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Activity 2: The Caterpillar's Day

Writer: Julie Cadzow
Years 2-3
Level 1

Key Competencies

The students will develop their dance skills through opportunities to explore, experiment, problem solve and reflect. They will make decisions about what, how, when and where to move, and will be encouraged work cooperatively with others. They will exercise imagination, and make links to other learning areas.

Managing Self
The students will use their bodies as instruments for artistic expression through movement.
They will be encouraged to use safe dance practices while moving around and with others, exercising care and control of the body within the dance space.
They will also begin to develop more awareness of how an individual's actions can affect others through class, group and paired movement tasks.
They will take turns to lead and follow, and make their own decisions about where, when and how to move.
The students will begin to self-reflect about dance and their performance of movement activities.
The exploration and performance of dance movement will contribute to improving co-ordination, flexibility and agility, and the development of control of locomotor and non-locomotor skills.

Using Language, Symbols and Texts
The students will discuss a diagram/chart of the life cycle of a caterpillar.
Through movement exploration, the students will recognise and understand the meanings of five action words (hatch, search, grow, weave and unfold). They will use movement to represent and to communicate the idea of the life cycle of a caterpillar.

Key Words

Locomotor movement, non-locomotor movement, body bases, levels, space, relationships, hatch, search, chew, grow, weave, unfold


For more information about Monarch caterpillars, visit:

Music suggestions: 101 Kiwi Kidsongs:

  • Just One Earth (instrumental version) by David Chadwick
  • Seasons (instrumental version)
  • Nga Rangatira Apopo
Learning Goals

The students will be able to:

  1. Use action words to make new and interesting locomotor and non-locomotor moves on different levels
  2. Move safely around others at all times
  3. Participate in a short dance about the life cycle of a caterpillar
  4. Understand important facts about the life cycle of a monarch caterpillar
Teaching and Learning Sequence
Lesson 1 - The Life Cycle of a Butterfly
  1. Establishing prior knowledge:
    • In pairs, discuss what they already know about the life cycle of a caterpillar/butterfly
    • Share with class
    • Look at the life cycle poster and confirm/correct/extend information already shared
    • Read 'Caterpillars' by Tipene Watson (School Journal Part 2, Number 1, 2007)
    • Suggested questions:
      • Why did Koro say that the monarch butterfly eggs were taonga or treasures?
      • What did the eggs look like?
      • How did the eggs get on the leaves?
      • What did the monarch caterpillars eat?
      • Did they eat a few leaves or a lot of leaves?
      • What happens next in the story?
      • Why were the chrysalises brought inside?
      • What happened to one of the chrysalises?
      • How long did it take for the butterfly to come out of the chrysalis?
      • What would have happened if the boy hadn't let the butterfly go?
      • Jigsaw puzzles
      • Facts about monarch butterflies
      • Life span of a monarch butterfly
    • Show the action words and match them to the appropriate place in the life cycle. Mix the action words up and the students identify each word and arrange in time order.
  2. Lolly Scramble = safe place for each student to work without interference from other students.
    Gather group into a safe but tight bunch. With the shaking of a tambourine, students move out away from everyone else and sit down. This becomes their Lolly Scramble spot. They may need several rehearsals at this skill and may even need their own dot on the floor (perhaps marked with chalk, a cone or other marker of some sort).
  3. Explore shapes and levels on their spot - tiny, wide, curved, pointy, tall, bent, flat on the floor, balances - on 1 leg, 1 hand and 1 foot etc
  4. Non-locomotor movement (movement on the spot) with students sitting on the floor:
    • Pretend your arm is a caterpillar moving along a leaf
    • Make your caterpillar arm reach up high for a bite of a delicious leaf
    • Make your caterpillar arm twist behind you, around you, out to one side, out to the other side
    • Now make it move across the floor
    • Pretend your foot is a caterpillar moving along a leaf
    • How far can your caterpillar foot move to the side
    • Make your arm move like a caterpillar and then your foot
    • Show me how your nose can be a caterpillar!
    Refer to Dance Vocabulary Cards and Using the Dance Vocabulary Cards for more ideas and information.
  5. Locomotor movement (travelling movement) Organise the class into a line and lead the class on a travelling journey:
    • Walk as slowly as you can
    • Walk with 2 caterpillar arms reaching up and down for food
    • A very fast caterpillar
    • A wriggling caterpillar - how many body parts can they wriggle?
    • A giant striding caterpillar
    • A caterpillar who can walk on his/her heels, toes, insides of the feet, outsides of the feet
    • Change direction and follow the last student in the line to be a crawling caterpillar
    • A caterpillar wriggling on his/her stomach
  6. Make a giant monarch caterpillar The caterpillar has 3 pairs of true legs with claws and 5 pairs of 'pro legs' that extend backwards. Can we move together as one? Can we undulate? Can we turn a corner? (Photograph and film)
  7. Gather the students in a close group again and revise the life cycle, adding in any new knowledge gained during the lesson.
Video Clips

