The 2015-2016 academic year will mark the first implementation of statewide standards for middle school dance and the first time the dance Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) have expanded beyond high school. As your quest to share the arts with more students continues, you will want to look into the new standards with enthusiasm and a discerning eye.



The TEKS affect dance education by articulating what students must learn. Students who learn the middle school dance TEKS will be one step closer to being productive, curious, knowledgeable adults who can work collaboratively with others. Instruction aligned with the dance TEKS includes independent discovery, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and cooperative learning. Learning dance technique is about the independent discovery of mentally making muscles move in a different way. Choreography involves problem solving which requires high levels of thinking. Group projects involving research on history and culture increase collaborative learning skills.


The purpose of dance education is "to broadly educate all students in dance as an art form in all its facets—to teach students to know about dance and to use the artistic processes inherent in dance. This purpose distinguishes educational dance from all other types of dance instruction. Teachers of K‐12 dance are to inspire students to inquire into dance as art and acquire artistic skills in creating, performing, and responding." (McCutchen, 2006). Educational dance is for all children. It broadly educates and embraces all aspects of dance that have educational value. It increases aesthetic education and affects the total education of a child.

"The mantra of educational dance is INSPIRE, INQUIRE and ACQUIRE!"
Brenda Pugh McCutchen

The middle school years present students with many challenges. Students experience rapidly changing bodies and social relationships, along with new academic demands. The study of dance and dancers may help students explore aspects of body image and gain confidence in daily life. Teachers at the middle school level should be aware of and sensitive to these developments and base curricular decisions on the developmental needs of their students. In addition, dance education helps adolescents reach an understanding of how people come to identify themselves later in adult life, as dancers along with whatever other roles they will eventually fill.

How the TEKS affect dance

  • Independent discovery
  • Problem-solving
  • Thinking
  • Collaborating

The purpose of dance education

  • Inspire
  • Inquire
  • Acquire

The study of dance may help adolescents to have confidence in the face of:

  • Rapidly changing bodies
  • Rapidly changing social relationships
  • New academic demands

McCutchen, B. 2006. Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Design of the Dance TEKS

The design of the Dance Middle School 1–3 TEKS provides both horizontal and vertical alignment of learning. Increased student expectations at course level are communicated in a variety of ways including the sophistication of language used to describe knowledge and skills, the scope of knowledge and skills, and the depth of understanding in students' evaluation and response.

Group of dancers in costume performing on stage


The TEKS define what students should know and be able to do in all foundation and enrichment subject areas. Student expectations are based on careful consideration of the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of adolescents.

Dance concepts and principles function interdependently in the TEKS. Although certain concepts and skills are taught and learned in isolation, they are all integrated in performance. A solid understanding of how the elements of dance are related is crucial in creating artistic performance based on classwork.


In this module on middle school dance, you will explore the revised middle school dance TEKS, identify the benefits of the standards for dance education in Texas, and practice developing short lessons based on the middle school dance TEKS.





  • Explore the revised dance TEKS
  • Identify the benefits of the standards for dance education
  • Develop short lessons based on the middle school dance TEKS

Overview of the Strands for Middle School Dance

One of the exciting developments of the revised fine arts TEKS is the addition of standards for middle school dance classes. This is the first time the state of Texas has provided standards for dance at this level. Teachers and administrators will be able to use the TEKS as a foundation for a rigorous, relevant course of study that will create an appreciation of dance in all its beautifully diverse forms. There are three levels: Middle School 1, 2 and 3, which are vertically aligned with the high school dance TEKS. The middle school courses are numbered in Arabic numerals while the high school courses use Roman numerals.

The four strands for middle and high school dance include the creative expression strand, which is divided into two sub‐strands:

Dance Strands

  • Foundations: Perception
  • Creative Expression: Artistic Process
  • Creative Expression: Performance
  • Historical and Cultural Relevance
  • Critical Evaluation and Response

Please take a moment to peruse the Dance, Middle School 1‐3 TEKS in the middle school dance TEKS alignment chart. What are some of the similarities and differences you notice between the strands and levels? Download the interactive PDF to record your thoughts.

