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K-12EducatorsEnglish Language Arts and LiteracyPractical LivingThe Arts

Understanding Tap – Lesson Plan

Students demonstrate rhythm through clapping and tapping and improvise “conversations” through tap.

  • Length: 1-2 class periods
  • Grades: 6-12

Concepts/Objectives:

  • Students will gain a better understanding of the relationship between music and dance; specifically, between rhythm and tap dance.
  • Students will be able to recognize the use of improvisation and syncopation in tap dance and how the choreographer/dancer uses these elements to express him/herself.

Resource Used:
DanceSense Program 10: Tap and Percussive Dance
Found On: DanceSense

Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts

Vocabulary
improvisation, rhythm, syncopation

Materials
TV/VCR or DVD player

Handouts:
Viewing Guide

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

What Do You Know About Tap?
Before showing the video, find out what students already know about tap and jazz. The Viewing Guide handout contains questions to prompt the discussion; you may want to hand it out for students to take notes on. Find out whether you have any students who have taken tap lessons and would be willing to demonstrate some basic steps.

All That Jazz
Check KET listings for jazz and dance performances that air in the evenings. Some of the world’s best jazz musicians and tap dancers have appeared on such PBS series as Great Performances, and Live from Lincoln Center.

If there are any musicians in the class, ask them what they know about jazz, improvisation, and percussive instruments.

Show the DanceSense program and have students respond to the post-viewing questions on the handout.

Movement Activity
To get a better understanding of rhythm and the percussive nature of tap dance, have one student at a time clap a rhythm. The rest of the class copies that rhythm, clapping.

Bring in ’Da Noise
George C. Wolfe, Kentucky-born playwright and Broadway producer, co-created the hit play Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk, which traces African-American history through music and tap. His collaborator was one of the most significant tappers working in the form today, Savion Glover, whom some of your students may remember from his work on Sesame Street! PBS LearningMedia includes a segment with George C. Wolfe at a Noise/Funk rehearsal.

Next, each student takes a turn improvising by clapping a short, syncopated rhythm, then the rest of the class tries to put that rhythm in their feet. Consider using different parts of the body to “tap” the rhythm.

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Extensions for Diverse Learners

  • Gregory Hines was a famous tap dancer who lobbied in 1988 for the creation of a National Tap Dance Day. At least 40 cities and eight countries celebrate this day. What else might you learn about Hines and National Tap Dance Day? How might you share what you learn?
  • Research famous tap dancers and create illustrated posters or PowerPoint® presentations with information about them.

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Writing To Communicate

  • Attend a live performance of a tap dance and write a review, discussing how dancers incorporated the elements of dance into the performance. If you cannot find a live tap performance, use the tap dance section from DanceSense for your review.

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Applications Across the Curriculum

Practical Living

  • Savion Glover, a famous tap dancer, wrote Savion! My Life in Tap, an autobiography for children. Read the book and share what you learned with your classmates. (Students who grew up with Sesame Street may recall Glover, who often appeared on the show.)
  • The Taptations is a group of female senior citizen tap dancers who perform in North Carolina. Why might tap appeal to senior citizens? Are there any dance groups (in any discipline) in Kentucky made up of senior citizens? What are the benefits of dance to senior citizens? How might you share what you learn with your classmates?

Cross-Disciplinary

  • Cross-Cultural: Explore relationships between Irish step dance (e.g., Riverdance), South African boot dance, Appalachian clogging, African-American step dance, and tap dance.

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Open Response Assessment

Prompt: Most dance and music forms reflect something about the history and culture of the society from which they originate.

Directions: Explain how tap dance reflects American history and culture. Include a description of the relationship between tap dance and jazz music.

Open Response Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
The response is complete and shows extensive knowledge of the elements of dance and how tap dance relates to jazz music, incorporating improvisation and syncopated rhythms. The response clearly and accurately describes how tap dance reflects American history and culture. The student communicates effectively, using insightful examples and relevant details about dance. The response shows a broad knowledge of the elements of dance and how tap dance relates to jazz music, incorporating improvisation and syncopated rhythms. The response accurately describes how tap dance reflects American history and culture. The student communicates effectively, using examples and sufficient details about dance. The response shows a basic knowledge of the elements of dance and how tap dance relates to jazz music, incorporating improvisation and syncopated rhythms. The response describes, on a basic level, how tap dance reflects American history and culture. The student communicates on a basic level, using some examples and/or details about dance. The response shows a limited knowledge of the elements of dance and how tap dance relates to jazz music, incorporating improvisation and syncopated rhythms. The response ineffectively describes how tap dance reflects American history and culture. The student communicates ineffectively, using few or no examples and/or details about dance. Blank, no answer, or irrelevant answer.

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Support - Connections - Resources

  • KET’s DanceSense contains a downloadable teacher’s guide with additional background information on dance and tap.

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