How To Play Freeze Dance (Tips And Resources)

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Whether you’re rewarding your music students for their awesome behavior or you just want to give them a chance to move and relax for a short time, freeze dance is a great way to get it done. 

But do you know how to play freeze dance?

Freeze dance is basically when students dance freely to music around the room until you stop the music, and then they freeze. There are extensions and challenges you may want to try with this game. 

Look ahead for more details on this fun and easy game for pretty much any grade level. 

Reasons To Teach Freeze Dance

There are two schools of thought with music teachers when it comes to freeze dance: 

  1. It’s a great, fun game! 
  2. It’s a complete waste of time. 

And in my experience, you either belong in one camp or the other. 

To be honest, I was in the second camp for the longest time. I felt like doing freeze dance was kind of a cop out. 

Over time, I learned to relax a bit and offer some twists to make freeze dance align better with my music curriculum. 

It’s the same kind of thing with musical chairs. 

But why even bother in the first place? Here are some reasons I felt the need to figure it out.

Brain Break

The general rule of thumb is that students need a change of pace every ## minutes of their age + 1. 

This means a first grader (who is 6 years old) can pay attention for 7 maximum minutes before they need a switch. 

As part of this switching time, students should move. This increases their blood flow, gets more oxygen to the brain, and maximizes time on task afterward. 

This information is according to Real Mom Nutrition

Why shouldn’t we take advantage of this during our music time? 

By playing freeze dance for even 2 minutes, we break up students’ attention and get these benefits after we’re done. 

Students Love To Dance

Kids just love to move. We all know this, and anyone who is a parent such as myself sees it in action all the time (more than we want to, that’s for sure). 

Any type of movement will keep them happy, but many students love the chance to move freely to music. 

Freeze dance gives them this opportunity to show off their uniqueness. 

Increases Focus

As blood flow and oxygen to the brain increases so does focus. 

If we want students to be prepared for longer and higher concentration activities, we should set them up for success any way we can. 

Freeze dance is even better than regular dancing or movement because the game itself requires a degree of focus and control. 

When played correctly, the body is expressing music while still being prepared to stop at a moment’s notice. 

Adapted For Laban Movement Concepts

The dancing can be adapted beyond free movement to popular songs to include expressive movement. 

Laban movement ideas are a staple of most major methodologies and are widely accepted to be the way students can express the emotional qualities of music. 

See the tips and ideas section below for more information on this. 

Read more about Laban movement

Introduce Classical Pieces

Students don’t always want to just listen to big pieces like Carmina Burana. Sometimes, you have to go about it in a sneaky way. 

But if you’re playing freeze dance, it’s simple to switch to a classical piece you want to expose them to. 

After you’re done, you could always transition into a literacy or other movement activity with this piece. (Check out the best children’s books with movement.)

Build A Bond With Your Students

It’s hard in our limited time to really build deep bonds with our students. But the effort is well worth it. 

Some teachers say that building bonds with students is more important than anything else we can do

It builds the trust and safety needed to learn as well as increasing engagement during lessons. 

But when you see your kids only once a week, it seems impossible. 

Playing games like freeze dance may seem silly, but if you dance with them, they’ll learn something about you and learn to trust you more because you’re being expressive with them. 

I like to take the opportunity to sprinkle in school-appropriate songs I personally enjoy. This way the students learn more about me as a real person and not just a “teacher.” 

Motivates Behavior For Other Learning

Last but not least, I am not ashamed to admit I will sometimes use freeze dance as a motivator for good behavior. 

There are those who may judge you about using instruments or games as a “bribe,” but in my experience, these people have been removed from reality. 

Getting students to do all tasks first is the first step. Then, over time, you remove the “bribes” until they just do what they’re supposed to do. 

It’s similar to how complimenting yourself in the mirror every morning can actually make you appreciate yourself more. Even though it’s fake at first, it becomes real over time. 

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Freeze Dance Rules

The rules for basic freeze dance are quite simple. But it’s important to set up the procedures for the game properly. 

