Posts By: Cheryl McChesney

To play or not to play?


Triangular arrangement

Which way now?

This term the Saturday morning children classes have been full of child led movement exploration and playfulness. We continue to understand how important it is for children to have opportunities to experiment and be creative, led by their own curiousity and invention. The beautiful roof studio at SDD provides a wonderful, expansive playground for our fledgling artists to move freely and safely.

Since January our focus and inspiration has been on shape – 2D, 3D – circle/sphere, square/cube, cylinder, triangle/pyramid or arrow head, heart shaped thoughts of how we love to move either alone or with others. A giant soft rolling ball, bubbles, stickers, dice, strong cardboard tubes have all encouraged and extended the children’s natural movement responses, including rolling, stepping/jumping over, hiding limbs, looking through, stacking, knocking over, lying on. The older children have created sequences and stories of shape inspired journeys filled with fluid never-stopping spirals, pointing body parts or triangular positions.

In recognising the extent and variety of shape in our everyday, whether in the studio, around the building, within our bodies or in the outside world, the children are able to recognise shape sized tools and extend their options when exploring, creating and playing.

Interacting, experimenting, embodying and imagining are all such precious ways to play and help in shaping our thoughts and awareness.

Thoughts on squareness

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Moving Lightly


The first term of our Saturday morning Children’s Classes are whizzing by, designed with fun and creative tasks to encourage new movement awareness, skills and confidence. Also to provide a supportive and welcoming environment for children (and their adults) to explore and question how we feel when we’re moving and notice connections between our brain and body.

Initially the 5 senses were inspiration for discovery and we used different sights, sounds, spatial props, smells and tastes to promote and explore possibilities. ‘Light’ has now become our focus as the bright autumn sunshine fades and days turns darker towards the mid-winter – fireworks, colours, reflections and shadows offer thoughts and ideas for movement adventures.

The very youngest children, who are 2-3yrs, enjoy the freedom offered by the beautiful roof studio to dance with their parents and carers, extending their natural movements with feathers, balls, bubbles, balloons, ribbons, parachute. It is delightful to see them feeling so safe to move in the space, gaining confidence and trust in their co-ordination and physicality.

For the 4-7yr olds, amongst other things, we have experimented with onomatopoeic firework words such as – pop, whoosh, boom, crackle, whizz, fizz, bang, zoom – to create and order movement actions with different qualities inspired by the children’s imagination.

The 8-11yr olds are abstracting ideas to develop choreographic skills, making choices and decisions using their own responses. The children played with ribbons representing firework light trails and then created their own ribbon pictures to inspire and design movement pathways.




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Shadows and Light with Year 4 at St John the Divine

Thinking body 4

For The Thinking Body project at St John the Divine, the children in Year 4 have been using their science and literacy time to explore ideas about shadows and light and how they inspire us to move. We have experimented with torch light and projections in the hall and shadows in the playground to notice the changes and distortions that occur depending on where the light source is coming from.

thinking body 1

We have created shadow duets and group work using the children’s new knowledge about mirror neurons and the role they play in helping us to copy movement exactly in order to learn and expand our movement skills. The children have also written acrostic poems using topic words to express their creative writing ideas and made silhouette artwork to capture the shape of their hand gestures.

We shared some of our discoveries in the KS2 assembly to celebrate the children’s 10 week journey of connecting their thinking and movement, exploring and channeling their fantastic energy and ideas.


‘I feel when I am dancing the amazing concentration coming through my brain’ by Yafiet

‘I felt happy because it was like all my problems flew away’ by Isaac

‘I felt so alive and active’ by Sumaiyyah

‘I liked everything because it was creative and enjoyable’ by Inayaht


‘We have had a fantastic thinking body experience!’ by all the children in Year 4




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Thinking Body Actions for Dance Literacy


The Year 3 children at Vauxhall Primary School have been taking part in ‘The Thinking Body’ project this term and have been using their Thinking Body dance time to explore ideas for class literacy topics. Using the books ‘The Tunnel’ by Antony Browne, ‘Tuesday’ by David Wiesner and ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes, the children have experimented with creative methods of translating text into action, communicating through movement gesture and connecting their sensory imagination to their physical learning. Reflecting on their thinking bodies, here’s what they had to say…

‘I have learnt there are neurons in our brain which help us know what to do’ by Siham

‘I have learnt that there is liquid in our ears that when you turn around can make you dizzy’ by Adam

‘I have learnt how to fly in different ways’ by Rania

‘I’ve learnt how to move one side fast and one side slow’ by Abbas

‘I’ve have used words like jerky, stiff and tense to help me move like the iron man robot’ by McCkayla

‘With my partner I have learnt to be a shadow’ by Cristiano

‘I have learnt how to guide and help my partner’ by Monique

‘I am thinking while I’m dancing’ by Reehan

‘The dance has helped me with my literacy work’ by Khadra

‘I am able to make my body move stiffly like a robot’ by Ellie

‘I have learnt that choreography means to plan my duet’ by Ayman

‘We’ve learnt that our actions are connected to our thoughts’ by Abdirahman

We are going to make a film of the children’s work which will capture some of the creative outcomes to share with other members of the school community. The children have designed and collated storyboards to plan the film script.

Ellie's film storyboard
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‘My Amazing Thinking Body’

I’ve been working with Year 4 and Year 1 pupils at St John the Divine Primary School this half term on ‘The Thinking Body’ project which is in response to Siobhan Davies Dance’s new exhibition material/rearranged/to/be.

We have been using our senses as the starting point to explore our amazing thinking bodies and how we receive and respond to the world through what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste.

The children have played with ideas which challenge and highlight their brain/body connections, explored sights that are both real and imagined, sounds which inspire or instruct, tipping, balancing, falling, catching and how our proprioception helps us know which way is up!

This week was about Yum and Yuck and how our individual likes and dislikes can be read through gesture and action. The Yr 1 children got busy sniffing from the variety of smells below and then we used their responses to have amazing Yum/Yuck movement conversations.image

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