This module will focus on the Dance, Middle School 1, 2, and 3 TEKS. The course discovery middle school dance resource will help you get an overview of the Dance, Middle School 1, 2, and 3 courses and examples of what each course might look like in the classroom. Take a moment to review the three charts before we discuss each strand. Keep the charts handy as you may want to refer back to them as we review each strand.


Foundations: Perception

Throughout the dance TEKS, the Foundations: perception strand articulates the expectation that students will develop their own kinesthetic awareness. Students learn their boundaries for personal space while working individually and in groups. They define body science applications through dance genres, styles, and vocabulary. They identify dance movement elements through space, energy and time, and learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Foundations: Perception

  • Kinesthetic and spatial awareness
  • Genres and styles
  • Health, safety, and wellness

Let's look at an example of a lesson experience that focuses on the Foundations: perception strand for Dance, Middle School 1. An activity that provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate one of the student expectations from Dance, Middle School 1 (c)(1)(a) should demonstrate basic kinesthetic and spatial awareness individually and in groups. Take a quick peek at this same standard from middle school Dance 1 in the middle school dance TEKS alignment chart through high school Dance IV in the high school dance TEKS alignment chart. What do you notice about the similarities? The student standard is that the "student will discover kinesthetic and spatial awareness individually while walking with other students in the classroom."

In this lesson, the teacher invites students to move around each other throughout the space with a variety of different walks. The teacher will play different music or drums while suggesting walks that change in size (from large to small), tempo (from fast to slow), level (from low to high), and dynamics (from happy to sad). The teacher then asks students to carefully observe their surroundings, making eye contact with others around them. Students should create arm shapes, pause, and create unique pathways. The teacher encourages dancers to explore the entire space or not; the choice is theirs. Now students find a partner, connect in some manner, and repeat the exercise. The students should be observing and internalizing the differences in walking individually and in pairs. Once both experiences are finished, the class should discuss their observations and the differences. The teacher visually assesses each student throughout the lesson and may reteach later. The teacher may ask questions:

  • What are some other traveling movements that might be used for this lesson?
  • What were some reasons you chose a particular pathway to travel?
  • What inspired your shapes, pauses, and space usage choices?

Review course discovery Middle School 1 dance to view how the Foundations: perception strand is taught in Dance, Middle School 1. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised middle school dance TEKS looks like in a classroom.

Creative Expression: Artistic Process

The Creative expression: artistic process strand is focused on the expression of ideas and emotions through and within movements, using the elements of dance and choreographic processes. One way to capitalize on this process is through the use of guided improvisation which encourages students to explore, express, emote, and create.


Creative Expression: Artistic Process

  • Improvise
  • Explore
  • Express
  • Emote
  • Create

Now let's look at an example of a lesson experience that focuses on the Creative expression: artistic process strand. With this experience, students begin to combine movements rhythmically, spatially, and artfully to create dances. Students experiment with ways to create dance movements from everyday gestures and human movements. Students consider movements such as washing their face, brushing their hair, dropping something, grabbing something, pushing something away, walking, and pausing. Students take 10‐15 minutes to create personal movement sequences from their experimentations. The teacher gives a number of counts for the length of the sequences. Students demonstrate their sequences to the class who may even attempt to identify the original gestures in each other's movement sequences. This activity allows for guided improvisation, demonstrating original movement. The teacher visually assesses while the students are creating the movement sequence. The teacher uses the responses from the students to further discussion, and may ask the following questions:

  • What were some of the reasons you chose the original gestures?
  • What are some ways we might gesture in choreographing a dance?

The gesture activity lets students demonstrate Dance, Middle School 1 (c)(2)(B) define knowledge of dance composition elements, improvisation skills, and choreographic processes; and (C) identify movement studies using rhythmical skills and spatial directions. The student objective is to use human gestures to express an idea in a movement sequence. View the course discovery Middle School 1 dance to see how the Creative expression: artistic process strand is taught in Dance, Middle School 1. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised TEKS looks like in a Dance, Middle School 1 classroom.