Here are the basic rules for freeze dance: 

  1. Teacher plays music, and students dance around the room. 
  2. When the music stops, students freeze. 
  3. If they move or fall over, they’re out. 
  4. Repeat for as long as you want. 

Note: I don’t usually point kids as out until we’ve played the game for a couple of minutes OR if the student isn’t following directions at all.

I follow these steps when teaching the game: 

  1. Explain the rules. 
  2. Model the correct and incorrect behavior. 
  3. Ask for a student model. 
  4. Ask for a small group model. 
  5. Whole group plays the game. 
  6. Reinforce as needed. 

Watch out! Look for kids who talk when they dance, follow other students, and touch other kids. Redirect or ask these students to sit out.  

20 Best Freeze Dance Songs

Here are some of my favorite freeze dance songs sorted by category. This list focuses on the uptempo songs.  

Popular Songs: 

  • Uptown Funk (KidzBop)
  • Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine
  • Counting Stars (KidzBop) 
  • Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
  • Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake

Beatles Songs:

  • Yellow Submarine by the Beatles
  • Octopus’s Garden by the Beatles
  • Got To Get You Into My Life by the Beatles
  • Happy Birthday by the Beatles
  • Help by the Beatles 

Kids Songs:

  • Freeze Dance by the Kiboomers
  • Animal Freeze Dance by the Kiboomers
  • Get Yo Body Movin’ by Koo Koo Kanga Roo
  • Move And Freeze by the Learning Station
  • Jump! By Patty Shulka 

Classical Songs:

  • Flight Of The Bumblebee by Rimsky-Karsakov
  • In The Hall Of The Mountain by Grieg 
  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart
  • William Tell Overture by Rossini
  • Jupiter from The Planets by Holst

Freeze Dance Lesson Plan Ideas And Tips

Freeze dance on its own is a simple, but fun, game. It doesn’t really reinforce other musical concepts, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get more motion out of the game. 

Here are some basic ideas and extensions to use when you need to play this fun game. 

Ideas And Extensions

Animal Movements – Tell students that without making the noises, they must dance how they would imagine a specific animal to dance. Switch animals throughout the freeze dance. 

Leading Movements – Challenge students to lead their dancing with a specific body part. This results in some interesting interpretations of dancing. 

Laban Movements – Rotate through different movement challenges based on the following Laban ideas (pulled from First Steps In Music handout, click for details):

  • Awareness of body parts and whole body
  • Time (fast/slow; time passing)
  • Awareness of space
  • Level awareness (high/low)
  • Weight (strong, weak, heavy)
  • Locomotion (how to move)
  • Flow
  • Shape
  • Awareness of others

Some of these are covered in the other ideas on this list. 

Match A Color – If red were a color, how would it dance? And so on and so forth…

Mirror Dance – Partner up. One student is the leader, and the other must follow their motions. After the freeze, the leader job passes to the other partner. 

Leader Dance – Students stand in a circle. One person is in the middle as the leader, and the class must match the dance of the leader. Rotate leaders throughout. 

General Freeze Dance Tips

These are some tips that may help you and your students have a positive experience when playing freeze dance: 

  • Insist on no voices
  • Follow the modeling process (teacher ⇾ single student ⇾ small group ⇾ whole group)
  • Students who don’t know/feel comfortable with dancing should be given a choice (dance by hopping with two feet or walking and waving hands)
  • Establish that any arguing with the judge (you) results in an “out” for the rest of the whole game
  • Do a practice round
  • Make your early rounds longer in time (10-15+ seconds) 
  • Decrease and vary time spent dancing as the game progresses
  • Choose music that’s uptempo (at first) 
  • Get in there and show kids that it’s OK to be silly and how to let go of the competitiveness

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about how to play freeze dance. 

The game is simple in concept, but with a little twists here and there, your students can get a lot of mileage out of this fun game.

What songs do you like to use with freeze dance?

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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