Note: This lesson is one of a group of lessons created to teach about the Transcontinental Railroad through the arts. Titles of the lessons can be found in the additional resources section below.
Write the word locomotor on the board. Ask the students to find the word motor within the word. You could ask what things have motors in them.
Teacher: Locomotor movement refers to body movements that move the body from one place to another or cause the body to travel. Locomotor movements are the foundations of human movement. The eight basic locomotor movements are walking, running, hopping, skipping, jumping, galloping, leaping, and sliding. (Display the words on a board or wall.)
Teacher: Let’s begin with walking. As I tap my drum, begin walking through the room. Make sure to keep space around you so you don’t bump into anyone or anything. (Keep a steady walking beat on your drum as the students walk.)
To add interest, or as time permits, encourage speed changes such as fast and slow, directional changes such as backward and sideways, and pathways such as straight, curved, and zig-zag.
After exploring this movement, tell your students that at an average pace, a person walks approximately 3.1 miles per hour.
Teacher: If walking was your only form of transportation, would it take long to travel to school or other locations? Would your body need rest and food along the way? Would you want to find a faster way of travel?
Teacher: A gallop is the fastest pace a horse can run, with all its feet off the ground. Show images of horses galloping, and have students notice the height in the horse’s knees.
Teacher: Let’s try this locomotor movement, galloping. Encourage the students to lift their knees high as they gallop. You may continue beating a hand drum or use music suggested in the additional resources section.
If your space is small and your group is large, you can divide the group in half and have them take turns watching and galloping.
Note: If you divide them, this is the perfect opportunity to establish performance etiquette, which includes the following:
After a vigorous minute or so of galloping, invite your students to sit down.
Teacher: Were you able to travel faster with your walk or gallop? Which took more energy? Your students should recognize that the gallop took more energy than the walk did. They will be ready for rest. Direct them to breathe in deeply through their noses and out through their mouths to find recovery.
Teacher: Can you imagine some of the traveling challenges people faced before the forms of transportation we have today were invented? Did you know that horses travel 10 to 15 miles per hour, depending on their strength and energy? Compare that to the 3.1 miles per hour of a walking human.
Read the entire book Iron Horses by Verla Kay, including the author’s note on the last page. Take time to define words and play with movement ideas that the descriptive words inspire. This will be a model, preparing students for the next activity. Make connections between people walking, horses galloping, and the Transcontinental Railroad. Point out the speed of travel from Missouri to California going from six months to six days with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Number the students one through six, depending on the size of your group. Have them gather in their designated groups and establish expectations.
Teacher: It is important to collaborate, cooperate, and sometimes compromise when working in a group. (Display these words in some form for the students to see.)
Explain that we can know we are working well together when we do the following:
Give each group a copy of the group-work assessment sheet (see equipment and materials section) as a guide while working together. Allow one or two groups at a time to choose a couple of pages you have prepared from your cut and laminated book Iron Horses (two two-page layouts).
Teacher: Read the text on the pages you have chosen, and carefully observe the artwork of Michael McCurdy to understand what is being communicated. Work together to create movement that can show the meaning and intent of that page. (If there are extra pages not chosen, set them to the side; they can just be read through.)
Groups with questions may raise their hands to indicate a need for assistance. Set aside time for creating and choreographing. Encourage groups to move more than talk; once decisions are made, have students practice the sequence.
Have the class gather in a large circle and sit down next to the members of their group. Explain that as you open the book for a second reading, the groups need to look and listen for the pages they have chosen. They will move into the middle of the circle to perform their movement sequence as their chosen page is read. They will then return to their spots to watch and listen until their next page is to be read. Read the book again from beginning to end.
Option: You could ask your students to say the text from the pages they chose. They could do this in unison while moving or select one person in the group to be the narrator.
Establish or review performance etiquette.
Teacher: If this was a comedy, we would encourage laughter, but since it is our best work, no laughter will be allowed from performers or audience members.
Note: If there is laughter, stop and remind your students of the safe space you have created for sharing movement ideas. When they are ready, pick up where you left off. This is an important part that you as the teacher play in the success of your class experience.
When the performance is finished, allow time for the students to clap, showing appreciation and respect for the class production. Take this opportunity as the teacher to highlight the excellent work and efforts you observed in your students. Have a class discussion, encouraging students to make connections and reflect on what they have learned and accomplished.
Discussion seed ideas:
This lesson can be used to meet standards in many grades and subject areas. We will highlight one grade's standards to give an example of application.
Image 1: James Huston.
Image 2: Miriam Bowen.
Image 3: www.shutterstock.com
Image 4: James Huston.
Image 5: www.alibris.com
Image 6–11: James Huston.