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  • Figures in Motion
    By Iris Bildstein

    Grade Level: 5

    Students will create clay figures representing bodies in motion based upon their favorite schoolyard activity.

    This lesson plan recognizes that 5th grade students embrace the world around them and are much less egocentric than when they were younger. They are no longer using art to purely communicate the salience of experiences, 5th graders progressively decrease their concrete thinking. As a result of less concrete thinking, these students start integrating overlapping and multiple perspective into their work. Usually around this time, students become interested in the aesthetic of their work and aim to reflect more visually realistic scenarios. (Prior learning: Before students start this activity, they should have had some exploration with clay and perhaps some investigation of bodies and their action in 2-dimensional form.)

    Understanding the Philosophy of the Lesson Plan

    This lesson plan follows the format designed and used by Dr. Judith M. Burton, in the "lesson planning" component of her Child/Adolescent development classes, in the Art and Art Education program at Teachers College Columbia University. This format is meant to instigate dialogue between, teacher and student(s) as well as between student(s) and student(s). Additionally, this lesson plan is meant to guide students into awareness of their own thinking and art making possibilities. It provides a chance for students to engage in a "deeper" learning that comes out of the experience of talking about, looking at and making art. Activities, featured within the lesson plan, are meant to accommodate the abilities and developmental stages of specific age groups based upon theories of Piaget, Lowenfeld, Hurwitz and Day, Arnheim, and Burton.

    It is critical to students' learning and growth that teachers recognize this lesson plan is not meant to be free-standing, but is to be seen as one lesson in a sequence of many, therefore allowing learning to expand exponentially. In building sequential lessons, prior learning is called upon so that new learning can occur. Furthermore, this style of lesson planning does not make the assumption that all students have the same cognitive and physical abilities. Often times we as art teachers, as adults, take for granted our understanding of material and we assume that it our students may be equally as capable. However, children, young adolescents, and adolescents need to understand and know what they are doing so that they may own the experience and utilize that knowledge in the future. Finally, this lesson plan format allows for the (art) teacher to guide the student towards realizing his/her work in meaningful and thoughtful ways. It also gives opportunity to the student to reflect and re-reflect on how they come to make their own art.

    This lesson plan have been designed and are suggested for specific grades and age groups. Stages of developmental growth approximates the ranges of change that occur as children grow. Since it is not static, its fluidity allows for this lesson plan to be tweaked to accommodate (possibly) a grade lower and a grade higher than indicated. That determination will have to rely on the art teachers knowing of her students and understanding their needs and development.
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    Understanding the Components of a Lesson Plan

    The actual lesson plan is written as a discussion between teacher and students. It is formatted in such a way so that the teacher can guide the students into thinking about how they will engage in their art making. The "T's" that appear represent things that a teacher might say to his/her class while the "S's" represent the anticipated responses of students, of course theses are not the only possible responses nor are they exhaustive. Writing anticipated student responses provides the teacher with the opportunity to reflect upon the questions that (s)he intends to ask while accessing if they will lead the students towards the objective.

    • OPENING STATEMENT- is what the teacher says in the beginning of the class to set the tone and focus towards a specific idea.

    • TOPIC QUESTION- is the first question that the teacher asks the class in a way that will incorporate the idea of the opening statement in a way that will connect to students and their experiences.

    • ASSOCIATION- is a discussion that explores various aspects and ideas that arise from the Topic question, which guide students to reflect and focus on multiple perspectives and possibilities.

    • RECAP- is the teacher's verbal review of the answers and ideas that were put forth by the students during the Association.

    • TRANSITION- is when the teacher reveals to the class the specific's of the day's activity and begins to navigate the students towards thinking about their own work with the materials.

    • VISUALIZATION- is a series of questions and responses that help students focus on the specifics of their individual work. It helps the student organize ideas, and visualize what they need to do to create the desired outcome. Through well-directed prompts, the teacher can guide the students through a cognitive layout of their artwork.

    • RECAP- is the verbal review of ideas and notions that were discovered during the Visualization.

    • TRANSITION- moving from talking about ideas to actually making art, the teacher provides the students with some questions and ideas, which will help them, begin their art making process.

    • CLOSURE- is an opportunity to look at and discuss students' work while reinforcing the learning that the activity provided.
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    Students will learn that through combining different shapes of clay such as; cylinders, cubes, spheres of various sizes and orientations, they can create a 3dimensional figure that represents the idea of a body in motion based upon their favorite schoolyard activity.

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    Necessary Materials

  • Clay

  • Water

  • Water-bowls

  • Working boards

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  • Teaching Procedure

    T: Every year at the end of the summer my favorite tennis tournament is held in NYC. I try to go as often as possible and I love to watch the tennis players run, twist, turn etc. They are really great athletes. Not only do I enjoy watching tennis, I love to play it myself.

    T: When you are out in the schoolyard during recess what are your favorite types of activities to do?
    S: I like to jump rope. I'm getting real good at double-dutch. My friends and I jump almost every day.
    S: My favorite is playing kick ball.
    S: We play tag all the time.