What does this quote mean to you when thinking about the middle school dance TEKS?

"Do not forget – never forget it! – that dance-educational work is an artistically conditioned task."
Mary Wigman

Creative Expression: Performance

The Creative expression: performance strand is focused on the development of the quality of movement, memorization of movement sequences, communication through performance, rhythmic accuracy, proper skeletal alignment, conditioning, warm‐up and cool down practices, as well as opening the door to a larger variety of dance genres (for example, ballet, modern/contemporary, tap, jazz, musical theatre dance, and world dance forms) for study.

Creative Expression: Performance

  • Quality of movement
  • Memorization of movement sequences
  • Communication through performance
  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Skeletal alignment
  • Warm up and cool down
  • Survey of genres

For example, let's look at an activity with focus on the Creative expression: performance strand. Consider the student expectation articulated in Dance, Middle School 2 (c)(3)(A) explore and demonstrate various dance genres and styles such as ballet, jazz, tap, modern dance, musical theatre dance, and world dance forms. The student objective is to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the jazz dance genre. Students will learn a short jazz combination. The teacher will provide 10–15 minutes for students to add their own jazz dance choreography to the combination. They are expected to stay within the boundaries of jazz movement and not mix genres. The teacher facilitates a discussion regarding important factors that define jazz movement, and then students perform their completed combinations in small groups in front of the audience (their classmates). The teacher visually assesses the students while they are showing their jazz add‐on. Students self‐assess their ability to create jazz by writing in their journals, reflecting on the difficulty or ease of this assignment, and noting new learnings or insights. The teacher may ask the following questions:

  • What are some reasons jazz is important to dance in America?
  • What have been some major influences on the jazz dance style?
  • What were some challenges you faced in keeping the additional choreography in the same style?

A teacher reflection: What movements from other dance genres as well as jazz did students use? How might this experience be used to build another lesson?

View the course discovery Middle School 2 dance to see how the Creative expression: performance strand is taught in Dance, Middle School 2. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised TEKS looks like in a Dance, Middle School 2 classroom.

Historical and Cultural Relevance

The Historical and cultural relevance strand asks students to demonstrate an understanding of cultural, historical, and artistic diversity. Students will perform the characteristics of dances from several diverse cultures or historical periods, perform dance phrases or dances from several time periods with an understanding of historical and social contexts, and identify historical figures and their significance in dance history.

Historical and Cultural Relevance

  • Diverse cultures or historical periods
  • Historical and social contexts
  • Historical figures
  • Significance in dance history

An example of a lesson experience that focuses on the Historical and cultural relevance strand in Middle School Dance 2 is an activity which addresses the student expectation in Dance, Middle School 2 (c)(4)(C) where a student would perform a dance representing one's heritage or environment. The student objective is to use knowledge of Texas history to create a dance. Students identify a particular event in Texas history or a historical character in Texas history to portray through dance. Students brainstorm various movements they want to include and may look for images from class resources. Some students may want to be literal with pantomime, gesture, props, and accurate time period clothing. Others may want to be more abstract with an image or emotion. Some may want to depict the event through abstract movement. Each student's movement experience should last 30–45 seconds. Audience members identify the Texas event being depicted in the dance. For reflection, the teacher might ask questions such as the following:

  • What were some reasons you chose the event(s) you did?
  • What were some images you considered but decided not to use?
  • How would your dance have been different if you had used them?
  • What are some other events in history that could be danced about?
  • What examples do we know of in which Texans already dance about their history or heritage?
  • What are some possible benefits of dancing about history and our heritage?

A great opportunity to provide interdisciplinary connections is to have the students write about what they discovered about their Texas heritage in conjunction with their studies in seventh grade Texas History. The teacher assesses visually and notes responses from students while they are performing as well as while they are serving as audience members. Which other TEKS would correspond with this lesson? Refer again to the course discovery Middle School 2 dance to view how the Historical and cultural relevance strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised TEKS looks like in a Dance, Middle School 2 classroom.

