ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Swing Your Partner: The Basics of Square Dancing

Explore the art of square dancing and the role it played in American history


Key Staff

Classroom Teacher

Key Skills

Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Making Art: Producing, Executing and Performing
Creative Thinking: Communication and Collaboration


This lesson will introduce students to the history of square dancing as well as provide an opportunity to learn some basic steps and formations. Once students have mastered the steps, they will create a Kids’ Guide to Square Dancing for Kids by Kids as either a booklet or video.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand the history of square dancing in the United States
  • Learn basic square dancing steps
  • Perform a basic square dance
  • Created a Kids’ Guide to Square Dancing

Teaching Approach

Comprehensive Arts Education

Teaching Methods

  • Demonstration
  • Experiential Learning
  • Direct Instruction
  • Modeling

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
  • 1 Computer per Small Group
  • Projector
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

  • Teachers should have knowledge of basic square dancing steps and an understanding of the role that square dancing plays in American culture and history.
  • Teachers should know how to stream video and project using an LCD projector. If teachers decide to make a video, then knowledge of how to operate a video camera is needed.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should be familiar with square dancing and the concept of folk dances.

Physical Space

  • Rehearsal Space
  • Performance Space
  • Classroom


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


  • Test internet connection.
  • Set up LCD projector

Accessibility Notes

Students with limited mobility may serve as the caller for the square dance and the narrator for the video if you decide to make one.


Resources in Reach

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



1. Ask students what they think of when they think about square dancing. List students’ ideas on the board. Ask students where they got these connotations and what influenced their ideas about square dancing.

2. Tell students that they are going to learn about the origins of square dancing by completing a Web Quest. Depending on how many computers you have available, you may decide to have students work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. The web sites used for the web quest are dosado.com and the Wall Street Journal.

3. After completing the Web quest, reconvene the class and go over students’ findings. Discuss how their perceptions of square dancing may have changed by learning more about its history. Remind students that they should keep this information and history in mind as they begin to learn square dances.

Build Knowledge

1. Connect the LCD projector to a computer and stream a video of a basic square dance.

2. Teach students some of the basic steps of square dancing using the videos.

3. Begin by assigning partners. Have each pair face the wall or screen where the video is being projected. Have the class follow the first three lessons (1a, 1b and 1c) to learn the basics of square dancing.

  • Lesson 1a: Heads, Sides, Positions 1,2,3,4, Circle Left/Right, Do Sa Do, Forward & Back, Swing, Promenade, Promenade 1/2, Single File Promenade
  • Lesson 1b: Includes Allemande Left, Right Hand Turn (Turn Thru), Right & Left Grand, Weave the Ring, Star Left/Right
  • Lesson 1c: Includes Pass Thru, U Turn Back, California Twirl, Partner Trade, Star Promenade

There are 15 lessons available on this web site. You may choose to do as many of the lessons as you have time for. There are also nine lessons for more advanced square dancing students.

4. For more sample videos of square dancing, show students the video from this demonstration.


1. Create the Kids’ Guide to Square Dancing for Kids by Kids as either a booklet or video. This product is a great tool to use in order to reach out to the community. If you make a video, consider asking a public access cable station to broadcast it. If there are local senior centers in the community, distribute copies of the booklet so that the seniors might give them to their grandchildren when they come to visit. Consider selling the booklets as a small fundraiser at a school fair or town fair.

2. Assign students different roles for the video or the booklet. The sections to be addressed are:

  • Narrator / Introduction (Why learn about square dancing?)
  • History (How did square dancing originate? What influenced it?)
  • Basic steps (allemande, promenade, swing, do-si-do, pass thru, left hand turn, right hand turn, etc.). If you are making a booklet, include the move descriptions in this section along with the diagrams (see below). If you are making a video, have students demonstrate each step.
  • Include diagrams of each step from a bird’s eye view (use this web site to help students draw bird’s eye views of the various square dancing formations.). These diagrams can be included in either a booklet or video.
  • Resources (if you are creating a booklet, list web sites and any local resources which will help students learn about this art form)

3. Distribute the following worksheets to students based on their role (the worksheets are available to you within the Resource Carousel):

4. If you are making a video, decide on the order in which information will be presented, who will narrate, and who will demonstrate.

5. If you are making a booklet, be sure to have students type or write their work neatly and follow the outline listed above.

6. If possible, upload your video or scan your booklet and post it as a PDF on your school’s web site.


1. Divide students into groups of eight (four pairs). Tell them that they will be making up their own square dance incorporating five of the different steps that they have learned. You may choose to have groups include some or all of the basic steps that they have learned:

  • Allemande
  • Promenade
  • Do-si-do
  • Form a ring
  • Home position
  • Partner
  • Honor partner
  • Swing
  • Arm turns
  • Star family
  • Star promenade

2. Have each group perform its original square dance to music. Sites from which you can get square dance music are:

3. Tell students that some people believe that square dancing has become less and less popular over the years and that it may soon die out as an art form.

4. Ask students to write a paragraph or two about why think that square dancing has become less popular and whether they think it is worth preserving as a piece of American heritage. If so, how would they go about promoting it and if not, why do they think it doesn’t need to be preserved?


Assess your student's work using the Square Dancing Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.

Extending the Learning

If you have any local groups that square dance, invite them to perform for and dance with students.


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 5: Demonstrating and understanding dance in various cultures and historical periods

National Standards in Other Subjects
Historical Understanding

Historical Understanding Standard 1: Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

Historical Understanding Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective

Physical Education

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



Lillian Hasko
Original Writer

Phyllis Gron
Original Writer

Daniella Garran
Original Writer

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