.

22)     Have several students demonstrate their shape and discuss why they choose to perform it in a particular way.

23)     Have the students perform the shapes in order by adding any transitional elements and movements that they like. Show and discuss several of the phrases. Review transitions in performance if necessary.  

24)     Split up into teams of 4. Each team is going to be asked to create a dance that contains the following.

a)     16 counts (Common Time)
b)     At least 2 correct executions of contractions and releases
c)     At least 1 shape from each students words

25)     Be sure to explain that bonus credit will be given to groups that utilize smooth transitions, creative shapes and phrases, teamwork and a dedication to performing the dance. When ready, each group performs.

Use the rough draft as a concluding block to tie everything together. Students should take the rough draft, revise it, adding reflection from their dance-projects. Allow for students to continue to meet with the school counselors or psychologists if necessary.

Ideas for Further Development
     Although obvious points of further development can be seen in several different artistic disciplines (i.e. what about what’s under the sky in the painting, melody lines in the music and versed poetry in the writing) the most interesting further developmental issue I find with the work is the concept of working side-by-side with a school psychologist to utilize art to not only learn, but help students understand this difficult and challenging world.

Interdisciplinary Connections:
     Connections to other artistic disciplines have already been clearly noted (i.e. see sections of work). However, with a little extra exploration (and a desire to take the lesson into the ‘public school’ realm, weather, clouds, the sky, the planets and the Earth would be good connective lessons.
     In particular this lesson strongly emphasizes the relationship between imagery derived from kinesthetic, visual and auditory means and transferred into linguistic intelligence responses—and vice-versa.

Name ____________________________________       Date ___________________

Movement Phrase
_______ (25 points) Group clearly showed at least 2 contractions and releases

_______ (10 points) Group clearly utilized at least 1 shape from every student.

_______ (05 points)  Group executed phrase in 16 counts as required

_______ (BONUS 10 points) Groups utilized creative team-building attitudes

TOTAL POINTS ____   /   _____

Music Phrase
_______ (5 points) Group clearly showed at least 2 contractions and 2 releases

_______ (5 points) Group executed phrase in 16 counts as required

_______ (BONUS 5 points) Groups utilized creative team-building attitudes

TOTAL POINTS _____   /   _____

Visual Art
_______ (5 points) Student utilized and mixed a creative an innovating color

_______ (5 points) Evidence of inclusion of the elements of art is seen in sky’s layout

_______ (BONUS 5 points) Student went above and beyond given instruction

TOTAL POINTS _____   /   _____

_______ (5 points) Visual Art Mini-Reflection clearly shows relationship to project

_______ (5 points) Music Mini-Reflection clearly shows relationship to project

_______ (5 points) Reflections utilize proper English Language Skills

_______ (10 points) Rough Draft complete and meets given requirements

_______ (15 points) Final Draft complete and meets given requirements

TOTAL POINTS _____   / _____

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