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make your day dance

Lesson Plan: Making Inferences about Culture

January 4th, 2009 · No Comments · Tags: ·······

Grade Level: 5th Grade

Enduring Understanding:  We can make inferences about a culture from its dances.

Target:  Get the feeling of a culture by learning a cultural dance.  Assessment criteria:  Students navigate the dance successfully.

Target:  Make inferences about a culture after doing a cultural dance.  Assessment criteria:  Students guess at possible generalizations, supported by evidence from the dance.


Students learn Syp Simeon from Russia.  [Two links take you to directions and a video.]  Repeat so students can enjoy the change in tempo.

Skill development:

Teach and dance the Troika. [For directions on Troika, see Phyllis Weikart’s Rhythmically Moving II.]

Creating Connections:

Review the concept of making inferences, as it’s used to support reading comprehension: As we read books, we don’t have to be told everything by the author; often we can “read between the lines,” using evidence from the book to understand more about the character or events than the author tells us directly.

Make some preliminary guesses about the people and culture that produced Syp Simeon, with evidence from the dance.  Continue the list by making inferences about the people who created and dance the Troika.

Inferences about Russian cultureExamples of inferences:

People in this culture are playful and have a sense of humor; we know because Syp Simeon is like a game, with humorous gestures.

They probably like to dance at festivals; we know because these dances are joyful and celebratory.

People in this culture are excitable and energetic; we know because the moves in their dances are fast and energetic.

Different ages of people probably dance together; we know because the patterns are simple and repetitious, and also because the Troika uses trios instead of duets (so they’re not courtship dances).

These people are full of spirit!  We know because they move fast and have fun!


Are these characteristics we know, or are we just guessing?  How could we check our guesses?  …Research!

Note:  My purpose is not so much to teach students about a specific culture, but to encourage them to think about and relate characteristics of cultures to the use of space, time, and energy in dances.  As teacher, I am the guide. Students’ supporting evidence and suppositions have to make sense.

Essential Academic Learning Requirement: 1.2 Develops arts skills & knowledge, by repeating dance patterns & sequences; 4.4 Understands that the arts shape and reflect culture.

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