These clips were captured by the Tandberg Content Server during distance dance lessons taught by video conferencing through the Ministry of Education's Virtual Learning Network. The resolution is unequal at each end of the streaming due to different broadband speeds at each location.

  • Face-to-face, session 1 - learning to weave
  • Face-to-face, session 1 - learning to hatch
  • Face-to-face, session 1 - first flight
Lesson 2
  1. Introduction: Ordering the action words As a group (or in small groups with several copies of the action words) the students arrange the action words into the correct order to represent the caterpillar's life cycle.
  2. Learning goals Read and discuss what they mean, especially:
    • Levels
    • Locomotor movement
    • Non-locomotor movement
    • Interesting
      • What does the word 'interesting' mean?
      • What is the opposite of interesting?
      • Why do you think I want to see interesting dance work?
      • What might an interesting movement look like?
      • What might an uninteresting movement look like?
    • Why is it important to move safely around others?
      • When do you have to be more careful of other people around you?
  3. Finding a safe bubble spot.
    Come in close together.
    I am going to pretend to blow some bubble mixture from my bubble pot and you are going to become bubbles that float gently out to land in a safe place. Be careful of each other as you float.
    We are going to do some moving on the spot. Which word up on the wall means to move on the spot? Non-locomotor
    Show me a curled shape on a low level.
    Show me a different curled shape on a low level.
    Show me a sitting up shape with a body base of one bottom and 2 feet.
    Find a different place to put your feet.
    Find a fancy place in the air to put your arms.
    Copy someone else's shape.
    Show me a twisted shape on a high level.
    Show me another twisted shape.

    Travelling in a bubble - locomotor movement
    Oh no - a big gust of wind is trying to move your bubble.
    Find a way to move, but make sure you keep your bubble safe. The wind is still blowing. Show me a different locomotor movement. Show me how you can move from a low level to a high level as you travel. What are your arms doing? What is your head doing?
    Oh good. The wind is gentle now and you can find a safe place to land.

  4. The Action Words

    Your bubble has magically landed on a branch of a Swan Plant and your bubble has turned into a Monarch Caterpillar egg!
    You have spent about 4 days growing into a tiny caterpillar and now it is time to hatch.

    What does the word 'hatch' mean?
    The tiny caterpillar takes 3-5 days to hatch. It has to do two things. First, it has to eat the egg surface until it cracks open.
    Then what has to happen? How do you think the caterpillar might get out of the rest of the eggshell? Do you think it would explode out with a big jump, climb out, slide out, push out or perhaps wriggle out? How are you going to 'hatch'?

    Try curling into a ball and scratching at the surface of your egg with your hand, your elbow, your head. What other body parts could you use?
    Now you can hatch out of your egg!
    How did you hatch? What parts of your body needed to move?

    Let's try hatching again. You could use a different way or repeat the one you did before.
    Who hatched the same way as before? Why?
    Who hatched a different way? Why? Which way do you think was the most interesting?

