Systems of the Body: Movement and Choreography

Creating movement patterns that express information about the basic systems, organs, and processes of the human body.


Key Staff

Primary Instructor

Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres, Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique


In this lesson, students will create movement patterns that express information about the basic systems, organs, and processes of the human body. They will work in pairs and in groups to make movement choices that communicate scientific concepts in creative movement, and make inquiries, through research and movement experimentation, into the ways in which the body's systems work and how those systems interact.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Discover and create movement patterns that express information about the basic systems, organs, and processes of the human body.
  • Make inquiries, through research and movement experimentation, into the ways in which the body's systems work and how those systems interact.
  • Work alone, in pairs, and/or in small groups to make movement choices that communicate scientific concepts in creative movement.

Teaching Approach

  • Thematic
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery Learning
  • Discussion
  • Experiential Learning
  • Reflection

Assessment Type



What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Projector
  • Video Camera
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should familiarize themselves with the vocabulary that will be used to describe body systems using these materials.

Physical Space



Large Group Instruction

Accessibility Notes

Students with visual impairments or disabilities may need modified handouts or texts. Students with physical disabilities will need modified movement options.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Have students explore the BBC's "Interactive Body," a series of expeditions into the body. Students can learn about the systems of the body as they explore each game-like interactive. As students are exploring, you may wish to have them choose one system in the body to which they should pay particular attention.

Build Knowledge

1. Assign five small groups to each work on one system of the body using the BBC's "Interactive Body" for research. Students should take notes as they research. Provide written resources for background information on:

  • Five of the major systems of the body - Circulatory, Respiratory, Nervous, Muscular-Skeletal, and Digestive
  • Organs and components of each system
  • Basic terminology of each system (esophagus, peristalsis, alveoli, capillary, valve, synapse, digestion, neuron, etc.)

2. Discuss parts of the systems, such as blood vessels, lungs, muscle fibers, nerve cells, and stomach. Link systems with elements of dance—for example, breathing and energy or time (rhythm), circulation and space (pathways).

3. Have students create movements that represent the following words taken from the body's systems in action, such as: beat, inhale, push, connect, float, churn, etc. Have students move through the general space, using the given words as the movement stimulus. Have them freeze between movements, and call attention to the interesting or unusual or evocative shapes they form as they remain frozen.

4. Demonstrate or model an action from the body that was discovered (such as the heartbeat) during their tour of BBC's "Interactive Body" without telling the students what the action is. Have students guess, then discuss the answers.


1. Have students perform mirror actions in pairs. Divide students into pairs. Have partners face one another, with one as leader and one as follower. Give them one action word at a time. The leader does the action while the follower attempts to move like the leader's mirror image. Alternate who leads as you go through the word list (including words such as: beat, inhale, push, connect, float, digest, flow, churn, etc.) Allow time for partners to discuss afterwards.

2. Have students perform complementary actions in pairs. While partners are still facing each other, repeat the word list (or use new words suggested by the group). This time the leader moves freely as the responder attempts to move in complementary fashion. Example: the leader "chews" at a high level, and the responder does a similar action at low level. Discuss the activity after each partner has had a chance to lead and respond.

3. Explain to students that they will, within their groups, choreograph a simple dance that expresses information about how an organ or a major system functions. The guidelines for the choreography are:

  • Each performance must have a beginning, a middle, and an end; the beginning gets our attention, the middle is the movement content, and the end lets us know you are finished.
  • Only the body can be used; neither props nor vocal sound effects can be used.

4. Give students some ground rules for working on choreography within their groups:

  • Everyone in the group must have a job. This means that everyone must take part in all phases of the work, from choreography to rehearsal to performance.
  • Use your time wisely. Don't waste time on things that don't help you create your assigned work.
  • Safety first! The floor is hard; you are not. And don't scare your audience (that is, you may startle them, but don't make the audience fear for your safety!).

5. Circulate around the room and offer feedback or suggestions when needed. (Note: Resist the temptation to choreograph for the groups; each piece must be wholly the students' work.) Some examples of constructive feedback are: Can you choose just a part of the system to demonstrate? How will you express through movement only a part, instead of the whole system? Which systems, organs, or parts have the most movement possibilities? The most interesting shapes?


1. Have each group share their initial results, the "first drafts," with the class. Videotape if possible. Guide a discussion of each group's presentation, asking students to be sure to keep all comments positive and constructive.

2. During the next class period or two, allow students time to re-work their choreography. Have students keep a detailed record of their process and the changes they make to their choreography and final piece. You may wish to videotape each draft or iteration for a comparative record of the process.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge 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 For Arts Education

Grade 5-8 Dance Standard 1: Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance

Grade 5-8 Dance Standard 3: Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning

Grade 5-8 Dance Standard 4: Applying and demonstrating critical and creative thinking skills in dance

Grade 5-8 Dance Standard 7: Making connections between dance and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects
Physical Education

Physical Education Standard 1: Uses a variety of basic and advanced movement forms



Jen Westmoreland Bouchard

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Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



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