Techniques, Processes & Materials for Early Performing Arts Education

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will explore the fundamental concepts and skills related to the performing arts as well as the basic techniques, tools, processes, and materials for producing work.

Children are Natural Performing Artists

Left to their own devices, with no toys or video games, children will easily turn into imaginative performance artists. They make up song or play make believe or do a little dance waiting in line at the market. Children will find a way to entertain themselves by any means necessary with nothing but their imagination.

By recognizing this compulsion, harnessing it while they are young, and channeling it toward a purposeful end, early education instructors may be able to foster this creativity into a lifelong passion. Usually around fifth or sixth grade children's fanciful natures become suppressed by peer pressure and maturity, so early education in the performing arts can have a powerful and lasting impact.

Teaching children music, dance and theater will enhance their creative imagination and focus their energy

Performing Arts Standards

Educational standards provide criteria for teachers to align their instruction, ensuring comprehensive coverage of some content. Unlike mandatory topics, performing arts are considered electives and so have considerably fewer benchmarks.

The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations' standards provide an outline for instructors to use when developing an early performing arts curriculum. Teachers have artistic license and the freedom to develop specific content that would apply these standards effectively in an early elementary setting.

Let's take a look at the K-4 standards for the performing arts of music, dance, and theater, along with any techniques, processes, and materials that might be needed to meet these standards.


Young children are naturals at playing music and singing songs. Chances are students even in early elementary school can identify not only popular children's songs and nursery rhymes, but also many other songs they might have heard before. Instilling an appreciation for music is an important part of early performing arts education.

Some of the materials needed to accomplish these standards might include musical instruments (both traditional and homemade), sound mixing, recording and amplification equipment, as well as tools to help teach a variety of sheet music. To help with funding challenges, get creative with what can be used for or built into a musical instrument.

Standards include:

  • Singing, alone and with others
  • Performing on instruments, alone and with others
  • Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments
  • Composing and arranging music
  • Reading and notating music
  • Listening to, analyzing, and describing music
  • Evaluating music and music performances
  • Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts
  • Understanding music in relation to history and culture


Some think that a child's basic state of being can be found within dance. Students who struggle with focus and attention have found dance to be a way to harness their excess energy in order to regulate their behavior. By covering the standards for dance instruction, teachers can help students learn techniques and processes that can enhance their early performing arts education.

Some of the materials needed to accomplish these standards might include shoes for ballet or tap, a large wall mirror with a bar and an open space to allow for freedom of movement. Props like scarves, banners and ribbons are also incorporated into dance routines, but the materials list for dance may only include the dancer. Music is usually included as an element of dance, so there may also be some materials required for playing music.

Standards include:

  • Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance
  • Understanding and demonstrating dance in various cultures and historical periods
  • Choreographic principles, processes, and structures
  • Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning
  • Critical and creative thinking skills
  • Connecting dance with healthful living
  • Connecting dance with other disciplines

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