    T: Those sound like great activities. Who can tell me what their arms and legs are doing when you are engaging in these activities?
    S: My legs are bending and straightening as I run while my arms are kind of swinging or pumping.
    S: When I am jumping, I bend one leg as I hop unto the other.
    S: I sit around and talk with my friends. I usually sit Indian-style, so my legs are folded and kind of one over the other. Since I mostly use my hand when I talk, my arms are always moving.

    T: Where are your legs and arms in relationship to one and other and the rest of your body when you are doing your activity?
    S: When I'm jumping double-dutch one leg is straight when the other one is bent.
    S: As I run one leg is in front of the other -- same thing with the arms, one comes forward while the other is behind.
    S: When I am kicking a ball I stand on one leg as I bend and straighten the other leg. The leg that I kick with ends up being extended in front of the leg that I'm standing on.

    T: Those are all great answers. We discussed that sometimes legs bend and straighten at different times. Sometimes arms and legs alternate being in front and behind each other. Some of us are moving while others are still.

    T: Today we are going to work with clay and create figures of people who are in motion, base upon the activities that you like to do in the school yard. Who has an idea about what there figure would be doing?
    S: I'm going to show someone up at bat -- like when I play softball- during my lunch period.
    S: I'd like to make someone doing a cartwheel -- partially upside down- because I love to do cartwheels and my friends and I always see who can do the most cartwheels.
    S: I'm going to make someone running -- really fast, because my best friend and I always are racing.

    T: How will you use your clay to show your ideas? For instance how will show that legs bend?
    S: I would roll a piece of clay into a long, thick rounded form and pinch it at the knee-area where the leg bends.
    S: Well since my figure is going to be standing on one leg, I'm going to have to make it real solid and strong to support the rest of the figure.
    S: Since my figure will be holding a bat, I'll need to make one arm longer and one arm shorter because that's how it looks when you are up at bat. Your front arm looks much longer because it's extended across your body and your back arm is kind of folded up and looks real little.

    T: And how might you create your figure's torso? Will it be straight or made in a different way?
    S: Since my figure will be running -- I will make the body part leaning forward like you do when you are running.
    S: My figure's body will be kind of bent over with its head tuck in as if it were going to do a cartwheel.
    S: When I stand on my hands, my back curves inwards and my stomach is pushed out a bit. That's how I'm going to show my figure.

    T: So we've heard how clay can be bent to make to resemble legs, and that some bodies are twisted or rounded over. We discussed that whatever part supports the body needs to be strong enough to hold the rest up.

    T: As you think about the figure that you are going to create, think about what part of the figure you'd begin with. Will you have to combine lots of different sized shapes or will your shapes be mostly the same size. Before you begin working with your clay think about the sizes of parts that you will need to make for instance if you create a really large leg, how big would the rest of the body need to be? Now remember as you are working - if your clay starts to get stiff or becomes difficult to work with you'll need to add some water. Once you have your materials you may begin.

    T: Who wants to share their work with the rest of the class?

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    Adaptation/Extension Ideas

    Moving ahead: Now that student have had this experience, it might be interesting to have the students collaborate on creating an environment where they could then arrange their figures in a scene that represents "The Schoolyard at Recess".

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    Arnheim, R. (1990). THOUGHTS ON ART EDUCATION. Los Angeles: Getty Center for Education and the Arts.

    Lowenfeld,V. & Brittain, L (1982). CREATIVE AND MENTAL GROWTH. New York: MacMillan.

    Hurwitz, A. & Day,M. (1995). CHILDREN AND THEIR ART. New York: Harcourt Brace.

    Burton,J.M. (1981 January). "Developing minds: Ideas in search of forms." SCHOOL ARTS, 58-64.

    Burton, J.M. (1995 January). "NAEA research task force on student learning in and through the visual arts: Briefing paper." Reston, VA:NAEA.

    Burton, J.M. (1994, June). "The arts in infancy:Celebrating artistry in the child." Paper presented at the conference: The Arts in Infancy, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimre, Maryland.

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    About the Author

    Iris Bildstein is currently a Program Associate for the Art and Art Education Program at Teachers College Columbia University where she is pursuing a Masters of Education in Art Education. She expects to receive her degree at the end of the year and then will continue on to the completion of a Doctorate in Education. She is co-editing a graduate journal at Teachers College and also does some supervision of student teachers. For seven years, Ms. Bildstein taught and coordinated an art education program for New York City school children who did not receive any art education as part of their regular curriculum. Ms. Bildstein worked closely on this lesson plan with Dr. Judith Burton.

    Dr. Judith M. Burton is Professor and Chair of the Department of the Arts and Humanities, and Director of the Program in Art and Art Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Burton is an internationally recognized scholar, lecturer, author, and a highly respected 'developmentalist' known for her research on the artistic-aesthetic responses of children and adolescents. Among numerous publications, her widely acclaimed series 'Developing Minds', published in SCHOOL ARTS has become essential reading for art education students across the country. Dr. Burton has been awarded several prestigious honors, including the Lowenfeld Award for lifetime achievement by the National Art Education Association.

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