Critical Evaluation and Response

Take a moment to reflect on the questions that Elliot Eisner has posed, substituting dance where he refers to art.

Most curriculums pay no attention at all to aesthetics, a branch of philosophy that deals with questions like, "What is art? Must all art be beautiful? Does art provide knowledge?" . . . somewhere between kindergarten and twelfth grade students ought to be introduced to such questions in order to participate in an intellectual dialogue that's been going on for two thousand years.
Elliot Eisner (Brandt, 1987)
  • What is dance?
  • Must all dance be beautiful?
  • Does dance provide knowledge?

These questions are important to consider when we think about the Critical evaluation and response strand.

Image of dancer on stage performing a jump


The Critical evaluation and response strand describes the informed personal judgments students make about dance forms, their meaning, and their roles in society. These judgments occur through the use of appropriate movement vocabulary when identifying qualities of movements and discussions of the meanings of performances and dance productions. Students also demonstrate appropriate audience etiquette in the classroom and at performances as well as identify relationships between dance and other content areas.

Critical evaluation and response

  • Personal judgments
  • Qualities and meaning
  • Appropriate etiquette
  • Relationships between dance and other content areas

Brandt, Ron. On Discipline-Based Art Education: A Conversation with Elliot Eisner Educational Leadership v45 n4 Dec-Jan 1987-88: 6-9. Print.

Critical Evaluation and Response (Lesson Experience)

An example of a lesson experience that focuses on the Critical evaluation and response strand is centered on American choreographers. This activity provides opportunities for students to learn the student expectation stated in Dance, Middle School 3 (c)(5)(C) compare and contrast the content and choreographic structures used by various American choreographers.



The student objective is to use compare and contrast to discern artistic decision making. For the lesson experience, students choose a dance genre in which to study the artistic decisions made by choreographers within the genre. Students use the technology of their choice for research. Students consider how the choreographers' styles, purposes, and intents differ from one another. They reflect on how different choreographers compose their choreography, how their choreography is presented, and whether or not the choreographers created a new technique within the dance genre. Students determine their means of presentation—from multi‐media to choreography to visual hard copy. The teacher assesses the written work as well as meets with the students individually for personal evaluation and response to the project. Students also give the teacher the notes taken while researching the project. The teacher may use the following reflective questions:

  • What are some ways the work of the various choreographers appears to differ drastically?
  • What are some aspects they have in common?
  • Why did you choose the choreographer you did?
  • What were some reasons for the choices they made?
  • What if they had made different choices? How might that have affected the outcome?

Lesson experience

Decision: American Choreographers

  • Ailey
  • Graham
  • Fosse
  • Kelly
  • Blankenbuehler
  • Morris
  • Forsythe
  • Tharp
  • Joffery
  • Luigi

View the course discovery Middle School 3 dance to see how the Critical evaluation and response strand is taught in Dance, Middle School 3. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised TEKS looks like in a Dance, Middle School 3 classroom.

Planning Lessons for Middle School Dance Classes

Now it is your turn. Choose one of the revised middle school dance TEKS to work with at any level. Develop a short lesson that would help students demonstrate this standard and student expectation.

  • How does the student expectation you selected change from Middle School 1 to Middle School 2 to Middle School 3?
  • How might you differentiate your teaching/lesson plans for each level?

Review the strands below.

Image of two dancers

Curriculum Development

A variety of strategies can be used to prepare for curriculum development based on the TEKS. Effective curriculum development processes generally occur over time and begin with reading the TEKS and discussing them with colleagues. The curriculum development process might proceed with an evaluation of current instruction, curriculum, and program design.

Consider the following questions:

  • What are the current goals of the dance program?
  • How are they aligned with the TEKS?
  • How do current goals need to be revised?
  • To what extent can sequenced content be traced through all three levels of middle school and four levels of high school dance?

Download the interactive PDF to record your responses to the questions about curriculum development.


