I am not a mover. My “joke” anytime I’m at a workshop with expressive movement is that I don’t move my arms. I’m not comfortable with it, I dislike doing it, and I feel about as awkward trying it as I felt doing anything when I was a middle schooler. I hated calling attention to my body. Movement is NOT my thing.

But movement is important. So how can I teach movement when I’m not comfortable doing it? This was really hard for me at first, and has always been a hard topic for me but this is an important part of music making for students so let’s tackle it! Getting started with creative movement was daunting for me, so here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to help my students make meaningful movement with music. (Full disclosure, some affiliate links. I get a small kickback but it won’t change your price. No pressure!)

Start Small

Try structured movement that helps give ideas. We don’t start improvisation by handing a saxophone to someone and say, “go for it!” so why should movement be different? Give structured experience is the first part of the prepare phase in rhythm and solfege teaching, so why should it be different in movement? To move and experience musical movement is an important part of the process.

  • Move Alongs! The Feierabend ones, move its on YouTube or even ones you create yourself are perfect for experiencing musical movement.
  • Statues – a creative pose but without movement once you get there. The time for movement is finite.
  • Move like a….puppy, butterfly, swan, etc. Try to pick animals that match the music you are listening to.
  • Mirror a partner – slow movements are key here so that will be helpful for building that creative movement part, not just flailing to be funny.
  • Carry a bubble – play with it/toss & catch/point as it falls, roll it down your shoulder, etc.

Props Are Your Friends

Props help take away the fear of the activity or deflect the focus away from the performer. Just like puppets help with singing, props can help movement in the same way.

  • Scarves
  • Ribbons
  • Balls – using a tennis ball in a prop way like a bubble – pretend it’s a bubble you have to balance and move it to gentle music.
  • Parachutes – use these to show expression in a large way
  • Stretchy bands – use these to show expression in a small way
  • Puppets – make a puppet do the movement
  • Gloves – focus on one part of the body like hands only. Try a ‘hand dance’ where the hands have to move and are the focus so that will help take that focus away from the arms and upper body and put it on the hands.

Structure Can Help

  • Create a folk dance using known dance moves – while not necessarily expressive, allows for creative movement within constraints.
  • Create a body percussion piece – again, while not necessarily expressive, allows for creative movement within constraints.
  • Outside of folk dance, give students a ‘viral dance’ like the Chicken Dance, the Cupid Shuffle, or something along those lines and let them try to create their own dance to a song.
  • Instead of expression being the focus, focus on the counts. If you can focus on this movement is 8 beats or 16 beats, it may help take away that focus on ‘what is my body doing’.


Dr. Missy Strong’s YouTube Channel – My friend Missy makes some seriously cute Move Alongs that your students are going to love. These are great for some of the older kids too!

Feierabend Move It 1 – The original. Several videos that show expressive movement to music. Get it here.

Feierabend Move It 2 – Even more premade Move Its for you. Get them here.

Creative Movement Formations – If you are trying to help students interact with each other, these Creative Movement Formations can give you some ideas of starting positions. The visuals also help students get into formations without a lot of extra talk. Find them here.

Scarf Cards – This set of scarf cards will give students movements to create with their scarves for controlled, and purposeful movement. Get them here.

Scarves – This set of 36 scarves is only $18 so it’s a great way to get a class set without breaking the bank! Find them here.

If you are like me and don’t really like putting your movement on display, I hope that this has given you some great ideas for getting started with creative movement in a way that feels natural to you.

Melissa Stouffer-1

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