Enacting Life Cycles through Movement: The Frog and Butterfly

Grade Level: 1st
Unit Topic(s): Animals and Plants, Science
Art Subject(s): Creative Movement, Dance
Academic Subject(s): English-Language Arts, Science, Visual and Performing Arts


Students choreograph and perform dance sequences based on the life cycles of butterflies and frogs. With the accompaniment of narration and music, students use their bodies to illustrate the cycle of birth, growth, and transformation.

This project was inspired by a CoTA Collaboration with Janet Booth and her first-grade students at Olympic View Elementary School, Chula Vista Elementary School District

CoTA Artist: Leonardo Francisco
Profile photo of Leonardo Francisco
Leonardo Francisco, CoTA Artist (BA Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego). Leonardo Francisco has worked in a multitude of disciplines, including printmaking, collage, drawing, digital painting, film, comics, samba, and creative movement. He utilizes creative movement within the human body as an innovative form of multidisciplinary exploration and education. Leonardo’s eclectic approach was instrumental in his former position as director of dance for the Super Sonic Samba School and in his current work as a lead artist with CoTA, and resident artist with Young Audiences San Diego.
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Learning Objectives



Students explore the concept of metamorphosis and life cycles in animals and plants.

Students understand that life cycles are different for various animals and plants.



Students create movements that reflect their environment.

Students imitate and practice a wide range of movements.

Students choreograph original dances based on life science unit concepts.



Students practice nonverbal communication skills.

Students use multiple approaches to illustrate a single concept.

Students work together to create and perform dances.

Students evaluate various dance movements and identify ones that best express each stage in an animal or plant’s life cycle.




Key Common Core Citations

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. [CCSS.CCRA.R.7]

Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.3]

Lesson Outline

Demonstration of Learning:

Choreographed dance sequences

Number of Sessions: 6 | Length of Each Session: 1 hour

Preliminary Preparation

Examine Storytelling Dance
Goal: Observe examples of storytelling dance and make connections of how interpretive movement can forward a story.

Students look at examples of storytelling dance and how stories can be told in many ways: through written and spoken word, pictures, and dance. Artist demonstrates how stories can be retold through movement and body language. Using a scene from The Cat in the Hat (Things 1 & 2 make a mess inside the children’s house), students describe events, plot, and details they note from the text. Ideas of how to unravel the story through movement are suggested.

Assessment: Are students able to hone in on important story elements? Can they describe character, setting, and major events in a story? Can students explain how the story was presented through dance?

Lesson Activities

Creative Movement
Goal: Use dance as an expression to storytelling.

Students create and perform dances based on The Cat in the Hat. Students are asked to create shapes and movements to represent actions described in the story (e.g., jumping on couches, flying kites, destroying a house). In discussing how to portray such a riotous scene, students should set guidelines to keep everyone from getting injured such as, “No running or yelling.” “We can’t make a mess.” “We’re only pretending.” “No one gets hurt.” Starting with arm/hand gestures and facial expressions, students progress to full-body movements using traveling steps and enjoy the imaginary trashing of their classroom.

Assessment: Do students understand how to create a story through dance? Do they understand how certain movements can represent parts of a story? Do students use a variety of movements to demonstrate changes in actions, characters, etc.?

Practice Locomotor and Axial Movements
Goal: Explore a variety of levels in movement.

Artist leads students through a series of exercises exploring the elements of dance. Students practice a variety of movements, including locomotor and axial movement as they skip, slide, stretch, and roll about the classroom. Shapes are created with the body, experimenting with levels of low, middle, and high to achieve a variety of possibilities.

Assessment: Do students understand different elements of dance? Are they able to follow the direction of the artist when responding to movement? Do students’ movements demonstrate understanding of locomotor and axial movements? Can students explain the differences between locomotor and axial movements?


Investigate Metamorphosis
Goal: Learn stages of metamorphosis.

Students study metamorphosis and describe physical changes that occur in the life cycles of apples, butterflies, and frogs. Students discuss how scientific processes, like stories, can be illustrated through movement. Students engage in a discussion of how one could represent life cycles using creative movement.

Assessment: Do students understand metamorphosis? Are students able to describe life cycles for plants, animals, and bugs? Can students identify the unique stages of each of the life cycles? Do students understand how these processes can be described through dance? Do students suggest movements to differentiate each stage of the life cycle of a plant, animal, and bug?


