Including the Arts in Classroom Rituals

Artistic Classroom Rituals

Rituals are an important part of building a physically and emotionally safe classroom environment. Arts activities can be used as rituals to help students and teachers feel connected as a classroom community. Rituals are used to greet students, say goodbye, honor student work, establish procedures, organize materials, and transition between activities and the arts can help. For example, meditation with music serves to invite focus and calm, a tableaux engages interest, and a braindance can release physical energy. 

Rituals create emotional continuity. A rhythmic call-and-response game between the teacher and class members can help students regulate their internal chronometer and experience being in and out of sync with others. The repetition and organization created through sharing the same beat connects students to other people, which can be comforting (if at least for the moment).

Smooth transitions are aided by the implementation of artistic rituals. For example, a past Arts Bridge Scholar from BYU, Mandy Brown, used music and dance to keep students engaged during the transitions between centers in a learning activity. Playing music and inviting the students to dance from one station to another provided an immediate and unmistakable cue for students to leave their current activity and find the next activity in a prompt, fun, and efficient fashion.

Rituals are valuable for online instruction as well as in-person work, and can be helpful to students transitioning between the two. Don’t forget, tried-and-true classroom practices often translate well to online learning environments.

Arts Activities to use for Classroom Rituals

Keep reading to discover arts activities to use regularly as rituals in the classroom or with online students, including an in-depth description of breathing and visualization activities. (Find more detailed descriptions of related activities here at

  • Sing: use the USBE songbook to find music for sing-alongs.
  • Pat, tap, or drum rhythms as a class
  • Play a clapping game
  • Mirror a partner
  • Do deep breathing
  • Take a dance break 
  • Do a freeze dance: move when the music/drum plays and freeze when the music/drum stops
  • Say thank you with a gesture
  • Say hello with your whole body
  • Greet each other by shaking hands, feet, pinkies, elbows.
  • Play musical chairs 
  • Invite choral response for repetition
  • Pause for applause
  • Create a tableaux
  • Practice visualization
  • Breathing
  • Blow up a balloon: Take a deep breath in through the nose and blow out through an imaginary straw as if blowing up a balloon. Fill your lungs quickly with a deep inhale then exhale into a pretend balloon for 4 counts. Fill your lungs again and blow for 8 counts. Repeat. Then fill your lungs and blow out slowly and smoothly for 16 counts. 
  • Make your belly a balloon: Put two hands on your belly. Inhale through your nose and watch your stomach expand. Fill your belly with air, noticing your diaphragm drop. Blow the air out slowly through an imaginary straw, a little bit at a time. Repeat.

Visualization and Imagination

  • Take a mud bath: Imagine a large spigot. Turn the handle to open the flow of water for only 3 counts. Now use your feet to stir the water into the ground to mix a puddle of mud. Keep mixing until you have a puddle big enough to walk around in. Reach down, scoop up large handfuls of mud, and put it on top of your head. Use your fingers to drag the mud down over your hair, dropping it down  onto your shoulders and spreading it over your arms. Scoop up two more handfuls of mud and rub it on your torso and back, then scoop more to rub down your legs. When your body is all covered, lie down in the mud puddle and roll over several times to completely cover yourself in the mud. After 8 counts, stand and make a shape with your body. Hold the shape perfectly still for 8 counts. Oh no—the mud is solid!! You are now a statue! Use your muscles to break the mud and turn it to dust. Shake your hands, head, body, and legs. Brush each body part vigorously with your hands to dust the dried mud away.

This blog post was written by Cally Flox, Director of the BYU ARTS Partnership and Heather Francis, the Research and Development Coordinator. Cally and Heather are both dance teaching artists, math educators, and serve on the national board for the USA chapter of dance and the Child international (daCi).

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