Connecting to History and Culture
Composing and Planning, Producing, Executing and Performing
A hula dance is a choreographed interpretation of a poetic text, or mele, that tells a story through hand and arm gestures and rhythmic patterns. In this lesson, students will learn about the history of hula, the gestures and movements of hula, and the meaning of this Hawaiian dance. They will use graphic organizers to organize information they learn and will create and perform a hula dance that tells a story.
locate Hawaii on a world map
listen to and take notes on a podcast
conduct Internet research on Hawaii and the hula dance
create a “Hula Garland” graphic representation of facts about Hawaii and the hula dance
learn the gestures used in hula dance
learn a hula dance
create an original hula dance that tells a story
perform a hula dance
Comprehensive Arts Education
What You'll Need
1 Computer per Classroom
1 Computer per Small Group
Teacher should become familiar with the hula dance movements and gestures before teaching this lesson.
Prior Student Knowledge
Students should be able to identify the United States on a map.
Large Group Instruction
Small Group Instruction
Cue up the videos.
Students with limited mobility should know that hula dance is also sometimes performed seated
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. As a class, find Hawaii on a world map. Make sure students understand that Hawaii is a state of the U.S.
2. Ask students to brainstorm about what they know about hula dance. Create a KWL chart (what we and fill out the K section. Know, what we Want to know, what we Learned)
3. Introduce the idea that hula movements have meanings, if students haven’t already mentioned this. Visit the PBS Great Performances website and explore the index of hula movements. The website contains a series of video clips that highlight hula gestures.
As you watch the video clips, have students imitate the gestures.
5. Fill out the W section of the KWL chart. Ask students to list things they’d like to know about hula dance and about Hawaii.
Review the items in the W section of the KWL chart, and brainstorm how the class might learn the answers to their questions.
2. Model note taking for students. Give each student a copy of the Hula Fact Garland handout located within the Resource Carousel. As a class, listen to the National Public Radio broadcast that describes the history of hula. Listen to a brief segment, and then pause the broadcast. Take notes on the board. As you take notes, tell your students why you choose to record specific information. For example, you might say, “I’m writing that modern hula dancing is softer and more graceful than ancient hula. That seems like an important thing, and I didn’t know it before. I’m going to write that in my own words.” When you feel they are clear on how you are taking notes, invite them to make suggestions after you pause the broadcast. Write main ideas and details, and be sure to record at least a dozen items.
3. Invite the class to create a Hula Fact Garland featuring information about the hula. Divide the students into groups of three students. Instruct the students to take notes as they research the hula using the resources on the handout.
4. Review the Hula Fact Garland Rubric handout with students located within the Resource Carousel. Review each item on the rubric so the students will know how they will be assessed on this task.
5. Give students time to find information and fill out their Hula Fact Garlands. Regroup and fill in the L section of the chart. Encourage students to use their notes to remind themselves of the interesting things they learned.
1. Watch the This site includes male and female dancers, and clearly demonstrates basic steps. Encourage students to join in with the dancers on the video. Howcast giving basic hula dancing instructions.
2. Allow sufficient time for students to practice the steps. Return to the Hula Gestures video and encourage students to incorporate the gestures with the basic steps. You may wish to do this on successive days until students feel comfortable.
3. Invite students to create an original hula dance that tells a story. Divide the class into small groups and give each group a copy of the Hula Story Map handout. Review each step on the handout with your class, and clarify any questions they may have.
4. Explain how to use the story map as a guide to plan the hula dance. Students should brainstorm ideas using the hula dance gestures. The next step is for students to write down their ideas. Encourage the students to discuss their ideas and work collaboratively to write their story.
5. Have students to create a story map. Tell the students to include a drawing of the hula gesture, and the words to the story that each gesture depicts.
6. Give the students a copy of the Hula Dance Rubric handout, found within the Resource Carousel, so they will know how their dance will be assessed. Answer any questions.
7. Provide time for the students to practice their dances using their story maps to assist them.
Allow each group to stage a performance of their hula dance. Have watching students take notes during the dance about the story they see. Allow students to narrate their dances if they like. After the performances, allow students to ask questions about the story.
Discuss how the dancers communicated their stories. The watchers might not have gotten the entire literal story, but may have understood the feeling of the story and enjoyed the dance. Ask whether knowing the story (if, for example, the group chose to narrate their dance) was important to enjoyment of the dance.
Assess the student's work using the 'Assessment Rubric' handed out earlier under the step, 'Build Knowledge'.
Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.
During this transitional period, A rtsE dge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.
National Standards for Arts Education
For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our
Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.
Common Core/State Standards
Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.
National Standards in Other Subjects
Geography Standard 1:
Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies
Grades K-4 History
Grades K-4 History Standard 6:
Understands the folklore and other cultural contributions from various regions of the United States and how they helped to form a national heritage