Construct Life Cycle Dance Sequences
Goal: Create and rehearse dances.

Students compose and rehearse metamorphosis dances based, respectively, on butterflies and apples. A review of the subject’s life cycle (using posters and books) is detailed, exploring the changes it makes as it progresses from one phase to the next. Students use their bodies to represent these different forms and to show the transformation from one stage to another. Students experiment with a variety of movement possibilities: using only arms and hands, remaining seated, and participating in individual and group shapes. After each life cycle dance, students reflect on the movements.

Assessment: Are students able to translate the metamorphosis process into movements with their bodies? Can they make connections within the text and adapt it into a clear representation of the cycle? Can the student identify the specific stages of the life cycle? If not, have students revise moves to distinctly represent each stage of the life cycle.


Choreograph a Dance to Represent the Frog Life Cycle
Goal: Design movement indicative of the frog life cycle.

After laying the initial groundwork of incorporating creative movement to content, students begin designing choreography to depict the frog life cycle. After discussing the different phases of the cycle, the class talks about the different roles needed to portray this process: narrators, eggs, tadpoles, and frogs. Although students will play specific parts in the performance, all will participate in the creation of the dance. The movement begins by designing an egg shape. If the students volunteer a familiar position used in another life cycle dance sequence (such as the butterfly dance), ask students to revise the shape. How can we make it different than the butterfly egg?” “How can the movement of the eggs reflect the frog’s habitat specifically?” Once the class decides on an appropriate egg shape formed by a small group of dancers (try pairs or trios), the teacher assigns roles for each student.

Assessment: Are students making connections to the life science unit? Are they able to generate movements to suggest each phase of the cycle? Can students suggest distinct rather than generic movements to the frog life cycle (i.e., a frog’s egg rather than any kind of insect/animal egg)? Can students work together to create strong shapes and movements?


Revise Dance Sequences
Goal: Discuss and revise performances.

Students discuss and review the choreography composed and revise movements and sequences for clarity, expressiveness, and simplicity. Each group works on their specific part. The narrators review their lines. The eggs practice their choreography and plan their entrance and exit. The tadpoles create a group shape that shows gills, the shortening of its tail, and the growth of limbs and tongue. Towards the end of class, students compose an ending incorporating all students as individual frogs. Once the choreography is set, students practice the movements to music and narration.

Assessment: Are students able to reflect on the performance and look for improvements? Are students able to make revisions that add clarity? Are student movements expressive? Are student movements simple? When performed in sequence, do the individual group dance sequences accurately depict the entire life cycle of the frog?


Reflect on Creative Movement as a Means to Inform
Goal: Write about the process of choreographing movement and performance goals.

Students write in journals about the process of choreographing dance sequences and what key aspects of the science unit needed to be conveyed. Students highlight room for improvement and details needed to strengthen the performance.

Assessment: Do students remember the process leading up to performances? Are students able to explain their dance and the components behind it?


Perform and Share with Others
Goal: Perform for peers.

Students perform the frog metamorphosis dance for parents, students, and teachers at an assembly. The audience is invited to participate in a forum, giving the students the opportunity to share their process and identify key details from the science unit.

Assessment: Are students able to perform their concepts clearly? Do students remember all the movements in the process? Are students able to share the process of creating dances? Are students able to remember specific phases of the life cycle to reflect upon?

Alternative Applications

Create dance patterns and sequences for mathematical equations or scientific concepts (gravity, force, vibration, magnetism, weather, changing states of matter, etc.).

Bring historical events to life through the integration of dance and spoken speech.

Resource Links

  • Telling a Story through Dance

    A lesson plan provided by The Kennedy Center ArtsEdge program that introduces students to the idea of telling stories through dance. The lessons focus on the story of the Nutcracker as told through ballet.

  • Using Picture Books to Teach Characterization

    A lesson plan by Sharon Roth to support student exploration of character development through picture books. The lessons are geared towards third through fifth graders but can be adapted for younger students. Resources include a selection of books and graphic organizers for story mapping and characterization elements.

  • Life-Cycle Handouts

    Enchanted Learning has a selection of labeled and blank handouts that can help students identify and understand the stages of animal life cycles. This link will take you to the frog life-cycle handout.

  • Butterfly Life Cycle

    The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University provides beautiful photographs of the four stages of a butterfly life cycle and provides extensive descriptions of each stage.

Student Works

Coming Soon

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