    What does 'search' mean? What would a caterpillar need to search for? (Swan plant food, also called milkweed. This is a poisonous plant.)
    What is similar between the way the words 'search' and 'hatch' are spelt?
    How does a tiny caterpillar move?
    Who can remember how many legs a caterpillar has? (3 pairs of true legs with claws and 5 pairs of prolegs that extend backwards.)
    Why are the legs arranged in pairs? How fast does a caterpillar move? Which legs move first?
    What body parts do you need to use to move in a 'caterpillar crawl'?

    Find two different ways that you might move like a caterpillar. Make your movements big and slow and be careful of the other students around you.
    Show me how you climb along a Swan Plant branch looking for a delicious leaf.
    Show me how you climb up a Swan Plant branch looking for a delicious leaf - start down low and extend upwards as you search.
    Show me how you crawl around a leaf to find the best bit.
    See if you can travel on your back. Can you travel your side?
    Can you move up and down as it you are climbing over and under leaves and branches?

    Choose your most interesting way to move and take turns to show your buddy.
    What do you think?
    Try moving in one of the new ways you have seen.

    You have spent two weeks eating lots of swan plant leaves and branches and have grown into a big caterpillar.
    Now move out in your favourite caterpillar way to join up into one huge monarch caterpillar behind _____.
    Now the huge caterpillar moves along a swan plant branch on its many legs - up and down, sideways, around and finally it stops.

    The monarch caterpillar attaches itself head down onto a swan plant branch and peels off its skin to form a chrysalis.
    Look at the photos to illustrate this.
    What shape is the chrysalis?
    I thought we could do this part together by weaving ourselves into one big chrysalis.
    (Discuss safety and ensure that the students are aware of each other.)
    By walking on lots of curves and circles, show me how you can move around the each other safely.
    Now lets make a circle again and when I say go, start weaving around each other for 2 lots of 8 counts (16 counts) so that by the time you get to 16, everyone is in a close circle, curled into tiny ball shapes.
    Try it again and this time I am not going to count. You have to count in your head.

    Now we reach the last stage in the monarch's life cycle.
    What happens?
    It takes about 2 weeks for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly. Then the chrysalis cracks open and the butterfly pushes out.
    There is a special name for this - metamorphosis.
    How could we show this with movement?
    We are going to open out into a whole class of butterflies.
    Be careful of the people around you and gradually open out into a long and stretched shape with your arms at your sides.
    What happens next?
    The butterfly has blood in its abdomen, which it pumps into its wings to extend them.
    I am going to count to 8 and imagine that the counts are 8 pumps to fill your beautiful wings.
    How extended can you make your wings?
    Open out your torso, arms and legs. Stretch one arm wing out and up. Stretch the other one. Stretch one up and the other in a different direction. Arch backwards to stretch out both wings. Crouch down and rise up slowly as you extend your wings.
    Have a look at your wings.
    How do you know if you are a male or female monarch? (If you have a spot on each of your wings you are a male monarch butterfly. If you have no spots you are a female monarch. )
    Now you are ready to take off.
    By moving from low levels to high levels, travel around the room making big and slow arm movements and find a tree branch to land on.

  5. Review the life cycle and the favourite moves the children made for each action word.
  6. Repeat the entire life cycle as a 'dance' with (or possibly without) narration from the teacher. Suggested music: Just One Earth (instrumental version) by David Chadwick
  7. Class discussion:
    Look at Learning Goals chart. How did we do?
    Who has discovered a new way of travelling across the floor?
    What was the hardest way of moving that you tried?
    Which movements did you perform on a low level?
    Which movements did you perform on a high level?
    Describe what it was like weaving into one big chrysalis
    What did you need to be careful of?
    If you were to try this again another day, what would you improve?
Video Clips

These clips were captured by the Tandberg Content Server during distance dance lessons taught by video conferencing through the Ministry of Education's Virtual Learning Network. The resolution is unequal at each end of the streaming due to different broadband speeds at each location.

  • Video conference - locomotor and non-motor movement
  • Video conference - locomotor movement in safe bubble
  • Video conference - searching and weaving with music
  • Video conference - life cycle sequence with music
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