The Revised TEKS with Special Education Considerations

Accommodations for Section 504 and students receiving special education services are made on a regular basis by dance teachers, allowing all students to take part in dance instruction. It is imperative that dance teachers, along with all other teachers, be provided with professional development regarding required accommodations in order to make the connections of learning across all disciplines.

Having the dance teacher participate in the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan can offer a different and valuable viewpoint regarding the student’s learning and participation in school. Dance teachers can give valuable input as to how the dance TEKS might assist in the student's overall achievement.

Additionally, dance teachers need to be aware of accommodations for their students and have access to the resources needed to provide these in their classrooms.



Accommodations may include:

  • peer- or teacher-assisted movement or support during dance moves,
  • special equipment to provide support and proper alignment during dance moves, and
  • more one-on-one time with the teacher to learn complex choreography.

Some examples of opportunities for inclusion for students with special needs might include:

  • helping the student who is dyslexic develop direction and order in a different way through movement,
  • helping the student with a learning disability in math with fractions by explaining the division of sounds in a beat in a rhythmic phrase through tap, and
  • helping the student who struggles emotionally find their creative outlet and voice through dance.

These, and so many more examples, are ways that the revised dance TEKS guide teachers to develop student skills by using kinesthetic, aural/oral, and visual techniques to address all learning styles and reach all learners.

The Revised TEKS with Considerations for English Language Learners (ELLs)

Having dance teachers attend professional development and become ELL certified can greatly benefit ELL students. Utilizing a four-level rubric (beginning, intermediate, advanced and advanced high) to assess English language learners' work in dance class will allow teachers to monitor student progress and tailor instruction to their needs.

Teachers will benefit from evaluating students' use of language in the four linguistic domains.

The Four Language Domains

Listening is the ability to understand spoken language, comprehend and extract information, and follow social and instructional discourse through which information is provided.

Speaking is the ability to use spoken language appropriately and effectively in learning activities and social interactions.

Reading is the ability to comprehend and interpret written text at the grade-appropriate level.

Writing is the ability to produce written text with content and format to fulfill grade-appropriate classroom assignments.

In English Language Proficiency Standards (c)(2), the ELL student is expected to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Listen to and derive meaning from a variety of media such as audio tape, video, DVD, and CD ROM to build and reinforce concept and language attainment
  • Speak using learning strategies such as requesting assistance, employing non-verbal cues, and using synonyms and circumlocution (conveying ideas by defining or describing when exact English words are not known)
  • Use prereading supports such as graphic organizers, illustrations, and pretaught topic-related vocabulary and other prereading activities to enhance comprehension of written text
  • Write using newly acquired basic vocabulary and content-based grade-level vocabulary


The revised dance TEKS directly call for skills in all of these areas. For example, language is needed to view dance and write a critique, read a text for a song and understand its poetic or literary meaning to use in dance composition, or simply learn dance terminology. All of these activities can help ELLs build English language skills without feeling singled-out or embarrassed.

The beauty of dance is that the physical "language" is universal. Everyone can move and communicate through movement so that anyone can understand without saying, reading or writing a word. Movement is easily modified to be inclusive for all learners. The arts are inherently inclusive, differentiated, and universal.


There are many new opportunities to connect students with dance. Dance education encourages 21st century learning, college and career readiness, and most importantly, creativity. Learning and innovation skills are being recognized as the skills that separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century from those who are not. Focusing on creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future, and dance taught with the TEKS in mind addresses each of those. There is more information on how dance inherently includes and supports these skills in the "The Value of Dance Education: Applying the Revised TEKS" module within this online course.



Extend Your Learning: Tools and Resources

Here are a few resources that will be beneficial to creating and developing your program. Take a moment to review each one. You may wish to bookmark these resources or some of the others used in this module, such as the middle school dance TEKS alignment chart or the course discovery middle school dance. Thank you very much for joining us on this journey.

Tools and Resources

Professional Development Opportunities for Dance Teachers

Texas Dance Educators Association