Dance, Dance, Dance in Class! Incorporating games-based learning to encourage pupil physical activity

By using dancemat software engaging pupils in physical activity in the classroom can incorporate aspects of games-based learning along with the engaging visual and aural drivers of dancemat activity using the free Stepmania software with a dance mat.

With just one dancemat and a connected computer (especially if the dancemat on-screen activity can also be projected onto a wall or interactive whiteboard) a whole class of pupils can take part in the dance routines with the required steps appearing on screen to accompany the choice of music tracks. Teachers can select pupils in turn to lead at the dancemat itself, while the rest of the class can strive to be the one chosen to lead on the dancemat.

Almost any USB dancemat can be attached to a computer and used with the free software Stepmania to encourage physical activity and develop spatial awareness. The Stepmania website provides details of a range of dancemats.

The concept of dancemat software is pretty simple. As the music plays, the coloured arrows will scroll up from the bottom of the screen toward the top. When a colour arrows overlaps the grey arrow at the top of the screen, you press on the dancemat on the corresponding part of the mat showing the same direction of that arrow. When you step the software will score how well you did – stepping on the mat too early, too late or on incorrect part of the mat will result in a lower score than matching your activitity to the beat and correct location. And of course the software lets you use the level of difficulty (the frequency with which different instructions will appear), and the music to accomapny the activity. And once started, the urge to better the previous score is what makes this games-based activity a strong motivator.

The Stepmania website provides a host of additional songs, cleared for download by users. In an educational setting teachers would be advised to assess the suitability of song lyrics for their class. For additional information on setting up Stepmania software with a compter and dancemat click on this link: Stepmania 3 Dancemat Instructions.

In addition to the free Stepmania software with its host of music tracks, dance mats can also be used with curricular-specific commercial software such as RM Easiteach Dance (which teachers can customise to support a wide variety of curricular areas across a wide age-range), and Primary Steps Phonics (to support the development of phonics skills) – both while having engaging physical activity.

Cyber-coach is a commercial dancemat resource which includes a wide range of exercise activity videos matched to the music.

Kidnetic Dance Moves – a free online tool where pupils can choose the dance moves and sequence them on screen. Then join in with the on-screen dancing robot to dance the dance they make. Pupils can change the music tracks and also the speed. There are also pre-made dance sequences.

Many schools may also have available gaming devices, such as the Wii and games like Just Dance can be used with this.

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