Composing and Planning, Producing, Executing and Performing
In this lesson, students will create an original dance that communicates the stages of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. They will read Eric Carle’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, examine photos showing monarch butterfly life cycles and choreograph and perform a dance expressing what they have learned.
- Read Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Draw pictures based on images from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Examine photographs of the stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle
- Create a graphic organizer that demonstrates the monarch’s life cycle stages
- Create and choreograph a dance focusing on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly
- Perform a dance focusing on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly
- Cooperative Learning
- Multimedia Instruction
What You'll Need
- 1 Computer per Classroom
Flash player will be needed for some resources.
An understanding of age-appropriate basic skills and vocabulary, as well as of the elements of dance.
Found in all dance, even short phrases of movement, the elements provide a foundation for understanding and developing movement skills. For early elementary, the elements can be described as an art form in which a dancer moves through space and time with energy. For more detail, the Elements of Dance Organizer from the Perpich Center for Arts Education provides a strong overview.
Teacher should have a basic understanding of the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.
Teacher should be comfortable with creative movement for learning.
Note: be prepared to move desks to create free room for movement.
- Large Group Instruction
- Small Group Instruction
- Individualized Instruction
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. Project the image of the monarch butterfly shown in the first slide in the ENGAGE section of the media player above.
2. Discuss the butterfly. Ask the students questions:
- Have you ever seen a butterfly?
- Have you ever seen a monarch butterfly, like this one?
- How would you describe this monarch butterfly?
Using the Life Cycle Diagram, explain that some animals, like cats, are born small and get bigger, but keep just about the same shape. Others, like butterflies, grow through metamorphosis, a process of changing from one form to another.
3. Read Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar aloud to the class, showing the illustrations. This book can usually be found in your public or school library.
4. Review the life cycle of the butterfly as described in the book: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. Optionally, display the image of the four stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle. Discuss with the class that the book uses the word “cocoon,” when monarch butterflies actually have a chrysalis and not a cocoon. Read Eric Carle’s explanation to the class; it’ll help them remember the correct use of the terms.
5. If you like, share the images of each stage of the life Cycle (available in the Butterfly Life Stages slideshow above.) Remind students to use their skills of observation, just as scientists do.
6. Invite students to share comments, questions, and observations about what they see as you visit each screen. For example, you may explain vocabulary terms, such as the word “chrysalis,” which is the enclosing case or covering of a pupa; ask the students to describe some physical features; or ask questions about the colors they see. Encourage the class to make observations and ask questions, an important part of scientific learning.
1. Share information about the life of the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies are very unusual. They migrate, like birds. There are no other butterflies that do this. Butterflies don’t live as long as birds, so the butterflies that fly south for the winter are not the same butterflies that return to their homes as far north as Canada.
2. Watch the short video (in the BUILD tab above) about the life and travels of the Monarch Butterfly. As they watch the video, they should use their observation skills as they look for the stages of the life cycle, as well as how adult butterflies behave.
3. Tell students that like scientists, artists use their skills of observation and analysis. Many artists observe their natural surroundings and use what they see to give them ideas and inspiration for their pictures, dances and music. Artists also use their imaginations to take what they see and make it different from what it might seem to be.
4. Tell students they are going to create, or choreograph, a dance that gets its ideas, or tells the story of, the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. To do this, they will need to think about the movements a Monarch butterfly makes throughout its life cycle. They will also need to know the basic building blocks, or elements of dance.
5. Introduce the basic elements of dance. Dance is a form of communication. It is an art form in which a dancer moves their body through space and time with energy. This can be broken down with simple demonstration by the teacher or a student volunteer, who can move as you explain Who? (the dancer) does what? (moves) where? (through space) when? (and time) how? (with energy.)
6. Connect the movements of a Monarch butterfly to those of a dancer. Do butterflies “dance”? Tell students that there are specific things to look for in a dance.
- make patterns and shapes with the parts of their bodies.
- perform specific actions or movements (either non-locomotor, like stretching, bending, shaking, or traveling (locomotor) movements, like sliding, skipping, crawling.)
- change how they occupy and where they are in space, though changes in direction, size, levels, and their relationships to their environment or others.
- act in time, whether metered (in beats or pulses, along with musical tempos, etc), in clock-time or in free-time, and in relationship to others (before, after, in unison, etc)
- use varying qualities and types of energy-- sharp, smooth, sudden, flowing, tight, light, etc.
Here is a “cheat sheet” for discussing the qualities of the elements:
Size: large/small narrow/wide
Level: high / medium / low
Direction: forward/backward, sideways, diagonal, right/left
Pathway: curved, straight, zig-zag random
Relationships: in front/beside/behind over/under alone/connected near/far
Time: fast, slow, random, in-time; before/after/together
Energy: quick, slow,
There are also many words that can be used to kick off butterfly movement-related brainstorming: gliding, pulsing, flowing, sailing, wiggling, still, squirming, etc.
7. Watch (or simply lead a discussion around) the individual videos of each of the stages of the Monarch’s metamorphosis: coming out of the egg; the walking caterpillar; emerging from the chrysalis; eating and gently flapping; flying from flower to flower. Encourage students to observe and use describing words for the movements they see, as well as use their imaginations to “fill in the blanks” of what they might not have seen. Remind them they will be using the movements of the butterfly as the basis of their own dance expressing the life cycle of the butterfly.
1. Refocus by telling students they will work together in small groups to create, or choreograph, a dance focusing on the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. Students will use the information they’ve learned to develop their dances.
2. Have students brainstorm ideas about how to create a butterfly dance. Remind them that dance is a form of communication, and that they will express the life cycle stages of the monarch butterfly in their dances.
Using the questions below, brainstorm ideas about how each stage of the life cycle might be expressed:
- Is the Monarch moving or still? (eggs are still, caterpillars move, the chrysalis is still until it’s time for the butterfly to emerge, the butterfly moves)
- Will your dance be fast or slow?
- Will it change levels-- be close to the ground, at “regular” height, or have jumps to take it to the air?
- Will you sit? If you sit, will you be low to the ground, or stretch your body to the sky?
- How will you move? Will you spin? Will you wiggle?
- What will your arms do? How will you move your head?
- Will the dancers in your group all do the same things, or different things?
- Will each member of the group dance all the lifecycle stages?
- When will different things happen?
3. Give each group a copy of the How to Create Your Dance handout to use to record their dance. Optionally, display the slide as they work to help keep them on track. Encourage students to experiment with different kinds of movements that could show the four stages of the butterfly’s life cycle. (Remember to explicitly tell students your expectations for behavior, whether they can move from their desks as they brainstorm, etc.) Tell students that each segment should be about 20-60 seconds long. Once students have tried out a variety of options, they should write their favorites on their handouts. Walk around the groups as they are trying out different steps and movements, assisting as needed.
4. Share and review the ways each group’s dance will be assessed. Review each of the rubric’s elements so that students understand how they will be assessed, individually and as a group.
5. Give students time to plan and rehearse their dances.
1. Allow time for each group to present its dance to the class. Invite the class to provide positive comments and suggestions.
2. Stage a performance of the students’ dances. Invite others in the school and community to view the students’ performances.
3. Discuss the process of working together as a class. This lesson requires lots of collaboration. Discuss with students the things that worked and the things that need work in their collaborative process.Compile a class list of suggestions for how to work effectively together on a collaborative project. Post this list as a shared classroom resource.