Ten Variations on “March”

I like the idea of playing with the “march” in March. Children enjoy the relation of the words, and for classes that began in the Fall, the month of March is a good time to revisit this familiar movement with new variations — particularly those exploring spatial design, and direction.

Some ideas:

  1. Marching with changes of tempo, whether gradual or sudden.
  2. Marching in different directions: sideways in one direction and then another, backwards, turning.
  3. Marching in floor patterns that delineate shapes in long lines, as if they were drawn on the floor: squares, rectangles, diamonds, Z’s, X-boxes (diagonal-across, diagonal-across).
  4. For more complex possibilities, have folded cards with numbers on them set around the perimeter of the room. Give students “combinations” of numbers to travel to to create various shapes or patterns. (You might give them in “secret” and challenge other students to name the numbers or imitate the pattern each turn, or for a challenge, sing or notate pitch patterns as a way of determining numbers — or even letter-names or solfege syllables written on the cards.)
  5. Have students march in a floor pattern of their own design for others to imitate.
  6. Combine floor patterns with changes of direction (for example, march in a square without changing the orientation of head, shoulders and hips).
  7. Keep feet still, but find other ways to “march” — knees alone, elbows, head, shoulders, etc… Let children discover their own ways and show them.
  8. Divide the class into pairs for marching across the room together, with one moving forward and the other backward (upon signal, they switch roles by changing direction); this could also involve two lines of people facing each other. Add more interest by having the forward-marching and backward-marching roles take on two contrasting levels (forward high, back low, for example), upper body/arm postures, visual focuses, vocal sounds (high vs. low pitches or melodic phrases, or perhaps marching cats vs. dogs for little ones with head voices and chest voices) or even dramatic affect (fear vs. aggression, for example).
  9. Have partners face each other and march sideways across the room; upon signal, they turn away from each other and continue marching in the same direction (= a different crossing foot) and upon the next signal, they turn to face each other again. The goal is to measure space and time equally on both sides, right and left, so that when they turn around, they’re directly face-to-face again, rather than being ahead or behind their partner. (Be sure to reverse this exercise.)
  10. Have partners, groups, or individuals create marching patterns for a given number of beats to create a phrase. It could involve any of the elements explored as above: changes of direction, spatial orientation, body parts, partner ideas, etc. Then play a composed or improvised march, and have each pair, group or person move their phrase in turn to create a form.

(You might even have them teach each other, to create longer phrases, which can involve interesting problem-solving in spatial design. If you’re concerned about time, break it up: pair individuals, combine pairs, or merge groups so they all learn a longer phrase; then even if you don’t end up with the whole class knowing the whole “piece,” they’ve each shared something they helped to create, learned ideas from their classmates, memorized a larger structure, designed it in space, and performed it!)

Exercises that combine a number of seemingly-simple skills and concepts allow individual children to develop and reinforce just what they need. One may benefit from repeated locomotive movement of a steady beat; another may develop the ability to watch others and perceive their movement; another may find a challenge in memorizing patterns; another may make connections between linear design in space, shapes, and numbers, etc… And beyond all of these, students of all ages grow from the experience of creating and sharing ideas with others, taking a role in a group project, and finding joy in even the simplest ways of moving with music.